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Title: The Tragedy of Hamlet
Authors: Shakespeare, William
Issue Date: 1676
Publisher: Andr.Clark
Abstract: The longest and best of the Bard’s tragedies. The story of Hamlet of Elsinore, in Denmark is well known. When his father, King Hamlet dies, the young prince Hamlet is plunged into melancholia as his mother, Queen Gertrude quickly marries King Claudius. Depression really sets in when King Hamlet’s ghost comes to Hamlet to tell him that Claudius had him murdered, and Hamlet vows to avenge the foul deed. He decides to test the Ghost’s claims, and though losing reason, he also fakes insanity to draw his plans against the new Danish king. Claudius sends his agents, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to keep an eye on hamlet, who knows full well that they are not just visiting old school-friends, but spies. Hamlet draws on the services of strolling minstrel-actors to stage a play into which Hamlet inserts a few changes to give the watching Claudius a few clues that his felonious treachery has been uncovered. The trap works. Claudius shows recognition and guilt. Hamlet now has all the proof he needs to embark on revenge. What could be skilfully executed is botched by hesitation, and misunderstanding. Hamlet goes to kill Claudius but overhears him at prayer. He decides to postpone committing regicide so that Claudius won’t go to Heaven while repenting his sins. In fact, if Hamlet heard correctly he would have noticed that Claudius laments to God that he cannot get to Heaven as e is hanging on to the spoils of his crimes. He is now King, and Gertrude innocently love him. Soon afterwards, Hamlet, contemplating his own suicide as he is, finally strikes, oblivious that he has killed not Claudius but a pompous oaf called Polonius. Now with some irony, Hamlet has someone seeking revenge against him too, Laertes, son of Polonius, and brother to Ophelia, who drowns in mad despair after her father’s demise. Hamlet had rejected Ophelia’s love in his drive to get revenge on Claudius. Hamlet is sent to England, with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in tow, and they are instructed to get him killed safely away from the court at Elsinore. A pirate attack separates Hamlet and his one true friend, Horatio from the others, and Hamlet returns in stealth to Denmark. He witnesses Ophelia’s funeral in unconsecrated ground as her death may have been suicide or an accident of her madness, but the church will not give her holy burial. In shock, Hamlet exposes his presence to the mourners, and he is set up for a duel with Laertes over the death of Polonius. Claudius decides to ensure death to Hamlet and poisons not only the sword tips for the duel, but the wine flagons used to quench the thirst of the fighters too. The result is the deaths of the entire dynasty; Hamlet and Laertes draw each other’s blood. Queen Gertrude, oblivious of the poisoned flagons, drinks from them and gives a sip to Hamlet, who manages to force the wine on Claudius too, As they all die, Horatio alone of the main players survives as the House of Elsinore falls to King Fortnbrass. The story has come full circle, as King Hamlet took control of Denmark from Fortnbrass’s father a generation before. A true epic, despite its length, it never flags and every word counts. Undoubtedly the greatest work in English literature.
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