William Shakespeare - Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

To Smile, and Smile, and Be a Villain, that Is the Question

The world in Hamlet is a world of murder and treason. It is a wicked world peopled with characters in clownish masks, a world of consummate actors pretending madness, and, finally, a world of revenge. There is Claudius, who kills his brother, Gertrude, who marries the murderer, and Ophelia, who becomes insane. Surrounded by the hypocrites, there is also Hamlet, who has to take revenge for the murder of his father. The task the Old Hamlet sets his son is a very difficult one. Not a good avenger, the Prince does not rush to punish his uncle. On the contrary, he is first looking for some evidence regarding Claudius’ guilt. He puts on the play and yet realises the pointlessness of the task he is given. After all, Hamlet is well aware of the fact that no matter what he does he will never restore justice or rebuild the world order. The people will still smile and be villains . . .

When in the opening scene Hamlet is giving his soliloquy he should be alone on stage. In a soliloquy an actor speaks to himself and the audience, rather then to another actor. In this scene Hamlet is grave and his face betrays great pain. He is pondering on life and death and wondering whether to live and suffer or commit suicide. Yet the fear of the unknown, i.e. of what death might bring, makes a coward of him.
In the next scenes the King and the Queen should be on their thrones, observing the action like the audience. First, they see the play performed by Hamlet’s actors. Claudius is obviously nervous and irritated. He is well aware of the fact that the performance is about him killing his own brother. Then they witness the duel between Hamlet and Leartes. The poisoned wine is already prepared for Hamlet but it is Gertrude, his mother, who drinks it.
Both Hamlet and Leartes die wounded by the poisoned sword. At the end the stage is full of corpses, with all the principal characters dead.

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