|Hamlet, Act V
||[Jan. 30th, 2008|08:25 pm]
Pro-WGA Strike Book Club
Two gravediggers are plying their trade, trading jokes, and one loses a bet to the other and has to go buy him liquor. The remaining gravedigger winds up talking to Hamlet and Horatio. We find out that he was hired the same day Hamlet was born (oddly 30 years ago). Hamlet finds Yorick's skull, giving the "Alas, poor Yorick" speech, which is by turns comic and sad. Hamlet and Horatio hide as a funeral procession approaches, Hamlet noting the "maimed" rights suggest a suicide victim. The priest is rude to Laertes, claiming that Ophelia should be buried at a crossroads rather than in sacred ground because she's in hell for killing herself. The Queen reveals that she had hoped Ophelia would one day marry Hamlet, so Polonius was wrong in the first place about him being "out of her sphere." Laertes nearly decks the priest, ending Ophelia's flower imagery by saying her flesh will produce violets while the priest is the one in hell, then leaps into her grave. Hamlet suddenly announces himself and that no one loved Ophelia as much as he did, then leaps into the grave as well, where he and Laertes proceed to fight... in Ophelia's grave. Nice. The king separates the two, and the king and queen call Hamlet crazy to his face for the first time. After Hamlet and Horatio leave, the king tells Laertes they will act soon and instructs Gertrude to put a watch on Hamlet.
Hamlet tells Horatio that he found out about the letter Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were carrying about him to England, which told the receiver to kill Hamlet. Hamlet wrote a new letter, telling them to kill Rosencrantz and Guildenstern instead, sealing it with the king's seal. Hamlet says he has every right to kill Claudius because he killed his father, married his mother, took the crown from him, and now even tried to kill him directly. He also says he wishes he hadn't been so wild to Laertes at the grave. Osric comes in to say the king has put a bet on a fencing match between Hamlet and Laertes, and Hamlet agrees to the match, complimenting Laertes. A nobleman comes to ask again whether Hamlet will compete, and he says again he will. Horatio says Hamlet will lose, but Hamlet doesn't think so, though he does have a bad feeling about this. During the match, Hamlet asks for Laertes forgiveness for his graveside behavior, and Laertes says he does. Claudius throws a pearl in a cup of wine and says it will go to Hamlet if he scores first or second. Hamlet does get the first point but doesn't drink; Gertrude does instead, and as the pearl was poisoned, she is now doomed to die. Laertes gives Hamlet a light wound with his foil, but as the blade is poisoned, Laertes knows Hamlet will die soon. There's a scuffle and the blades are switched, and Hamlet wounds Laertes with the poisoned foil, not realizing it's poisoned. Laertes calls this just; then the queen dies, with her final breath realizing she has been killed. Laertes confesses Claudius's plot to Hamlet and explains Hamlet too is about to die. Hamlet kills Claudius. Finally. Laertes forgives Hamlet for Polonius's death and asks his forgiveness for killing him, which Hamlet grants. Laertes dies. Hamlet tells Horatio to tell his story, although Horatio would like to join in the poison party. Hamlet says Fortinbras should get the crown, then dies. Fortinbras coincidentally shows up and is stunned by the scene. We also find out Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. Horatio arranges for the bodies of the deceased to be put on a stage so that their story can be told. Fortinbras takes the crown and says Hamlet would have been a good king.
Possible discussion questions:
-For a two scene act, there is a LOT that happens in this. Sometimes the last act almost feels rushed because of this. Do you feel that or do you think it's an appropriate build to the climax?
-Given that it's not very bright to get in a fencing match with your dead girlfriend's brother, whose father you killed, does Hamlet actually want to die?
-Is Laertes acceptance of Hamlet's apology sincere? If so, why does he poison him?
-Did Gertrude know what was in the wine?
-Is Hamlet's killing of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern just?
-Is Fortinbras right that Hamlet would have made a good king?
-Hamlet finally kills Claudius via poisoned blade... and poisoned wine... and in the Brannagh film version he slams a chandelier into him for good measure. Overkill, or just enough kill?
-Horatio is really the only main character who lives through the whole play, with Claudius, Gertrude, Hamlet, and Laertes all dead inside of the last scene, joining Ophelia and Polonius. Again, overkill or just enough kill?
-Who would be your dream cast, living or dead, for this play?
-Hamlet is often called the greatest play written in the English language. Agree or disagree?
Tomorrow, we start Much Ado about Nothing.