Wednesday, July 12, 2006
My wife and I read this classic together for a World Lit class she was taking. It really is a meditation on death and a powerful statement about the nature of human consciousness -- we can be a vacillating, revenge-driven, half-mad species, and Hamlet exposes some of our weaknesses as well as our greatest strengths. "Conscience does make cowards of us all." The great graveyard scene is to me the emotional climax of the play, where two men compete over the memory of a beloved sister and (for lack of a better word) lover. Hamlet intentionally distances himself from Ophelia, but his "antic disposition" is overcome in the graveyard scene when he wallows in his grief. This is a true grief, not an acted one, but Hamlet is the ultimate actor's role because he is both a director and an actor within the play itself. There is an insecurity to the role that is mystifying to some but powerful to others. Hamlet can sound like a whiny teenager at times, but he is capable of showing great resolve and emotional fortitude in others. It's well worth reading this play to get back to a sense of what it means to be human and to encounter such a compelling character.