I Like Ham 4: Favorite Fictions - I Like Hamlet

Well, Steve, it's time for another one of my favorite fictional characters. We begin with an excerpt from the Handbook of the Shakespeare Universe:

Real name: Hamlet, son of Hamlet

First Appearance:
The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

Occupations: Prince of Denmark, student

Bases of Operations: Elsinore Castle, the University of Wittenberg

Place of Birth: Elsinore Castle, Denmark

Group Affiliation: Royal House of Denmark

Friends/Allies: Horatio, Marcellus, Barnardo

Enemies: Claudius, Polonius, Laertes, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern

Height: Varies*

Weight: Varies*

Eye Color: Varies*

Hair Color: Varies*

Strength: Above average human

Speed: Above average human

Intelligence: Genius level human

Energy-Manipulation Ability: None

Magic-Manipulation Ability: None

Special Abilities: Excellent swordsman, skilled forger, gifted actor

History: Hearing of his father's death, Prince Hamlet of Denmark returns home from Wittenberg, only to find that his uncle Claudius has assumed the throne and married Hamlet's mother, Gertrude. Already suspicious, Hamlet is visited by a spirit purporting to be that of his father, which asserts that the elder Hamlet was murdered by Claudius. Feigning madness, Prince Hamlet, with his friend Horatio's help, schemes to trap Claudius into a public admission of guilt, which would allow Hamlet to avenge his father and assume the throne of Denmark. Claudius, aware of the threat that Hamlet poses to him, plots to find a way to eliminate Hamlet. Thus begins a game of trap and counter-trap, resulting in the deaths of almost everyone involved, leaving only Horatio behind to watch as young Fortinbras, Prince of Norway, assumes the throne of Denmark.

*Depending upon who's playing him

As those of you who read the "Hamlet" thread on the old board know, Hamlet is my favorite of Shakespeare's plays, it's the one play I can read and/or watch endlessly. Just about every version of Hamlet that I've ever seen has something to offer, even the Ethan Hawke one. Of course, my favorite version is the Branagh one - yes, it's four hours long, but for me it's worth it. I know some folks object to the "stunt casting" of various big name actors - I don't mind it, in fact, it enhances the film for me.

But aside from the film is the beautiful writing - for me, this is Shakespeare at the height of his powers. and Hamlet is the most interesting and enigmatic of his characters. Hamlet's a character that has made me think over and over again for something like thirty years - everytime I think I've figured him out, another possible interpretation opens up to me. Hamlet, to me, is almost a sort of secular scripture, worthy to be studied the way we study Scripture, and Hamlet the character is as distinct and complex as any scriptural character.

Heh, my library time is running out - just as well, probably, since this is a subject I could jabber on about endlessly. Writing under a time limit helps you to focus your thoughts. At some point, I will start up a Shakespeare thread here, as well.

This time I wrote about Hamlet, a man doomed, some would say, by his own internal flaws. Next time maybe I'll write about another favorite of mine, a man doomed by nature of the world he lived in...

Views: 50

Comment by Cavaliere (moderator emeritus) on August 18, 2009 at 2:06pm
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern as enemies? None of it! They are summoned to Elsinore because they are Hamlet's friends. Their part in the attempted assassination of Hamlet is without their prior knowledge.

I would include Fortinbras on the enemies list. Sure, he's not out for Hamlet in specific but Hamlet is a member of the royal family that Fortinbras would have at least captured and probably killed if the Danes hadn't managed to kill each other off before he even shows up!
Comment by The Baron on August 18, 2009 at 2:10pm
Interesting point about R & G - they are more dupes than enemies. Insteresting point about Young Fortinbras, as well.


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