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
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...