Today, you will watch Act 5. As you watch, keep the following in mind:
- The scene begins with a little comic relief. Two grave-diggers are preparing a new grave; in the process, they exchange a few jokes (pay attention to the bit about drowning).
- Hamlet and Horatio approach the grave-site. Hamlet is amused by the grave-digger, whom he labels “absolute”; in other words, the grave-digger is a literalist. Hamlet asks the grave-digger when he began to dig graves; listen carefully to the response.
- Finally, you will learn about the line “Alas, poor Yorick!” Feminists might be interested in Hamlet’s references to the “lady’s chamber.”
- Next, we learn who is to be buried. Watch Laertes and Hamlet carefully, but also watch the actions of the king; does he smirk while the two argue? (By the way, Ophelia doesn’t do much in this play; does she exist solely to heighten Laertes’ thirst for vengeance?
- I’m curious: what do you think of Hamlet’s line, “What is the reason that you use me thus?”
- The scene traditionally begins with Horatio and Hamlet reading the original letter Claudius had intended for the King of England. While on his way to England, Hamlet discovered a letter from Claudius to the King of England. In this letter, Claudius asked the English king to kill Hamlet upon his arrival. Hamlet wrote a new letter, asking the English king to kill Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. In this version, the scene begins with Hamlet explaining his actions to Horatio.
- Feminists will find Hamlet’s opening words about his mother quite compelling
- A new courtier arrives, telling Hamlet of the King’s wager about a “friendly” fencing match between Laertes and Hamlet. Those who are interested in class distinctions (Marxists) might be interested in Hamlet’s treatment of this courtier. Watch the hat bit carefully.
- Horatio tries to talk Hamlet out of the friendly duel, but Hamlet rejects his pleas. He delivers one of my favourite lines in literature: “We defy augury.” Has he finally decided to act?
- Watch the exchange between Hamlet and Laertes. Does Laertes accept Hamlet’s confession of “madness”?
- Finally, fiction relies on dramatic irony. This means, simply, that the audience knows something that the characters don’t. As you watch the tension build, remember how few characters truly know what is happening. Watch the pearl, ladies and gents.
- Enjoy the ending…
When you are done, I’d like you to return to the Characteristics of Tragedy sheet we started last week. Work with your groups to finish it to the best of your ability. Tomorrow, we will discuss why so many versions of this play leave out the last lines….