February 03, 2010

Before the curtain rises

Kronborg Castle in Helsingoer, Denmark, aka Elsinore.

Goat Rope is in the throes of a long jag on Shakespeare's Hamlet lately, although you'll also find links and comments about current events. If you are a fan of the melancholy Dane, please click on earlier posts.

A lot of the important actions in Hamlet take place before the actions portrayed in the play. Hamlet’s father, known hereafter as Old Hamlet ruled Denmark with success and was apparently happily married to Gertude (although one wonders whether she might have trodden the primrose path of dalliance with Old Hamlet’s brother Claudius while her husband was smiting his foes). Their son Hamlet was born about 30 years before the play, although he seems younger.

Old Hamlet was as warlike as you’d want a king to be. At one point, he accepted a challenge from the king of Norway, aka King Fortinbras, to single combat over contested land and won on the same day young Hamlet was born. Fortinbras’ brother, Old Norway, became king of the diminished Norwegian lands, but his nephew young Fortinbras would seethe to regain lost glory.

Young Hamlet was entertained as a child by the jester Yorick and later went to study at the university of Wittenberg, incidentally and anachronistically home to reformer Martin Luther (and to Doctor Faustus in the tragedy of Shakespeare’s sometime rival Christopher Marlowe).

While Hamlet was away, Claudius, apparently long jealous of his brother for more than one reason, made his move. He poisoned Old Hamlet while the later slept and married Gertrude within two months of his brother’s death.

Claudius gained the throne, in effect usurping it from young Hamlet, who was clearly old enough to succeed his father. Young Hamlet was shocked and bitterly disappointed to find the wedding follow so closely upon the funeral. He took comfort in the love of Ophelia, daughter of Claudius’ counselor Polonius and brother of Laertes.

Something was rotten in the state of Denmark and it was only going to get worse.

THE BOOGEY MAN. Here's another column by the prolific Dean Baker about dealing with the recession.

A NEW POLL shows significant support for public spending aimed a getting the economy moving again.

MOVE OVER, SPIDERMAN. A new gadget may make it possible for people to walk up walls.

EAT IT. Food rules for our time.



ACCC Forum said...

what do you think of john updikes hamlet spin-off "Gertrude and Claudius. " I dug it.

Tom Rodd

El Cabrero said...

I haven't read it but it sounds right up my alley--I'll check it out. Thanks!