February 05, 2010

Carnal, bloody and unnatural acts

Edwin Booth as you know who, circa 1870.

The theme here lately is Hamlet, although you’ll also find links and comments about current events. If you like this kind of thing, please click on earlier posts. Today’s will provide a ridiculously brief summary of the play itself.

Old Hamlet’s ghost is seen on the battlements of Elsinore and those who see it decide tell young Hamlet. Meanwhile, Laertes, son of Polonious, counselor to king Claudius prepares to return to his studies in France after visiting Denmark for the funeral of Old Hamlet and the hasty wedding of his widow Gertrude to Claudius after only two months. Ophelia, Laertes sister, is warned against Hamlet’s affections and forbidden to see him by her father.

Hamlet sees his father’s ghost on the battlements and learns that we was poisoned by his brother Claudius. He is urged to avenge the murder but spare his mother, leaving her to Heaven. Hamlet swears his friends to secrecy and starts to act strange. His madness is feigned, but he is clearly depressed by what he learned and by Ophelia’s distance.

Ophelia reports Hamlet’s strange behavior to her father, who thinks he is mad for love. Claudius and Gertrude send for Hamlet’s old friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to pick his brain and report what they learn to the king.

Hamlet is torn by doubts about the veracity of his vision. When a troupe of players arrive, he decides to put on a play resembling the real murder and to watch Claudius’ reaction. The play hits close to home and Hamlet is convinced of Claudius’ guilt. He almost murders him, but hesitates since Claudius is at prayer (he would prefer to send him to hell rather than heaven). Hamlet then confronts his mother with is revelations and kills Polonius who is spying as usual (he thought it was Claudius).

Hamlet is ordered by Claudius to go to England with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Unbeknownst to them, they carry a letter demanding that the king of England kill Hamlet.

While Hamlet is away, the grieving Ophelia goes mad and drowns herself. Her brother Laertes wants revenge for her death and that of his father. Claudius assures him Hamlet is to blame.

Meanwhile, Hamlet turns up in Denmark again, having been captured and ransomed by pirates. While at sea, he read the secret letter and changes it, sending Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to their deaths instead. Claudius and Laertes agree to a plot to kill Hamlet in a fencing bout with poison.

Hamlet shows up at graveside which turns out to be that of Ophelia. He and Laertes nearly come to blows.

In the final fencing bout, Hamlet and Laertes poison each other but reconcile. Claudius accidently poisons Gertrude. Hamlet kills Claudius before dying himself. At the end, young Fortinbras comes in from his campaign against the Poles to find the carnage. Horatio lives to tell the tale.

That’s the outline, but in this play the words outweigh the action.

STANDING UP FOR SENIORS. The WV House of Delegates unanimously passed a resolution in support of in-home care for elderly people with disabilities. The state has recently cut back on the number of elderly people eligible for the program despite the fact that it saves money in the long run. As Gazette reporter Kate Long wrote:

It costs $20,000 to keep one person on in-home care for a year, with hospitalization, according to DHHR, compared with $60,000 to $70,000 for nursing home care. The state share for in-home care, under the stimulus, is now about $4,000 a year.

DEFICIT HYSTERIA could delay real economic recovery.

THE UNION DIFFERENCE is pretty big. A new study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that

Across all the states, however, unionization is strongly associated with increases in overall compensation, measured here by hourly wages and health and pension benefit coverage. In the typical state, unionization is associated with about a 15 percent increase in hourly wages (roughly $2.50 per hour), a 19-percentage-point increase in the likelihood of having employer-provided health insurance, and a 24-percentage-point increase in the likelihood of having employer-sponsored retirement plans.



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