Archive | April, 2013

Hamlet’s Last Laugh

15 Apr

But I do prophesy th’ election lights
On Fortinbras; he has my dying voice. (Hamlet 5.2.392-3)

For centuries people have wondered why Hamlet would spend his dying breaths and words on an aggressive lout like Fortinbras of Norway whose “sharked up” band of “lawless resolutes” arrives at Elsinore just in time to receive the kingdom for which he might otherwise have battled. This is not the first time Shakespeare juxtaposes the two young men and has Hamlet give way to the thug with whom he compares himself adversely. The first was when Hamlet, on his way to England encounters the Norwegian army on its way to fight the Polish for “a little patch of ground” so poor that “five ducats” would be too great a rent to pay to farm it (4.4.19-20). Yet twenty thousand lives will be lost fighting for a plot “not large enough to hide the slain.” Continue reading