This play brings up a question I’ve always had with Romeo and Juliet: Juliet supposedly commits suicide in the middle of the play, but her parents are allowed to place her body in the family crypt on consecrated ground. Given that the Capulets are Catholics in Verona, I never understood how that was possible. That issue again comes up in this play, with the death of Ophelia. Yet here, the priest refuses to give her a requiem mass and final rites on sacred ground. Interesting dichotomy.
I’ve always had some problems with this play. I don’t really understand Hamlet. Is his increasingly erratic behavior intentional or natural? I could see him trying to use this erratic behavior as a calculated effort, a means to trap his uncle in the lie; but it could also just as easily have been the result of having just witnessed the ghost of his father and learning the true circumstances of his death…this erratic behavior initiating from Hamlet’s inner conflict—coming to terms with what he’s heard and accepting the truth. I think it’s a bit of both.
I’m also unsure about Hamlet’s feelings for Ophelia. I’m never sure if he’s in earnest or in jest when he describes her—his treatment of her is truly flippant. But if you’ve ever watched Laurence Olivier’s version of Hamlet, you can almost guess why he’d be fickle in his attentions to her. ;)
Regardless of my feelings about Hamlet as a character, the language of the play is beautiful as well as haunting. It’s certainly a bleak story, though not as brutal as Macbeth.