There’s Something Rotten in the State of Denmark – And It Isn’t the Eggs in Our Hamlet

There’s a major problem with trust between the characters in William Shakespeare’s most famous play – Hamlet. How can you blame them? They’re not the most upright, honorable bunch. In fact, they make Dexter look like a sweetheart.

A couple of these Hamlet quotes pretty much say it all in a nutshell:

GHOST: “Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast..”

(1.5.9)HAMLET: “O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!”

(1.5.10)POLONIUS: “At such a time I’ll loose my daughter to him;Be you and I behind an arras then.”

(2.2.12)LAERTES: “I am justly kill’d with mine own treachery.” (5.2.12)

Sounds like these guys have got some issues to work out. Let’s break it down and take a look at who’s doing what to whom:

  • Claudius kills the king, Hamlet’s father, takes over the throne and snags his own brother’s wife while he’s at it
  • Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother, betrays her ex-husband the king by jumping into the sack with Claudius immediately after his death
  • Laertes interferes in his sister Ophelia’s love life and demands that she stop trying to become involved romantically with Hamlet
  • Hamlet pretends to be crazy. Sure, he’s just doing so to catch his uncle in a trap, but still – deceitful.
  • Hamlet plots to kill Claudius.
  • Polonius hides behind a curtain to spy on Hamlet. What – were there no closets in this castle?
  • Hamlet (thinking he is Claudius) stabs and kills Polonius (wouldn’t have been so easy if he were in a closet – we’re just saying),
  • Claudius conspires to have Hamlet’s friends usher him to England where he’ll be out of the way for at least a little while.
  • Claudius and Laertes plot to kill Hamlet.
  • Hamlet, upon discovering an incriminating letter ordering his own death, decides to serve Rosencrantz and Guildenstern a dose of their own medicine and has them killed. (That’s some costly medicine.)
  • Claudius unintentionally poisons Gertrude.
  • Laertes kills Hamlet.
  • Hamlet kills Laertes and Claudius.
  • Horatio is caught cheating on the PSAT.

Now that’s some treachery and deceit. If this isn’t a FOX reality show in the making, we don’t know what is.

There are plenty of aspects of Shakespeare’s masterpiece that make Hamlet his most performed and most acclaimed effort, but you just have to give a shout-out to the element of duplicity that runs rampant throughout the text. It’s no wonder that practically everyone ends up lying in a pool of blood and/or poisoned wine by the end of it.

Hopefully the above list will inspire you to go home, tell your mother you love her, hide the cutlery, and stop acting so crazy.