William Shakespeare’s Hamlet Act V : A Deconstructive Study. Saeid Bayat Pouria Torkamaneh Fall of 2013. Summary.
Fall of 2013
Scene I: Two gravediggers discuss Ophelia's apparent suicide, while digging her grave. Hamlet arrives with Horatio and banters with a gravedigger, who unearths the skull of a jester from Hamlet's childhood, Yorick. Ophelia's funeral procession approaches, led by Laertes. He and Hamlet grapple, but the brawl is broken up.
Scene II: Back at Elsinore, Hamlet tells Horatio how he escaped and that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. A courtier, Osric, interrupts to invite Hamlet to fence with Laertes. With Fortinbras' army closing on Elsinore, the match begins. Laertes pierces Hamlet with a poisoned blade but is fatally wounded by it himself. Gertrude accidentally drinks poisoned wine intended for Hamlet and dies. In his dying moments, Laertes is reconciled with Hamlet and reveals Claudius's murderous plot. In his own last moments, Hamlet manages to kill Claudius and names Fortinbras as his heir. When Fortinbras arrives, Horatio recounts the tale and Fortinbras orders Hamlet's body borne off in honor.
Postal Metaphor: Every time you post a letter,any one of these three can happen next:
…(A Derrida Dictionary, p.96 )
At the very beginning of act V, the first clown is not sure if Ophelia deserves a “christian burial when she wilfully seeks her own salvation” by suicide. He continues that “It must be ‘se offendendo.’ It cannot be else. For here lies the point: if I drown myself wittingly, it argues an act, and an act hath three branches – it is, to act, to do, to perform” (Scene I). Plus the second clown responds that “Will you ha’ the truth on’t? If this had not been a gentlewoman, she should have been buried out o’Christian burial”.
We are not the ones to issue a rule in matters of religion, especially those related to God and afterlife. Plus, this is exactly giving a full stop to God’s territory of judgment and talking about who a true Christian is and who is not.
At the end of the play, before the fencing match, Laertesseems to have been able to control his emotions, apparently at least for a short time. When Hamlet apologizes for the misdeeds of past, Laertes asserts that he does not think of revenge. He says:
“I am satisfied in nature,
Whose motive, in this case, should stir me most
To my revenge. But in my terms of honor
I stand aloof, and will no reconcilement
Till by some elder masters, of known honor,
I have a voice and precedent of peace,
To keep my name ungored. But till that time,
I do receive your offered love like love
And will not wrong it.” (scene II).
Laertes bases his judgment not on his personal notions, but on the notions derived and sealed as an un-negotiable deal from the beliefs and doctrines of his ancestors, which seem to be inevitably omnipresent.
From the outset of the act or even the play Hamlet seems obsessed with many beliefs and thoughts. One of these very deep feelings he constantly reveals during the play is his mental picture of an impending death. After his father’s death, he seems helplessly unable to let go of the event. It seems like he subtly attracts deaths and misfortunes. He keeps losing his relatives and gradually he is left alone. Image of death, and dead body haunt him at times. In the graveyard, he thinks about the death of Alexander and Julius Caesar as noble men who finally died. He searches all the skulls the clown is unearthing and remembers most of them or guesses their identity through random speculations of the skull. Upon one of the skulls he opines:
“I knew him, Horatio – a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath borne me on his back a thousand times. And now how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. (to the skull ) Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar?” (scene I). The way he is searching the skull gives the impression that he cherishes and feels nostalgic to the dead and remembrances of the past, which also includes his father as well. In fact, it can be understood that death plays the role of a living soul for him. This is exactly the sense of attachment to a repetition that is in essence dead and belongs to the past, that leads him to disintegration, and decay and pushes him to dark thoughts and endlessly looming misfortunes on the horizon.
Hamlet never finds himself unleashed from doubt and inability to decide on a firm ground. On the one hand, Hamlet finds his Oedipal feelings fullfilled by his uncle who serves (uncle) as a flesh and blood expression of his own repressed childhood fantasies. It’s no wonder he does not desire to kill him. On the other hand, Claudius has killed his father and this makes him mad. This give and take struggle of his fulfilled desires or Oedipal feelings pushes him to one side and his desire and consciousness to revenge forces him to the other.
In the graveyard, Gertrude gets shocked by loosing her will-bride, also feels pity for her son, Hamlet .
Queen: “I hoped thou shouldst have been my Hamlet’s wife;Ithought thy bride-bed to have deck’d, sweet maid,Andnot have strew’d thy grave.”
Sense of unpredictability presents itself by what Gertrude claims about her wishes for his son. Fragmented nature of the world events performs its rule by randomization among essences and causes this sense. Some of events occur permenantly , but nonlinear. No fixed principals laws can lead them. We can’t force the nature to change its selections. Death of Ophelia is similar to the third probable destination for the letter in Derrida’s postal metaphor.