This is a transcript from the video series Life Lessons from the Great Books. Watch it now, on The Great Courses Plus. They have serious matters of state to ponder. In the next scene, the young prince Hamlet wonders: Why did his father die so mysteriously? Why would his mother marry her brother-in-law so quickly?
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How could my mother have done such a thing? It is even incest to have married her brother-in-law like that. His friends tell him about the ghost, and he goes with them and walks. There, the ghost appears to him.
Your uncle—my brother—found me into the garden where I take my accustomed nap. They said a serpent bit me, but he poured poison into my ear that turned my blood into gelatinous fluids, and I died.
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My wife—your mother—was already engaged in an adulterous, incestuous affair with him, and together, they took my life. Hamlet adopts the pose of having lost his mind under this grief, and from having been a scholar, he has turned into a distracted and distraught young person, blathering to himself. The spirit of his father is a real creature.
But how will Hamlet carry this out, to not be seen plotting his vengeance?
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Learn more about recognizing the harm caused by returning evil with evil. Polonius, Claudius, and Gertrude—who loves Hamlet deeply—worry about him. Gertrude is already feeling pangs of remorse over having married this man she had the affair with. In the meantime, Polonius has his own family issues: his daughter, Ophelia , is much attracted to Hamlet, and his own son, Laertes , is about to go back to Paris to study more.
As he is sending off his son, Polonius gives him his advice. It has a great theme; it is written in noble language; it speaks across the ages; it speaks to each of us individually. Great language, noble language—never has the English language reached such beautiful heights as in the hand of Shakespeare.
In one of these memorable passages, Polonius gives some of the best advice on how to live your life that you will ever get:. Nor any unproportioned thought his act. Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,. Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel; [Make good friends, keep them.
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Shakespeare is saying to listen to your father and mother about law school or medical school, but to be wise and prudent in matters of life. Ultimately, you choose in life what is your mission or calling. Find it out, follow it, do what you love. Learn more about how wisdom enables us to take information and apply it to our lives. With these words of wisdom, Laertes leaves for France.
The plot begins to thicken, for there is something rotten in the state of Denmark. Hamlet sets it upon himself to discover how to avenge his father. Laertes has also spoken with his sister, Ophelia, and she has told him that Hamlet is genuinely interested in her.
I think he will only trifle with your affections, so as thy brother, I tell you, spurn Hamlet. Hamlet begins to act his mad pose: gibbering around the court, performing strange actions, jumping around, and dressing in strange clothes. Ophelia comes to the reasonable conclusion she has driven him crazy.
By not accepting his love, she has made him lovesick. He is a very fine man. I think you should accept his love and make him happy. Maybe that will bring him back to his senses, because I worry much about our kingdom with no heir to the throne and the Norwegians threatening war. In the midst of all of this, Hamlet must ponder his future.
Or, if in opposing these events, that he may die. With a bare bodkin? In this case, with a dagger. Thus conscience does make cowards of us all, … [You have the path to freedom, but you fear what might come after. Hamlet dismisses her. All of you women are untrue. Get thee to a nunnery, I tell you. I want nothing to do with you. I will not allow you to play me false. In his pursuit to avenge his father, he has crushed her, and in spurning her love, he does drive her crazy; Ophelia loses her mind.
She goes around the palace mad, insane, singing strange songs she creates for herself, a consequence of his actions. In the meantime, Hamlet has decided to bring the action into full play.
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A group of traveling actors has arrived at the castle. Appearing more sane, Hamlet writes it out and tells his parents he has arranged for this play to be performed. A banquet is given, and the players come out. Gertrude rushes out of the room and Hamlet follows her. He plans to kill her.
Hamlet stops, and King Claudius is there before the altar. My friends, workmates and teachers treated me as a likeable and loveable person but it didn't matter too much because there was a constant undercurrent of self-hatred because I could never please my mother. Nothing I did was good enough.
My jobs. My friends. Gifts I had given her. The fact that I was choosing male companions who ticked all of her list of criteria for suited her. Any attempts to make improvements where she said I was always lacking were met with silence at best and covert put-downs at worst. She made me an example to her other friends who were my age as well and I am sure they felt terrible for me. The final straw came when I discovered she was snooping through my belongings when I wasn't around and then asking questions which were loosely related to what she had found.
I used to stay at her beach home on weekends, as much as I hated it enough to take anxiety meds to cope with it. She wouldn't let me use her phone to call friends in the city where I lived and she kicked up a stink if I dared to socialize with anyone near her home. One particular weekend ended my association with her. She drove to my friends' houses wherever I may have been I had to tell her where I was going, even to the public phonebox on the beach to call my friends in the city.
She pulled over and yelled at me to get in the car and I was 40 at this time. Back home she expressed her disinterest in my xmas photos of friends. When I was helping her with the dishes she told me to shut up and shoved me in the arm. Later she interrupted me in my room while I was texting friends and grabbed my phone from me. After trying to take yet another deliberately unflattering photo of me, I fled for dear life. I cut her and my step-family off six years ago.
Absolutely no contact. I have been in intensive and exhausting therapy for five years now and I am just starting to feel safe again. I feel like I can live a good life without approval from anybody, let alone her. I have been trying to forgive this bitch who might as well consider me to be an extremely late term abortion that lived.
She is a sick woman and I cannot bring myself to feel compassion for her hateful ways. At this point, silence really is golden. Orloff I agree with you that the power to forgive is perhaps the most powerful way to heal both yourself and your relationships.
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