|Written by:||William Shakespeare|
|Directed by:||Ian Rickson|
|Run:||28 Oct 2011 – 21 Jan 2012|
|Theatre:||Young Vic, London|
|Hamlet is Prince Hamlet of Denmark, son of the lately deceased King Hamlet and his wife, Queen Gertrude.While the young Hamlet is away at school the recently deceased King’s brother, Claudius, is elected king and hastily marries Gertrude.On a cold night at Elsinore, the Danish royal castle, one of the sentinels inform Horatio (Hamlet’s best friend) that they have seen a ghost that looks like the dead King Hamlet. After hearing from Horatio of the Ghost’s appearance, Hamlet resolves to see the Ghost himself. That night, the Ghost appears again and leads Hamlet to seclusion and reveals that it is the actual spirit of his father and discloses that he, the elder Hamlet, was murdered by Claudius pouring poison in his ear. The Ghost demands that Hamlet avenge him; Hamlet agrees, swearing his companions to secrecy.Polonius is Claudius’ trusted chief counsellor; his son, Laertes, is returning to France, and his daughter, Ophelia, is courted by Hamlet. Neither Polonius nor Laertes thinks Hamlet is serious about Ophelia, and they both warn her off. Shortly afterwards, Ophelia is alarmed by Hamlet’s strange behaviour and reports to her father that Hamlet rushed into her room, stared at her and said nothing. Polonius assumes that the “ecstasy of love” is responsible for Hamlet’s madness, and he informs Claudius and Gertrude.Perturbed by Hamlet’s continuing deep mourning for his father and his increasingly erratic behavior, Claudius sends for two of Hamlet’s acquaintances —Rosencrantz and Guildenstern—to discover the cause of Hamlet’s changed behavior. Hamlet greets his friends warmly but quickly discerns that they have been sent to spy on him.Together, Claudius and Polonius convince Ophelia to speak with Hamlet while they secretly listen to the conversation. When Hamlet enters, she offers to return his remembrances, upon which Hamlet questions her honesty and furiously rants at her, insisting she go “to a nunnery”.Hamlet remains uncertain if the Ghost has told him the truth, but the arrival of a troupe of actors at Elsinore presents him with a solution. He will stage a play, re-enacting his father’s murder, and determine Claudius’s guilt or innocence by studying his reaction. The court assembles to watch the play; Hamlet provides an agitated running commentary throughout. When the murder scene is presented, Claudius abruptly rises and leaves the room, which Hamlet sees as proof of his uncle’s guilt.Gertrude summons Hamlet to her closet to demand an explanation. On his way, Hamlet passes Claudius in prayer but hesitates to kill him, reasoning that death in prayer would send him to heaven. Upon reaching the queen, an argument erupts between Hamlet and Gertrude. Polonius, who is spying on the scene from behind an arras, convinced that the prince’s madness is indeed real, panics when it seems as if Hamlet is about to murder the Queen and cries out for help. Hamlet, believing it is Claudius hiding behind the arras, stabs wildly through the cloth, killing Polonius. When he realizes that he has killed Ophelia’s father, he is not remorseful, but calls Polonius “Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool”. The Ghost appears, urging Hamlet to treat Gertrude gently but reminding him to kill Claudius. Unable to see or hear the Ghost herself, Gertrude takes Hamlet’s conversation with it as further evidence of madness.Claudius, fearing for his life, and finally holding a legitimate excuse to get rid of the prince, makes plans to send Hamlet to England on a diplomatic pretext, closely watched by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Alone, Claudius discloses that he is sending Hamlet to his death. Prior to embarking for England, Hamlet hides Polonius’s body, ultimately revealing its location to the King. Upon leaving Elsinore, Hamlet encounters the army of Prince Fortinbras en route to do battle in Poland. Upon witnessing so many men going to their death for the brash whim of an impulsive prince, Hamlet decides that he will no longer plot and scheme, but rather finish his plan and kill Claudius.At Elsinore, further demented by grief at Polonius’s death, Ophelia wanders the castle acting erratically and singing bawdy songs. Her brother, Laertes, arrives back from France, enraged by his father’s death and his sister’s madness. She appears briefly to give out herbs and flowers. Claudius convinces Laertes that Hamlet is solely responsible; then news arrives that Hamlet is still at large— a story is spread that his ship was attacked by pirates on the way to England, and he has returned to Denmark. Claudius swiftly concocts a plot. His plan is to allow Hamlet’s death to appear to be an accident, taking all of the blame off of his shoulders. He proposes a fencing match between Laertes and Hamlet, as Hamlet was jealous of Laertes prowess with a sword. Laertes, enraged at the murder of his father informs the king that he will further poison the tip of his sword so as a mere scratch would mean certain death. Claudius, unsure that capable Hamlet could receive even a scratch, plans to offer Hamlet poisoned wine if that fails. Gertrude enters to report that Ophelia has drowned.
In the Elsinore churchyard, two gravediggers enter to prepare Ophelia’s grave, and although the coroner has ruled her death accidental, so that she receives Christian burial, they argue over it being a case of suicide. Hamlet arrives with Horatio and banters with one of them, who unearths the skull of a jester whom Hamlet once knew, Yorick. Ophelia’s funeral procession approaches, led by her mournful brother Laertes. Upset at the lack of ceremony due to the deemed suicide and overcome by emotion, Laertes leaps into the grave, cursing Hamlet as the cause of her death. Hamlet interrupts and professes his own love and grief for Ophelia. He and Laertes grapple, but the fight is broken up by Claudius and Gertrude. Claudius makes sure to remind Laertes of the planned fencing match.
Later that day, Hamlet tells Horatio how he escaped, and that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have been sent to their deaths. A courtier interrupts to invite Hamlet to fence with Laertes. Despite warnings from Horatio, Hamlet accepts and the match begins. After several rounds, Gertrude toasts Hamlet against the urgent warning of Claudius, accidentally drinking the wine he poisoned. Between bouts, Laertes attacks and pierces Hamlet with his poisoned blade; in the ensuing scuffle, Hamlet is able to use Laertes’s own poisoned sword against him, fatally wounding Laertes. Gertrude falls and in her dying breath announces that she has been poisoned.
In his dying moments, Laertes is reconciled with Hamlet and reveals Claudius’s murderous plot. Hamlet stabs Claudius with the doped sword, then forces him to drink from his own poisoned cup to make sure he dies. In his final moments, Hamlet, names Prince Fortinbras of Norway as the probable heir to the throne, as the Danish kingship is an elected position, with the country’s nobles having the final say. Horatio attempts to kill himself with the same poisoned wine, but is stopped by Hamlet, while dying from the scratch of Laertes’ sword previously commands him to tell his story, as he will be the only one left alive who could give a full account.
More images can be found in the Gallery
The Young Vic Theatre’s Hamlet Resource pack
Hamlet – BBC Audio Book