Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Shakespeare: always worth a revisit

Mohammed, 19, from Bangladesh, at the refugee camp in Thisted, northern Jutland. Danish politicians have approved a law allowing the state to seize valuables from refugees to cover the cost of their maintenance. Photograph: Sara Gangsted/EPA

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Hamlet (1.4), Marcellus to Horatio

The quote in context

Shortly before midnight, Hamlet meets Horatio on the battlements of the castle. They wait together in the darkness. From below they hear the sound of the men in the castle laughing and dancing riotously; the King draining his "draughts of Rhenish down" (10). Hamlet explains to Horatio his dislike of such behaviour. To Hamlet, drinking to excess has ruined the whole nation, which is known abroad as a land full of drunken swine.

Horatio spots the Ghost of Hamlet's father approaching. Hamlet calls out to the Ghost and it beckons Hamlet to leave with it. Despite the pleadings of Horatio and Marcellus, who are afraid that the apparition might be an evil entity in disguise, Hamlet agrees to follow the Ghost and the two figures disappear into the dark.

Marcellus, shaken by the many recent disturbing events and no doubt angered (as is Hamlet) by Claudius's mismanagement of the body politic, astutely notes that Denmark is festering with moral and political corruption. Horatio replies "Heaven will direct it" (91), meaning heaven will guide the state of Denmark to health and stability. 

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Today's news show that Horatio was horribly wrong in suggesting that "Heaven will direct it"...

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