There is something savage in Hamlet.
Get thee to a nunnery: why wouldst thou be a
breeder of sinners? I am myself indifferent honest;
but yet I could accuse me of such things that it
were better my mother had not borne me: I am very
proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offences at
my beck than I have thoughts to put them in,
imagination to give them shape, or time to act them
in. What should such fellows as I do crawling
between earth and heaven? We are arrant knaves,
all; believe none of us. Go thy ways to a nunnery.
And this savage essence, once revealed, can find no limit to contain it.
Civilization, in the mythic sense of the term, is exactly a means whereby, through some alchemy of society, the savage ruled by passion is transformed to servant of the honest good. But Hamlet, as a creature of his age, has lost faith in civilization to such a depth that he has lost the thread of civility in himself.
In him war the sweet prince and the savage and for centuries critics have discussed the nature of his tragic flaw. I’ve long found this search for blame misplace; or better, curiously blind to the fact that world Hamlet lives within is rotten and time itself out of joint. How odd it is to expect one man to be so perfect as to rectify the collective failings of a nation. Perhaps this expectation is a signature, exactly the sort of thought failed societies produce.
But then, it is said that too whom much is given much is expected. Being prince has its price.
I hope one day to describe the generation from Horus to Jesus to Hamlet – from triumphant avenger to sacrificial redeemer to tragic failure; as connected to the rise and intellectual and moral degeneration of the concept and practice of royalty. It is no coincidence that the Horus/Jesus/Hamlet character is portrayed as a tragic failure in the century before the concept of royalty is eviscerated by Common Sense.