Earlier this week I finished re-reading Shakespeare's Hamlet.
I read it the first time in my senior year of high school. Didn't understand much; didn't like it much. This time I am reading the RSC version based primarily on the First Folio, on Kindle where the notes for words are much more easily accessible.
I think I understand more, but have to say that I still don't like the play. On the plot level it is dark; it is ambiguous as to whether Hamlet is more concerned about revenging for his father or that his uncle married his mom; and the ending where everyone is killed off just feels sloppy if it is a modern movie. The early part of the play is kind of slow-going, and dramatic / plot rhythm increased for Act 4. There are some meta-dramatic comments (the play-in-play and the pre-commentaries) which may be interesting to Shakespeare scholars. Turning a revenger into a philosopher I guess was an innovation, but I feel it is actually a bit counter productive for the drama genre.
Shakespeare is usually quite interesting from a psychological perspective. And for this play, Hamlet seems actually more concerned about his mom getting married so soon after his father's death than that his father was murdered. Emotionally might be this is an insight. But as a general outside audience, I think this is a perverted priority.
Thinking from the perspectives of the characters in the play, after this reading, I am wondering whether Gertrude the Queen (Hamlet's mom) agreed to marry Hamlet's uncle in order to protect Hamlet. Otherwise the King would have good reasons to kill off Hamlet earlier (given Hamlet was a heir to the throne and thus a potential usurper from the uncle, and Hamlet's popularity among the people in Denmark).
In the last scene, the uncle King seems to be committing suicide when he told Gertrude that the wine she just drank was poisoned. At that moment I thought the King's care -- or even love -- for the Queen is genuine. (If the uncle is only a scheming person who marry Gertrude purely to consolidate the throne, he would probably hold off telling her about the poisoned wine.) If the uncle King truly cares about Gertrude, Gertrude agreeing to marry him would be somewhat of a shield for Hamlet's life, which is also factually not in danger before Hamlet killed Ophelia's father.
This is a long way to say that Hamlet's uneasiness about his mom's quick marriage to the uncle right after his father's death, is probably just another typical case of kid misunderstanding the parent - her mom's try to protect Hamlet, but Hamlet just wouldn't understand the real meaning of the parent's action. Even if the scene where Hamlet confronts Gertrude (Act 3 Scene 4) -- after he killed Polonius no less -- he was just focusing on the sexual side of his mom's marrying his uncle. And Gertrude's response (lines 88-92):
Gertrude: O Hamlet, speak no more;
Thou turn'st mine eyes into my very soul,
And there I see such black and grained spots
As will not leave their tinct.
On the surface it seems Gertrude admitted guilty to Hamlet's accusation. With the interpretation laid out above, I'd argue that she is just admitting that this side of the development is a taint on her soul, but she is not necessarily admitting that it was the motive for her marrying his uncle. And this response happens after Hamlet killed Polonius (they were talking over the corpse so to speak), and right before Hamlet was talking to the ghost (or to himself from Gertrude's perspectives). The development just didn't allow much time for Gertrude to actually make her defense.
But if there are no misunderstanding(s), there would be no drama to start with.