The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king. (Hamlet Act 2 Scene 2)
For Hamlet’s plot till now, see Hamlet So Far.
Act 2 Scene 2. In Syd Field’s language, it’s time for Plot Point One. A plot point is a story event that directs the action in a new, unexpected direction.
Hamlet knows what he knows, and he knows it deeply. To prove it, that is another thing. The universe has turned against him. It has dug a hole for Hamlet, and it is throwing dirt over him. He needs a shovel.
The guy comes home to the castle. His dad is dead. Last he saw Dad he was healthy as a horse. He was bit by a snake and it was bye bye Miss American pie. On top of that, Mom has remarried. To Uncle Claudius, of all people. So he doesn’t get to be King Hamlet. Even for a day.
It would have been nice if Uncle screwed up. He didn’t. Uncle Claudius has this king thing down to a tee. He looks like a king, smells like a king, sounds like a king. He acts like a king, and he is damned good at it.
Then there is the ghost, and he’s dumping the dirt on Hamlet too. Could be his father. But maybe it is a demon or the devil. He dumps a revenge onto Hamlet’s noggin. How will that get dear old Dad out of a purgatory Hamlet did not believe in? This purgatory is a Catholic thing. Hamlet is a Protestant.
Hamlet deep down wants to be king. More than anything. So he is ready to do just about anything. But murder. No way. There’s a little thing called the Ten Commandments and “Thou shalt not kill”. It doesn’t say “except if he’s an s.o.b.”
Maybe Hamlet doesn’t want to be king after all. Even if he did want it, he can’t do the cold blood thing. He needs proof. Not only for others. For himself as well. So how is he going to do that? He hasn’t a clue.
First Polonius shows his face, then R & G with whom he used to play touch football. With whom he no longer has anything in common.
More words, words, words, and none the right ones. Tit for tatting with his old chums, now working for the Dark Lord. Hamlet says, “I have of late…lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises, and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition.” In other words, I am so down-and-out these days, I’ve let my LA Fitness membership slide, I am not dating much, and I haven’t smiled in days. No, make that weeks. Hamlet is really, and truly, bummed.
R/G says to the Hamster,” A troupe of actor’s a-coming this way. You know them?”
“Yes, they were the same troupe you knew at school.”
“Oh, that troupe.
Then Shakespeare steps in to speak through the mouths of his actors. He complains how child actors have given his theatrical troupe competition. They’ve been very successful at it of late. He complains that they are biting into the Globe’s revenues. Ticket sales are down.
Hamlet welcomes the troupe. Sees if they’ve still got their chops, for Hamlet knows a bit about acting. More than a bit. Seems he could join the troupe himself if he were not a prince and he was looking for a job. Now comes the Plot Point One. Hamlet has come upon a design which will reveal if Claudius is guilty of his father’s murder or not. He will set a trap.
To the lead player, he requests the troupe do “The Murder of Gonzago”. He shall write a speech for them to insert into the play. It will be such a speech that once and for all proves, or disproves, Claudius’ guilt.
Hamlet now has his shovel. Now for Act 3 when all hell breaks loose.