Hamlet and Interlude 5: Civil War(s)

There are more things in heaven and earth. Hamlet Act 1 Scene 5.

For Hamlet’s plot till now, see Hamlet So Far.

Elsinore is beginning to smell of death. First Hamlet’s father. Then Polonius. Now Ophelia. And who knows who will be next. As I said, Elsinore is beginning to smell of death.

It is beginning to look like Civil War. Laertes and Claudius against Hamlet. Is this any way to run a kingdom?

Folks are beginning to doubt Claudius. He had a good run at king-ing. Now, not so much. Even the queen has started grumbling. A “I’m not in the mood” kind of grumbling.

Shakespeare’s England had been through this before. The War of the Roses between the Red Rose of the Lancaster family and the White Rose of the York family in the 1400s. The Elizabethans knew what this led to. Chaos.

It had taken a Tudor to bring order to England. He did that in 1485 at Bosworth Field.

So seeing “Hamlet” on stage was a reminder of what could happen. And they didn’t like it. They didn’t like or want another Civil War.

With the chaos of a Civil War came a country that couldn’t prosper. No one got rich, only poorer. A lot of folks didn’t get to die in bed. It meant brother against brother, father against son. Doesn’t that sound like fun?

The Elizabethans didn’t think it was fun. This is one of the reasons many Elizabethans remained Protestant. They weren’t happy about the persecution of the Catholics. But the Pope and the Jesuits couldn’t leave well enough alone. They had to go and stir the pot and persist in overthrowing Queen Elizabeth Numero Uno. The Elizabethans remembered Bloody Mary, and they were not ready to go back to that. Above all, the English wanted order. Elizabeth gave the English something the Roses and Bloody Mary did not give them. Order.

The Danes under Claudius were seeing order break down. At the beginning of Claudius’ reign, Denmark prospered. Now crops started to fail. Parts of the country suffered from drought. Seemed like somebody had an Oedipus Complex. They weren’t sure who. But one thing was sure. Either Claudius and Laertes buried the hatchet with Hamlet or all hell might just break loose. The Danes knew how that turned out, and they were not happy that there’d be a mess to clean up in the end.

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