What was to happen when Fortinbras arrived had all not been dead?I'm new here...so hello. I'm 46 and this is not my homework. I fell in love with Hamlet this summer in Stratford Ontario. I...

What was to happen when Fortinbras arrived had all not been dead?

I'm new here...so hello. I'm 46 and this is not my homework. I fell in love with Hamlet this summer in Stratford Ontario. I actually went there 3 times to see the performance. It pains me to say I had not read the play previous to seeing it on stage. This past weekend I was watching Kenneth Brannagh's version with my nine year old daughter and at the end she asked me what would have happened to everyone had they lived to see Fortinbras arrive? He was there to take his place on the throne, right? They wouldn't have just invited him to take it...I'm assuming. Please pardon if this is an extremely dumb question, I do look forward to learning a lot here and don't want to make a very bad first impression. She also asked what was to become of Horation (one of our favorite characters) under Fortinbras rule. Thanks so much for your time and responses.

Asked on by lorinhl

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ms-mcgregor's profile pic

ms-mcgregor | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Your daughter is very insightful. If Fortinbras had not discovered all of the royal family dead, I'm sure there would have been a fight. However, one of the messages of the play is that the royal family was so distracted by their own problems, they forgot to safeguard the country. Claudius should have suspected something the minute Fortinbras asked for safe passage to Poland. Fortinbras obviously used this as a ruse to get into Denmark and attack it on his way back to Norway. Hamlet sees Fortinbras and suspects something, but Hamlet is one his way to England and distracted by his uncle's guilt and his own revenge. As for Horatio, his name means "orator" and his purpose is to tell Hamlet's story after Hamlet's death. Horatio was not Danish, so after telling Hamlet's story, he would probably be free to return to Wittenburg, the school from which he initially came. He could turn out to be something of an "ancient mariner" telling Hamlet's story where ever he goes. Just as a side note, you might enjoy comparing Brannagh's version of Hamlet with the Mel Gibson version. Unlike Brannagh's version which contains the entire text of "Hamlet",the Gibson version is edited and leaves Fortinbras out altogether.

lorinhl's profile pic

lorinhl | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

Let us haste to hear it,
 

Let four captains

I can't understand this.  I am looking at the last text that Fortinbras spoke and  yet when I hit "submit post" it goes away.  Regardless, you all know what he said, but I'm sure looking like an idiot and being new to the site it's distressing!  My point is, he says it's with sorrow he embraces his fortune...etc.

lorinhl's profile pic

lorinhl | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

Fortinbras arrived with an invading army, killing anyone that got in his way. Elsinor castle was defended, but not well. He totally overthrew it by force of arms and penetrated the central throne room, the heart of the castle (and the country). The (ex)Royal House of Denmark was in his total control. Generally conquering royalty did not kill conquered royalty (it might be your own turn to be conquered one day) So they would imprison them, and maybe ransom them. As for Horatio, he was a 'nobody' (his best mate Hamlet says as much) Horatio is not of high-birth and not powerful or important. If Fortinbras felt he'd seen too much, then his goose is cooked, otherwise, he can go back to Germany. Probably Horatio is a risky loose end. He's going to tell his story to anyone who'll listen. If Fortinbras is ruthless (which he is) then Horatio is potential trouble that can be silenced without consequences.

 

I am unsure as to whether or not Fortinbras is ruthless.  Obviously he's ambitious and a great organizer.  He feels he has a rightful place to claim and has a leg to stand on in that regard. 

When he comes on the scene he says:

Let us haste to hear it,
 

Let four captains

It sounds as if he has some compassion for the situation.  Is there some point I'm missing where he is ruthless?

   The more I learn here, the more I want to learn.  I'm quite happy I came across this site!

 

frizzyperm's profile pic

frizzyperm | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

Fortinbras arrived with an invading army, killing anyone that got in his way. Elsinor castle was defended, but not well. He totally overthrew it by force of arms and penetrated the central throne room, the heart of the castle (and the country). The (ex)Royal House of Denmark was in his total control. Generally conquering royalty did not kill conquered royalty (it might be your own turn to be conquered one day) So they would imprison them, and maybe ransom them. As for Horatio, he was a 'nobody' (his best mate Hamlet says as much) Horatio is not of high-birth and not powerful or important. If Fortinbras felt he'd seen too much, then his goose is cooked, otherwise, he can go back to Germany. Probably Horatio is a risky loose end. He's going to tell his story to anyone who'll listen. If Fortinbras is ruthless (which he is) then Horatio is potential trouble that can be silenced without consequences.

 

lorinhl's profile pic

lorinhl | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

Thank you for this excellent answer!  I had sort of lost the idea that Fortinbras had asked for safe passage and that small detail puts it in perspective for me. 

I've seen snippets of the Mel Gibson version but never the entire play.  I'm not one for editing and I think Fortinbras is an important figure--I can't be alone in that?

After the holidays I will get my hands on that version and take a look.  Thank you for your answer--you must be a fantastic teacher.

She will be happy about Horatio as well (can't believe I accidently added an "n" in my above question) as he is such a noble character.  I had pointed out that Hamlet's last words were for him to not follow in death but to go on and tell the tale. 

We have a goal to read all the plays by the time she is 18.  Right now we don't read them together, we see them.  Before we see anything, I go over the story with her.  Shakespeare is not too difficult--it's actually great fun and timeless stories.  It saddens me that so many dismiss him today. 

Thank you again Ms. Mcgregor--what lucky students you have!

 

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