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"The World Has Been Sad Since Hamlet" "The world has been sad since Hamlet," Oscar Wilde once claimed.  Based on what you've read thus far, or on prior knowledge of the play, what do you think Wilde means?

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Perhaps he meant that Shakespeare's "Hamlet" gave the world the epitome of sadness...that prior to "Hamlet," we didn't really know what true sadness was.

In the opening of the play, we learn that all is not right in Denmark. After the encounter with the ghost of Old Hamlet, we learn that young Hamlet is still very much in mourning for his father, and for the hasty remarriage of his mother. So we are set up for a story of great tragedy...

But it's what we discover in reading or watching the rest of the play that, I believe, backs up what Oscar Wilde said about the story. No matter what our own personal interpretations are regarding certain characters (Gertrude's knowledge or lack thereof concerning the murder of her husband; Ophelia's "suicide" or accidental drowning; Hamlet's "knowledge" that it was Polonius behind the arras, or did he truly believe it to be Claudius?), this is an incredibly sad story, and I think what Wilde was saying is that until "Hamlet" came along, mankind did not truly know what depths of sorrow could be plumbed in our souls.

I think the Mel Gibson/Glenn Close movie version shows this sorrow amazingly well at the very end, after Horatio says goodbye to Hamlet. The haunting music is playing, and the court is standing around in shock while the camera pans up and away, showing the death and destruction left behind for Elsinore. There is no Fortinbras to make everything right...just sorrow and loss.

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