There are an infinite amount of what-ifs in history. What if the soldier that had Hitler in his scopes actually shot and killed him a bit earlier? What if one party in the Cold War actually attacked and initiated World War III? What if the Titanic steered clear of the iceberg? What if the Mayflower capsized? What if John Wilkes Booth was exposed on his way to Ford’s Theatre? What if the people of Pompeii evacuated the area of the volcano? What if Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were stranded on the moon, left to starve to death or commit suicide and Richard Nixon had to read his pre-written speech? These events are usually referred to as fixed points in time. If these points were ever disturbed, then history would change dramatically. William Shakespeare writes his stories in the most exciting scenario possible. If any other point in one of his stories timelines are different, it changes the course of the entire story and ultimately makes it less exciting. Shakespeare knew this and tried to make his stories capture the viewer’s attention. In his play, Hamlet, Claudius committed regicide against his brother, the king, Hamlet’s father. This started off the entire play. When the King is killed, Hamlet is forced into a state of depression. To top it off, his mother, the Queen Gertrude, married Claudius prematurely after the King’s death, crowning Claudius as the new king of Denmark. This, of course, made Hamlet quite depressed. “But two months dead! Nay, not so much, not two.
So excellent a king, that was to this
Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother
That he might not beteem the winds of heaven
Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth!
Must I remember? Why, she would hang on him
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on; and yet, within a month-
Let me not think on't! Frailty, thy name is woman!”
(I, ii, 342-350)
Now, what if Gertrude did not marry Claudius? The Queen was the only one of royalty, and whomever married her would receive the throne. If the Queen was too distraught to ever marry another man, then Hamlet, the son of the King and the heir to the throne, would become king of Denmark. If the story turned out this way, Claudius could have an affair with Gertrude and compete with the new Young King Hamlet for the throne. This still would be an interesting conflict, but not as much as the default one. Young King Hamlet would seek revenge for his father’s death and would soon find out that Claudius killed his father. It would not be as interesting as the main character having much power to easily smite his enemy. What if the Queen married another man other than Claudius? The conflict would stay the same, except during his soliloquies he would not describe the love of Gertrude and Claudius “incestuous” and would still be suicidal, although it is more interesting this way. “She married. O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
It is not nor it cannot come to good:
But break, my heart; for I must hold my tongue.”
(I, ii, 360-364)
A controversial topic concerning Hamlet is the importance of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. What if they did not exist? They are basically messenger boys, after all. They represent scapegoats and turncoats, showing that in Hamlet’s mind everyone is out to get him. Hamlet’s unfaithful friends are killed at the end of the play, restating that evildoers get what they deserve (Claudius is poisoned at the end, hence “restating”). What if “Mousetrap” never played? Some people think that part of the play was filler. If there were no play-within-the-play, Claudius would not have gotten up to repent his sins, which would not make Hamlet reconsider killing him right there which would not have led him to go to his mother’s room to talk to her about her sinful relationship and he would never have killed Polonius. “A bloody deed- almost as bad, good mother,/As kill a king, and marry with his brother.” (III,...
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