But I do prophesy the election lights On Fortinbras.

This raises a great many questions about the electoral process in Denmark. Not that a great many questions have not, already, been raised. But – first, we know that this is a monacrchy and that the throne has, at least, in this case, passed from brother to brother rather than from father to son. We know that the will of the people plays at least some small role in the selection of its rulers. Claudius is, after all, aware that Hamlet is beloved by the people and so he dare not outwardly challenge him. We know that there has recently been an unsuccessful coup.

Now Hamlet is prophesizing the “election” of Fortinbras. And the choice of those two words is not inconsequential. One usually uses prophesy to suggest a prediction for the future but I wonder if it is instead a divine statement. I assume, like most monarchies, the Danish one was sustained by the Divine Right of Kings. So, Hamlet, as the remaining member of the royal family, might take on a kind of divinity in a moment like this.

And an election is a choosing. But who is doing the choosing? It’s not Hamlet, directly. He is seeing that the choice will be Fortinbras but he does not say – “I, the sole remaining member of the Danish Royal Family designate Fortinbras the next ruler of our land.”

He sort of passively lays it out – like a fortune teller predicting a president instead of a prince with authority. Who will do this electing? I don’t mean – “Are they going to have an election?” – it is obvious this is not a democracy. But even so – there must be someone – some group of advisors – a board or a House of lords or something – that makes such a decision.

The divine royalty would seem to be acknowledging that truth even as he is dying.


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