It’s the last line of the show, y’all! This is it. We had a nice wrapping up rhyming couplet and then we get this little tag. And that is all. I like that the last line of the show is one that suggests that the soldiers do the thing that soldiers do. It feels a little like telling the milkmaids to go milk. Go, bid the firefighters fight fire! Go, bid the actors act! Go, bid the writers write!
It’s obviously not meant to be that but it sort of does it while, of course, we understand that Fortinbras has signaled some kind of tribute. I don’t think the soldiers had their own guns, per se, at this point in history but cannons and such were shootable and might be fired off in tribute. It might seem an empty gesture – but it is quite powerful, I have found.
I know that the gun salute that was performed at my grandfather’s funeral was shockingly powerful. In the abstract, I’d have thought it silly to shoot off guns for someone – but with all the ceremony, and co-ordination I found it incredibly moving. I’m glad Hamlet gets such a send off. Ending the play with a shooting salute feels entirely appropriate (not because Hamlet is a military guy – we know he’s not) but because a play like this needs a send off. It needs a sense of ceremony. It needs the closure a military goodbye can give you. Ka-blam! Ka-blam! Ka-blam!
Take your bows.