Carrie | What A Thing It Is To Be Hamletian

DISCLAIMER: Spoilers for the film adaptation of Stephen King’s Carrie (1976)

I reached an epiphany to write this article after watching Alteori’s video about the 1976 adaptation of Stephen King’s Carrie. She argued against the notion that Carrie White was the villain. In the comments from one of my YouTube channels based on another site of mine, I noted how Carrie is a tragic anti-hero akin to Hamlet. I then catalogued the similarities, which I will elaborate further in this article.

Stuck Inside Their Own Worlds

Denmark’s A Prison

Hamlet does not feel at home anywhere in the kingdom of Elsinore, for only he must live with the uneasiness of knowing that his father’s brother Claudius killed his father, married his mother, and overthrew the throne. It is safe to say that Hamlet may be the whiniest Shakespearean character. He has no shortage of soliloquys and monologues. As such, he has no problem assigning blame to everyone, even his own mother.

Horatio is the only character that Hamlet can completely trust. He was able to trust Polonius, but ends up justifying his murder by claiming he was spying on him. In spite of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern being Hamlet’s childhood friends, he is aware that they were sent to spy on him, so he has them set up to be killed by Fortinbras.

High School’s And Home’s A Prison

In Carrie’s case, she has nowhere to feel safe. She cannot turn to her mother because she will admonish her, or the other girls because they mock her. Just like Hamlet, she only has a few people willing to give her a break. When the pig’s-blood scene commences, the people at the prom laugh, thinking it was red paint. Of course, in a tragic course of misunderstanding that makes the one in Romeo & Juliet look like a rom-com misunderstanding, she thinks the whole school is in on it, and that is when she kills everyone.

In States Of Existential Disorder

The specific way they are in existential disorders is when they are left in destitute states due to the tragedies that befall one of the parents. As a result, they have suffered indirectly from them.

What Is This Quintessence Of Dust?

In Hamlet’s case, his own tragedy stems from the death of his father Old Hamlet. It is revealed to Hamlet by his father’s departed spirit that Claudius dripped poison in his ear. As distraught as Hamlet already was, it becomes clear to him that his world was entered into disorder.

As part of his own existential disorder, he encapsulates his nihilism in his What A Piece Of Work Is Man monologue where life and the universe are stripped of their poeticism and gives them a barebone pessimism. He also frequently discusses the political corruption around him in his monologues, making the case to the audience that the politics of his kingdom are part of the disorder. In his famous To Be Or Not To Be speech, he coldly rationalizes suicide by stating that it would forego all of the pain, suffering, corruption, injustice, and the slow descent to entropy. Ironically, he is stopped by disorder in terms of ignorance, for he does not know whether he would be separated from his loved ones for all eternity on “the undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns.”

What Is This Cycle Of Abuse?

It is revealed by Carrie’s mother that she conceived Carrie from her husband’s rape. This led to her developing a religious zeal and the underlying fear that her daughter would become the victim of the cycle of trauma. As can be expected, this led to Carrie’s mother overly protecting her, to the point of not even informing her of her stages of puberty.

Conflict With Religious Environment

How Unprofitable The Customs Of This World!

In spite of living in a Christianized kingdom, Hamlet has a pagan-oriented way of viewing the world. He constantly brings up pre-Christian gods such as Hyperion as means of evaluating the world. He also notes how if the Christian God had not forbidden suicide, he would have done it already.

How Absurd The Mamas Of This World!

Going to a public school, Carrie is straddling between two realities, between there and her mother’s religious house.

Contact With The Supernatural

Rest, Rest, Perturbed Spirit

Hamlet is in clear communication with the afterlife, as he and the people most loyal to Old Hamlet can communicate with Old Hamlet as a ghost.

Arise, Arise Telekinesis

While Carrie doesn’t communicate with the dead, she can use telekinetic powers to move objects, whether it is a moving car or even the roof of a house.

Turning To Violence To Restore Order

My Thoughts Be Bloody Or Be Nothing Worth

After Hamlet witnesses Fortinbras’ army, he becomes motivated by their dedication, no matter how fruitless it is. He reasoned that if they can be inspired to die for a small piece of land, then there would be no reason for him to not return to Elsinore and slay Claudius.

Of course, he was already focused on violence before that point, specifically in “shuffling out of the mortal coil.” As the play progresses, instead of Hamlet believing that violence to the self would resolve the disorder in Elsinore, he believes that violence against Claudius would resolve it. Of course, he only accomplishes so much by killing Claudius and Laertes, only to end up dying from Laertes’ poison-tipped blade. This leaves a power vacuum leaving Fortinbras to take over the throne.

My Face Be Bloody Or Be Nothing Academy-Award Worth

Carrie uses violence when the pigs-blood scene happens to take revenge against everyone who wronged her–unfortunately including the prom attendees who thought the pigs-blood was a good-natured prank. She takes out the bullies who attempt to run her over, and then her mother by caving the house inside.

What If…?

What If Carrie Went To The Prom With Hamlet?

It would have to be a version where Hamlet is clearly in his teens. Considering how Hamlet already has a messy relationship with Ophelia, it would also have to be a version where nunnery refers to an actual nunnery, in terms of keeping her safe amidst the conflict around them. The reason being that he had insight to foresee the conflict brought about by Laertes’ attempted insurrection, and the insight to get Claudius to express guilt after watching the Mouse Trap without pressing him with questions.

If he could foresee all of that, then he would have had the insight to figure out that Carrie was being set up. He would have been skeptical of the fact that Carrie was suddenly being accepted by everyone. Hamlet would have spent the duration of the prom being super-observant, assuring her that as a playwright, he would be aware of the intricacies of stagecraft. As a “playwright,” he would have figured out about the pig’s blood plot, leaving him to retreat to the backstage like he would to the arras. After discovering the string attached to the bucket, he would have yanked it, spilled it all over the empty stage, and exposed the bullies’ plot.

What If Hamlet Staged The Mouse Trap With Carrie In The Audience?

Carrie would have used her powers by the time Claudius figured out that Hamlet knew about Old Hamlet’s murder at his hands. Maybe she would have wrapped Claudius with the arras’ cloth as soon as he approached it to confess his crimes. This would have prevented the tragic deaths and would have subdued Claudius so that he may answer for his crimes.

She probably would have sat next to Queen Gertrude as she remarked how “The lady doth protest too much.”

Would Hamlet Allow Carrie To Star In One Of His Plays?

It is important to note that Shakespeare’s plays were shaped by the functions of his production company. For example, the reason why there is ambiguity with Hamlet’s age is because the original actor who played him was in his early 30s and Shakespeare wrote in how Hamlet knew Yorick 23 years ago, in spite of the fact that Hamlet would have been in his education around the age of 16. As such, another function was the fact that only men were allowed to play the roles in Shakespeare’s time, including the female roles.

In the case of Hamlet and Carrie, Polonius would have chided Carrie to accept the role of Hecuba. However, Carrie’s religious upbringing would pop up, as she would be reluctant to play in ancient Greek society. Hamlet, passionate about stagecraft, would explain how she could easily play the role as the mourning queen, given her circumstances.

Sources

  • De Palma. Brian. “Carrie.” Film Adaptation. 1976. King, Stephen, “Carrie.” 1974.
  • Shakespeare, William. “The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.”

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