'Gossip Girl' Aftergasm: Chuck Bass, a Modern Hamlet
'Gossip Girl' Aftergasm: Chuck Bass, a Modern Hamlet
Meghan Carlson
Meghan Carlson
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
Last night on Gossip Girl, the sassy Shakespeare-savvy blogger herself compared Dan and Serena to the Bard's most famous pair of “star-cross'd lovers,” Romeo and Juliet. Of course, every modern take on a famous tragedy comes with its own modern twist: for Dan (Penn Badgley) and Serena (Blake Lively), that's a shared half-sibling from their parents' rock ‘n' roll rebellion days.

At that moment, just as Serena finally pieced together a foundation-rocking family secret, I had an epiphany of my own, inspired by Gossip Girl's own allegorical tendency:

Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick) is our TV generation's tragic hero. Chuck Bass is the modern day Hamlet.

Intelligent, yet blind to those who try to hurt him; dark and cynical, yet a man of action. The tragic hero is the one whom we all want so much to succeed… but is doomed to failure because of his own inescapable flaws.  And Hamlet is the ultimate tragic hero.

The story goes something like this:

A prince is haunted by the ghost of his father, who wants him to protect his legacy and his family from the boy's murderous uncle. In trying to defeat his uncle, the prince, who is slowly spiraling into an abyss of madness and depression, hurts his girlfriend so badly that she never wants to see him again. The prince goes over the edge, and everyone ends up dead in the end.

Sound like anyone we know?

All it takes is another quick read-through of the classic Hamlet to realize that: trade a kingdom for a corporate empire, a palace in Denmark for The Palace in Manhattan, a father's ghost for a father's will, and a deadly blade for lethal amounts of booze… and you've gone from Hamlet to Chuck Bass, the prince of the Upper East Side, sporting a cravat instead of a crown.

If Chuck Bass is the modern day Hamlet, then I'd say we're now in the Third Act of his saga. After his initial bout of depression and mania over Bart's death, Blair saved him, and Chuck claimed his rightful throne as the head of Bass Industries. But in Act Two, the plot thickened when Uncle Jack exploited Chuck's weaknesses for sex and drugs to undermine his position in the company and his relationship with Blair. Now, at the end of last night's episode, Chuck is alone, with only himself to blame for his crumbling social, business, and emotional status.

So the question is: what does this all mean for our tragic hero? If the Gossip Girl writers decide to stick with the Shakespeare script, things could get a whole lot worse for Chuck. I'm not predicting any mass murders, but like Hamlet, young Bass has a tendency to brood and make rash decisions. And now that Blair's not there to take his hand, this time he could go over the ledge for good.

But my hunch says that the modern twist on this classic tale of self-destruction is that Chuck is salvageable. After all the horrible things that he's done, and all the people he's hurt, we're still rooting for Chuck. Chuck is the perfect tragic hero because he inspires pity and compassion at the very moments when we ought to be disgusted with his low aims and decadence. Time and again he's shown that he wants to be better, and can be.

This play's not over yet, and he's still got a billion-dollar trust fund at his disposal. So there's hope.

Catch the next part of the Chuck Bass saga on Gossip Girl, which airs Mondays at 8 pm on The CW.




Best In Show:

Best Quotes: “Why do you wear so much purple?” – Chuck, impersonating Bart

“Spare me those expressive eyebrows. I can't wait until you get Botox.” – Blair to Serena

“You just can't find good minions these days.” – Blair

“Dating Nate Archibald after striking out with Dan Humphrey? Talk about trading upwards.” – One of the young Gossip Girl readers to Vanessa

Best Scene: The suspense-packed Brunch at The Palace. The writers had me on the edge of my cushion waiting for the fall-out as Blair made her way to Chuck's office, as Penelope hit send on her Gossip Girl tip, and as Serena read the big news right in front of Dan.

Best User Comment: “Rufus and Lily have been going at their relationship for the past 18 years. Can't they last even a few months apart before they start sleeping with each other?? Give Serena and Dan a chance! And if you're together, stop breaking up every five seconds. You are supposed to be the parents.” – othlexig2. Didn't you learn from the Colony Club ladies? You never grow up—you just get older.




-Meghan Carlson, BuddyTV Staff Writer
Image courtesy of the CW

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