Today in English class, I came to the startling realization that Hamlet, debatably the best know piece of literature in the world, is the subject of a Green Day song “Wake Me Up When September Ends”. This song reflects on some of the issues presented in this play and shows how Hamlet is still upset at the loss of his father, his mothers re-marriage, and his resentment towards his uncle.
In the opening stanza of the song, Green Day, representing Hamlet, quickly sets the stage. “Summer has come and passed” creates the feeling that summer fun is over, that it’s time to start settling down for winter. This quickly becomes a depressing feeling when the next line adds “The innocence can never last.” The mood is quickly changed, or rather redirected, from the calming down from spring to the calming down with depressionary forces. Ophelia, Hamlet’s girlfriend, was the innocent character in this situation. As the song dictates, innocence can never last, and Ophelia does not last, she commit suicide in an act of depression and madness.
Opening with a line “Like my fathers come to pass” the next stanza introduces the death of King Hamlet, Hamlets father. Hamlet is still mourning the recent loss of his father. The following line “seven years has gone to pass” has two potential meanings. Hamlet has been at school for seven years and not had a chance to be with his father, or some other significant even with his father and him occurred seven years ago.
The third stanza brings in Claudius, Hamlets enemy, into the song. Dealing entirely with the poison, Hamlet feels the attack came from nowhere and seemed completely unwarranted. Using rain to symbolize poison, Green Day says “here comes the rain again / falling from the stars / drenched in my pain again.” His memory of the murder and poison is coming back. The poison came from his uncle, someone who he looked up to or was of high position in the state. Memories of the poison bring back painful thoughts, just as the poison brought pain on his father.
Green Day introduces their last topic in the sixth stanza, bringing up the topic of marriage through the imagery of bells. He touches on the fact that there is another marriage occurring, but doesn’t clearly state his opinion on the matter.
If one ignores the specifics about “September” and does not jump to the obvious subject matter that Billie Joe is writing about the death of his father in September there are clear connections between the song and Hamlet. Or maybe what can be inferred, is that Hamlet was feeling similar things to that of Billie Joe (or visa versa).
Green Day. “Wake Me Up When September Ends.” By Billie Joe Armstrong. American Idiot.
Lyrics can be found here: