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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: March ::
Re: Hamlet's Age
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0330  Monday 1 March 1999.

[1]     From:   Eric W Beato <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Feb 1999 10:40:59 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 10.0325 Q: Hamlet's Age

[2]     From:   John Savage <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Feb 1999 10:49:06 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 10.0325 Q: Hamlet's Age

[3]     From:   Jack Lynch <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Feb 1999 11:34:14 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0325 Q: Hamlet's Age

[4]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Feb 1999 08:58:46 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0325 Q: Hamlet's Age

[5]     From:   Tom Mueller <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Feb 1999 12:05:01 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0325 Q: Hamlet's Age

[6]     From:   Catherine Loomis <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Feb 1999 11:27:33 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0325 Q: Hamlet's Age

[7]     From:   Jack Hettinger <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Feb 1999 13:48:25 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 10.0325 Q: Hamlet's Age

[8]     From:   Cora Lee Wolfe <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Feb 1999 12:36:29 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0325 Q: Hamlet's Age

[9]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Feb 1999 16:19:32 -0000
        Subj:   Re: Hamlet's Age

[10]    From:   AsamiNakayama <
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        Date:   Saturday, 27 Feb 199 13:53:43 +0900
        Subj:   Re: Hamlet's Age

[11]    From:   Nora Kreimer <
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        Date:   Saturday, 27 Feb 1999 09:06:08 -0300
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0325 Q: Hamlet's Age

[12]    From:   Steve Sohmer <
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        Date:   Saturday, 27 Feb 1999 10:34:59 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0325 Q: Hamlet's Age

[13]    From:   Peter Groves <
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        Date:   Monday, 01 Mar 1999 11:14:42 +1100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0325 Q: Hamlet's Age


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Eric W Beato <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Feb 1999 10:40:59 -0500
Subject: Q: Hamlet's Age
Comment:        SHK 10.0325 Q: Hamlet's Age

Regarding Hamlet's age, the first gravedigger clearly states that the
skull of Yorick 'hath lien in the ground these three and twenty year.'
In the process of introducing Horatio to the former King's jester,
Hamlet discusses how clearly he remembers Yorick.

I have always assumed that the possibility existed that Yorick, expected
to entertain the adults at dinner, might very well have been expected to
entertain the young prince at other times of the day.  In today's
terms-was Yorick the part-time babysitter of Hamlet?  No wonder his
'gorge rises' as he looks into the eye cavities of the skull.

But the math suggests an age of 30, does it not?  I remember little
clearly of my first five or six years.  If Hamlet remembers the lips he
used to kiss, he must have been older than a babe at the death of
Yorick.

Rick Beato
Lisle Senior High School, Illinois

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Savage <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Feb 1999 10:49:06 -0500
Subject: Q: Hamlet's Age
Comment:        SHK 10.0325 Q: Hamlet's Age

>I have a burning question.  How old is Hamlet anyway?  I've just
>finished teaching the play and it seems to be a main concern with my
>students.

The question is easily answered.  Hamlet is a teenager in the early part
of the play and he's 30 at the time of the graveyard scene.

>>  The reason it bothered my students...  <<

It has bothered many more than your students.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Lynch <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Feb 1999 11:34:14 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 10.0325 Q: Hamlet's Age
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0325 Q: Hamlet's Age

Laura Blankenship writes:

    I have a burning question.  How old is Hamlet anyway?  I've just
    finished teaching the play and it seems to be a main concern with my
    students.  The graveyard scene indicates he's in his late 20s or
early
    30s.  Do we trust this?  The reason it bothered my students was that
    they thought his behavior often wasn't in line with his supposed
age.

Not so much an authoritative answer as a parallel: G. B. Hill notes in
his edition of Johnson's Rasselas, "That Shakespeare makes Hamlet thirty
years old often raises wonder.  It is more surprising that Rasselas
should be represented as thirty-two."

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Feb 1999 08:58:46 -0800
Subject: 10.0325 Q: Hamlet's Age
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0325 Q: Hamlet's Age

But that's just it.  He's hanging around as an heir when he's easily old
enough to take his place as an adult in his own right.  It places him in
a position that no-one is really very comfortable with-Laertes says that
he lacks the power to make good on promises to Ophelia, Polonius claims
that he has so much power he can just ignore them.  In either case,
neither can really fit him into a received social role.

Incidentally, there are at least two parallels one might find
interesting:

1. As I understand it, there wasn't much that heirs could do in
Elizabethan times except hang around waiting for their dads to pass on,
and get themselves into trouble.  This is a subject of some anxiety not
only in, say, King Lear, but also, as I understand it, in court records
where young men are committing an over representative percentage of
minor crime.  Lower on the social scale, we could think of how
apprentices became masters and bachelors became husbands later and later
in life as social conditions deteriorated.

2. Heirs apparent even now.  It's not just Prince Charles who's trying
to define some sort of job for himself.  We might also think of how
American vice-presidents always have an uncomfortable position.  I
recall George Bush mentioning everyone's surprise on discovering that he
was over six feet tall.  His role was such that everyone assumed he was
shorter.

Cheers,
Se

 

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