The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0879 Thursday, 20 May 1999.
From: Dana Wilson <
Date: Wednesday, 19 May 1999 07:43:00 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Hamlet, the secret doctrine
Sometimes I feel like that Hamlet of whom Polonius wrote "How pregnant
his replies are. A happenstance that madness hits on which reason and
sanity could not deliver."(II,ii, ln 212).
For that reason if Rosencrantz and Guildenstern knocked on my door to
ask if I was prepared to "walk out on to the air" from the watchtower
(Ps 91.11), I would be forced to refuse the invitation.
I think that I have developed a line of reasoning close enough to
justify some few steps.
I was working on a theory which is not novel that Hamlet resented his
mother being charged with the title "jointress"(I,ii). I was trying to
gather evidence for the manner in which he pursued his own claim to the
The most useful piece of evidence which I found is the "traitorous gifts
of his wit"(I, v, 43) mentioned by the ghost of Hamlets father. In my
opinion, these gifts are the "list with full proportions"(I,ii,30) sent
by Claudius to Norway.
This caused me to think that the "newphew"(I,ii,62) of Norway might be
Hamlet as well as Fortinbras.
I am ashamed to admit that the best argument which I can make for the
identity of Hamlet with Fortinbras are the two uses of the signum
"'Faith" by Rosencrantz (I,ii,369) and Guildenstern(I,ii,238). St.
Faith by all accounts died over some duplicity of nomenclature which it
is not mete to involve here.
This first signum lead me to the discovery of another interesting
Line 384 is of particular interest as there it is writ "'SBlood, there
is something in this more than natural if philosophy could find it."
For the most part I find philosophy I profitless work, but with 'SBlood
before me line 372 caught my eye, "It was no money bid until the poet
and the player came to blows."
This referred me back to line 384 where it is writ "They buy my uncles
miniature for 20,40,50,100 ducats."
In my opinion, this refers to line 120, where Polonius reads from
Hamlet's letter "I am ill at these numbers".
This in term I believe I could relate to line 98 where Polonius says of
"'tis '", "it is a foolish figure".
I find it very easy to imagine that figure as number and as image, as in
Claudius's miniature, had been confused.
This theme appears else where in the works of Shakespeare as sonnet 38
where it is written of "eternal numbers to outlive all date."
Hamlet's illness then would be what Polonius called his madness and
Claudius his dis-temper.
Circa line 95, Polonius attempts to wrestle with the question of whether
any anger is justified and can resolve himself only that of a surety the
anger of Hamlet has a cause.
I think many modern psychologists would find themselves deviled by the
same question, as where in Act I, sc ii, 140, it is as though we hear
the exasperation of the bard, "you have turned hyperion to satire".
This in turn seems to me to relate to Act I, sc ii, ln 198, where the
bard charactectures cruel old men, but then says as an aside "but sir I
would not have it set down for yourself should be as old as I am if like
a crab you could go backwards." Obviously, Polonius could not for the
words are set down, and conversely, we shall never know what traitorous
proposition Polonius refused.
In my mind, Hamlet's madness is this very backward alternate vision of
the play which we never have opportunity to see. Hamlet's darkness is
like the back of a mirror or the dark side of the moon, we never see the
In this regard, I can easily imagine that Hamlet himself might have
written sonnets 27 & 28: "After day is done your image shines in my
dreams as bright as sun...how can I have peace when there is rest in
neither day or night." In this regard, I read Hamlet as a creature of
the night, waiting for the end of day to commune with the ghost of his
As I promised, I think there is just enough material here to hold my
argument together. Perhaps, not, please send me your comments either
here or at my e-mail address.
Yours in the work,