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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: October ::
Re: Fat Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1726  Tuesday, 12 October 1999.

[1]     From:   Carol Fortunato <
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        Date:   Monday, 11 Oct 1999 10:14:14 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1721 Q: Fat Hamlet

[2]     From:   Dana Shilling <
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        Date:   Monday, 11 Oct 1999 10:56:19 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1721 Q: Fat Hamlet

[3]     From:   Carol Barton <
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        Date:   Monday, 11 Oct 1999 11:07:59 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1721 Q: Fat Hamlet

[4]     From:   James P. Lusardi <
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        Date:   Monday, 11 Oct 1999 16:20:56 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   RE: SHK 10.1721 Q: Fat Hamlet

[5]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Monday, 11 Oct 1999 17:51:58 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1721 Q: Fat Hamlet

[6]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Monday, 11 Oct 1999 17:51:58 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1721 Q: Fat Hamlet

[7]     From:   Marti Markus <
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        Date:   Monday, 11 Oct 1999 23:42:01 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1721 Q: Fat Hamlet

[8]     From:   Geoffrey Forward <
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        Date:   Monday, 11 Oct 1999 18:10:02 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1721 Q: Fat Hamlet

[9]     From:   Michael Ullyot <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 12 Oct 1999 09:57:09 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1721 Q: Fat Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Fortunato <
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Date:           Monday, 11 Oct 1999 10:14:14 EDT
Subject: 10.1721 Q: Fat Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1721 Q: Fat Hamlet

>In the final scene of Hamlet, while Hamlet is fighting with Laertes
>Gertrude says of Hamlet:
>
>He's fat, and scant of breath.
>
>I have always been curious as to what the 'fat' refers to.  My
>mathematics lecturer (a Russian lady who has a bit of a thing for
>Shakespeare, which she says sounds better in Russian) used this line to
>defend the forty-something year old, rather portly Hamlet of the
>well-known Russian version of Hamlet.

It's my understanding that Richard Burbage was a pretty hefty guy.  If
so, the original Hamlet WAS fat.

[Editor's Note: This subject was discussed on SHAKSPER some time ago.
Anyone wished to located previous discussions should use the SEARCH
FUNCTION. -Hardy]

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dana Shilling <
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Date:           Monday, 11 Oct 1999 10:56:19 -0400
Subject: 10.1721 Q: Fat Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1721 Q: Fat Hamlet

This line is often explained away as meaning something like "sweaty and
greasy". However, since Hamlet is also 30 years old (a considerable age
in those days), Shakespeare may be experimenting with an alienation
effect here-the plump and middle-aged have existential crises too, you
know.

Plumply and middle-agedly,
Dana (Shilling)

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Barton <
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Date:           Monday, 11 Oct 1999 11:07:59 EDT
Subject: 10.1721 Q: Fat Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1721 Q: Fat Hamlet

Hardin Craig says this may be a reference to the portly Burbage, who
played Hamlet when the play was first staged, but he also points out
that other editors gloss it as "soft, out of training," and that
emendations "faint" and "hot" have been suggested.  Since Gertrude
offers him her handkerchief to "rub [his] brows" with, Hamlet is
obviously sweating-and since that occasions a remark from her (which it
wouldn't, if he customarily perspired when fencing), I am inclined to
agree with the interpretation that says he is out of shape from hanging
around the castle with no one but Polonius with whom to engage in
swordplay.

Best to all,
Carol Barton

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           James P. Lusardi <
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Date:           Monday, 11 Oct 1999 16:20:56 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 10.1721 Q: Fat Hamlet
Comment:        RE: SHK 10.1721 Q: Fat Hamlet

An article that may interest you, "Hamlet's Fat" by Laura Keyes,
appeared in Shakespeare and the Triple Play, ed. Sidney Homan,
Lewisburg:  Bucknell UP, 1988, pp. 89-104.

Yours--Jim Lusardi, Co-Editor, Shakespeare Bulletin

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Monday, 11 Oct 1999 17:48:35 -0400
Subject: 10.1721 Q: Fat Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1721 Q: Fat Hamlet

The "fat" is almost certainly intended literally.  Burbage is said to
have weighed something like 17 stn.

I also think that the V.i references to Hamlet's age as 30 were added to
accommodate Burbage, who may have been taking a ribbing for playing a
college kid.  So your Russian math teacher might be on to something.

Larry Weiss

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Monday, 11 Oct 1999 17:51:58 -0400
Subject: 10.1721 Q: Fat Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1721 Q: Fat Hamlet

Or maybe WS meant "phat."

Larry

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marti Markus <
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Date:           Monday, 11 Oct 1999 23:42:01 +0100
Subject: 10.1721 Q: Fat Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1721 Q: Fat Hamlet

A FAT  Hamlet led to Georg Britting's "Lebenslauf eines dicken Menschen,
der Hamlet hiess" (=Thee life of a fat man called Hamlet), which is a
marvellous novel of "late" (=after WW2)  expressionism in Germany
(1961).

The title of his novel is due to the very line you are quoting.

But in the German reception of Hamlet the actor playing that role was
normally a very lean and rather small  "intellectual"  - certainly not a
Falstaff  figure.

"fat", though, just means "sweating" or "bleeding" in some other
contexts:   cf 2Hen IV, II..44..214: "alas ...  how thou sweat'st! Come
let me wipe thy face" or Macb. II.3.6., where napkins are asked for, and
"bleeding" as a synonym for "fat" is another option in  Hen.V, IV.6. 8.

(All those examples are taken from: Ernst Leisi, Problemw

 

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