The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1142  Friday, 2 June 2000.

From:           Clifford Stetner <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 1 Jun 2000 12:06:53 -0400
Subject: 11.1136 Re: Hamlet Act 4 Question
Comment:        RE: SHK 11.1136 Re: Hamlet Act 4 Question

Alex Went is:

>afraid that the expression 'hidden meaning' only serves to obscure what
>is (and would have been in the 1600s) patently clear.

But I think it is important to remember that the ancient Hamlet had a
number of identifying characteristics, primary among which was the
tendency to make cryptic answers to the questions of the folk of the
court while feigning madness and planning revenge.  If you said "Hamlet"
to someone in England before Shakespeare (and Ur-Shakespeare) they would
have said: "oh, you mean that guy with the cryptic answers with the
multiple hidden meanings?  The particular double entendres vary from
version to version but the trait goes back to the most ancient myth.
Shakespeare has given us his version in the many cryptic sayings of his
Dane which are for the most part far more sophisticated cryptics than
the ones we find in primitive myths, but the Hamlet whose words often
seem like madness yet there's method in them was a cultural icon long
before Shakespeare

Clifford Stetner
CUNY Graduate Center

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