The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0301 Thursday, 8 February 2001
From: Hardy M. Cook <
Date: Thursday, February 08, 2001
Subject: The Ambitious Norway
A few weeks ago, I attended a Microsoft Mentors Workshop at Salisbury
University. During the drive to and fro the workshop, I listened to the
Naxos HAMLET. From that listening arose a question I had not thought of
In 1.1, Horatio identifies the Ghost of Old King Hamlet by "the very
armor he had on / When he the ambitious Norway combated" (60-61). Then
<Hor.> That can I,
At least the whisper goes so: our last king,
Whose image even but now appear'd to us,
Was, as you know, by Fortinbras of Norway,
Thereto prick'd on by a most emulate pride,
Dar'd to the combat; in which our valiant Hamlet
(For so this side of our known world esteem'd him)
Did slay this Fortinbras, who, by a seal'd compact
Well ratified by law and heraldy,
Did forfeit (with his life) all those his lands
Which he stood seiz'd of, to the conqueror;
Against the which a moi'ty competent
Was gaged by our king, which had return'd
To the inheritance of Fortinbras,
Had he been vanquisher; as by the same comart
And carriage of the article design'd,
His fell to Hamlet. Now, sir, young Fortinbras,
Of unimproved mettle hot and full,
Hath in the skirts of Norway here and there
Shark'd up a list of lawless resolutes
For food and diet to some enterprise
0 That hath a stomach in't, which is no other,
As it doth well appear unto our state,
But to recover of us, by strong hand
And terms compulsatory, those foresaid lands
So by his father lost; and this, I take it,
Is the main motive of our preparations,
The source of this our watch, and the chief head
Of this post-haste and romage in the land. (1.1.79-107)
As Bill Godshalk mention in the previous digest, "But doesn't the
graveyard scene make clear that Hamlet is thirty? (SHK 12.0300). Here is
the passage that Bill is referring to:
<Ham.> . . .
How long hast thou been grave-maker?
<1. Clo.> Of [all] the days i' th' year, I came to't that
day that our last king Hamlet overcame Fortinbras.
<Ham.> How long is that since?
<1. Clo.> Cannot you tell that? Every fool can tell
that. It was that very day that young Hamlet was born
-- he that is mad, and sent into England.
<Ham.> Ay, marry, why was he sent into England?
<1. Clo.> Why, because 'a was mad. 'A shall recover
his wits there, or if 'a do not, 'tis no great matter
<1. Clo.> 'Twill not be seen in him there, there the
men are as mad as he.
<Ham.> How came he mad?
<1. Clo.> Very strangely, they say.
<Ham.> How strangely?
<1. Clo.> Faith, e'en with losing his wits.
<Ham.> Upon what ground?
<1. Clo.> Why, here in Denmark. I have been sexton
here, man and boy, thirty years. (5.1.142-162)
If "ambitious Norway" and the [Old King] Fortinbras that Old King Hamlet
"did slay" are one in the same, then
1. how would Horatio know what armor Old King Hamlet wore at the time,
assuming that Horatio, Hamlet's school chum, are roughly the same age?
2. has Fortinbras been holding a grudge against Denmark for at least
thirty years of his undetermined life span?