Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: September ::
Re: Tyndale Bible and "fat" Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2197  Saturday, 22 September 2001

[1]     From:   Mike Jensen <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 17 Sep 2001 09:21:07 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2184 Re: Tyndale Bible and "fat" Hamlet

[2]     From:   John Ramsay <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Mon, 17 Sep 2001 14:48:21 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2184 Re: Tyndale Bible and "fat" Hamlet

[3]     From:   David Wallace <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Mon, 17 Sep 2001 20:01:10 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2184 Re: Tyndale Bible and "fat" Hamlet

[4]     From:   P.D. Holland <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Sep 2001 09:41:06 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2184 Re: Tyndale Bible and "fat" Hamlet

[5]     From:   Brian Willis <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Sep 2001 05:15:00 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2184 Re: Tyndale Bible and "fat" Hamlet

[6]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Sep 2001 10:02:15 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2184 Re: Tyndale Bible and "fat" Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 17 Sep 2001 09:21:07 -0700
Subject: 12.2184 Re: Tyndale Bible and "fat" Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2184 Re: Tyndale Bible and "fat" Hamlet

Steve,

The one portrait of Burbage I have seen, and in reproduction, is cropped
near the bottom of his collar and gives no indication of a fat man.
Quite the opposite.  Perhaps more of the portrait is published
elsewhere?  Perhaps there are other portraits?  (I have it in Martin
Holmes's book Shakespeare and Burbage, London: Phillimore, 1978.)  An
engraving of that portrait may be found here
http://encarta.msn.com/find/MediaMax.asp?pg=3&ti=013A7000&idx=461531967
The actual portrait is at the next URL, but is very fuzzy.  Burbage
looks almost svelte, but that may be the fuzziness.
http://www.ucalgary.ca/~carussel/shakie.html

All this is offered as evidence, not proof.  One can gain and lose
weight, or a painter may take off a few pounds to flatter the sitter.
Even if a portrait of Burbage can be dated to the time of Hamlet's
composition, the question is still open.

Mike Jensen

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Ramsay <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Mon, 17 Sep 2001 14:48:21 -0400
Subject: 12.2184 Re: Tyndale Bible and "fat" Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2184 Re: Tyndale Bible and "fat" Hamlet

> > "fat" Hamlet is a players' inside joke ala
> >the exchange between Burbage [Hamlet] and Shakespeare [Polonius] about
> >killing the calf in the capitol.
>
> I've found this item to be quite curious. I've scoured Chambers,
> Baldwin, Bowers, Schoenbaum, etc. etc. and can't find any reference to
> Burbage being fat. I've posted this query to this list a couple of
> times, asking if there are other refs, but no replies.
>
> This "fat Burgage" tradition seems to be doubly apocryphal, because
> there's not even any apocrypha suggesting that Burbage was fat. Baldwin,
> among others, draws the conclusion from this line only. He may have been
> fat, of course, or there may be a reference I haven't found.
>
> Is that the joke you're suggesting, that it's referring to Burbage's
> proportions? I would love to hear a better explanation of the joke,
> because I can't make sense of it on available evidence. ("Strong and
> scant of breath" doesn't make sense to me either; seems contradictory,
> especially in context.)
>
> Thanks,
> Steve
> http://princehamlet.com

Steve may well be right to call the fat Burbage story doubly
apocryphal.  I suspect it's a story English teachers thought up to
enliven classroom study of the play. Call it 'Shakespeare Lore' or
find/write a doctoral dissertation on Shakespeare and the oral tradition
-:)

I heard the fat Burbage version from Professor William Blissett at
UToronto, summer of 63.

That's the same William Blissett who was praised as a meticulous scholar
in last Saturday's Toronto Star. Go figure -:)

John Ramsay

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Wallace <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Mon, 17 Sep 2001 20:01:10 -0700
Subject: 12.2184 Re: Tyndale Bible and "fat" Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2184 Re: Tyndale Bible and "fat" Hamlet

Shakespeare consistently uses the word "fat" to denote obesity. However,
fat might also be associated with sweat. It is Falstaff's sweat that
"lards the lean earth". A Lord in AYLI relates that Jacques remarks on a
herd of passing deer that are "fat and greasy". (Perhaps they are
sweating from their exertions). Olivia complains that Orsino's
persistent attentions are "fat and fulsome" to her ear. (Surely she is
not suggesting obesity here. It must be some other aspect of fat that
offends her.) Even today, we speak of "sweating" a well-marbled roast by
wrapping it before it is cooked. I think it possible that Elizabethans
were apt to associate sweat with fat. Afterall, cooked meat glistens as
moisture is forced to the surface. People glisten as exertion forces
moisture through sweat glands. It may be they conceived of sweat as fat
melting from the body. In which case, Gertrude's remarks might suggest
that Hamlet is both sweating (fat) and breathing hard - but not
necessarily breathing hard because he is overweight.

Cheers. David Wallace

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           P.D. Holland <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 18 Sep 2001 09:41:06 +0100
Subject: 12.2184 Re: Tyndale Bible and "fat" Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2184 Re: Tyndale Bible and "fat" Hamlet

On Tyndale and Shakespeare, may I recommend David Daniell's article
'Shakespeare and the Protestant Mind' which will appear in Shakespeare
Survey 54, due for publication next month from Cambridge University
Press. The topic for the volume is 'Shakespeare and Religions'.
Daniell's argument is, of course, the profound influence of Tyndale's
translation of the Bible, not his prose works, both on later translators
and on Shakespeare.  Shakespeare Survey 54 has sixteen articles on the
volume topic and five other articles. A TOC will appear on SHAKSPER
soon.

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 18 Sep 2001 05:15:00 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 12.2184 Re: Tyndale Bible and "fat" Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2184 Re: Tyndale Bible and "fat" Hamlet

I don't know why but I always had the impression that Burbage was
overweight. Now that I think of it, why do I have that impression? I
can't explain it.

I do think that the issue of Hamlet's weight was well-handled by Simon
Russell Beale. In researching my dissertation, EVERY SINGLE REVIEW
mentioned his weight and his looks in the OPENING PARAGRAPH. Very
dismaying. Article headlines: "This too too solid flesh" and "Tubby or
tubby, fat is the question".  Nevertheless, he did use his weight to
comedic advantage.

Slightly extraneous, but if Hamlet has foregone all custom of exercise,
could it possible that he might be overweight? Some people eat more when
they're depressed. Me, I don't eat. I'll stop before I get silly.

B. Willis

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 18 Sep 2001 10:02:15 -0700
Subject: 12.2184 Re: Tyndale Bible and "fat" Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2184 Re: Tyndale Bible and "fat" Hamlet

John Ramsay points out that

>Gertrude says it [that Hamlet is "fat"] and also twice tries to wipe the
>sweat from Hamlet's
>face. Not consistent with Hamlet being fit and hardly losing breath.

No doubt there's a physician on the list that can set me right, but the
sort of strength that "fat" seems to describe in Tyndale--as
large-limbed--doesn't necessarily imply aerobic fitness.  The opposite
might even be the case.  Having said that, I can't document it, except
anecdotally.

Cheers,
Se

 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.