The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1544 Saturday, 17 September 2005
Date: Thursday, 15 Sep 2005 18:55:43 -0400
Subject: Hamlet an Allegory
The very best way to tell if a play is meant to be an allegory is to
have the author tell you. Shakespeare was adept at telling his audience
exactly what the theme of his play was in the very first few lines.
The first sentence of Hamlet is spoken by Barnardo a sentinel who is
"meeting" and relieving Francisco the sentinel who is on duty. The play
"Barnardo Who's there?"
It has been basic soldiering from time immemorial that the man on guard
duty always speaks first. "Halt who goes there "or "Halt what is the
password" or "Stand and unfold yourself". Why would our Shakespeare get
this wrong? Why would he make such a fundamental error?
I would argue that Shakespeare has not made an error. The word "meeting"
is an emendation or addition to the text added by the modern editor.
Barnardo is meant to address the audience when he says "Who's there?"
The answer to that question in the minds of the audience had to be that
the play was meant to be about the most important news of the day which,
of course, was the situation of the Elizabethan Court.
My further suggestion is that you heed Prince Hamlet's words and
instructions to the players""Do you hear, let them be well us'd, for
they are the abstract and brief chronicles of the time".
Elliott H. Stone
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