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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: March ::
Hamlet Puzzles
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0111  Friday, 3 March 2006

[1] 	From: 	Peter Bridgman <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 2 Mar 2006 20:38:31 -0000
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0102 Hamlet Puzzles

[2] 	From: 	Stuart Manger <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 02 Mar 2006 20:48:34 +0000
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0102 Hamlet Puzzles

[3] 	From: 	S. L Kasten <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 02 Mar 2006 23:49:50 +0200
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0092 Hamlet Puzzles

[4] 	From: 	Robin Hamilton <
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	Date: 	Friday, 3 Mar 2006 04:52:58 -0000
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0102 Hamlet Puzzles


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Peter Bridgman <
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Date: 		Thursday, 2 Mar 2006 20:38:31 -0000
Subject: 17.0102 Hamlet Puzzles
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0102 Hamlet Puzzles

David Basch is astonished ...

 >I remain astonished that despite the many parallels of events in
 >Hamlet to elements in Ecclesiastes that you won't find scholars
 >crediting this as the source of the play.

This is for the simple reason that scholars have found more obvious 
biblical references in the play.  Take Genesis 4:9-11  ...

"Then the Lord said unto Kain, Where is Habel thy brother? Who answered, 
I cannot tell. Am I my brothers keeper? Again he said, What hast thou 
done? the voice of thy brothers blood cryeth unto me from the earth. Now 
therefore thou art cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to 
receive thy brothers blood from thine hand".

Compare this to Claudius' lines ...

O, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven;
It hath the primal eldest curse upon it,
A brother's murder.
[and ....]
What if this cursed hand
Were thicker than itself with brother's blood,
Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens
To wash it white as snow?

Or take the Book of Job, where we find Hamlet's "slings and arrows of 
outrageous fortune" ...

"The archer cannot make him flee: ye stones of the sling are turned into 
stubble unto him"  (41:28).  "For the arrows of the Almighty are in me, 
the venom whereof doeth drink up my spirit, and the terrors of God fight 
against me".  (6:4)

... the "consummation devoutly to be wished" ...

"Oh that I might have my desire, and that God would grant me the thing 
that I long for! That is, that God would destroy me: that he would let 
his hand go, and cut me off. Then should I yet have comfort, (though I 
burn with sorrow, let him not spare) because I have not denied the words 
of the Holy one".  (6:8-10)

.. "to die, to sleep" ...

"But man is sick, and dyeth, and man perisheth, and where is he?  As the 
waters pass from the sea, and as the flood decayeth and dryeth up, so 
man sleepeth and riseth not: for he shall not wake again, nor be raised 
from his sleep till the heaven be no more".  (14:10-12)

In Job we also find "the undiscovered country from whose bourn no 
traveller returns" ...

"As the cloud vanisheth and goeth away, so he that goeth down to the 
grave, shall come up no more. He shall return no more to his house, 
neither shall his place know him any more".  (7:9-10)   "For the years 
accounted come, and I shall go the way, whence I shall not return".  (16:22)

All the above are cited in Peter Milward's 'Shakespeare's Religious 
Background' (1973).  All quotations are taken from the Geneva Bible 
(1587), the version WS
and his contemporaries knew best.  I've modernised the spelling.

Peter Bridgman

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Stuart Manger <
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Date: 		Thursday, 02 Mar 2006 20:48:34 +0000
Subject: 17.0102 Hamlet Puzzles
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0102 Hamlet Puzzles

Question: was not Denmark an elective monarchy at the time? And is it 
not therefore perhaps that Claudius is elected? And if so, he is not 
pretending, he is - or in what sense does Bill Arnold mean 'pretends'? 
eg as in Bonnie Prince Charlie was a 'pretender' to the throne? 
Or.....he is consciously playing a part in a charade?

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		S. L Kasten <
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Date: 		Thursday, 02 Mar 2006 23:49:50 +0200
Subject: 17.0092 Hamlet Puzzles
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0092 Hamlet Puzzles

 >And this from Basch:
 >>
 >>Polonius's name has nothing to do with the Polak.

Larry Weiss continues his string of snide remarks

 >How else does Basch translate the Latin?  Or is it really Hebrew?

Surprisingly Polonius is about as close to Hebrew as anything in 
Florence and David's collection of pyrites. Surprisingly it has at least 
a couple of thematic connections.

First of all, Peloni continues to be a commonly used term in Hebrew 
given to an anonymous nonentity.  This coheres with my conception of 
Polonius as a dull officious meddlesome zero.

The term "peloni almoni" is found toward the end of the Book of Ruth, 
when Boaz claims the duty to take Ruth to wife after the unnamed person, 
closer in degree, declines to fulfill the levirate obligation of taking 
to wife the widow of a childless relative.  The matter of levirate 
marriage justifying the marriage of Henry VIII to Catherine of Aragon 
has been hashed and rehashed in this list.  The subsequent dissolution 
of that marriage would imply that the final decision, at least in 
England, although not necessarily in Denmark,  is that this sort of 
marriage is a no-no.  But whatever the law was held to be, the issues of 
levirate marriage were not arcane. They were popularized by the dealings 
E I R's father.

As for the "e" in peloni rather than an "o".  In Hebrew the syllable is 
a "shva" a vocalization with no definite value: it could be sounded "uh" 
as in "duh".  The Yemenite Jews do give this initial shva a hint of the 
vocalization of the vowel of the subsequent vowel, so for them the 
Hebrew would read poloni almoni!

Now, however tantalizing, and while I am convinced that Shakespeare knew 
at least as much Hebrew as I know of various foreign languages, living 
and dead, I will not make a case for his naming Polonius on the basis of 
the Hebrew.  But I am grateful to Weiss for pointing me in that 
direction.  Wow!  "Out of the mouthes of .....".  I forget how it goes.

By the way, Larry, how long previous to the action of the play did 
Polonius overcome Poland?  Do you have an estimate of the number of 
casualties he took?

Best wishes,
Syd Kasten

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Robin Hamilton <
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Date: 		Friday, 3 Mar 2006 04:52:58 -0000
Subject: 17.0102 Hamlet Puzzles
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0102 Hamlet Puzzles

David Basch comments on Larry Weiss:

 >Take, for example, Larry Weiss's interpretation of the name "Fortinbras."
 >Larry wrote in response to the observation that the name is an anagram of
 >"a first born" that he sees ""Fortinbras" as "simply a Latinization of 
'Strong
 >Arms,' a Norse-sounding name," and would take it as that. Yet both
 >interpretations can be true in the context of still another 
interpretation that
 >would see the "brass" in "Fortinbras" as its most significant aspect 
in the
 >context of the play's description of him as the "unimproved Fortinbras."

Both interpretations (as indeed many others) are +possible+, but I 
suspect that the predominant reaction of a member of the audience to the 
name "Fortinbras" is Nominalist rather than Realist -- "Fortinbras" is, 
first, the tag for a character on the stage. The minority of the 
audience embracing a Realist position (those clever young Inns-of-Court 
men) would, I suspect, hew to Larry's position, seeing the name as an 
obvious (?) echo/allusion to (the French, not Latin) Forte Bras -- he 
has the bare name of Fortinbras in the play well before this is 
amplified by the epithet "unimproved".

(Base metal not turned to gold -- do we have a flawed alchemist at work 
here?  Or simply a mis-stating of the more plausible "unproved".)

To anagramatise the term, one needs a written text, not a spoken one. 
Ex post facto.

Can Occam's Razor shave this closer to the bone?

Reverse-engineer the name into cockney rhyming slang and we have "sold 
the pass".  Inverted, Fortinbras touches the ball down to score and 
scoops the pot.

Could anything be clearer?

I rest my case, me'luds.

Touchstone

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