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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: April ::
Threes in _Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0206  Saturday, 5 April 2008

[1] 	From:	Aaron Azlant <
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	Date:	Thursday, 3 Apr 2008 13:43:53 -0400
	Subj:	Re: SHK 19.0198 Threes in _Hamlet

[2] 	From:	Jennifer Pierce <
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	Date:	Thursday, 3 Apr 2008 14:32:21 -0400
	Subj:	RE: SHK 19.02036 Threes in _Hamlet

[3] 	From:	Anita Sherman <
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	Date:	Thursday, 3 Apr 2008 15:01:58 -0400
	Subj:	Re: SHK 19.02036 Threes in _Hamlet

[4] 	From:	Jack Heller <
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	Date:	Thursday, 3 Apr 2008 16:39:32 -0400 (EDT)
	Subj:	Re: SHK 19.02036 Threes in _Hamlet

[5] 	From:	Jason Rhode <
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	Date:	Thursday, 3 Apr 2008 16:19:02 -0600
	Subj:	Re: SHK 19.02036 Threes in _Hamlet

[6] 	From:	Abigail Quart <
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	Date:	Thursday, 3 Apr 2008 20:00:01 -0400
	Subj:	RE: SHK 19.02036 Threes in _Hamlet

[7] 	From:	John W. Kennedy <
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	Date:	Thursday, 03 Apr 2008 21:42:46 -0400
	Subj:	Re: SHK 19.0198 Threes in _Hamlet

[8] 	From:	S. L Kasten <
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	Date:	Saturday, 05 Apr 2008 20:11:32 +0300
	Subj:	Re: SHK 19.0198 Threes in _Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Aaron Azlant <
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Date:		Thursday, 3 Apr 2008 13:43:53 -0400
Subject: 19.0198 Threes in _Hamlet
Comment:	Re: SHK 19.0198 Threes in _Hamlet

Although I can't testify as well to threes, which I think are most 
prevalent in Macbeth (and which twos keep evolving into), I have 
compiled an ongoing list of doubles in Hamlet.

I've been planning an academic paper around this list for a while, but 
have been finishing my policy degree. Hopefully I will get around to it 
this summer or later this fall.

Best,
Aaron

Events

1. Critics have long pondered over the significance of Polonius' 
conversation with Reynaldo; I suspect that, among other things, it's 
supposed to compare with the next scene, where Rozencrantz and 
Guildenstern are deployed to spy on Hamlet.

2. The play references two funerals, King Hamlet's and Ophelia's*.

3. In the first scene, the characters are visited twice by the Ghost of 
Hamlet's father while they are talking about what they have twice seen 
two nights' previously.

4. In his first soliloquy, Hamlet laments the fact that it has been two 
months since the death of his father. During the production of the 
Mousetrap, he jests to Ophelia that Gertrude looks merry despite the 
fact that it has only been "two hours" since his father's death. "Nay, 
'tis twice two months," she responds.

5. The Gravediggers twice tell variations on the same joke.

6. In the Mousetrap scene, the characters in Hamlet twice watch the 
character of a regicide poison a player king in the ear.

7. The play contains two revenge plots: Hamlet's and Laertes'.

Characters

1. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Voltemand and Cornelius and the two 
Ambassadors are all obvious redundancies. Likewise for Polonius/Osric 
and Marcellus/Bernardo. The play also contains two murdered kings (four 
if you count the two player kings) and two heroines.

2. Each of the characters in The Mousetrap maps to two different 
characters in Hamlet:

A. Lucianus, like Hamlet, is both a regicide and a nephew to the king; 
like Claudius, he is a regicide that operates by pouring poison into ears.

B. The Player King, like Hamlet, is an erratic melancholic; like King 
Hamlet, he is poisoned via his ear while reclining in his orchard.

C. The Player Queen, like Ophelia, attends to a character that is "so 
far from cheer and from [a] former state"; like Gertrude, she remarries 
a regicide.

3. Almost all of the characters in the play are reflections of Hamlet in 
some fashion or another:

A. Hamlet, Laertes, Fortinbras and Phyrrus are all avenging sons. Hamlet 
and Laertes both blame Claudius for the death of their fathers. Hamlet 
and Phyrrus are both seized by inaction at some point in their 
respective narratives and each avenges his father. Hamlet and Fortinbras 
both have plans that are thwarted by uncles that are also kings.

B. Hamlet, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, Osric and Polonius are all courtiers.

C. Hamlet, his father, Bernardo, Marcellus, Francisco, Fortinbras and 
several other characters are all soldiers.

D. Hamlet and his father share a name (as do Fortinbras and his father).

E. Hamlet, Horatio, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern and Laertes are all students.

F. Hamlet, his father, Gertrude and Claudius are all members of the 
Royal Family. Each of them is also killed by poison -- poison that 
Claudius is responsible for.

G. Hamlet and Ophelia are each rebuked in similar language by their 
surviving parent in subsequent scenes; the surviving parent of each 
happens to be of the opposite gender. Both also enter scenes reading 
books and there is a contrast between the (possibly) pretend madness of 
Hamlet and the insanity of Ophelia.

H. Hamlet, Horatio, Polonius, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern and Claudius are 
each "lawful espials" at some point in the play.

4. The Polonius family, one son and one daughter with a single male 
parent, is a neat inversion of the Hamlet family, one son with one male 
and one female parent.

5. The entire problem of doubled characters takes on another dimension 
if one considers that, due to budgetary/personnel constraints, multiple 
characters were likely played by the same actors on the 
Elizabethian/Jacobean stage. For instance, pace item 1 in this section, 
the same actors that played Rosencrantz and Guildenstern probably also 
played Voltemond/Cornelius and the Ambassadors; likewise for Polonius 
and Osric as well as Francisco (who only appears in the play's first 
scene and essentially only exists to tell the audience that he, like 
Hamlet, is "sick at heart") and Hamlet. Furthermore, if the traditional 
conjecture is correct and the same actor in King Lear did play both the 
part of the heroine and the clown**, it seems possible that the same 
actor in Hamlet could have played both Ophelia and the First Gravedigger***.

Language

1. As George T. Wright has noted****, a highly-redundant "X and Y" 
construction (generally termed hendiadys-literally "one by means of 
two.") is more prevalent in Hamlet than in any other Shakespeare play. 
For example: "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune", "stand and 
unfold thyself", "angels and ministers of grace", "the book and volume 
of my brain", and so on.

2. Many of the major speeches in the play are based around some form of 
comparison or contrast: Claudius' first speech, Hamlet's initial 
comparison of Claudius and his father ("hyperion to a satyr"), Polonius' 
"neither a borrower nor a lender be", his speech before the King and 
Queen about "why day is day, night night," Hamlet's "to be or not to 
be", his ironic repetition of his mother's language in the Closet 
scene***** and his insistance that she "look upon this picture and on 
this," Claudius' speech at prayer comparing his soul against his crown, etc.

3. For all of the discussion as to whether or not Hamlet says "sallied," 
"sullied," "solid" or something else entirely in his first soliloquy, 
it's interesting that that speech starts out "O that this too too solid 
flesh..." and that the speech takes a handful of lines before it returns 
to what has happened these "two" months past-a number that is said twice 
across two lines.

4. Hamlet has a habit of employing verbal redundancies: "nor the windy 
suspiration of forced breath", "all saws of books, all forms, all 
pressures past", "words words words", "remorseless, treacherous, 
lecherous, kindless villain!", etc.

5. Gertrude's response to Hamlet's assault in the Closet scene is that 
he "hath cleft [her] heart in twain."

6. Laertes welcomes his father in the play's third scene by saying that 
"a double blessing is a double grace." Similarly, this is Hamlet in 
scene 5.1:

This fellow might be in 's time a great buyer of land, with his 
statutes, his recognizances, his fines, his double vouchers, his 
recoveries. Is this the fine of his fines, and the recovery of his 
recoveries, to have his fine pate full of fine dirt? Will his vouchers 
vouch him no more of his purchases, and double ones too, than the length 
and breadth of a pair of indentures?

----
Notes

At the risk of making an interpretive leap, doubles present a readymade 
motif for playwrights and for screenwriters alike, since acting is 
predicated on a kind ofdoubling, between actor and character.

Also, for further evidence that this interest manifests itself across 
much of Shakespeare, consider the following lines from Macbeth: "DOUBLE, 
DOUBLE toil and trouble...", "All of our service / Is in every point 
twice done, and then done double" (Macbeth1.6.16-7, two lines which also 
double "done"), "As cannons overcharged with double cracks / So they 
doubly redoubled strokes upon the foe" (1.2.37-8), "He's here in double 
trust" and so on.

* There is also some muted refernce to the fact that Polonius doesn't 
receive a funeral -- odd in light of the fact that Ophelia, supposedly a 
suicide, does.

** See, for instance,
http://faculty.goucher.edu/eng211/Shakespeare--cordelia_and_the_fool.htm

*** Also note that the two characters are the only two characters in the 
play besides Hamlet to sing, that the content of their songs is 
thematically similar and that, when asked whose grave he is digging, the 
First Gravedigger responds: "Mine, sir" -- an answer that, if this 
conjecture is correct, would have delivered several rich layers of 
meaning to an audience.

**** Wright, George T. 1981. 'Hendiadys and Hamlet.' PMLA 96:168-193.

***** There is also a fairly subtle pun in Hamlet's second line in this 
scene ("Now, mother, what's the matter?"), since "mater" is Latin for 
"mother." The manifest prevalence of puns in this play is yet another 
example of a sort of linguistic doubling.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Jennifer Pierce <
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Date:		Thursday, 3 Apr 2008 14:32:21 -0400
Subject: 19.02036 Threes in _Hamlet
Comment:	RE: SHK 19.02036 Threes in _Hamlet

Except my life. Except my life. Except my life.

Jennifer Pierce

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Anita Sherman <
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Date:		Thursday, 3 Apr 2008 15:01:58 -0400
Subject: 19.02036 Threes in _Hamlet
Comment:	Re: SHK 19.02036 Threes in _Hamlet

Check *Shakespeare at Work* by John Jones.

Anita Sherman

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Jack Heller <
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Date:		Thursday, 3 Apr 2008 16:39:32 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 19.02036 Threes in _Hamlet
Comment:	Re: SHK 19.02036 Threes in _Hamlet

I don't think the original list of threes had three sons avenging dead 
fathers. And given the long discussion that led to about 3 years ago, 
I'll say no more about that.

Jack

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Jason Rhode <
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Date:		Thursday, 3 Apr 2008 16:19:02 -0600
Subject: 19.02036 Threes in _Hamlet
Comment:	Re: SHK 19.02036 Threes in _Hamlet

What is the matter, my lord?

[6]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Abigail Quart <
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Date:		Thursday, 3 Apr 2008 20:00:01 -0400
Subject: 19.02036 Threes in _Hamlet
Comment:	RE: SHK 19.02036 Threes in _Hamlet

Oh, world! World! World! (Troilus and Cressida)

Or

World, world, O world! (King Lear)

[7]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		John W. Kennedy <
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Date:		Thursday, 03 Apr 2008 21:42:46 -0400
Subject: 19.0198 Threes in _Hamlet
Comment:	Re: SHK 19.0198 Threes in _Hamlet

 >Are you familiar with any critical attention to groupings
 >of 3s in Hamlet? If so, does it also apply to any of his
 >other plays?

Thespis invented having one actor.

Aeschylus invented having two actors.

Sophocles invented having three actors.

Nobody remembers who invented having four.

[8]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		S. L Kasten <
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Date:		Saturday, 05 Apr 2008 20:11:32 +0300
Subject: 19.0198 Threes in _Hamlet
Comment:	Re: SHK 19.0198 Threes in _Hamlet

Act IV scene 5

King, Queen, Ophelia  (Horatio silent in the background)
followed by King , Laertes, Ophelia (Queen silent in the background)

Best wishes,
Syd Kasten

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