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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: July ::
Hamlet without Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0382  Thursday, 16 July 2009

From:       Hannibal Hamlin <
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Date:       Wednesday, 15 Jul 2009 16:42:28 -0400
Subject: 20.0377 Hamlet without Hamlet
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0377 Hamlet without Hamlet

I certainly wouldn't argue that scholarly arguments aren't sometimes 
far-fetched, but the point about "adamah" may not be. Of course, 
Shakespeare had even less Hebrew than Greek, but he could easily have 
known a few key words from easily accessible biblical commentaries, some 
of which I'm certain he read. I'd have to hunt around more to make a 
specific case for "adamah," but Raleigh explains the Hebrew pun on 
"Adam" and "adamah" in his History of the World, and he was no Hebrew 
scholar either. He no doubt found this in one of the learned works he 
consulted (in English or Latin), perhaps a work Shakespeare could also 
have read. So much is made in Hamlet of man being made of dust (the 
English biblical phrase "dust to dust" would have been ingrained from 
the funeral liturgy), and biblical allusions hearken back to Genesis 
(Claudius as Cain), so it's not unreasonable that Shakespeare would have 
had in mind the original biblical pun on the substance out of which 
humanity is made and to which it returns.

Hannibal Hamlin
Associate Professor of English
The Ohio State University

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