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Home :: Archive :: 2010 :: March ::
Mousetrap in Hamlet

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0121  Thursday, 18 March 2010

From:         Richard Waugaman < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         March 17, 2010 7:41:14 PM EDT
Subject:      Mousetrap in Hamlet

Stuart Gillespie wrote that Shakespeare may have borrowed Claudius' 'limed soul' in Hamlet from St. Augustine.  

Have Hamlet scholars noted the possible connection between the 'Mousetrap' play in Hamlet and St. Augustine's trope (in Sermon 130) of Christ on the cross as a 'mousetrap' to catch Satan, in order to prevent Satan from harming humankind? According to St. Augustine, "The devil exulted when Christ died, but by this very death of Christ the devil was vanquished, as if he had swallowed the bait in the mousetrap. He rejoiced in Christ's death, like a bailiff of death. What he rejoiced in was then his own undoing. The cross of the Lord was the devil's mousetrap; the bait by which he was caught was the Lord's death...."

Hamlet's possible use of St. Augustine's trope places Hamlet in a God-like role, using the _Mousetrap_ play to ensnare the devilish Claudius before he can do further damage to Hamlet, Gertrude, and the state of Denmark. Further, Hamlet is thereby externalizing onto Claudius aspects of his own vexed relationship with the Ghost. That is, if Protestants are correct and there is no Purgatory, then the Ghost was likely to be not the soul of Hamlet's father, but instead a devil in disguise, trying to _trap_ Hamlet into committing the sin of murdering the possibly innocent Claudius.

I would be grateful for any comments, especially about prior discussions of this possible meaning of the 'Mousetrap.' Please post comments here, or send them privately to me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Best wishes,
Richard Waugaman

[Editor's Note: To find previous SHAKSPER discussions, go to the Search engine at http://www.shaksper.net/search.html and enter the term mousetrap. Also, I am pleased to announce that SHAKSPER guru of all things technical, Eric Luhrs, has added Volume 21, 2010, to the Browse SHAKSPER page and set the current postings section to work properly. -HMC]

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