2012

Hamlet's Fat

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.122  Tuesday, 20 March 2012

 

[1] From:        Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         March 20, 2012 2:22:55 AM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Fat

 

[2] From:        Arthur Lindley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         March 20, 2012 3:28:51 AM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Fat

 

[3] From:        Scot Zarela <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         March 20, 2012 1:04:57 PM EDT

     Subject:     Fatness

 

 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         March 20, 2012 2:22:55 AM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Fat

 

Tony Burton says, “If the word [fat] also suited a chubby Richard Burbage playing Hamlet, that would constitute a witty but transient source of amusement for the earliest audiences, but hardly something to retain through Q2, F1 and later editions if its appropriateness related only to him.”

 

With all respect for my friend Tony, this is a treacherous assumption to make.  The Canon contains hundreds of topical allusions, many lost to us, which did not advance the action of the play and arguably had no business being preserved for posterity.  The example that probably springs to all of our minds most readily is the chorus opening Act V of Henry V, which refers to the hoped for imminent return of Essex from his then ongoing Irish campaign.

 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Arthur Lindley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         March 20, 2012 3:28:51 AM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Fat

 

Conrad Cook may already know this, but the connection between food imagery and death in Hamlet is explored—rather brilliantly—by Robert Appelbaum in his recent book Aguecheek's Beef . . . 

 

Regards,

Arthur

 

[Editor’s Note: Arthur Lindley reviewed Robert Appelbaum’s Aguecheek’s Beef On January 11, 2011. It can be found at http://shaksper.net/archive/2011/296-january/27813-sbreviews11-robert-appelbaums-aguecheeks-beef or as a pdf files at the SBReviews section of the web site: http://shaksper.net/scholarly-resources/book-reviews—Hardy]

 

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From:        Scot Zarela <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         March 20, 2012 1:04:57 PM EDT

Subject:     Fatness

 

The Psalmist, in the near-contemporary Authorized Version, makes memorable use of “fatness”:

 

Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it:

thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God, which is full of water;

thou preparest them corn,

when thou hast so provided for it.

 

Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly:

thou settlest the furrows thereof:

thou makest it soft with showers:

thou blessest the springing thereof.

 

Thou crownest the year with thy goodness;

and thy paths drop fatness.

 

They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness:

and the little hills rejoice on every side.

 

The pastures are clothed with flocks;

the valleys also are covered over with corn;

they shout for joy, they also sing.

 

[Psalms 65:9-13]

 

The earth enriched with rivers, softened with showers: it’s a very moist world we’re given to contemplate. And for a literary point of view, a moist context into which our word has been fitted. It is suggestive, although not definitive; contributory, along with so much else, toward a definition.

 

Latter-day versions of this passage have been criticized, rightly I think, for replacing the sensual “fatness” with an abstract term such as “abundance.”

 

Hamlet’s Abrupt Reversal at III.4.125-130

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.121  Tuesday, 20 March 2012

 

From:        Justin Alexander <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         March 20, 2012 4:32:30 AM EDT

Subject:     Re: Hamlet’s Abrupt Reversal at III.4.125-130

 

On 3/9/2012 9:55 AM, Andrew Wilson wrote:

 

>Third . . . If the above two points are correct then Hamlet’s speech 

>contains a spectacular, turn-on-a-dime reversal I had not appreciated 

>before.  Line 126 up to the hyphen in line 127 loosely paraphrased is,

>“Who could look on him (i.e. the ghost) and not take up his cause?”  The 

>last half of line 127 to line 130 loosely paraphrased is, “Stop looking at 

>me lest I lose my resolve to carry out your will”.  A direct contradiction.

 

If one is looking for a non-contradictory reading, then there is the obvious contrast between looking AT the ghost and being looked at BY the ghost.

 

More generally, the contradictory nature of the Ghost—or, at least, Hamlet’s contradictory reactions to the Ghost—is never far from the play: Is the Ghost true or is it damned? Is its call to murder Claudius righteous or sinful? In fact, the plot for most of the first half of the play is driven by this contradiction.

 

One could even go so far as to argue that the entire play is about Hamlet’s dealing with contradictory perceptions of the people around him: Friends who are murderers. A lover who betrays. A brother who murders.

 

Justin Alexander

 

Saloonio

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.119  Monday, 19 March 2012

 

[1] From:        Paul Barry <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         March 17, 2012 6:49:13 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Saloonio

 

[2] From:        Charles Weinstein <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         March 17, 2012 11:28:18 PM EDT

     Subject:     Saloonio

 

[3] From:        Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         March 17, 2012 11:45:40 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Saloonio

 

 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Paul Barry <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         March 17, 2012 6:49:13 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Saloonio

 

Hey, Allan, I thought Lady Mac’s first name was Ce-Ce, as in “Ce-Ce, our honored hostess.”

 

PAUL

 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Charles Weinstein <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         March 17, 2012 11:28:18 PM EDT

Subject:     Saloonio

 

Something similar pops up in Gilbert & Sullivan.

 

From H.M.S. Pinafore:

 

Go, ribald, get you hence

To your cabin with celerity.

 

Old D’Oyly Carte joke:

 

Who’s playing Celerity tonight?

 

Then there are the ephemeral silent characters in Shakespeare.  Take Varrius, the mysterious personage who appears out of nowhere for no good reason in Measure for Measure IV.v, and promptly vanishes without speaking a line:

 

Enter Varrius

 

DUKE:  I thank thee, Varrius, thou hast made good haste.

           Come, we will walk.  Thee’s other of our friends

           Will greet us here anon, my gentle Varrius

 

(end of scene).

 

I knew a director who kept this moment while casting no one as Varrius:  the Duke apostrophized an invisible man.  It was an in-joke that failed to work with outsiders, i.e., the audience.

 

--Charles Weinstein

 

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         March 17, 2012 11:45:40 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Saloonio

 

I toyed with the idea of naming my cat “Thrice.”

 

[Editor's Note: Larry--drumroll please--and how many times did you toy with that idea? 

Hamlet's Fat

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.120  Monday, 19 March 2012

 

[1] From:        Crystal David <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         March 17, 2012 6:26:13 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Fat

 

[2] From:        Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         March 18, 2012 12:40:30 AM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Fat

 

[3] From:        Conrad Cook <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         March 18, 2012 10:28:29 AM EDT

     Subject:     Fat

 

[4] From:        Alan Pierpoint <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         March 18, 2012 1:25:02 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Fat

 

[5] From:        Anthony Burton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         March 19, 2012 2:07:21 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: Fat

 

 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Crystal David <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         March 17, 2012 6:26:13 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Fat

 

Good to refer to the OED, but there are some other relevant senses of the adjective not mentioned so far. Several moisture-related senses were in use at the time. I’d draw attention to sense II.4b ‘juicy’, 5  ‘sticky’, 7a  ‘turbid’, 7c moisture-filled. It’s not a huge semantic jump from here to ‘sweaty’, even though the OED doesn’t record that actual sense.

 

David Crystal

 

[Editor’s Note: Agreed, and I stand corrected here and below. In fact, I am delighted to be corrected and to witness the perceptive and insightful erudition of those who have contributed to this thread. Perhaps a drawback of literarily having access to so many terrific research tools at one’s fingertips is the inclination to submit in haste. I live less than ten miles away from the Folger Shakespeare Library, yet at home I now have access to so much more than I could have imagined ten years ago. And, if I had been forced to go to a research library with all the additional costs in time and money, I would like to imagine that I would have subsequently felt compelled to be more thorough than I was. In fact, I spent less than two hours at my desk preparing my submission, whereas I believe if I had gone to the Folger with the intention of researching the word “fat” in much the same way as I did at home that I would have easily spent four times that amount, including the transportation to and from the Library itself. Thank you all. –Hardy] 

 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         March 18, 2012 12:40:30 AM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Fat

 

>Can anyone a) tell me of a production in which he/she has 

>seen a character change/look different over time?  

 

Jane Howell’s production of the first tetralogy for the BBC/Time Life series had Margaret age from a young girl to an old hag; but of course that is absolutely necessary and I have also seen it done with somewhat less success in other productions of those plays.  Peter Benson’s Henry VI also aged nicely.

 

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Conrad Cook <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         March 18, 2012 10:28:29 AM EDT

Subject:     Fat

 

Perhaps a better question for us to ask ourselves is not what Gertrude meant, but what Shakespeare meant.  Fat is, of course, a kind of meat, and meat is often mentioned in Hamlet.

 

Ophelia’s grave is larded with flowers (sweets to the sweet) and in the throne room Fortinbras asks Death (present but given no speaking lines) what feast is making in his eternal cell that he took so many princes with one shot.

 

At the midpoint of the play, in Hamlet’s confrontation with Claudius, Hamlet traces the food chain for Claudius’s sake, to show him how “a king may go a-progress through the guts of a beggar,” and reveals that Polonius is “not where he eats, but where he is eaten.”

 

King Hamlet died full of bread, and his funeral-baked meats did coldly furnish forth his widow’s marriage banquet, and Hamlet, in admiring a play he remembered the First Actor playing in, said “it had no salads in it,” which Jenkins glosses as “no morsels.”  But of course the literal meaning is the reverse of this:  a play with no salads is more arguably all-meat.

 

When Hamlet discusses the play, at some level of indirection he’s probably discussing the play Hamlet, which is to say, he’s discussing himself.  It has become a major topic of conversation whether the Prince of Denmark is mad, and “mad” in Danish means “meat.”  So the question is whether or not Hamlet is meat, and by the end of the play, he is.

 

(An argument taken from my unpublished book Hypnotized by Hamlet, which looks at the play with the language tools of a hypnotist.  A book that’s likely to stay unpublished quite a while!-)

 

Conrad.

 

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Alan Pierpoint <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         March 18, 2012 1:25:02 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Fat

 

Re: “Fat” Hamlet: 

 

It seems to me that the question is which Hamlet are we to believe, the one who tells R&G that he has “forgone all custom of exercises,” or the one who tells Horatio that “Since [Laertes] went into France, I have been in continual practice.” For the last four acts, Hamlet has been putting up a front of disabling depression—not a difficult role to play, since he is in fact depressed—while also preparing himself to get past the Switzers and avenge his father’s murder, should Claudius’s guilt become clear. After the death of Polonius, he has an obvious incentive to double down on his fencing practice. He was lying to R&G and telling the truth to Horatio. Gertrude’s “fat and scant of breath” remark can be seen as an implied stage direction, informing the company that Hamlet is still playing his double game. Hamlet’s words during the swordplay are full of confidence (“you do but dally”), and the action shows that his confidence is well placed. He’s not the least bit “fat” in any of the senses that have been advanced so far in the discussion. Anyway, the fight progresses, Hamlet’s competitive instincts take over, and it’s obvious that his practice has paid off. Claudius (“I do not think’t”) seems to agree.

 

Alan Pierpoint

 

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Anthony Burton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         March 19, 2012 2:07:21 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: Fat

 

Hi all you fatties,

 

Over and above Hardy’s helpful research into LEME and the early usage of “fat,” there’s still a good deal more to say.  My source of meaning is the usage found in various herbals of the time, where I noticed some time ago that hemp (presumably the rope-making kind) was best grown in “fat” soil.  There, the word “fat” is generally taken to mean “rich,” one of the secondary meanings in Hardy’s list. 

 

However, I just ran across my copy of Gerard’s Herbal, (1636) which suggests a different family of meanings; the following entries all indicate that “fat” was regularly used in a gardening context as a synonym for moistness, or else soil that was rich because it was associated with moistness or juiciness.  And we all know how regularly Shakespeare turned to gardening for his similes.

 

Daffodills:  “It hath long fat and thick leaves, full of a slimie juice; among which riseth up a bare thicke stalke, hollow within and full of juice.”

 

Tulips:  “. . .hath fat thicke and grosse leaves . . .In the midst of those leaves riseth up a naked fat stalke . . .”

 

Meadow saffron:  “. . .do grow in England in great aboundance in fat and fertile meadows, , ,(listing locations) . . . in Kingstrop medow neere unto a water mil . . .”

 

Star of Bethlehem:  “. . .hath many narrow leaves, thicke, fat, full of juice, and of a very greene coloour.”

 

Onions:    The Onion requireth a fat ground well digged and dunged . . .”

 

White lillies:   “ . . .six small leaves thicke and fat.”

 

Persian lily:    “having one great bulb firm or solid, full of juice . . .[from which rises] a fat thicke and straight stem”  

 

Lettuce:   Lettuce delighteth to grow . . .in a mannured, fat, moist, and dunged ground.”

 

Coleworts:   “do love a soile which is fat.”

 

Love apples:  “bringeth forth very long round stalkes or branches, fat and full of juice . . .”

 

Flax:  “It prospereth best in a fat and fruitfull soile, in oikst and not dry places: for it requireth . . .a very fat ground, and somewhat moist” and, Englishing Vergil’s Georgics

 

Flax and Otes sowne consume

The moisture of a fertile field:

The same worketh Poppy, whose

Juyce a deadly sleep doth yield."

 

There are many more entries describing “fat” leaves, but it is unclear whether thickness or moisture is the primary association; it appears that one is assumed to involve the other.  In either case, the usage suggests Hamlet to be in a moist or sweaty condition requiring a motherly wipe from Gertrude’s handkerchief.  If the word also suited a chubby Richard Burbage playing Hamlet, that would constitute a witty but transient source of amusement for the earliest audiences, but hardly something to retain through Q2, F1 and later editions if its appropriateness related only to him.  

 

After all that, I need to towel off,

Tony B

 

Hamlet's Fat

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.118  Saturday, 17 March 2012

 

[1] From:        Michael Zito <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         March 16, 2012 7:22:55 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Fat

 

[2] From:        Marie Merkel <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         March 16, 2012 8:16:51 PM EDT

     Subject:     "the fat weed"

 

[3] From:        Hardy M. Cook <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         Saturday, March 17, 2012

     Subject:     Fat

 

 

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Michael Zito <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         March 16, 2012 7:22:55 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Fat

 

Both Kittredge and Tucker Brooke (Yale) interpret “fat” as meaning “out of training.”  

 

I think I’m more inclined to go with Clarke.  I’m not necessarily interested in the idea of Hamlet being a whale, but I am interested in the idea of the appearance of the character changing over time and having that reflected by the actor on the stage, by cosmetics, etc.  I don’t think that this necessarily happens too often on the stage, or hasn’t really in at least anything I’ve seen.  I can’t say for sure how this would strengthen or weaken anything, I’m just interested in it.  This mainly stems from something a colleague of mine once said to me about Falstaff, how if he were directing the play, he might actually have Falstaff lose weight or become more haggard towards the end of the play so as to reflect the way he becomes diminished by Hal.  Therefore, as Hamlet is more of a thinker than a mover, as is illuminated by Clarke, here, I think it’d make sense to have Hamlet appear heavier, weighed down towards the end.  By the time he realizes that man is no more than a beast “if his chief good and market of his time be but to sleep and feed,” and has an opportunity to maybe, now that he’s mentally prepared, physically prepare himself for exacting his revenge he may still not have enough time to get fully fit for the action of the end of the play. Thus, he’d still appear a bit heavier than before/earlier on in the play. 

 

So, I’m not so much interested in the idea of Hamlet being an over-eater, as amusing as the thought may be.  I am more interested in the idea of, having been consumed in and by his thoughts, by “things rank and gross in nature,” how can this be visibly manifested (somewhat) in his appearance.  

 

The language of appetite echoes throughout the play, and so because he may be regarded as a virtue ethicist who theorizes on reason vs. appetite, the possibility exists that the internal conflict between reason and appetite may exhaust him to the point of caving and giving in to appetite.  But again, I’m not interested in food so much, or what food and drink may do/have done to him, so much as I am interested in what time may do to him and how a perhaps more realistic depiction of this could be made on the stage. 

 

Can anyone a) tell me of a production in which he/she has seen a character change/look different over time?  b) tell me how Dover Wilson interprets/explains “fat”?  Would that I had a copy of his Cambridge edition. 

 

Thanks,

mz

 

PS: I have seen a production of Caesar with a fat Cassius.  That’s just about as bad as it gets.

 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Marie Merkel <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         March 16, 2012 8:16:51 PM EDT

Subject:     "the fat weed"

 

I like Eric Johnson-DeBaufre’s guess on “fat” as maybe short for “fatigate”: 

 

>My own position is that “fat” is Shakespeare’s truncation of “fatigate,” 

>an adjective in regular use during the period and one especially 

>favored by Elyot in “The Boke named the Governour,” a work

>Shakespeare almost certainly knew.

 

But why go back to Elyot when we can go forward to Coriolanus?

 

                       . . . from face to foot 

He was a thing of blood, whose every motion 

Was timed with dying cries: alone he enter’d 

The mortal gate of the city, which he painted 

With shunless destiny; aidless came off, 

And with a sudden reinforcement struck 

Corioli like a planet: now all’s his: 

When, by and by, the din of war gan pierce 

His ready sense; then straight his doubled spirit 

Re-quicken’d what in flesh was fatigate, 

And to the battle came he; where he did 

Run reeking o’er the lives of men, as if 

'Twere a perpetual spoil: and till we call'd 

Both field and city ours, he never stood 

To ease his breast with panting.  [Cominius, Coriolanus, Act II, scene ii]

 

I wonder, did any other writer of the era use “fat” in a way that suggests “fatigate”?  For that matter, who else among Shakespeare’s contemporaries used this word, a worthy companion to the “inkhorn” terms coughed up by Marston/Crispinus in Jonson's Poetaster?

 

When Shakespeare has Gertrude say, “He’s fat, and scant of breath . . .”, it seems to me that he may be recollecting his previous uses of the word “fat” within this play—as when The Ghost of Hamlet Sr. says to his son:

 

                                    . . . I find thee apt; 

And duller shouldst thou be than the fat weed 

That rots itself in ease on Lethe wharf, 

Wouldst thou not stir in this. [Act I, scene v.]

 

Hamlet’s dad seems to be calling up a debauched sort of youthful prince, dull of thought while swaying with the tide, with perhaps a touch of syphilis suggested in that “rots”.  This, of course, is what the father’s spirit warns his son not to be.  And why should this comparison come to mind?  Maybe because Hamlet Sr. had some valid fears that Junior’s default mode of being was, indeed, a “fat weed.”  

 

Put a ton of flesh around Hamlet’s bawdy wit and say hello—to Sir John Falstaff?

 

Marie Merkel

 

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:        Hardy M. Cook <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         Saturday, March 17, 2012

Subject:     Fat

 

Once again, my curiosity was pricked. 

 

I looked at it in LEME: The Lexicon of Early Modern English, the OED, Lion (Literature Online), and the online version of Shakespeare’s Words: http://www.shakespeareswords.com/

 

In reverse order, I searched Lion in texts from 1585 to 1660 and found 764 hits in Poetry, 798 hits in Drama, and 182 hits in Prose. These were far too many to look at this time. 

 

I looked at the OED to confirm what I had found in LEME. In the OED fat appears as a noun, an adjective, and a verb. 

 

Fat as an adjective has the various meanings of With respect to bulk or condition

 

Fat as noun appears in three senses:

 

Fat (n1) has the meaning of A vessel; A vessel of large size for liquids; a tub, a dyer’s or brewer’s vat, a wine cask; A cask or barrel to contain dry things; and Used as a measure of capacity

 

Fat (n2) as The adj. used absol. The fat part of anything

 

Fat (n3) A presumptuous, conceited dandy; a fop

 

As a verb, fat has the meanings:

 

To anoint, ‘make fat’ (the head); to load (an altar) with fat; 

To bedaub with fat or grease; hence, transf. to cover thickly; 

To grow or become fat; 

To make fat, fatten; usually, to feed (animals) for use as food; 

In the manufacture of leather, to smear over with fat-liquor; to fatten for sale or slaughter; 

To enrich (the soil) with nutritious and stimulating elements; to fertilize. 

 

I began by searching LEME from 1585 to 1660 and got 461 hits for fat. With the exception of the occasional specialized uses of dyer’s vats, measure of capacity, and fops, most appeared to have one of these three meaning from Robert Cawdrey’s A Table Alphabetical (1604): 1. corpulent: grosse of body, fat, or great; 2. grease: fat; 3. vnguent: an oyntment, or fat iuyce; and occasional uses in the sense of this definition from Henry Cockeram’s English Dictionary (1623): impingue: To make fat

 

As I was writing up these results, it occurred to me that I should consult David and Ben Crystal’s Shakespeare’s Words.

 

The phrase “fat weed” that Marie discusses above is not annotated. 

 

Consulting the Glossary, I found the following:

 

fat (adj) 

  1. hefty, substantial, full-bodied (1H4 2.1.68 [Gadshill to Chamberlain] If I hang, I'll make a fat pair of gallows)
  2. gross, heavy, dull (TN 5.1.107 [Olivia to Orsino, of his love-suit] It is as fat and fulsome to mine ear / As howling after music)
  3. fertile, rich, productive (2H4 4.4.54 [King Henry IV to Clarence] Most subject is the fattest soil to weeds)
  4. stuffy, fusty, close (1H4 2.4.1[Prince Hal to Poins] come out of that fat room)

fat (n)

  1. plenty, wealth, abundance (R3 5.3.259 [Richmond to his soldiers] Your country's fat shall pay your pains the hire)
  2. vat, wine cask, barrel (AC 2.7.13 [Boy singing, as if to Bacchus] In thy fats our cares be drowned)

fat (v) 

fatten, feed up, nourish (Ham 4.3.21 ([Hamlet to Claudius] We fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for maggots). Also, TC 2.2.48, Tit. 3.1.202, Tit. 4.2.177, and TNK 3.6.12. 

 

My cursory searching was not exhaustive or particularly meticulous, but I never found an entry that I could vaguely say used fat to mean sweating or fat to mean fatigued, weary, tired. Perhaps the answer to this crux lies in the 1,744 hits in Lion that I do not have a few days to explore.

 

The context of the meaning in the last scene of Hamlet seems to me to imply sweating or fatigued, yet I have not yet found a direct correspondence between these connotative senses and the word fat. Maybe it is simply a reference to the 32 year-old Burbage’s girth, or maybe it’s just a mystery.

 

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