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.

 

Saloonio

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.117  Saturday, 17 March 2012

 

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

     Date:         March 16, 2012 1:03:16 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Saloonio

 

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

     Date:         March 16, 2012 1:24:56 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Saloonio

 

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

     Date:         March 16, 2012 6:51:33 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Saloonio

 

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

     Date:         March 17, 2012 12:59:41 AM 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 16, 2012 1:03:16 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Saloonio

 

Give 'em hell, Harry!

 

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

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

Date:         March 16, 2012 1:24:56 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Saloonio

 

With reference to Saloonio (Steve Urkowitz) and Hamlet’s friend Pat (Paul Barry, Harry Keyishian) I am reminded of 1) Lady Macbeth’s nickname: “Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest Chuck” (3.2) and 2) Gertrude’s lapdog (courtesy of John Styan): “But look, Amazement on thy mother sits” (3.4).

 

Alan

 

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

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

Date:         March 16, 2012 6:51:33 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Saloonio

 

The Saloonio post reminds me of an old piece by Michael Frayn, complaining about perverse theatrical decisions.  He imagines the end of Hamlet as creatively directed:

 

Hor.  Now cracks a noble. [A noble cracks.]  [Slapping himself on the chest.]  Heart good.  [Yawning.] Night!  [Offering a chocolate to Fortinbras.]  Sweet, Prince? 

 

Fortinbras concludes:

 

Let four captains

Bear Hamlet, like a soldier, to the stage:

For it was likely, had it been put on, 

To have proved most royal . . . 

 

Julia Griffin

 

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

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

Date:         March 17, 2012 12:59:41 AM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Saloonio

 

Pat isn’t the only Shakespeare character who doesn’t make it into the Dramatis Personae. In Troilus and Cressida, a walk-on walks on but Shakespeare doesn’t tell us his name, leaving it to the amiable Hector to tell us who he is:

 

[Enter one in Armour.]

Hect.

Stand, stand, thou Greek, 

Thou art a goodly Mark: 

 

Later, Troilus urges that the Trojan swords be kept away from some woman:

 

And when we haue our Armors buckled on, 

The venom’d vengeance ride vpon our swords, 

Spur them to ruthfull worke, reine them from Ruth. 

 

Pretty lame, I know, but clownishly and frownishly mouthing those names backstage while frantically looking around for those missing people, did make Helen and Cassandra struggle to quiet their giggling, night after night.

 

Bob Projansky

Hamlet's Fat

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.116  Friday, 16 March 2012

 

[1] From:        Eric Johnson-DeBaufre <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         March 15, 2012 9:44:54 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 15, 2012 11:45:11 PM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Fat

 

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

     Date:         March 16, 2012 12:04:25 AM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Fat

 

 

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

From:        Eric Johnson-DeBaufre <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         March 15, 2012 9:44:54 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Fat

 

Many thanks to Hardy for wading into the Variorum and returning with some pearls. There is much there to think about. While I am open to the possibility that the reference is to Burbage’s alleged corpulence, I am unconvinced so far. 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. In Hamlet do we not have the very image of the student—admittedly no longer Elyot’s “child”—“fatigate with continuall study or lernyng”? Continual study, continual practice—each has induced a fatigue in Hamlet, a weariness with a world that seems “stale, flat, and unprofitable.” Gertrude’s throwaway line—“He’s fat and scant of breath”—is, for me, one of those remarkable Shakespearean moments where the floor drops out from beneath you when the line is heard and placed in the context of Hamlet’s trajectory throughout the play. A man who begins the play complaining of fatigue with the way of the world is, following this line, on the verge of leaving it. Scant of breath now, he will be bereft of it soon enough.

 

Eric Johnson-DeBaufre

 

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

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

Date:         March 15, 2012 11:45:11 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Fat

 

>This is getting hilarious. Why would any decent fencer take a drink 

>of wine in the middle of a match? Water, maybe, or a chocolate bar, 

>but not wine, for God’s sake.

 

My college fencing team always kept a large supply of orange slices.

 

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

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

Date:         March 16, 2012 12:04:25 AM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Fat

 

>>Larry Weiss says, “Richard Burbage is said to have weighed 16 or 

>>17 stn.”

>

>Said by who? when? Although I’ve seen it variously reported on the 

>Internet, and in one or two books, that Burbage was (variously) 14 or 16 

>or 17 stone, or 235 lbs, there is no contemporary warrant for this 

>statement.

 

As Steve Urkowitz said in another thread, “just because something is believed in doesn’t mean that it actually happened.”  I deliberately used the word “said” to convey the idea to a discerning reader that I wasn’t making the assertion myself, but was merely passing on a commonly believed notion, which might or might not be true, and which, if true, could explain why Gertrude used the word "fat." 

 

It does appear that WS was alert to the possibility that Burbage’s age (32) might be perceived as too old for a university undergraduate Hamlet, so he inserted two speeches that specify Hamlet’s age as 30.

 

Visualizing Shakespearean Plots as Interactive Networks

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.115  Friday, 16 March 2012

 

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

Date:         March 16, 2012 5:22:26 AM EDT

Subject:     RE: SHAKSPER: Interactive Network

 

I should have made it clear in my post about interactive networks that they were created by Anupam Basu, and are hosted on his blog.

 

They are also very much a work in progress, and Anupam would welcome comments, corrections, and help with coding status (the blog has a link to a spreadsheet in Google docs—I’ve been asking my students to add status coding for the plays they are working on, which is a good way to get them thinking about the complexities of early modern social status, and the limitations of digital representations).

 

http://abasu.net/blog/shakespeare-plot-networks/

 

Jonathan Hope

Strathclyde University

 

Saloonio

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.114  Friday, 16 March 2012

 

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

Date:         March 15, 2012 6:03:27 PM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Interactive Network; Originals; Fat

 

Regarding Steve Urkowitz’s post on Saloonio, I recall Paul Barry asking me a while back if I knew about Hamlet's Irish friend. No, I said, falling into his well-laid trap. “You know, the one he turns to in the prayer scene in Hamlet, when he says, ‘Now might I do it, Pat.’” So now I see Pat and Saloonio sitting in some version of the Boar's Head Tavern, laughing their asses off, at our expense.  

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