The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1851 Monday, 2 October 2000.
Date: Friday, 29 Sep 2000 09:43:57 -0700
Subject: 11.1841 Re: What's It All About, Hamlet
Comment: Re: SHK 11.1841 Re: What's It All About, Hamlet
HR Greenberg suggests,
> In this regard, there are references throughout the plays about Death's
> defying description, or not having time to describe the intimations or
> actualities of what lies beyond, horrible or not. Even Hamlet, dying,
> makes some reference, does he not, about that "fell sergeant" which
> prevents him from disclosing anything about the intuitions of the abode
> to which he is speeding.
I think the reference "this fell sergeant, death, is strict in his
arrest" doesn't keep him from telling about death, so much as keeping
him from talking and controlling his own story, which he has to entrust
to Horatio. It cuts off his voice.
I'm not sure how much this would fit into Elizabethan ghost lore, but I
suspect that it wouldn't fit that well. The ghosts in _Mirror for
Magistrates_ don't seem to have any difficulty talking about their
It does fit, I think, with a general theme of memento mori, of living in
terms of facing one's death. This could be understood in a Heideggerian
way, as the ultimate power of a tragic individual--in fact, the
individuation of Dasein--or more critically as something always slightly
out of the individual's powers of appropriation. In a series of
lectures in the 1970s, Levinas argues that the relationship with death
is always also the relationship with another person, whom we mourn or
fear or reach to in our need. Hence, the need for Horatio or the
ghost's command to "remember me".