The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1544  Saturday, 17 September 2005

From: 		Elliott Stone <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Thursday, 15 Sep 2005 18:55:43 -0400
Subject: 	Hamlet an Allegory

The very best way to tell if a play is meant to be an allegory is to 
have the author tell you. Shakespeare was adept at telling his audience 
exactly what the theme of his play was in the very first few lines.

The first sentence of Hamlet is spoken by Barnardo a sentinel who is 
"meeting" and relieving Francisco the sentinel who is on duty. The play 
"Barnardo Who's there?"

It has been basic soldiering from time immemorial that the man on guard 
duty always speaks first. "Halt who goes there "or "Halt what is the 
password" or "Stand and unfold yourself". Why would our Shakespeare get 
this wrong? Why would he make such a fundamental error?

I would argue that Shakespeare has not made an error. The word "meeting" 
is an emendation or addition to the text added by the modern editor. 
Barnardo is meant to address the audience when he says "Who's there?"

The answer to that question in the minds of the audience had to be that 
the play was meant to be about the most important news of the day which, 
of course, was the situation of the Elizabethan Court.

My further suggestion is that you heed Prince Hamlet's words and 
instructions to the players""Do you hear, let them be well us'd, for 
they are the abstract and brief chronicles of the time".

Elliott H. Stone

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