7th World Shakespeare Congress, Valencia, short paper session 3.4: Revenge as a Mediterranean Phenomenon Before and After Hamlet.

Hardin L. Aasand (Dickinson State University):
O'ertopping Pelion: Hamlet, Laertes, and the Revenge Tradition

The early editions of
Hamlet (Q1, Q2, F1) convey disparities in their treatment of Hamlet's and Laertes's disposition at Ophelia's graveyard. While Q1 clearly indicates Hamlet and Laertes both leaping into the open grave, only F1 depicts Laertes leap into the grave, while Q2 omits both stage directions completely. The critical tradition betrays a divided opinion regarding the propriety of both of these physical gestures, with Hamlet's leap receiving the harshest criticism from critics during the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. The critical tradition considers Hamlet's behavior to be unseemly and thematically inconsistent with the newly-found maturity that he has voiced in his previous scene with the gravedigger and with Horatio.
Revenge tragedy, Michael Neill reminds us, represents in its theatrical negotiation of social practices the accommodation both of "death" as an abstract terminus ad quem for all mortals and of the dead who remind us of our obligation to accommodate them, an accommodation the Protestant Reformation rendered anxiety-ridden and inconclusive as a socially sanctioned event. My conjecture is that the Q1 stage directions ought to be respected because they represent Shakespeare's deliberate evocation of the dance macabre iconography and the wrestling with death that was part of the medieval tradition, a dance made all the more significant by the excision of Purgatory and incessionary prayers, which encouraged a vital incorporation of the dead with the living. In addition, Hamlet's satirical commentary with Yorick's skull suggests that his leap is tantamount as well to a clownish jig, which like the dance of death, reminds us of our human frailty. Thus, Ophelia's grave is a locus defined by contrastive avengers. If Shakespeare intended these graveside leaps - Laertes's followed by Hamlet's - it suggests a visual tableau of contrastive avengers rather than redundant mourners. Hamlet's violation of Laertes's physical space within Ophelia's grave serves only to contrast a mourning that, hyperbolic in its classical heaping of images, is inappropriate for a Hamlet whose deferred mourning has found its outlet in the wistful exposition upon Yorick's skull. If critics deplore Hamlet's insensitive leap as a malicious attack on Laertes's private grief, they ignore the historical significance of the motley drama in which comedy and tragedy struggle in a dialectical embrace.

Hardin L. Aasand (Dickinson State University):

O'ertopping Pelion: Hamlet, Laertes, and the Revenge Tradition

Memento, Domine, famulorum famularumque tuaram qui nos praecesserunt cum signo fidei, et dormiunt in somno pacis.

Remember, O Lord, thy servants who have gone before with the sign of faith and sleep in the sleep of peace.

The lines cited above derive from the liturgical formula for the canon of the Mass, and they provided Catholic believers in pre-Reformation England with a means to commemorate and reintegrate the dead with the living by entrusting the dead to the prayers of intercession. As Anthony Low has recently suggested, the Reformation deprived England of this vital nexus by excising Purgatory as a liminal domain within which the deceased had been communally bound to the living. Low suggests that the Reformation audience, confronting a void created by the loss of Purgatory, were essentially abandoned to a silence when confronting the dead
[2]. Silence and corrosive parodies were the only vehicles for dealing with the deceased [3]. I offer this intercessionary prayer as a gloss for the discomfort produced in the famous graveyard scene of 5.1 in Hamlet, for this scene presents an important tableau in which Shakespeare unites a pair of avengers amidst the heaping of death in an act of commemoration. As many critics note, the Reformation transformed the early modern English churchyard into a site of bifurcated significance, one in which the sacred and secular uses of cemetery space vied for legitimacy. [4]

In Elizabethan England, churchyards were common places, frequently violated and overrun sites of both the sacred and the profane. Modern readers need to disturb their preconceptions of churchyards as privileged sites of hallowed graves and ornate markers in order to discern a more vivid portrait of burial sites that all too often were spaces of symbolic contestation and common disturbance. For instance, in Kent in 1573 a churchyard reportedly "lieth open, whereby swine and other cattle come in and dig up the graves . . . It hath been presented divers times and no reformation had."
[5] Indeed, the fear of swine encroachment and violation of graves is a frequent fear. During the same time, two farmers were warned by local officials to cease defacing and spoiling graveyards with their cattle. In Lincolnshire, the churchyard fence was dismantled "so that cattle and hogs came into the same and rooted up the graves of dead bodies there interred." [6] Bishop Richard Montague offered timely advice during his visit to Norwich in 1638:

Be [these graves] conveniently covered, made seven foot deep, kept from scraping of dogs, rooting up of hogs, fouling and polluting otherwise, as the resting place of Christians dead? . . . Is the grave made east and west, is the body buried with the head to the west, is the grave digged seven foot deep, and being made up and buried, preserved from violation? [7]

The good bishop's prescription of a proper grave is a testament to the temporal and secular forces at work to disturb graves and violate sacred space.

In addition to foraging cattle and swine, churchyards also suffered or "were profaned" by secular abuses of gaming and revelry, by "any unlawful or unseemly act, game or exercise, as by lords of misrule, summer lords or ladies, pipers, rush-bearers, morris dancers, pedlards, bowlers, bear wards and such like."
[8] Thus, in Hamlet, Hamlet's observations that the chapless skulls tossed up by the gravedigger could be used in a game of loggats is not an instance of grotesque poetic license, but rather a morbid touchstone for an Elizabethan audience. In Salisbury, for example, disinterred mazzards of bishops are transformed into more pragmatic mazzards - cups - for the supping of wine. [9] Such anecdotes provide clear instances of subjects becoming objectified. As David Cressy observes in his Birth, Marriage, and Death, Elizabethan churchyards were often treated as barnyards or country fairs: these "dormitories of Christians" became stables of "private uses" and boorish activities by which the symbolic status of churchyards as hallowed sites was appropriated by carnivalesque forces marked by their temporal character. [10]

Cressy's account of Elizabethan burial sites resonates for students of Hamlet, for the graveyard sequence is a memorable tableau of the play and its thematic concerns, one that illustrators and engravers often revisited for emblematic representation. The churchyard as visualized is a provocative synecdoche for the emphatic presence of death that permeates the play from its spectral visits of Act I to the bloody havoc that Fortinbras confronts in Act V.

Figure 1 Delacroix's Graveyard Lithograph (see: [http://www.emory.edu/ENGLISH/classes/Shakespeare_Illustrated/dh.html] (lithograph) and [http://www.abcgallery.com/D/delacroix/delacroix16.html] (painting)

Delacroix's famous 1843 lithograph of Hamlet, Yorick, and the gravedigger evinces the essential elements of this scene (but for the subsequent procession that brings the royal party and Ophelia's corpse into the scene): Hamlet's philosophical excavation of the first gravedigger's more literal excavation of the earth, the memento mori presence of Yorick's skull that grounds Hamlet's sense of death and its levelling force; the backward looking, disinterested Horatio; and the second gravedigger sitting with two feet in the grave (textually already absent and sent off for a cup at Yaughan's , Johan's, or some other offstage topical allusion). The lithograph is a quiet tableau that freezes Hamlet's interrogation of the gravedigger into a respectable, conservative icon, lending Hamlet a heroic posture as the melancholic, inquisitive Dane. Denied its theatrical context, Delacroix's lithograph commemorates a scene by investing the panoply of skulls, the grime of the labor, and the anonymity of death with an emblematic purity unfettered by problematics of mortal decay, maim'd sacred rites, and absent purgatories.

For all of its iconic placidness, this scene as enacted, however, was frequently disparaged for its breach of neo-classical decorum, for its violation of sacred space and tragic tone by a secular and profane space in which Hamlets courts the ironic presence of clowns and death's atomistic sense of humor. In 1733, Voltaire characterized this interlude as one of dramatic "buffooneries" that, while mimetically integral as a reflection of the gravedigging profession, was improper for the tragic subject matter. In addition, an anonymous critic writing in 1752 suggested in Observations on the Tragedy of Hamlet that the scene was "motley," an adjective that conveys the patched and botched nature of the scene's design. The writer laments the debasement of "sublime compositions" with "wretched farce." Moreover, this anonymous critic charges Shakespeare with violating the "grave" decorum of tragedy by profaning noble, moral scenes with impertinent wit. Within his critique, the critic cites an equally critical verse from David Mallett, a bit of doggerel prompted by Lewis Theobald's 1733 edition of Shakespeare: "As Gold in Mines lies mix'd with Dirt and Clay, Now, Eagle-wing'd his Heav'n-ward Flight he takes, The big Stage thunders, and the Soul awakes; Now, low on Earth, a kindred Reptile creeps, Sad hamlet quibbles, and the Hearer sleeps." This verse plumbs the subterranean depths of the cemetery to excoriate Shakespeare for the contamination of his high, grandiose style with "trifling, vain and impertinent Witticisms."

These instances of graveyard desecration and generic corruption are homologous events that rehearse the motley scenes that in fact constitute both human life and the dramatic mirrors held up to nature. Act V.i clearly demonstrates that the churchyard with unmarked graves and unregulated plots was a topical place, a locus representing Ophelia's burial, the mingling of bodies, of social classes, and of dramatic genres a proper background for a death that is given an ambivalent legitimacy. The proliferation of skulls and the communing of bodies in interlarded, undifferentiated graves is indeed a major concern of this play, and here I use the term "interlarded" intentionally, for its derivation from "enlarded" hearkens back to its physiological and rhetoric origins as both a swelling, corpulent body and bombastic rhetoric, a "verbal stuffing." [
12] As Patricia Parker notes, enlarged rhetoric is associated with the "forcing" or "farcing" of pride with rhetorical embellishment. Hamlet's graveyard is thus poignantly farcical, a tone established at the outset by the gravedigger's occupation of the stage's platea, [13] whose expostulation on crowners' quest laws, the proper treatment of suicide victims, and corporeal vermiculation permeates the remainder of the scene.

This impropriety, which disturbed early Neo-classical critics of the play, extends beyond the opening moments of 5.1 and the gravedigger's parodic rehearsal of legal inquests and encompasses the arrival of the funeral cortege. Ophelia's maimed rites are maimed further by Hamlet's interruption of Laertes' mournful eulogy for his sister, an expressive grief that itself interrupts the priest's half-hearted services and suggests Laertes's deferred eulogy for a father buried in "hugger mugger."
[14] Indeed, Ophelia's interrupted burial provides the court and theatrical audience with a promise of the only complete ceremony in the play: Hamlet Sr's bones were "quietly inurned" and have now "burst there cerements"; Polonius's body lacks the proper memorial signified by hatchments and trophes that reveal noble status; and Ophelia's suicide receives only an attenuated ceremony announced by Yorick's tongueless skull. This vertiginous layering of past and present death renders Laertes's spontaneous leap and Hamlet's ironic counter leap into the grave fitting valedictory gestures for bodies that have lacked the ritual closure that makes the mourning process so essential for the living. Revenge tragedy, Michael Neill reminds us, represents in its theatrical negotiation of social practices the accommodation both of "death" as an abstract terminus ad quem for all mortals and of the dead who remind us of our obligation to accommodate them, an accommodation which (pace Antony Low) the Protestant Reformation rendered anxiety-ridden and inconclusive as a socially sanctioned event. [15] Natalie Davis conjectures that the "Protestant soul" was "left with [its] memories, unimpeded and untransformed by any ritual communication with [its] dead." [16] It is within this context that I wish to consider the textually ambivalent treatment of Hamlet and Laertes's disposition at Ophelia's grave.

The textual record of this scene is itself as confounded and open-ended as Ophelia's grave. The existence of three distinct states of the play (Q1, Q2, F1)
[17] allows for distinct treatments of the burial. For centuries, critics have debated the physical piling on of bodies within Ophelia's grave: Do Hamlet and Laertes both leap into the grave, one after another? Does Laertes alone leap in and climb out to wage battle? Do both young nobles remain outside the grave and struggle above the grave? The text of course fails to resolve the dilemma, the three versions providing similar yet distinct treatments of their actions:


Leartes leapes into the grave

Now power your earth on, Olympus hie

And make a hill to o'retop olde Pellon

Hamlet leapes in after Leartes


Now pile your dust upon the quicke and dead,

Till of this flat a mountain you have made

To'retop old Pelion, or the skyesh head

Of blew Olympus

[Laer.] Leaps in the grave.

Now pile your dust upon the quicke and dead,

Till of this flat a mountain you have made

To'retop old Pelion, or the skyesh head

Of blew Olympus

The 1603 Q1, which some critics believe reflects an early performance, includes the stage direction of Leartes leaping into the grave, followed by Leartes' clear rhetorical bombast:

Now power your earth on, Olympus hie,
And make a hill to o'retop olde Pelion
What's he that coniures so?

Q1 also explicitly includes Hamlet's own responsive leap into the grave. The marginal placement of the stage direction suggests that Leartes' allusion to the classical Pelion and its hubristic connotation propels Hamlet to offer his dramatic leap. Furthermore, the text suggests that both remain in the grave during this verbal sparring:

And where thou talk'st of burying thee a live,
Here let us stand: and let them throw on us,
Whole hills of earth till with the height thereof
Make Oosel as a wart.

While this scene of verbal and physical sparring is repeated in Q2 and F1, each text provides subtle omissions that may suggest authorial dramatic revision.

The Folio retains Laertes's leap following 3433 ("Till I have caught her once more in mine armes") but Q2 is silent but suggestive of Laertes's leap. Both Q2 and the Folio imply that it is Laertes's bromide against Hamlet and his flamboyant plea for a mountainous tomb that prompts Hamlet's outburst:

Now pile your dust upon the quick and dead
Till of this flat a mountain you have made
T'o'ertop old Pelion or the skyish head
Of blue Olympus.

While both versions omit Hamlet's subsequent leap into Ophelia's grave, they do retain Hamlet's cynical rebuke of Laertes's histrionic behavior and highly charged rant:

What is he whose griefe<s>
Beares such an emphasis, whose phrase of sorrow
Coniures the wandering stares, and makes them stand
Like wonder-wounded hearers.

Hamlet's declaration of his identity, 'This is I/Hamlet the Dane" is intermingled with his own hyperbolic invocation that attempts to surpass Laertes's Homeric exhortation:

And if thou prate of mountains, let them throw
Millions of Acres on us, till our ground
Sindging his pate against the burning Zone
Make Ossa like a wart, nay and thou'lt mouthe,
Ile rant as well as thou.

Despite the overt subtleties of these texts, in which Hamlet and Laertes confound a burial already confounded by its dubious legitimacy, the physical action provides a clear distinction between Laertes's metamorphosis into a living monument for a sister, a prosopropoeic trophe that belatedly responds to a father buried in hugger mugger, and Hamlet's corrrosive "outfacing" of Laertes's self-imposed mortification.

While eighteenth-century editions retained Hamlet's responsive leap as a stage direction, the editors disagreed as to its significance in deciphering Hamlet's motivation and essential character. George Steevens and Edmond Malone
[18] each retained Hamlet's responsive leap, but each arrived at a distinctly different conclusion regarding its dramatic effect. Steevens describes Hamlet's behavior as follows:

He interrupts the funeral designed in honour of this lady, at which both the King and Queen were present. . . . He insults the brother of the dead, and boasts of an affection for his sister, which, before, he had denied to her face; and yet at this very time must be considered as desirous of supporting the character of a madmen, so that the openness of his confession is not to be imputed to him as a virtue

On the other hand, Edmond Malone dismisses Steevens' antagonistic regard for Hamlet's boorishness and considers Hamlet's behavior a heroic gesture: Hamlet had not intended to "insult" Laertes, but rather he was motivated by "his love to her, (which then he had no reason to conceal) and from the bravery of her brother's grief, which excited him (not to condemn that brother, as has been stated, but) to vie with him in the expression of affection and sorrow." Malone concludes, "[He] neither assaulted, nor insulted Laertes, till that nobleman had cursed him, and seized him by the throat." Thus Malone declines to see Hamlet's behavior as that of the "physical aggressor."

Hamlet's leap into the grave prompted a panoply of debate: William Richardson (1780), Edward Strachey (1848) and F.A. Marshall (1875) extol Hamlet's "towering passion" and subsequent leap as reflective of a "deeper embosomed love . . . too sacred to be seen; and like fire, when pent up, it had acquired greater force."
[19] On the other hand, writers like Francis Gentleman (1770) and George Farren (1827) characterized Hamlet's leap as "a most outrageous degree of passion" that, conveying Hamlet's impassioned mind, "interrupts a sacred ceremony." [20] Critics have generally viewed the stage direction as a characterological extension of Hamlet and Laertes' rival passions rather than as the emblematic vehicle for staging a critique of the mourning process. More recently, in his essay, "Four Feet in the Grave," Sheldon Zitner follows Harley Granville-Barker in voicing disapproval of an action that diminishes Hamlet's newly found maturity and sobriety of purpose. Granville-Barker goes so far as to charge Shakespeare's actors with perpetrating an act of betrayal against the author. For Granville-Barker, the actor portraying Hamlet was carried away by his own emotions, and thereby damaged the authorial design of Hamlet's character. Critics have subsequently blamed the energeia of performance rather than authorial intent for Hamlet's explicit physicality at Ophelia's grave.

Hamlet's leap admittedly violates his advice to the actors by exhibiting the excessive display of emotion so excoriated by Hamlet ("Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus, but use all gentley . . . For anything so o'erdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is to hold as 'twere the mirror up to nature"), yet to read it purely as a reflection of Hamlet's interiority is to undermine Hamlet's unique spatial relationship with the other members of the play: The presence of the trapdoor, which embodies both a grave and the entrance to the cellarage from where the ghost had previously arisen, is traversed by two characters who have occupied distinct dramatic modes of presentation. Perceiving these theatrical leaps as reflections only of character rather than as theatrical effects, critics have ignored the emblematic and symbolic dimension of the moment:Hamlet, Laertes, and Ophelia possess a grave that encompasses them, swallowing them whole. While Andrew Gurr and Mariko Ichikawa suggest that the stage conveys iconographically the medieval hell-mouth ( "To the symbol-conscious Elizabethan audience, however, jumping into the trap also confirmed Hamlet's readiness to enter hell like Laertes in pursuit of his revenge,"
[21]) I wish to supplement this reading with the suggestion that the agon between Laertes and Hamlet which envelopes Ophelia's lifeless body is also a dramatic danse macabre, in which Laertes and Hamlet, in vying for a legitimate commemorative power, also contend with the corpse of Ophelia, who is jostled and reanimated by their intimate struggle [22]. This Reformation danse macabre recirculates in its medieval form the energies of a post-Reformation audience for whom death offers only an anxious deferral of absolute certainty: lacking a Purgatory, the dead are jostled and dragged and deprived of an uninterrupted obsequy.

If the funeral protocol, properly enacted, offered at least a communal closure for the dead, its truncation was responsible for the "most terrible of . . . psychic wounds"

. . . the mounting of carefully hierarchized funeral processions, whose pomp was often crowned by the erection of lavishly ornamented tombs, has to be recognized as a principal mode of resistance to the aggressive commonness of death. But ironically enough if the elaboration of funeral arts sought to contain the threatened chaos of mass extermination, it also served, in a society almost neurotically obsessed with stabilization of the social order, to make any disruption or displacement of funeral properties seem even more dangerous and offensive than it had done before.

If we may use the language of Robert Weimann, language which Andrew Gurr usefully resurrects in his recent book on Sh's original staging, Ophelia's grave occupies the hierarchized locus of representation and authority, and it is a space which Laertes attempts to claim with his leap in order to undo the maimed rites and provide Ophelia's grave with a "living monument."
[25] For Laertes, however, Ophelia's grave -- with the memory of Polonius's own secret burial still latent within him -- requires a spontaneous gesture of commemoration that Laertes substitutes for the sage requiems already denied Ophelia. His leap and rhetorical trophes provide the kind of social imprimatur for a death that has brought shame to his family name and generated the parodic discourse of philosophically minded gravediggers. Laertes's leap reflects a tragic view of time "as an ineluctable linear process," in Michael Neill's words, over which a person tenuously claims triumph through the artifice of ceremony. [26] Laertes's desire to be buried with his sister and join his father in an anonymity deprived of social ostentation reflects the depth of his grief; while it seems excessive and histrionic, Laertes's dramatic leap into the grave is a pre-mature death that countermands his earlier disdain for "obscure funerals."

Observing Laertes's leap into the grave (a leap which editors always retain and which critics invariably embrace), and incensed by Laertes' enlarded elegy , Hamlet responds in kind, and yet his leap (which critics still dispute) is an iteration that is imbued with the clownish disposition acquired from his jesting encounter with the festive gravedigger. Laertes's leap prompts Hamlet to remove himself from the platea he has occupied throughout the play, from his liminal point of commentary, from his shared mingling with jesters and clowns, from his satirical position as commentator in order to re-enter the revenge drama he had previously critiqued and deferred entering.

Hamlet's leap should not be detached from his earlier jesting with the gravedigger, for his graveyard shift has entrusted him with a newfound wisdom on death's sardonic wit, as Yorick's skull and he share a wistful and reciprocal glance that encompasses past, present, and future in a cyclical exchange. If viewed as a comic gesture, a detached critique of Laertes's mournful gestures, Hamlet's leap and subsequent struggle with Laertes represents the "dance of comedy" which Michael Neill characterizes as "'the whirligig of time' in which all things turn and return as though governed by the seasonal patterns of rotation and renewal."
[27] His father's revenant, Yorick's chapless skull, and Ophelia's shrouded corpse prompt Hamlet's rejection of Laertes's gesture of termination, critiquing a gesture that would bury alive Laertes and his grief. Marjorie Garber refers to comic gestures such as this as a "a desacralization, a normalization, a refusal to privilege death." [28] Hamlet's jibes at Laertes's grief and imitative leap are tantamount to the notorious "jigs" which concluded typical tragedies. Hamlet seals the ceremony with his own eruption of leaping and physicality, engaging Laertes in a bifurcated dance that marries tragedy and comedy in a grim marriage of contrariety. [29] In Neill's terms, Hamlet's leap is a "graffiti violently scrawled across some funerary monument . . .. a spirit of pagan defiance closer to the grotesque irreverence of carnival" than to any sublime gesture of consolation. [30] If Hamlet appears unattractive and physically aggressive within the grave, duplicating Laertes's own rant, it is because he has been occupying a different stage and a different dramatic mode of presentation. His address to Laertes is an address to Laertes's elegiac disposition and it suggests that Hamlet's own position within the drama is riven between that of grief and of satiric commentary:

What is he whose griefe<s>
Beares such an emphasis, whose phrase of sorrow
Coniures the wandering stares, and makes them stand
Like wonder-wounded hearers.

Hamlet deplores the histrionics of mourning, the performative engagement in a grief that Laertes rightfully possesses. His subsequent hyperbole is equally abusive and painfully intolerant of Laertes' passionate display. Hamlet appears to realize his dramatic relapse when he apologizes to Horatio for "forgetting himself." Indeed, Hamlet's problem is not the "forgetting of himself," a forgetting which allowed him to craft his trenchant eulogy for Yorick, but rather a constant remembering of himself and of his self-conscious language that threatens to conflate him and Laertes into an interlarded plot.

Like Yorick's skull, Laertes's hyperbole presents itself as a rhetorical shape that Hamlet characterizes by its "emphasis": "What is he whose griefe/ Beares such an emphesis, whose phrase of sorrow/ Coniures the wandering starres" (TLN 3449-51). Hamlet's prologue in the graveyard and his acceptance of the fine death to which we all return allows him this initial dismissal of Laertes's grief and its excessive melancholia, for it hauntingly evokes his own progress through the initial four acts of the play. Hamlet's recognition that Laertes is a dramatic counter becomes possible for him only in retrospect: "by the image of my Cause, I see/The Portraiture of his" (F1-only line).

If Shakespeare intended these graveside leaps - Laertes's followed by Hamlet's - it suggests a visual tableau of contrastive avengers rather than redundant mourners. Hamlet's violation of Laertes's physical space within Ophelia's grave serves only to contrast a mourning that, hyperbolic in its classical heaping of images, is inappropriate for a Hamlet whose deferred mourning has found its outlet in the wistful exposition upon Yorick's skull. If critics deplore Hamlet's insensitive leap as a malicious attack on Laertes's private grief, they ignore the historical significance of the motley drama in which comedy and tragedy struggle in a dialectical embrace. Laertes's desire for hatchments and trophes for his deceased family -- even if formed by his own physical and rhetorical efforts -- encounters Hamlet's tenacious acceptance of death's sardonic wit. Each avenger stands waist deep in the grave of the pathetically ignored Ophelia, struggling with the death encorpsed in a shroud, anticipating the imminent duel which will return them both to the same heaping grave.


[1] Anthony Low, "Hamlet and the Ghost of Purgatory: Intimations of Killing the Father." ELR 29.3 (Autumn 1999): 463. [back]

[2] Low, 447ff. [back]

[3] Low, 463. Low refers to Thomas Becon's mock prayer: "for Philip and Cheny, more than a good meany, for the souls of father Princhard and of mother Puddingwright, for the souls of goodman Rinsepitcher and goodwife Pintpot, for the souls of Sir John Husslegoose and Sir Simon Sweetlips, for the souls of your benefactors, founders, patrons, friends and well-willers, which have given you either dirge-groats, confessional-pence, trentals, year-services, dinner or supper, or anything else that may maintain you." [back]

[4] Clare Gittings, Death, Burial, and the Individual in Early Modern England (London: Croom Helm, 1984): 140. David Cressy, Burial, Marriage and Death (New York: Oxford UP, 1997), chapter 17. Low, p. 451ff refers to the loss of fraternities and prayer societies that were maintained to remember the dead: "in the course of a generation the gentry who ran the Church and the State simply decided that it would be convenient to cease remembering their dead." [back]

[5] Cressy, 467. [back]

[6] Cressy, 466. [back]

[7] Cressy, 467 [back]

[8] Cressy, 468. [back]

[9] See The Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. Mazard for this anecdote from the 1632 Proclamations of the Star Chamber. [back]

[10] Cressy, 465. [back]

[11] See Critical Responses to Hamlet, 1600-1790, ed. David Farley-Hills (New York: AMS Press, 1997), vol. 1 for the following essays: Voltaire, Letter Concerning the English Nation (1733), 74; Anon. Observations on the Tragedy of Hamlet (1752), 174. [back]

[12] Patricia Parker, Shakespeare from the Margins: Language, Culture, Context (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1996): 223-4. [back]

[13] See Robert Weimann's elaborations on this term and its frequent pairing with locus in "Playing with a Difference: Revisiting 'Pen' and 'Voice' in Shakespeare's Theatre" SQ 50 (1999): 415-32 and Author's Pen and Actor's Voice: Playing and Writing in Shakespeare's Theatre (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000), chapter 7. [back]

[14] Michael Neill refers to these interrupted, truncated ceremonies as examples of aposiopesis or arrested action. See Issues of Death: Mortality and Identity in English Renaissance Tragedy (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997), 46 (and also chapter 6). [back]

[15] Neill, 244. [back]

[16] Natalie Davis, "Ghosts, Kin, and Progeny: Some Features of Family Life in Early Modern France." Daedalus, special issue on the Family (1977): 95. [back]

[17] I cite from The Three-Text Hamlet, eds. Paul Bertram and Bernice W. Kliman (New York: AMS Press, 1991).[back]

[18] The following commentary from Steevens and Malone derives from The Plays and Poems of William Shakspeare, ed. James Boswell (1821; rpt. New York: AMS Press, 1966): 2.532-5. [back]

[19] See Richardson's A Philosophical Analysis and Illustration of Some of Shakespeare's Remarkable Characters (1780; rpt. New York: AMS Press, 1966): 122-4; Strachey's Shakespeare's Hamlet: An Attempt to Find the Key to a Great Moral Problem by Methodical Analysis of the Play (London: J.W. Parker, 1848): 90-1; F.A. Marshall, A Study of Hamlet (London: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1875): 98-9. [back]

[20] See Francis Gentleman, The Dramatic Censor; or, Critical Companion (London: J. Bell, 1770): 1.28-9.; George Farren, Observations on the Laws of Mortality and Disease . . . (London: Dean and Munday, 1829): 377-8. Farren asserts that if Hamlet is not "mad" to produce such a horrendous scene with Laertes, than he is the most "cruel, senseless, and cowardly miscreant that ever disgraced the human form." [back]

[21] Andrew Gurr and Mariko Ichikawa, Staging in Shakespeare's Theatre (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2000): 153. [back]

[22] Low, 461. Low's scenario suggests an even more violent dismissal of her corpse: "Both leap into her grave together, wrestle and choke each other as they trample on the corpse." Carol Rutter's "Snatched Bodies: Ophelia in the Grave" eroticizes the image by suggesting that Ophelia truly is resurrected in a mock erotic embrace: "The spectacle he [Laertes] unwittingly constructs is more horrific even than the outrage he commits: in his embrace Ophelia rises from the grave. For a moment her dead eyes gaze at the audience. For a moment reanimated (like the Ghost, like Yorick), she re-enters the field of play. And for that moment when she won't play dead, she embodies a subversion of all those patriarchal authorizations men in this play produce to valorize death. . . Rearing out of the grave, Ophelia makes the audience look death in the face" (311). "Snatched Bodies" SQ 49 (1998): 299-319. [back]

[23] Neill, 293. [back]

[24] Neill, 293. [back]

[25] Weimann, 184, observes that the locus is a "privileged site" of represented significance. Weimann asserts that the tomb is a "topos of family dignity and prosperity." Ophelia's grave, of course, exhibits an extremely conflicted site of a broken, tarnished family. [back]

[26] Neill, 284. [back]

[27] Neill, 283. [back]

[28] Marjorie Garber. Cited in Neill, "Death and Ritual in Renaissance Drama." In True Rites and Maimed Rites: Ritual and Anti-Ritual in Shakespeare and his Age. Eds. Linda Woodbridge and Edward Berry (Urbana: U of Illinois Press, 1992): 51. [back]

[29] Weimann, 98-102. See also David Wiles, Shakespeare's Clown: Actor and Text in the Elizabethan Playhouse (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1987), chapter 4 "Kemp's Jigs." See also Neill, "Death and Ritual," 51ff. [back]

[30] Neill 51. [back]


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