How Hamlet Defines What it Means to be Human Part. 2


Shakespeare’s contemporary Montaigne writes, in his essay, “Of The Inconsistency Of Our Actions,” that, “Whoever will look narrowly into his own bosom will hardly find himself twice in the same condition. I give to my soul sometimes one face and sometimes another, according to the side I turn her to. If I speak variously of myself, it is because I consider myself variously; all the contraries are there to be found in one corner or another; after one fashion or another: bashful, insolent; chaste, lustful; prating, silent; laborious, delicate; ingenious, heavy; melancholic, pleasant, lying, true; knowing, ignorant; liberal, covetous, and prodigal: I find all this in myself, more or less, according as I turn myself about; and whoever will sift him to the bottom, will find in himself, and even in his own judgement, this volubility and discordance.” These contraries are most prevalent in our title character throughout Shakespeare’s monumental tragedy. So much so, in fact, that more is written on Hamlet than almost any other subject in existence.

We witness Hamlet’s melancholic side when he says of his mourning black attire, “I have that indeed which passes show, these but the trappings and the suits of woe.” 

We see his creative side when he contrives a scheme to expose the king’s treachery, boldly resolving, “The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.” 

We see his charming and affable side when he greets the players come to town, jovially remarking, “You are welcomemasters; welcome, allI am glad to see thee wellWelcome, good friends.” 

His abusive side is made evident through Ophelia’s confiding to her father that Hamlet, “took me by the wrists and held me hard.” 

His conflictive nature is apparent when he denies loving Ophelia, scolding her and claiming, “not I, I never gave you aught,” then later professes, “I loved Ophelia. Forty thousand brothers could not with all their quantity of love make up my sum.” 

We see a satirical side to Hamlet with Polonius in the “words, words, words” scene, when he conjures the sarcastic response, “Yourself, sir, shall grow old as I am, if like a crab you could go backward.” 

We also see a gentle and kind side to Hamlet. In his private conversation with his loyal friend Horatio; he eloquently confides his admiration with, “Give me that man that is not passion’s slave, and I will wear him in my heart’s core, ay, in my heart of hearts, as I do THEE.”

We even see his cruel side; as in the closet scene with Gertrude. He rails at her with a hateful ferocity that vexes her so deeply, she desperately pleads to the son she so dearly loves, “O speak to me no more; these words like daggers enter in my ears. No more, sweet Hamlet.”

 I think we are all as varied within ourselves as the snowflakes that in winter fall. Hamlet is a man of contradictions, and so are all of us; some more than others. He exemplifies the multi-faceted nature of humankind, showing our inherently dynamic essence.

We know what we are but not what we may be.”

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Love’s Labour’s Won, not lost after all? You decide.

It has been generally accepted that Love’s Labour’s Won is The Bard’s lost comedy. Although I acknowledge this theory as a reasonable possibilty, I do not believe it to be the case. Love’s Labour’s Won was first mentioned by the minister Francis Meres in his Palladis Tamia pamphlet published in 1598, subtitled: Wits Treasury. He lists twelve plays in total, five of which, for relevance sake, I will name; listed in this order they are: The Comedy Of Errors, Love’s Labours Lost, Love’s Labour’s Won, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Merchant Of Venice. The only play out of these five unfamiliar to Shakespeare’s canon is Love’s Labour’s Won. If we look at the plot of its companion, Love’s Labour’s Lost, we understand how its title is appropriate; at its conclusion, all of the gentlemen’s efforts, including The King Of Navarre, to woo and win their ladies do in fact fail, and their Labour has been Lost

Concerning the supposed lost play, my opinion, which is shared by others, including Gregory Dolan of the RSC, is that Love’s Labour’s Won & Much Ado About Nothing are the same play. In 2:1 of Much Ado, carefully scan what Don PedroThe Prince Of Arragon declares to his companions. He says, “I will in the interim undertake one of Hercules Labours, which is, to bring Signior Benedick and Lady Beatrice into a mountain of affection the one with the other.” Not only is the actual word Labours used but it’s used in the context of pursuing the goal of causing two people to fall in Love; which in the end, if we read Much Ado, we find out ends up being Won. Add to that the fact that the most famous part of the Hercules Legend, especially in Shakespeare’s time, was the triumph of his twelve Grueling Labour’s; which to draw another parallel, the Love between Benedick and Lady Beatrice isn’t achieved with ease, but with persistent effort.

The quarto copy of Much Ado, printed in 1600, mentions on the title page to have been acted many times before. If we take this into consideration and compare it to other quartos such as King Lear, published in 1608 and generally accepted to have been written in 1605, we get a three year window, putting a likely composition date for the potential LLW as 1597. LLL first recorded performance was at Court on Christmas in 1597 for Queen Elizabeth. The two comedies likely being written together, the “sequel” being performed subsequently forthwith, is reasonable evidence that Francis Meres would have been acquainted enough with the play we know as Much Ado in time to list it in his Wits Treasury when published in 1598 and catalogued with the Stationer’s Register September 7th.

It’s also important to point out that The Merchant Of Venice [mentioned among the five plays I named as listed in the Palladis Tamia] was published in quarto the same year as Much Ado [1600], making it reasonable to deduce that Much Ado was extant in performance around the same time as Merchant; taking this liklihood into account, because both Merchant and LLW are specified on the same list and there is no mentioning of a Much Ado About Nothing leaves the possibility that Meres’ reference to LLW was the play we know as Much Ado.

Given the tremendous success of Much Ado, as well as its popularity and critical acclaim, it seems inconceivable Meres would excise the play from his list of The Bard’s best, leaving us to deduce that he did in fact include it in his list but recorded it under an alternate title.

It’s important to note that this wouldn’t be the only time an alternate title would be used for one of Shakespeare’s plays. Henry VIII was also known as All Is True, Twelfth Night as What You Will, not to mention that the quarto of King Henry VI Part II, published in 1594, was titled without even mentioning King Henry, being labeled as The First Part Of The Contention.

Now I want to call your attention to The First Folio of 1623; if we suppose that The Much Ado About Nothing we know today is, in fact, Love’s Labour’s Won, and if we take the 5 plays in the Palladis Tamia that I initially mentioned, beginning with The Comedy Of Errors and ending with The Merchant Of Venice, The SAME FIVE plays are grouped ALL TOGETHER in The FF of 1623; almost in the Exact Same OrderErrors is first on page 85, then Much Ado/LLW on page 101, then LLL on page 122, then Midsummer on page 145, and then finally Merchant on page 163. If Much Ado/LLW was printed successive to LLL instead of Errors, the order would be identical. If we consider them two plays written together primarily to complement their contrasting conclusions, and we don’t dwell on which one is sequel to the other, they basically, for all practical purposes, are printed in the same order found in Francis Meres’ Palladis Tamia.

Lost play? OR… Have we had it all along?! What do YALL think?! Maybe sleep on it? Anyways, that’s all I have for now. Thanks for reading, and HAVE A BARDTASTIC DAY!