Sunteți pe pagina 1din 6




A
TALK
ON
HAMLET’S
APOCALYPSE

By
John
Hudson


INTRODUCTION

Works
of
Elizabethan
literature,
including
some
plays,
were
written
using
allegory.

Everyone
would
get
the
surface
story
but
to
understand
the
real
meaning
you
had
to

look
beneath
the
surface
and
digest
the
allegory.
This
suggests
that
a
major
objective

for
performing
Shakespeare’s
plays
today
should
be
to
enable
the
audiences
to
digest

that
allegory.
Because
very
few
people
today
have
the
necessary
background
knowledge

‐‐‐of
the
classics,
the
Bible,
Judaism,
rhetoric
and
16th
century
events‐‐‐this
means

creating
a
dramaturgy
and
staging
of
the
play
that
will
make
the
allegory
as
obvious
as

possible.
It
will
mean
cutting
the
play
to
make
the
allegories
more
prominent.
It
may

mean
putting
in
extra
asides
or
extra
lines,
or
using
signage.
It
will
certainly
mean
a
very

‘presentational’
approach
to
costuming.
By
using
these
sorts
of
techniques
it
is
possible

to
enable
80%
of
an
audience
to
say,
in
exit
surveys,
that
they
have
a
much
better

understanding
of
the
meaning
of
the
play
than
before.


I
believe
this
is
important,
not
only
because
their
underlying
meanings
are
fascinating

and
remarkable,
but
because
this
is
why
Shakespeare’s
plays
were
written.
I
believe
that

it
is
wrong
to
short‐change
an
audience
by
only
delivering
the
surface
presentation,
and

prevent
an
audience
from
understanding
what
lies
below.
I
believe
it
is
especially
wrong

for
directors
to
overlay
their
own
‘high
concept’
interpretations,
setting
the
play
in
the

Vietnam
war
or
at
the
North
Pole,
because
this
imposes
a
thick
layer
of
varnish
over
the

play
that
makes
it
almost
impossible
to
see
what
lies
below.



Finally,
I
believe
that
if
they
are
to
effectively
communicate
the
real
meaning
of
a
play,

then
the
actors
need
to
understand
it
themselves.
Can
you
teach
someone
a
foreign



 1

language
if
you
don’t
speak
it
yourself?
Well
Shakespeare’s
underlying
allegories
are
a

wonderful,
if
difficult,
world
of
meaning,
and
that
requires
actors
to
approach
the
text,

and
performance,
in
new
ways.


THE
LITERARY
MODELS
FOR
HAMLET

Hamlet
was
based
on
3
sources
especially
—all
available
online.
The
first
was
the
so‐
called
Ur‐Hamlet,
written
by
Kyd
around
1580.
A
copy
has
survived
in
German
which
has

been
retranslated,
rather
badly,
back
into
English
as
Fratricide
Punished.
But
it
still
gives

an
idea
of
what
Kyd’s
play
was
like.
Using
sources
like
Saxo‐Grammaticus
and

Belleforest’s
history,
it
is
a
Senecan
tragedy
which
went
on
being
performed
till
1594.
It

is
set
in
Denmark,
and
begins
with
a
long
pseudo‐classical
introduction.
Then
it
starts

with
the
two
soldiers
waiting,
the
ghost,
and
then
the
entrance
of
Hamlet
who
discusses

the
ghost
with
the
men.
Then
Gertrude
enters
and
dissuades
Hamlet
from
going
to

Wittenberg,
and
the
Polonius
character
says
that
his
son
has
already
gone
to
France.
He

then
returns
to
announce
that
Hamlet
is
mad,
and
Ophelia
enters
to
complain
Hamlet
is

troubling
her.
Then
the
actors
arrive,
Hamlet
makes
a
few
rather
pedestrian
remarks

about
acting,
and
asks
to
see
their
play
about
king
Pyrrhus,
which
was
about
pouring

poison
into
a
brother’s
ear,
and
so
on.
The
play
contains
no
allegories
and
no
religious

references.


The
second
source
is
a
long
allegorical
religious
poem
A
Fig
for
Fortune
(1596)
written
by

a
Roman
Catholic,
Anthony
Cowley.
It
has
3
sections
about
the
hero,
Elizan
man:

• the
ghost
from
hell
and
the
goddess
of
revenge
urge
Elizan
to
murder
and

revenge;

• a
graveyard
scene
where
the
hermit
equipped
with
a
skull
full
of
worms
and
the

picture
of
a
grave
urges
Elizan
to
stop
being
a
beast
and
follow
Christ
and
let
go

of
his
impious
melancholy;

• the
final
scene,
based
on
the
Book
of
Revelation
where
the
hermit
leads
Elizan
to

the
heavenly
Jerusalem,
the
temple
of
Sion,
where
the
forces
of
Jerusalem

overcome
the
Whore
of
Babylon.

The
play
borrowed
language
and
concepts
from
this
poem
especially
in
the
graveyard

scene‐‐‐and
turned
them
upside
down.
So
Hamlet
meets
a
gravedigger
with
the
skulls,

but
instead
of
giving
up
his
melancholy
and
following
Christ,
he
does
exactly
the

opposite.
As
we
shall
see,
instead
of
ceasing
to
be
a
beast,
he
goes
on
and
becomes
the

beast
of
Apocalypse from the
Book
of
Revelation.


The
third
source
for
Hamlet
is
the
Book
of
Revelation
itself.
This
is
the
last
book
of
the

Christian
Bible
and
describes
the
Apocalypse
or
Doomsday,
the
most
sacred
event
in

Christian
theology
because
it
was
when
Christ
was
supposed
to
return
to
bring
a
new

world.
Revelation
describes
a
great
battle
between
the
forces
of
evil
(the
beast
and
the

whore
of
Babylon,
the
beast
from
the
sea,
the
Anti‐Christ
and
the
king
of
the
pit),
all
of

whom
are
opposed
against
the
forces
of
God
led
by
Christ
and
the
Woman
crowned

with
the
sun.
The
forces
of
Christianity
win
in
the
end
and
a
new
heavenly
Jerusalem

descends
from
the
sky.



 2


Structurally,
the
Book
of
Revelation
is
constructed
upon
the
theme
of
sevens:
seven

letters
to
seven
churches,
seven
seals,
seven
judgments
and
seven
bowls
pouring
out

plague.
For
instance
the
seven
trumpets
are
sounded
across
chapters
8‐11
of

Revelation.
Trumpet
1
is
associated
with
hail,
fire
and
brimstone.
Trumpet
2
with
a
great

mountain
and
fire
falling
into
the
sea.
Trumpet
3
with
a
star
called
Wormwood.
Trumpet

4
with
eclipses
and
darkness
of
the
sun,
moon
and
stars.
Trumpet
5
is
associated
with

the
abyss,
and
locusts
like
horses.
Trumpet
6
is
associated
with
a
great
river.
Finally

trumpet
7
is
associated
with
thunder,
and
unleashes
seven
bowls
of
God's
wrath
which

are
poured
out
by
seven
angels
(15:1).


HAMLET’S
STRUCTURAL
RESEMBLANCE
TO
BOOK
OF
REVELATION

Perhaps
the
most
amazing
thing
about
Hamlet
–which
is
quite
obvious
once
someone

points
it
out‐‐is
that
it
is
also
based
on
catalogues
of
sevens.
Revelation
has
seven

angels.
So
does
Hamlet.
Revelation
has
seven
trumpet
blasts
so
does
Hamlet.
Revelation

has
seven
letters
so
does
Hamlet.
Then
Hamlet
goes
on
and
creates
its
own
catalogue
of

seven
songs,
seven
soliloquies
and
the
seven‐fold
deaths
that
are
accompanied
by
the

slaughter
of
Cain,
who
is
represented
by
Claudius.

• 7
trumpets.
The
trumpet
blasts
are
1,2,1,
1,2,128;
1,4,7;
2,2,364;
3,2,89;
3,2,133;

5,1,220.


• 7
Angels
appear
in
Hamlet
“So
lust,
though
to
a
radiant
angel
linked,”,“like
an
angel,
in

apprehension
how
like
a
god”,“Of
habits
devil,
is
angel
yet
in
this”,“A
ministering
angel

shall
my
sister“,“Art
more
engaged!
Help,
angels!
Make
assay”,“And
flights
of
angels

sing
thee
to
thy
rest!”,“angels
and
ministers
of
grace
defend
us!”


• 7
Letters
Claudius’
letter
to
England,
Norway's
letter
to
Claudius
delivered
by

Voltemand,
and
Hamlet's
five
letters
to
Ophelia,
Horatio
(4.6.8‐28),Gertrude
(4,7.36),

Claudius
(4.6.20
and
4.7.36‐46)
and
to
the
King
of
England
(5.2.31‐35).


• 7
Soliloquies
'O
that
this
too
sullied
flesh
would
melt'
(Act
One,
Scene
Two);
'O
all
you

host
of
heaven'
(Act
One,
Scene
Five);
'O
what
a
rogue
and
peasant
slave
am
I!'
(Act

Two,
Scene
Two)
;
'To
be,
or
not
to
be,
that
is
the
question'
(Act
Three,
Scene
One)
;
'Tis

now
the
very
witching
time
of
night'
(Act
Three,
Scene
Three):
'And
so
a
goes
to
heaven'

(Act
Three,
Scene
3)
:
'How
all
occasions
do
inform
against
me'
(Act
Four,
Scene
Four).


• 7
Songs
which
are
sung
in
snatches.
Why
Let
the
Strucken
Deer
(3.2)
Hobbyhorse
(3.2),

Bonny
Sweet
Robin
(4.5),
Tomorrow
is
St
Valentine’s
Day
(4.5),
Walsingham
(4.5)
And

Will
He
not
Come
Again
(4.5),
I
loathe
that
did
love
(5.1).


• 7
fold
Deaths
for
the
death
of
Cain/Claudius


THE
FORCES
OF
HEAVEN
AND
HELL
IN
HAMLET


But
it
is
not
only
aspects
of
the
structure
of
the
play
that
follow
Revelation.
The

characters
do
as
well.
The
playwright
has
transformed
the
characters
from
Kyd’s
Ur‐
Hamlet,
into
allegories
for
the
characters
from
Book
of
Revelation.
The
characters
are



 3

divided
into
two
different
families,
one
supposedly
of
good
and
the
other
of
evil.
Lets

look
firstly
at
the
forces
of
Christianity
who
form
the
first
Triad.
This
is
the
Polish
family

of
Polonius
(whose
name
is
the
Latin
for
Polish).


• OPHELIA
is
both
an
allegory
for
the
Virgin
Mary
and
also
for
Mary’s
equivalent
in
the

Book
of
Revelation,
the
Woman
crowned
with
the
sun.
Work
by
Chris
Hassel
has
shown

that
the
way
that
Ophelia
is
interrupted
while
sewing
and
sitting
is
a
parody
of
the

annunciation
to
the
Virgin
Mary.
The
references
to
pregnancy
and
maggots
in
a
dead

dog
are
allusions
to
medieval
theology
on
how
Mary
conceived
and
remained
a
virgin.

Ophelia’s
death
singing
lauds
and
with
a
coronet,
is
a
parody
of
the
‘Assumption
of

Mary’
into
heaven
to
be
crowned.


• LAERTES
is
having
Christ’s
second
coming
“occasion
smiles
upon
a
second
leave”.
He

leaps
out
of
the
grave,
is
presumably
rejuvenated
(as
Laertes
was
in
Homer
when
the

old
man
is
rejuvenated
by
Athena).
This
is
the
reason
for
his
otherwise
inappropriate

name.
He
is
acclaimed
as
the
Lord,
and
has
outstretched
arms
as
a
Pelican
feeding

people
with
his
blood‐‐
a
well
known
Christ
symbol.


• POLONIUS
as
the
father
of
the
Virgin
Mary
and
of
Christ,
is
presumably
God
the
Father,

but
is
depicted
as
a
fool.


The
second
more
colorful
Triad
is
the
Danish
family
who
represent
the
forces
of
evil,
the

forces
of
Anti‐Christ.
One
academic
suggests
that
the
inspiration
for
this
is
that
the
play

is
set
in
Denmark,
pronounced
in
Danish
as
Danmark,
and
sometimes
believed
to
be
the

offspring
of
the
tribe
of
Dan.
Dan
is
described
in
the
Bible
as
a
serpent,
and
church

theologians
expected
the
tribe
of
Dan
to
give
birth
to
the
Anti‐Christ.
The
second
Triad

family
includes:


• GERTRUDE,
who
has
sex
with
two
men
and
who
at
the
end
holds
the
Chalice
with
which

she
is
poisoned,
is
the
Whore
of
Babylon
who
also
holds
a
poisoned
chalice.
The
Whore

was
sometimes
regarded
as
an
allegory
for
the
church.
She
wears
scarlet
and
purple.


• CLAUDIUS,
who
is
a
serpent,
and
the
Hyracian
beast
with
the
body
of
a
tiger,
and
who
is

called
a
Beast,
is
the
beast
from
Apocalypse
which
has
the
body
of
a
leopard,
heads
like

a
serpent,
and
on
whom
the
Whore
rides.
The
heads
are
associated
with
Caesars
and

Claudius
is
the
name
of
a
dynasty
of
Caesars.
The
Beast
was
sometimes
regarded
as
an

allegory
for
the
seven
hills
of
Rome
or
the
Pope.
He
is
scarlet
with
blood.


• OLD
HAMLET
is
in
Hell
at
the
beginning
of
the
play
because
he
is
Hyperion.
He
was
the

Greek
god
of
light
who
was
similar
to
Apollo—the
god
of
the
sun,
fire
and
plagues—who

was
imprisoned
in
the
pit
Tartarus.
His
equivalent
in
the
Book
of
Revelation
is
Apollyon,

the
destroyer—who
was
the
king
of
Hell—and
escapes
from
the
pit.
The
play
makes
it

quite
clear
he
may
be
the
devil
“The
spirit
that
I
have
seen/May
be
the
devil:
and
the

devil
hath
power/
To
assume
a
pleasing
shape.”



 4


THE
CHARACTER
OF
HAMLET
HIMSELF

Prince
Hamlet
is
the
son
of
the
devil,
but
as
the
son
of
Hyperion
he
is
also
Helios,
the

firery
god
of
the
sun.
How
can
he
be
devilishly
black
and
also
full
of
firery
light?
His

primary
identity
is
as
Lucifer,
the
light
bearer,
the
star
who
fell
from
heaven
into
hell.
As

a
demon
prince,
Hamlet
wears
Provincial
roses
on
his
shoes,
which
were
used
by
stage

actors
to
indicate
a
cloven
foot.
He
also
uses
expressions
used
by
the
Vice
or
comic
devil

on
the
English
stage.
He
is
the
Anti‐Christ
which
is
made
clear
by
the
three
allegorical

identities
he
takes
on;


• MARTIN
LUTHER,
regarded
by
Catholics
as
the
second
antichrist.
The
initial
part
of
the

play
is
set
on
the
day
before
Luther
nailed
the
95
theses
of
the
Reformation
to
the

church
door
in
Wittenberg.
Hamlet’s
melancholy
parallel’s
Luther’s
and
he
is
associated

several
times
with
Wittenberg.
Luther
wore
black
and
was
thought
to
be
possessed
by

an
evil
spirit.


• EMPEROR
NERO
regarded
as
the
first
antiChrist.
Hamlet
is
struggling
to
prevent
the
soul

of
Nero
from
taking
over
his
body.
He
does
not
succeed.
The
matricide,
killing
of
the

Emperor
Claudius,
killing
of
his
wife,
his
interest
in
music,
being
an
actor,
performing

onstage,
acting
in
a
play
about
Orestes,
writing
verse,
playing
pranks,
being
pursued
by

a
ghost,
and
being
mad
all
echo
the
Life
of
Nero
in
the
well
known
history
The
Twelve

Caesars
by
Suetonius.
Nero
was
known,
according
to
Suetonius,
as
Nero‐Orstes,
so

other
parts
of
Hamlet’s
character
come
from
Orestes.
Nero
was
also
compared
to
the

sun
god.


• THE
SEA
BEAST,
Hamlet
comes
back
from
the
Sea
and
resembles
the
Beast
from
the
Sea

in
the
Book
of
Revelation
who
makes
images
of
the
first
beast
(in
the
play
the

brooches/portraits
of
Claudius).


THIS
APOCALYPSE
ALL
GOES
WRONG

In
summary,
Hamlet
uses
the
catalogues
of
sevens
from
the
Book
of
Revelation,
and
the

main
characters
are
parodies
of
the
characters
in
Revelation.
In
addition
Hamlet
uses

some
of
A
Fig
for
Fortune,
an
allegorical
religious
poem.
The
play
is
set
on
Apocalypse,

Doomsday,
which
is
mentioned
5
times
in
the
play.
Many
strange
aspects
of
the
plot

such
as
the
references
to
Wormwood,
and
the
attack
by
Laertes
(as
Christ)
on
the

citadel
of
Claudius,
come
directly
from
the
Book
of
Revelation’s
depictions
of
Doomsday.


At
the
beginning
the
cock
crowing
and
the
waiting
(advent
means
waiting)
are
signs
of

Advent—the
waiting
for
the
birth
of
Jesus.
But
the
term
was
also
used
for
the
Second

Advent,
the
Parousia,
the
second
coming
of
Christ
which
took
place
on
Doomsday.
This

is
why
the
gravediggers
say
that
graves
last
to
doomsday.
They
then
proceed
to
unmake

those
graves
by
taking
the
skulls
out,
showing
that
it
is
therefore
Doomsday
when
the

spirits
are
resurrected
from
their
graves.
Except
in
the
play
their
skulls
are
crudely

thrown
out
not
resurrected.



 5

The
plot
of
Hamlet
is
completely
opposite
to
the
Book
of
Revelation.
It
is
not
an
anti‐
Catholic
play.
It
is
an
anti‐Christian
play.
It
is
a
complete
parody
of
the
most
sacred

Christian
doctrines.
The
king
of
hell
escapes
from
the
pit,
and
the
devil
tells
his
son

Lucifer
to
take
revenge
for
his
death
and
incarceration.
The
son
of
the
devil
takes
on
the

identity
of
3
anti‐Christs.
He
first
impregnates
the
Virgin
Mary/Woman
Crowned
with

the
Sun,
leading
her
to
abort
the
baby
and
then
die.
He
kills
God
the
father
and
then
the

Resurrected
Christ
in
a
sword
fight.
He
then
ends
up
killing
directly
or
indirectly,
both

the
Church
(Gertrude)
and
Rome
(Claudius).
The
Rule
of
God
(that’s
what
Osric
means
)

is
utterly
ineffective,
a
mere
fop.
No
new
Jerusalem
descends
from
the
sky.
The

playwright
is
parodying
the
Book
of
Revelation
in
showing
an
Apocalypse
that
fails.



CONCLUSION

Having
shown
that
much
of
Hamlet
is
a
parody
of
Christian
doctrine
sets
the
context
for

considering
the
center‐piece
of
the
play,
the
Mousetrap,
which
will
be
the
subject
of
a

second
talk.
The
Mousetrap
is
poorly
integrated
into
the
rest
of
the
play,
and
has

nothing
to
do
with
the
Book
of
Revelation.
It
is
however
another
anti‐Christian
satire,
of

another
ancient
Christian
text.
This
is
why
it
forms
the
centerpiece
of
the
massive

parody
of
Christian
doctrine
that
we
know
as
Hamlet.



Hamlet’s
Apocalypse
will
have
a
workshop
production/staged
reading



for
3
nights
in
November
2010
at
ManhattanTheatreSource
www.theatresource.org

for
details
email
darkladyplayers@aol.com




FURTHER
READING

Alison
A.
Chapman.
‘Ophelia’s
‘Old
Lauds’;
Madness
and
Hagiography
in
Hamlet’
in
(ed)
S.P.

Cerasano
Medieval
and
Renaissance
Drama
in
England
vol.
20
(2007)
111‐135.

Cherrell
Guilfoyle.
Shakespeare’s
Play
Within
a
Play
(1990).

Chris
R.Hassel.
“Painted
Women:
Annunciation
Motifs
in
Hamlet.”
Comparative
Drama
vol.
32

(1998)
47‐84.

Linda
Hoff.
Hamlet’s
Choice;
A
Reformation
Allegory
(1988).

Arthur
McGee.
The
Elizabethan
Hamlet
(1987).

Peter
Milward.
Shakespeare’s
Apocalypse
(1999).



 6