Alas, Poor Yorick!

Hamlet and the Gravediggers by Pascal Adolphe Dagnan-Bouveret (1883)

This piece of artwork is meant to illustrate the scene where Hamlet and Horatio encounter a gravedigger who happens to be digging up the body of Hamlet’s old jester friend (yep, that’s his head).

Hamlet, V.i.174-186

Let me see. (takes the skull) Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath borne me on his back a thousand times, and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. —Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one now to mock your own grinning? Quite chapfallen? Now get you to my lady’s chamber and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favor she must come. Make her laugh at that.—Prithee, Horatio, tell me one thing.

What I liked most about this painting was not only how it depicted the attitudes of the character but the eeriness of this particular scene. The background is obscured with fog as though symbolizing the foreshadowing of death and uncertainty. The colors (slightly darker and thicker in shade) also help in setting the mood. The gravedigger is pretty creepy with his long body, point chin, and hollowed in eyes. Furthermore, the illustration of Hamlet is complex in itself. The solemness of his face and lifted hand seem to relay his anguish and imploring of life’s purposes. One aspect that I found particularly interesting, however, was the fact that Hamlet is holding the skull with a handkerchief. The handkerchief places the focus on the skull and reminds the viewers of one of Hamlet’s barriers (trying to cope with conflicts and misfortunes that he had not experienced because of his royal upbringing that shielded any troubles).

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The “Bad” Hamlet

Here is a link to an especially “special” version of Hamlet

Two differing aspects in Acts I and II

1.[Act I. ii] Hamlet’s missing asides and responses back

Near the beginning of this scene while Claudius and Gertrude question Hamlet’s continued mourning, Hamlet is missing a number of lines. Though not especially long, these few lines are important in depicting Hamlet’s character. His responses are quite sarcastic and overly dramatic such as:

“Seems,” madam? Nay, it is. I know not “seems.”
‘Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,
Nor customary suits of solemn black,
Nor windy suspiration of forced breath,
No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,
Nor the dejected ‘havior of the visage,
Together with all forms, moods, shapes of grief,
That can denote me truly. These indeed “seem,”
For they are actions that a man might play.
But I have that within which passeth show,
These but the trappings and the suits of woe.

Characterizing Hamlet through his own words from the start allows for Shakespeare to mold the environment and setting for which to further develop the plot. Hamlet’s attributes are essential in the scenes to come when they will fuel his impulsive actions.

2.[Act II. ii] Rosencratz and Guildenstern implore Hamlet about what upsets him

In this quarto, Rosencratz and Guildenstern do not converse as much as in the more acceptable versions of Hamlet. Without their lines, Rosencratz and Guildenstern are not as well characterized as easily opening up to Hamlet and also, Hamlet loses some of his additional characterization. There are many lines concerning views of prison, dreams, and ambition that underscore Hamlet’s growing insanity. Furthermore, Hamlet’s awareness of his mother and uncle’s intentions are apparent.

 

In general, I think it is quite interesting how much and specifically what is shortened in this Hamlet quarto. Cutting parts out really does make a difference in the deep substance (intricate characterization, tone, environment, intensity) of Hamlet.

Yo Ho, Yo Ho, a Viking’s Life for Me!

“The 80 Wisdom Saying of the Vikings” verse 6

Of his understanding
no one should be proud,
but rather in conduct cautious.
When the prudent and taciturn
come to a dwelling,
harm seldom befalls the cautious;
for a firmer friend
no man ever gets
than great sagacity.

In other words: No one should be proud. Harm seldom falls on the cautious. A man’s best friends is discernment.

Modern Life: It can often be difficult to find the right balance between pride and hopelessness since the slightest achievement or failure can have great impacts. The more good things that come into our lives, the easier (and sadly more uncontrollable) it can become to control our arrogance. The more bad things that come into our lives, the easier (and sadly, yet again, more uncontrollable) it can become to control our self-deprecation. Especially during the time of great transition we are in as young adults, when our feelings are jumbled together and insecurity is always looming over us, life is, put simply, hard. However, we should always have hope and strive to gain discernment in order to gain the a spirited mind and soft humility!

Literature: Having finished reading Othello (and taken the Othello test – glad that’s over:)), I find that Othello, the character, really needs to have read this quote. Though not necessarily prideful and arrogant, Othello’s naivety and stubbornness in believing “Honest Iago” ends in his tragic downfall. Othello was not cautious at all and fell susceptible to Iago’s dastardly scheme. If Othello had just been cognizant and more prudent, he may have saved his life and the life of Emilia, Roderigo, and his innocent wife, Desdemona.