Today is my birthday (guess, how old I am).
As an April child, I decided to allow myself a little foolish play.
Sorry for the foolish editing, I just couldn't stand it..
What Hamlet finds, is a mocking ‘memento mori.’ Hamlet’s approach to the skull of Yorick, again, can be perceived as an unofficial ritual, representing a great turning point in life. Michael Neill explores in his book the concept of the skull as ‘empty signifier,’ yet a very paradoxical one: it represents ”the annihilation of individual differences“ and the meantime evokes narrative, interpretation and identification. Hamlet plays with the idea of assigning identities and whole histories of life to the skulls scattered here and there by the clowns.
The grave-diggers’ allusions to Adam recall the scene of the Fall of man: ”There is no ancient gentlemen but gardeners, ditchers, and grave-makers: they hold up Adam’s profession“ not only in Eden, but after the Expulsion as well (5.1.30-33). This issue is present in the play earlier as well, since the ghost indirectly presents itself as Adam who was expelled from his Paradise because he committed the first sin and it was he through whom sin entered to the world of the play. He was sleeping in his orchard that symbolizes his country, which has become ”an unweeded garden“ (1.2.135), since it has lost its gardener. Hamlet also refers to the garden-motif in the Mousetrap scene: ”He poisons him i’th’garden for’s estate“ (3.2.279).
The skull recalls also the skull of Adam and the mount of Calvary (Golgotha means skull). The second Adam has repaired the first Adam’s sin and redeemed the whole mankind in him and thus defeated death. Hamlet is naked when he returns to Denmark as we learn it from his letter to Claudius (4.7.50-51). Practically he has returned from death and in the graveyard he comes out of the grave. All these facts would allude to a saviour figure who has just resurrected. However, the way he acts in the grave is rather shameful and disgracing for Ophelia and Laertes as well. All the medieval traditions of religious drama are subverted by the peculiar Renaissance environment in which they are placed.
On the one hand, the skull recalls the ‘memento mori’ tradition and much more. By the ‘ars moriendi’ it progresses to represent the face of the gradually personified Death throughout the Renaissance. The visage of the skull is naturally grinning, since it has no skin and lips to hide its set of teeth. It is necessarily interpreted as a mockery of the hopeful smile of the still living mortals. Yorick, therefore, is transformed from a mortal jester to the powerful and frightful, indestructible (and in a way, immortal) jester death, who summons and ”surprises his victims with unanswerable proof of their mortality.“
This morbid representation of the ”Antic, sardonic jester“ of the ‘Danse macabre’ creates an image of a kind of anti-self. And suddenly the mortal, facing the scull, realizes that he carries the ‘same’ skull (i.e. death) in himself and understands the medieval cliché: ‘Such as I was you are, and such as I am you will be.’ However, the visual image (the skeleton or skull) is always a replacement, or rather, a placement of death, which is supposed to be an absence or hiatus. In this sense, Yorick replaces Hamlet’s death and Hamlet replaces Yorick.
His skull is the very thing, from which ”the too too solid flesh" has already molten (1.2.129). Yet, he is identified by the gravedigger as Yorick, the king’s jester. We learn that an important character of the court (and maybe the stage as well) is missing. The fool is dead. He has no successor, either. Another hiatus that should be filled. From a certain point Hamlet tries to occupy the vacant position of the fool, although in my opinion, it is rather unconscious. However, in the graveyard, he is directly and ritually offered the post of the fool of death. In this way, the already breaking down tradition of ‘The King is dead. Long live the King!’ is transformed into a new; I would call it a ‘carnivalesque’ anti-tradition of ‘The jester is dead. Long live the jester!’
The position of the jester provides Hamlet a certain ground of authority, although it is highly dependent on power relations. Notwithstanding the determinative nature of the situation from the viewpoint of death, Hamlet does not take the offered position. Actually, it is one of the crucial moments that influence his fate and he consciously refuses to play the fool any longer.
Hamlet has to die but he is not afraid of it any more. He is prepared to accept whatever should come and he is resigned to the power of death: “the readiness is all: since no man knows aught of what he leaves, what is’t to leave betimes?” (5.2.221-223). It is most plausible to explore possibilities of contemporary Protestant experiments of resisting “death as an arbitrary cancellation of meaning,” which would be remembrance. After his revenge taken, he can defeat death by ‘fashioning’ his own end with the help of a reinterpreted ‘ars moriendi.’
Quoted from an unpublished paper of Ofélia Pepita, without footnotes.
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You don't have to agree with these “foolish” statements. You don't even have to understand them.. if they have any sense at all. =P
Today is my birthday (guess, how old I am).