Birthday foolery

by Kecskemétiné Nelli April. 13, 2009 7049 views

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.
All rights reserved.

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

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There are 12 comments , add yours!
Timi 12 years, 1 month ago

Kicsit el vagyok maradva, viszont annál nagyobb szeretettel kívánom Neked a legjobbakat! :) Isten éltessen!

12 years, 1 month ago Edited
Pete 12 years, 2 months ago

May God bless and keep you always,
May your wishes all come true,
May you always do for others
And let others do for you.
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung,
May you stay forever young,
Forever young, forever young,
May you stay forever young
Happy Birthday

12 years, 2 months ago Edited
Péter Somogyvári 12 years, 2 months ago

Boldog születésnapot!!
Érdekes, jó kép!

12 years, 2 months ago Edited
Nemedine 12 years, 2 months ago

Istensen sokáig! - ahogy gyerekkorunkban mondtuk. :-)

12 years, 2 months ago Edited
Thomas Thompson 12 years, 2 months ago

Well........................Happy Birthday!!

12 years, 2 months ago Edited
Avalon 12 years, 2 months ago

[b]Happy birds day![/b]

Honnan szedted ezt a képet?

12 years, 2 months ago Edited
Vterezia 12 years, 2 months ago

Isten Éltessen sokáig!

12 years, 2 months ago Edited
Brian 12 years, 2 months ago

Happy Birthday!

12 years, 2 months ago Edited
Stefan Fletcher 12 years, 2 months ago

But do I really have to read them? Anyway, Happy Birthday, Joyeux Anniversaire, Χρὀνια Πολἀ. What's it like to be an adult?

12 years, 2 months ago Edited
Marsha 12 years, 2 months ago

Editing is cool - Happy Birthday!!

12 years, 2 months ago Edited
Finbarr 12 years, 2 months ago

nice shot!!! i wish you a HAPPY BIRTHDAY !! you will have big party today,

12 years, 2 months ago Edited
Jarvo J 12 years, 2 months ago

Cool picture. Happy Birthday!

12 years, 2 months ago Edited