To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous
fortune, Or to take Arms against a Sea of
troubles, And by opposing end them:
to die, to sleep No more; and by a sleep,
to say we end the heart-ache, and
the thousand natural shocks that
Flesh is heir to? 'Tis a consummation
devoutly to be wished. To die,
to sleep, To sleep, perchance to
Dream; aye, there's the rub, for
in that sleep of death, what
dreams may come, when we
have shuffled off this mortal coil,
must give us pause. There's the
respect that makes Calamity of so
long life: For who would bear the
Whips and Scorns of time, the
Oppressor's wrong, the proud man's
Contumely, the pangs of despised Love,
the Law’s delay
the insolence of Office, and the spurns
that patient merit of the unworthy takes, when he himself might his
Quietus make with a bare Bodkin?
Who would Fardels bear, to grunt
and sweat under a weary life, but that
the dread of something after death,
the undiscovered country, from
whose bourn no traveler returns,
puzzles the will,and makes us
rather bear those ills we have, than
fly to others that we know not of.
Thus conscience does make cowards
of us all, and thus the native hue of
Resolution Is sicklied o'er, with the
pale cast of Thought, And enterprises
of great pitch and moment, with this
regard their Currents turn awry, And
lose the name of Action. Soft you now,
The fair Ophelia? Nymph, in thy Orisons
Be all my sins remember'd.
Name: The Hanged Man - Hamlet
Dramatis Personae: Hamlet, Prince of Denmark; Horatio.
Roman à clef : Edward de Vere, 17th earl of Oxford.
Astrology: Neptune, Pisces, Water
Hebrew Letter: LAMED
Text & Context: As The Hanged Man is the middle, pivotal point of the Trump cards, Lamed is the central letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Meaning "to prod", as with a staff, it is rooted in the word lamad, meaning "to teach". Here, study is not an end in itself but goad to the ultimate goal of deed. The tallest letter in Hebrew, it relates to the Greek lambda [^], shaped like the two fallen staffs that hoist The Hanged Man. In this way, The Hanged Man is both shepherd and Lamb of God, with Horatio "he who has ears to hear." The English word "lamed" is lamed''s obvious false cognate, and the alternate spelling lamedh is an almost perfect anagram of Hamlet. Perhaps of note is lamed's hebraic anagram lev meivin da'at, a phrase meaning "the heart of Eve", suggesting woman's heart is essential for complete understanding.
When Cordelia says to her father "Nothing", a hole opens up which Lear falls into. A black hole which he only wakes out of long enough to witness his and his daughter Cordelia's death. When Hamlet's dead father comes to him, demanding a very specific "something", Hamlet himself becomes a hole all the characters in the play - and even we as audience - fall into. All, that is, save the stoic Horatio, who, as Orator and cipher, survives to tell Hamlet's tale. From the undiscovered country beyond words, Hamlet himself sends this:
O, O, O, O.
Before Hamlet begins, the Saxo Grammaticus source name Amleth correlates to amlothi, the Icelandic word for "fool". Like Sly, The Fool which book-ends the Tarot makes a half-submerged reprise in the heart of the Major Arcana.
Hamlet, the play, begins with the words: "Who's there?" Hamlet, the author's stand-in, takes that question and runs with it, expanding uncertainty and the limits of vision. A ghost appears to Hamlet, the man of thought, demanding action, and like Ham, seeing his father naked, he's cursed. It has been said: "Because we run, we fear." Hamlet in turn uses thought to run circles around action. When Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are enlisted to assay Hamlet's mind, he sees instantly through their act. When the actors arrive, he sees that acting a part elicits actual feeling - not only in the audience which can be used to trap a mouse, but in the very actor himself. And not only in the actor, but in the character he enacts: "What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba?" He, a flesh and blood man, to an ancient fictional queen, can only be - what? - Even "nothing" doesn't quite fit. There is no one there. Except the flesh and blood actor, who elicits a tear - Hecuba exists for as long as he acts her, and so he then, is to her, Everything.
Thought is the ghost that haunts action. Hamlet is directed from the outset of the play to act; he commences to veer wildly off script. Actions are the sin of those around him, while his sins are but words. Words used to disarm action, but as seen with the players, words are actions and the show must go on. Words are what the gravedigger disinters to bury, to paint before a mirror, to stop a hole to keep the wind away. The wind that winds and whines through this physical world, where death can be acted out and spoken of - in skulls and books and swords - but only enacted if at all in the silence beyond the borders we tread. Like Hecuba, when the actor stops acting us, we cease to be. Hamlet tries to have it both ways, to answer his own rhetoric, to be and to not be.
Like Hamlet, each of us is imprisoned in himself. Like the author, Hamlet learns the special providence of a sparrow's fall after land rats and water rats - what Shylock calls pirates - shake him into action. But what is that action? To do without thinking. In the back of beyond good or bad. Hamlet, the role of a lifetime that gives bad actors a name, loosens his own ham-strings. His "Readiness is all" echoes Edgar's "Ripeness is all", itself echoing Jacques "From hour to hour we ripe and ripe, and then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot." Breathing his last, Hamlet hands his readiness to Horatio's verisimilitude, to be read.
Suspended, like belief, Hamlet, like Man, must fall. To special providence. Like Wotan, suspended from Yggdrasil, the Tree of Life and Death, language is created from the ruins. Like the Phoenix from the ash, or man from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the head will crown and the crown will come to a head and be broken. To make a Hamlet, you have to break a few yggs.
Subtext: The interrelationship of characters in Hamlet closely reflect those surrounding Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. As seen in the Chariot card and by scholars for centuries, Polonius clearly alludes to Lord Burghley; so close and open an allusion it would be impossible for a playwright to make if he weren't the Lord's son-in-law and a Lord himself. Burghley held one of the largest libraries in England, in which were three works germane to Hamlet: Saxo Gammaticus, Belleforest's French version, and the sole copy of Beowulf, later found in the possession of de Vere's tutor, Laurence Nowell. Laertes represents both Burghley's son Thomas, who Burghley hired spies to keep an eye on while in Paris, and the son who filled his shoes as Secretary of State, Robert Cecil [cf. Staffs 10 Richard iii]. Ophelia represents Burghley's daughter, Anne Cecil, who married Edward de Vere at 16 and was later publicly spurned by the Earl. In Claudius may be seen the Elizabeth's paramour, Robert Dudley, known as a Machiavellian and a poisoner; some claim the scurrilous broadside Leicester's Commonwealth was penned by de Vere. Many Oxfordians see in Horacio de Vere's trusted cousin Horace de Vere. While this may well be the case,also seen in Horatio is the future Poet Laureate Ben Jonson. Jonson translated Horace, referred to himself as Horace in his Poetaster, and was referred to as Horace in literary circle [i.e. - Satiromastix]. Coincidentally, Jonson wrote an Epigram to Horace de Vere and served under his brother Francis in the Low Countries. Ben Jonson, as editor of the First Folio, lived to tell the author's story.
Hamlet, for his part, was like the author, a student of the university who involved himself with the theater. As with Hamlet, de Vere managed acting troupes and wrote works performed for the court - not always, perhaps, to the court's liking. Incidentally, Mouse Trap is the English name for the 16th Century Venetian trick-taking game often played with tarot court cards know as Trappola, as described by Cardano in his Liber de Ludo Aleae of 1564. The play the Murder of Gonzago is a reference of the real life murder of the Duke of Urbino by Luigi Gonzaga in 1538; the Duke had poison smeared in his ear. de Vere stayed with the Duke's nephew, the 3rd Duke of Mantua, and many of his family on the Earl's European tour. Back in England, Burghley, shielding the Earl of Oxford from his own charge of murder, used the defense se defendendo, the legal term used by the Gravedigger.
If there's any truth to the tradition Shaksper played the ghost of Hamlet's father, it may be in his being a kind of ghost, to a ghost writer. Hamlet, by referring to the ghost as "the fellow in the cellerage", draws attention to the area beneath the stage and so the play's very theatricality; by calling him "truepenny" he mocks the one who would call himself the play's true penner. Consider, too, how Hamlet calls his father "boy". The name Hamlet itself is a version of its Norse source, Amleth. Hamlet may suggest "helmet", as does William, worn by Pallas Athena. Ham suggests the Curse of Ham, bestowed on his son Canaan, for Ham's father's transgression of "seeing" the naked body of his drunken father Noah. The curse was cast not by God but by Noah, and - the tribe of Canaan being dark-skinned - it is said to account for the plight of dark-skinned people [cf. Othello]. The Land of Canaan later became Phoenicia.
In the end, as with Priam and his slayer Pyrrus, what victorious afterlife Hamlet and the author William Shakespeare attain is pyrrhic, in name only.
Intertext: Swords 4 Hamlet Senior; Swords 7 Laertes & Claudius; Swords 9 Ophelia; The Chariot VII Lord Burghley.
HANGED MAN XII HAMLET