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Session 35 - HAD III: From Hamlet to Crop Circles.
Oral session, Wednesday, January 07

[35.01] Hamlet's Transformation.

P. D. Usher (PSU)

William Shakespeare's Hamlet has much evidence to suggest that the Bard was aware of the cosmological models of his time, specifically the geocentric bounded Ptolemaic and Tychonic models, and the infinite Diggesian. Moreover, Shakespeare describes how the Ptolemaic model is to be transformed to the Diggesian. Hamlet's "transformation" is the reason that Claudius, who personifies the Ptolemaic model, summons Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who personify the Tychonic. Pantometria, written by Leonard Digges and his son Thomas in 1571, contains the first technical use of the word "transformation." At age thirty, Thomas Digges went on to propose his Perfit Description, as alluded to in Act Five where Hamlet's age is given as thirty. In Act Five as well, the words "bore" and "arms" refer to Thomas' vocation as muster-master and his scientific interest in ballistics. England's leading astronomer was also the father of the poet whose encomium introduced the First Folio of 1623. His oldest child Dudley became a member of the Virginia Company and facilitated the writing of The Tempest. Taken as a whole, such manifold connections to Thomas Digges support Hotson's contention that Shakespeare knew the Digges family.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in Hamlet bear Danish names because they personify the Danish model, while the king's name is latinized like that of Claudius Ptolemaeus. The reason Shakespeare anglicized "Amleth" to "Hamlet" was because he saw a parallel between Book Three of Saxo Grammaticus and the eventual triumph of the Diggesian model. But Shakespeare eschewed Book Four, creating this particular ending from an infinity of other possibilities because it "suited his purpose," viz. to celebrate the concept of a boundless universe of stars like the Sun.

Program listing for Wednesday