AAS Meeting #194 - Chicago, Illinois, May/June 1999
Session 33. HAD III: Gender, Observatories, Planetariums
Historical, Oral, Monday, May 31, 1999, 2:00-3:30pm, Continental Ballroom C

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[33.02] Ruin and Revolution in ``Hamlet."

P.D. Usher (Penn State)

In the cosmic allegorical interpretation of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" (BAAS 28, 859 & 1305, 1996; Mercury 26:1, 20, 1997; RPS 18:3, 6, 1997; Giornale di Astronomia 24:3, 27, 1998), the usurper King Claudius, namesake of Ptolemy, personifies geocentricity. Textual support for this reading is found in 1.2 where Hamlet is associated with the Sun, as befits a rightful heir, while Claudius is associated with the Earth. In 3.3 Claudius fears Hamlet's antics. Rosencrantz states that the lives of many depend on the well-being of the King. He warns that if the King were to be imperiled, his subjects, those "ten thousand lesser things", would fall in a "boisterous ruin" along with "each small annexment" and "petty consequence." These 10,000 lesser lights are the naked eye stars (mv ~6.5) which would collapse with the demise of the pre-Diggesian firmament, along with ancient planets and their geometrical contrivances. In 5.1 Shakespeare puns on "De revolutionibus" when he refers to "fine revolution." The double meaning of "revolution" (alteration, orbital motion) was in use long before 1600. Since "revolution" is used in the context of digging, it may refer as much to the Diggesian as the Copernican Revolution. Shakespeare's prescience is revealed by his anticipation of change, as encapsulated geocentricity is transformed to stellar boundlessness, while his presence is suggested by fatherly concerns and ghost-like direction.

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