AAS Meeting #193 - Austin, Texas, January 1999
Session 120. Computational Techniques, Catalogs and Literature
Oral, Saturday, January 9, 1999, 2:00-3:30pm, Room 9 (C)

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[120.05] Harriot, Digges, and the Ghost in Hamlet.

P.D. Usher (PSU)

The cosmic allegorical interpretation of Hamlet (BAAS 28, 1305, 1996; 29, 1262, 1997; Giornale di Astronomia 24:3, 27, 1998) may be regarded as a Galilean postulatum with testable consequences. It associates leading characters in the play with cosmologists from the time of Ptolemy (Claudius) to Tycho Brahe (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern) and Thomas Digges (Hamlet). Lines 3.3.8-23 describe how the concepts of geocentricism and the sphere of fixed stars shared by the Ptolemaic and Tychonic models are imperiled by the Infinite Universe of Digges. Hitherto baffling lines 5.2.100-125 list in short order at least 16 attributes of Thomas Harriot, including his short bibliography (``soul of great article'') which may explain why he receives mention only in passing. The Ghost is Thomas Digges' father Leonard, who is a ``mole'' in the ``cellarage.'' That Leonard may have gone underground following restoration of his lands is supported by the range of years (1559-1574) of his alleged death, and conspicuous absence of a gravesite. Circumstances of his disappearance have remained mysterious (N&Q 2:X, 162, 1860; 6:X, 368, 515, 1884; 8:V, 186, 1894.) I suggest that, having been saved from execution and restored to gentility, he continued to work, writing in the tradition of his confrere's father Thomas Wyatt, Sr. who pioneered the English sonnet. The first Dowden series of sonnets reflects his love for his only child. The history of the perspective glass explains lines in Sonnets 14 and 103 (``my blunt invention'') and in the I.M.S. encomium wherein he did ``rowle back the heavens'' with a ``cleere and equall surface'' that is ``reflecting ages past.'' A portrait of Tycho helps date Sonnet 16 to between 1581 and 1585. Sonnets 18 and 87 would date to 1583 and 1595. Allusions to old age are not surprising. I.M.'s words: ``Wee wondred (Shake-speare) that thou went'st so soone'' and ``An Actors Art, can dye, and liue to acte a second part'' are explained, as are sources for The Tempest, why the younger Leonard may have been selected to write for the First Folio, and the significance of the puns on excavation in Hamlet and on the Stratford tombstone.

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