The Paunch of Denmark

Marshall_Lambert
Gert enjoyed Isaac Butler’s Is Hamlet Fat? in Slate.
http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/theater/2015/09/is_hamlet_fat_the_evidence_in_shakespeare_for_a_corpulent_prince_of_denmark.html

This isn’t a new question; in the nineteenth century there was a lot of scholarly argument about the fact that Gertrude says of Hamlet before the duel with Laertes, “He’s fat, and scant of breath”. Apparently it wasn’t in the first edition; maybe, some say, it was put in later because Richard Burbage, who played Hamlet, had got fat; but in the Victoria era there was a view, shared by Goethe, that Hamlet was fat and that his fatness indicated weakness. A Victorian actor named E. Vale Blake declared in an 1880 article for Popular Science Monthly that Hamlet was “imprisoned in walls of adipose,” which, “essentially weakens and impedes … the will.”

Of course, particularly in this era of fatophobia, we want to think he’s a lean romantic, not a sweaty fatty. But Isaac Butler’s linguistic investigations with the help of a Shakespearean scholar suggest that Gertrude did mean that her son was, well, fat.

Gert has examined the text and come up with more compelling evidence for this:

1. The name Hamlet, a combination of “ham” and “piglet.”
2. His “customary suits of solemn black” – black is slimming as we all know.
3. “Oh that this too, too solid flesh would melt.”

This opens up intriguing possibilities for a Hamlet truly of our times. Theatre directors are always looking for new angles – say, Julius Caesar played by performing dogs, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf set in a kindergarten, The Importance of Being Earnest set in the Bronx. Why not, pardon the pun, go the whole hog and have an absolutely mountainous actor playing Hamlet?

Image: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Lambert#/media/File:Marshall_Lambert.jpg

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18 thoughts on “The Paunch of Denmark

  1. Depardieu? Tried to watch him in Welcome to New York last night but dropped out when a faux orgy scene began w/ a man rubbing ice cream on a woman’s behind and naming (and slapping) one cheek ‘Ben” and the other “jerry.” Oh the humanity!

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  2. An intriguing possibility. I don’t watch him on principle these days, he’s such a creep, but I would have to make an exception for his Hamlet. I hear Fassbender isn’t great as Macbeth.\ (not fat enough?) By the way, did you get to see The Lobster?

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    1. A very fat man can be comic or sinister, but otherwise it doesn’t come naturally to see him as a leading man. But I suppose, when you think about it, Hamlet’s no hero. Interesting that he’s become a sort of romantic hero in the general imagination, and maybe that’s more because of the people chosen to play him than anything else.

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    2. Hamlet annoys the hell out of me. What a whiner. I can’t see a fat Hamlet because I always see Hamlet as anxious and restless. He couldn’t be fat as I doubt that he sat at the table long enough.

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