Scene 1 Extended Notes

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These are the Extended Notes for Scene 1, which offer material beyond what's found in the regular Notes for the Scene.


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According to comments in the historical Hamlet commentary, it was once the case in France that a common challenge would be Qui vive? with the expected answer Vive le Roi.

See Hamlet Works, the note "Pye (1807, p. 308).

The assertions about the use of a watchword are all wrong.

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rivals - Farnham got it right in 1957. "Sharers."

See Hamlet Works, the note "Farnham (ed. 1957)."

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yond same star that's westward from the pole - Jenkins, in 1982, thought it was a reference to Capella, if any actual star was meant. I agree.

See the note on the Hamlet Works website:
Hamlet Works
Then do a browser find for "Jenkins (ed. 1982)"

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BOOKMARK for me, comment on "summon" for "beat" -> "peal" just before the Ghost appears, in light of the following

mid-14c., "a ringing of a bell" especially as a call to church service, generally considered a shortened form of appeal (n.), with the notion of a bell that "summons" people to church.

So, a "summon" concept lurks behind "beat" when it means "peal."

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Marcellus: Thou art a scholar, speak to it, Horatio.

The following well-known Latin palindrome is perhaps of some interest in relation to Hamlet.

Signa Te Signa Temere Me Tangis Et Angis
Roma Tibi Subito Motibus Ibit Amor

For which one translation is,
Cross? Cross thyself! You plague and vex me without need!
For by my labors you shall soon reach Rome, the object of your desire.

Legend has it that the Latin palindrome was exclaimed by the Devil himself to St. Martin, who had changed the Devil into a donkey, to ride to Rome, while using the Cross to spur the Devil on. Each of the lines is a palindrome.

We'll soon see, in this Scene, Horatio cross the Ghost, and in a later Scene Hamlet will implcitly cast Polonius as a devilish jackass.

However, one can easily make too much of it. One expects concepts to occur in different writings even when the writings are totally unrelated. "Cross" and "jackass" are hardly uncommon ideas, nor, needless to point out, is the Devil.

I can't help also mentioning this Latin palindrome...

"Sum Summus Mus" = "I am the greatest mouse." There is a Mouse Motif in Hamlet, beginning with Francisco's figure of speech, and Claudius is the "greatest mouse" in the play. But "mouse" is a common enough thing of which to speak, so one should not get carried away with this. One needn't know Latin to appreciate it (nor would Shakespeare have, as far as that goes, if it goes anywhere.)

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William Somerset, 3rd Earl of Worcester, in armor

At right is another image in support of the regular Note, on the point of the recognizability of armor in Shakespeare's era.

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By the way, Shakespeare's fictional Norway appears to correspond to Sweden. That's implied when the Danish ambassadors to Norway return so quickly. Although "the play's the thing" and the author did not pay much attention to realistic timing for offstage events, still, the implication is that the ambassadors did not have far to go. It does work perfectly if "Norway" is simply on the other side of the Øresund.

Shakespeare may have used "Norway" for several reasons. It's a name used in the story of Amleth by Saxo. It's a consonant-rich word that can be deemed to sound better on stage to English ears than does "Sweden." Then, Norway, as a word, sounds a little like "no way," to a person attuned to wordplay, while there doesn't seem to be easy wordplay with the name Sweden.

One can also ponder the Northern Seven Years' War, aka the Nordic Seven Years' War, which occurred from 1563 to 1570, in relation to all this. It involved Denmark, Norway, and Poland (and Sweden,) and was recent history in Shakespeare's day.

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(not posted yet)

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partisan is from Latin 'pertusus' ("bore through.") That is perhaps because it could "bore through" (puncture) armor, or perhaps only because it could stab right through a person.

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