Part Three

“Long Live The King!”, “Bernardo?”, “He.”

 

 

~ I ~

 

 

As was illustrated in part one of this book, the question "Who's there?" which begins the dialogue between the two guards in the opening scene of Hamlet contextually corresponds to the first line of Phaedo, "Were you yourself Phaedo, in the prison with Socrates on the day he drank the poison?" as both lines are inquiries of identity. This is supported by Echecrates' primary concern in the conversation with the identities of those present at the time of Socrates' death, an exchange (lines 12-24 in Phaedo) which was shown to correspond simultaneously to a very similar discussion in the opening lines of Hamlet (12-24), where the identity of the approaching party is inquired and disclosed.

Further along in the second part of this book it was shown that the word “yourself” in "were you yourself" from Phaedo's first line (which is in fact the first word of the original text) is echoed in the second line from Hamlet: "unfold yourself," along with the contrast between "Yes" and “Nay” in their respective second lines, emphasize the mirrored opposition (or polar isomerism) which continues in the juxtaposition between “life” and “death” in the third lines from the two texts, respectively.

It was also illustrated that beyond the continuous linear correlation between the texts of Hamlet and Phaedo, the juxtaposition further undergoes other levels of structural complexity - a process of 'folding' (in tandem). Thereby the opening lines of Hamlet appear to correspond to the sequential parts of the first scene, and furthermore to the successive scenes of the first act, and finally to the first act and the play as a whole. The dialogue of Phaedo having a similar underlying structure, although considerably less defined than the divisions into scenes and acts of Hamlet.    

It is an ongoing intent to illustrate this microcosmic layering throughout this work. Therefore, here, in the third part of The Hamlet Enigma, the correlation of "life" and "death" from the third lines of Hamlet and Phaedo will be examined in context of the third part of the first scene of the play, along with the third scene of the first act and the third act of Hamlet together with the juxtaposition with the corresponding parts from the dialogue of Phaedo

Recall the third line from the beginning of Phaedo:

 “I should so like to hear about his death. What did he say in his last hours? We were informed that he died by taking poison, but no one knew anything more; for no Phliasian ever goes to Athens now, and it is a long time since any stranger from Athens has found his way hither; so that we had no clear account.” (3)

King Hamlet is also dead and like Socrates he died from poison. Claudius is in midst of coronation as Bernardo succeeds Francisco on duty, yet in following with the ongoing ‘mirroring’ between the two texts, the third line from Hamlet echoes the reference to Socrates’ death with a proclamation of long life for a king. Moreover, the next three lines from Hamlet, together illustrate the intention of the two guards to serve as metaphors for the two kings in the play. When taken out of context: “Long live the king!” (3), “Bernardo?”(4), “He” (5) seem to reiterate the ongoing assertion that symbolically "Bernardo" is "the king".

Furthermore, the evocation of life in "Long live the king!" is contradictory not only in light of king Hamlet’s poisoning in the play, but also in contrast with Socrates' execution (as eluded to, three times, in the third line of Phaedo: "his death," "his last hours," "he died"). The contrast here between the references to death in the third line of Phaedo and Bernardo's statement: "Long live the king!" in Hamlet's third line, seem in reference to the famous proclamation: "The king is dead! Long live the king!" further reinforcing the symbolism of the changing guard for royal succession. Particularly note the emphasis on the nearly instantaneous transition that the old proclamation is intended to invoke. 

The three references to Socrates’ death, in the third line from Phaedo in correlation to Bernardo’s exclamation “Long live the king!” in the third line of Hamlet, followed by Francisco’s inquiry “Bernardo?”, and Bernardo’s affirmation “He”, clearly illustrate the ongoing analysis into the correlation between Shakespeare’s metaphor of the guards to Plato’s  ‘guardian’ or ‘philosopher-king’ from the Republic.

As previously stated, the changing guard at the beginning of the first scene is a microcosm for the entire play as a metaphor for the transitions of monarchy as well as Hamlet’s 'guardian' or father figure.

The cyclical nature of the guard’s shift on duty here in the opening scene of Hamlet clearly represents the life, death and resurrection, but not only that of old king Hamlet - the prince’s father, or Frazer’s prehistoric ‘king of the wood’ or Graves’ mythological ‘king of the waning year’ or the legendary king that rides on Fortune’s wheel but much more specifically the life, death and resurrection (and thereby immortality) of the soul, as described by Socrates in Phaedo.  

As Geoffrey W. Bromiley writes in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: “Immortality and Resurrection are inseparable ideas” and goes on to describe Plato’s contribution to their pre-Christian conceptions: 

“An essential ingredient of Orphic religion was belief in the essential divinity of the soul and in embodiment as the soul’s exile from its true heavenly home. Hence the celebrated Orphic pun soma sema, “the body is the tomb (of the soul).” This belief in the eternal survival of the soul gained intellectual respectability in the writings of Plato. According to Plato, in its rational or divine function the soul is preexistent and apparently eternal and has relations with both the phenomenal world and the unchanging ideal world. He adduces five arguments for the immortality of the rational soul: the argument from opposites (Phaedo 70c-72e) and the complementary argument from reminiscences (Phaedo 72e-77d); the argument from affinity (or from the simplicity of the soul) (Phaedo 78b-84b); the argument from “forms” (Phaedo 102a-107b) which he regards as the most conclusive proof; the argument from destructibility (Republic 608d-611a); the argument from motion (Phaedus 245c-246a). (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia by Geoffrey W. Bromiley p. 809)

In the first of the five arguments for the immortality of the soul in Phaedo, from Bromiley’s list, Socrates describes the resurrection of the soul by presenting the argument for opposites which states that everything comes into being out of it’s opposite. Socrates explains this process of generation as follows:  

“Then let us consider this question, not in relation to man only, but in relation to animals generally, and to plants, and to everything of which there is generation and the proof will be easier. Are not all things which have opposites generated out of their opposites? I mean such things as good and evil, just and unjust-and there are innumerable other opposites which are generated out of opposites. And I want to show that this holds universally of all opposites; I mean to say, for example, that anything which becomes greater must become greater after being less (Phaedo, 133)…and the weaker is generated from the stronger, and the swifter from the slower (Phaedo, 137)…and the worse is from the better, and the more just is from the more unjust. (Phaedo, 139)… “And is this true of all opposites? And are we convinced that all of them are generated out of opposites? (Phaedo, 141)”

And then Socrates describes the “intermediate processes” of generation, asking his interlocutors whether these processes of generation themselves emerge out of their complimentary opposites:

“And in this universal opposition of all things, are there not also two intermediate processes which are ever going on, from one to the other, and back again; where there is a greater and a less there is also an intermediate process of increase and diminution, and that which grows is said to wax, and that which decays to wane?” (Phaedo, 143)

Socrates continues:

“And there are many other processes, such as division and composition, cooling and heating, which equally involve a passage into and out of one another. And this holds of all opposites, even though not always expressed in words -- they are generated out of one another, and there is a passing or process from one to the other of them?” (Phaedo, 145)

Compare this to the cyclical nature of the guard’s shift on duty in the opening scene from Hamlet as well as the (previously mentioned) Fortune’s wheel, which dictates the rise and fall of kings.

Recall also the previously cited words of Robert Graves about “Tyche (‘fortune’) like Dice and Aedos (personifications of Natural Law, or Justice, and Shame), was an artificial deity invented by the early philosophers; whereas Nemesis (‘due enactment’) had been the Nymph-goddess of Death-in-Life” and her roman equivalent “Fortuna or Veruna (‘she who turns the year about’). When the wheel she caries had turned half circle, the sacred king, raised to the summit of his fortune was fated to die… but when it came full circle, he revenged himself on the rival who had supplanted him.” (Robert Graves, The Greek Myths)

In the Phaedo, Socrates continues with the generation of death from life:
 
“Well, and is there not an opposite of life, as sleep is the opposite of waking?” (Phaedo, 147)

“The state of sleep is opposed to the state of waking, and out of sleeping waking is generated, and out of waking, sleeping, and the process of generation is in the one case falling asleep, and in the other waking up. Are you agreed about that?” (Phaedo, 153)

“Then suppose that you analyze life and death to me in the same manner. Is not death opposed to life?” (Phaedo, 155)
“And they are generated one from the other?” (Phaedo, 157)
 
“What is generated from life?” (Phaedo, 159)
 
“To which Cebes answers: “Death.” (Phaedo, 160)  
“And what from death?” (Phaedo, 161) asks Socrates.
To which Cebes replies: “I can only say in answer -- life.” (Phaedo, 162)
“Then the living…” continues Socrates, “whether things or persons, Cebes, are generated from the dead?” (Phaedo, 163)

Of particular interest here is the simile which Socrates chooses for the generation of death from life as that of sleep and waking. To anyone even loosely acquainted with Hamlet, this is a very familiar metaphor.

It is important to point out that this excerpt from Phaedo corresponds in the ongoing linear juxtaposition with the third scene of the first act of Hamlet which begins with Laertes' famously urging his sister Ophelia: "do not sleep" (Hamlet, 134) The conversation between Ophelia and her brother Laertes will be compared to this excerpt from the Phaedo in more detail shortly.

Before comparing this excerpt from Phaedo to the discussion between Ophelia and Laertes in the corresponding part of Hamlet (from the third scene of the first act) in greater detail, consider first the most celebrated lines in English literature from the first scene of the third act from Hamlet, followed by its complimentary excerpt from Phaedo:

HAMLET

To be, or not to be: that is the question:

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;

No more; and by a sleep to say we end

The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause: there's the respect

That makes calamity of so long life;

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,

The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,

The insolence of office and the spurns

That patient merit of the unworthy takes,

When he himself might his quietus make

With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscover'd country from whose bourn

No traveller returns, puzzles the will

And makes us rather bear those ills we have

Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprises of great pith and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry,

And lose the name of action. -- Soft you now!

The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons

Be all my sins remember'd. (Hamlet, 468)

Consider the corresponding (in the ongoing line-to-line juxtaposition with Hamlet) excerpt from Phaedo where Socrates continues in the defense of his argument for the immortality of the soul: 

“Nay, my good friend, said Socrates, let us not boast, lest some evil eye should put to flight the word which I am about to speak. That, however, may be left in the hands of those above, while I draw near in Homeric fashion, and try the mettle of your words. Briefly, the sum of your objection is as follows: You want to have proven to you that then soul is imperishable and immortal, and you think that the philosopher who is confident in death has but a vain and foolish confidence, if he thinks that he will fare better than one who has led another sort of life, in the world below, unless he can prove this; and you say that the demonstration of the strength and divinity of the soul, and of her existence prior to our becoming men, does not necessarily imply her immortality. Granting that the soul is longlived, and has known and done much in a former state, still she is not on that account immortal; and her entrance into the human form may be a sort of disease which is the beginning of dissolution, and may at last, after the toils of life are over, end in that which is called death. And whether the soul enters into the body once only or many times, that, as you would say, makes no difference in the fears of individuals. For any man, who is not devoid of natural feeling, has reason to fear, if he has no knowledge or proof of the soul's immortality. That is what I suppose you to say, Cebes, which I designedly repeat, in order that nothing may escape us, and that you may, if you wish, add or subtract anything.” (Phaedo, 460)

There are several important similarities between these two excerpts, which occur simultaneously in the two texts. For example consider the first words of Hamlet’s famous soliloquy:

To be, or not to be: that is the question:

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing end them?

Compare these words to Socrates' statement in the corresponding part of Phaedo: “…and her entrance into the human form may be a sort of disease which is the beginning of dissolution, and may at last, after the toils of life are over, end in that which is called death…”, also consider the play on the style of ‘martial’ hyperbole in both Hamlet’s The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them” and Socrates’ “lest some evil eye should put to flight the word which I am about to speak…while I draw near in Homeric fashion, and try the mettle of your words…”

And then Hamlet (similarly to Socrates in the argument for the immortality of the soul in which he describes the generation from opposites and compares life and death to sleep and wakening) continues with his memorable metaphor, ‘that sleep of death’:

To die: to sleep;

No more; and by a sleep to say we end

The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

To note in passing the poignancy of the description of death as the time "when we have shuffled off this mortal coil" within the context of the ongoing discussion of the body as the prison of the soul  ('soma sema')  from Phaedo, or 'a king of infinite space' confined in a nutshell from Hamlet.

Compare sleep as a metaphor for death in Hamlet's soliloquy to Socrates’ words:

“Well, and is there not an opposite of life, as sleep is the opposite of waking…the state of sleep is opposed to the state of waking, and out of sleeping waking is generated, and out of waking, sleeping, and the process of generation is in the one case falling asleep, and in the other waking up.”

Hamlet continues:

...There's the respect

That makes calamity of so long life;

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,

The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,

The insolence of office and the spurns

That patient merit of the unworthy takes,

When he himself might his quietus make

With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,

Compare Hamlet’s words: “That makes calamity of so long life” to Socrates’ statement: “Granting that the soul is longlived, and has known and done much in a former state, still she is not on that account immortal” in the corresponding excerpt from Phaedo.

And finally consider the references to fear of death at the end of Hamlet’s soliloquy: 

To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscover'd country from whose bourn

No traveller returns, puzzles the will

And makes us rather bear those ills we have

Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;

Compare “the dread of something after death” and “conscience does make cowards of us all” to Socrates stating in the same corresponding excerpt:

“…And whether the soul enters into the body once only or many times, that, as you would say, makes no difference in the fears of individuals. For any man, who is not devoid of natural feeling, has reason to fear, if he has no knowledge or proof of the soul's immortality…”

Also consider the contradiction of Hamlet’s statement: “The undiscover'd country from whose bourn no traveller returns” (without forgetting that the ghost of Hamlet's father does precisely that) to Socrates’ words: “Then the living, whether things or persons, Cebes, are generated from the dead...”

Consider also in comparison to Hamlet's famous soliloquy, the previously cited excerpt from Phaedo:

“For not in that way does the soul of a philosopher reason; she will not ask philosophy to release her in order that when released she may deliver herself up again to the thralldom of pleasures and pains ["To grunt and sweat under a weary life, But that the dread of something after death"], doing a work only to be undone again, weaving instead of unweaving her Penelope's web. But she will make herself a calm of passion and follow Reason, and dwell in her, beholding the true and divine (which is not matter of opinion), and thence derive nourishment. Thus she seeks to live while she lives, and after death she hopes to go to her own kindred ["Than fly to others that we know not of?"] and to be freed from human ills ["And makes us rather bear those ills we have"]. Never fear ["Thus conscience does make cowards of us all"], Simmias and Cebes, that a soul which has been thus nurtured and has had these pursuits, will at her departure from the body be scattered and blown away by the winds and be nowhere and nothing.”  (Phaedo 361)

Hamlet's soliloquy has been the subject of great attention over the past four hundred years and innumerable interpretations have been made over that time, the same can be said about the dialogue of Phaedo (with the obvious difference of a much longer span of time). It is therefore remarkable that only a few researchers have noticed echoes of Plato (and even fewer of Phaedo's text specifically) in Hamlet's words, and furthermore astonishing is that the intricate nature of the relationship between the two texts and the resulting intentionality on Shakespeare's part has escaped notice, beyond the mere comparison of subject matter. 

For example, in a broader analysis of the same ideas (life, death, sleep and dreaming) in Hamlet's soliloquy as they resemble Plato's philosophy is made by I. M. Crombie in his work titled: An examination of Plato's doctrine:    

“The immortal soul is capable of desire and pleasure though not of course desire of or pleasure from carnal things. What it desires is not at all clear; but we cannot hold it against Plato, any more than we held it against Hamlet, that he cannot tell us what eternal life is like. ‘That dreams may come’ is almost as much as we can expect to hear. But what we can hold against Plato is that in making the contemplation of the forms or telling us not too little but too much. It is because he identifies heaven, more or less, with the contemplation of the forms that we cannot see what place he has left for delights, desire, in general for personal existence. He starts with the dissolutionist assumption that immortality is the persistence of those activities which in no way depend upon the body. Excluding all physical activities, all knowledge based on the use of the senses, he is left with abstract reasoning as the only immortal activity.”  (An examination of Plato's doctrines, I. M. Crombie  p. 316)

Crombie also states:

“What makes it possible to entertain the thought of something after death is, as Hamlet implies, not the fact that spiritual activities do not consist in manipulating parts of the physical world, but the fact that in all our activities, whatever they may be, we are aware of ourselves as centres of unity, for which it is therefore logically possible to conceive that there may be quite different forms of activity and experience in store. Thus Hamlet speaks of what he fears as dreams coming in the sleep of death; and the analogy of dreams is peculiarly appropriate for two reasons. One is the obvious strangeness of dreams, the fact that they do not conform to the rules of this world. The other is that the man who fears that a dream may come to him in his sleep does not fear what will happen to his body, but the things which he will experience as happening to him while his body lies asleep. Dreams remind us that what can happen to us as centres of experience and action is not co-extensive with what our bodies do and undergo; they seem therefore to license a distinction between what I do and what my body does. What Hamlet fears is not that he will spend eternity apprehending rational necessities, but that something very different, unknown, and therefore terrible may happen to him when the bodkin has done its work. He fears the country after death not only because it may be strange, since there are no travellers’ tales about it, but because it must be strange since most of the things that go on in our country cannot be conceived of as going on in it. Yet it will be himself, Hamlet, to whom these strange nightmares will come. He conceives of life after death as a nightmare firstly because, being no longer an ordinary physical organisms, his experience will be utterly strange, but secondly because no matter how strange his experience may be it will still be his experience.” (An examination of Plato's doctrines By I. M. Crombie  p. 296)

Crombie’s “argument is that belief in personal immortality requires that one should believe with Hamlet in ‘the resurrection of the body’” (An examination of Plato's Doctrines By I. M. Crombie p. 296)

In a book titled: Dreaming Souls, Owen J. Flanagan writes:

“When Hamlet, The Prince of Denmark, asks the compelling question “To be, or not to be?,” he is, of course, contemplating suicide. Is it worth going on to face “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,…the heartache and the thousand…shocks that flesh is heir to”-when one could just end things? At first the thought of death as eternal rest comforts Hamlet. But he immediately worries “to sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub”! We know not “what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil.”

“It is this thought, that we might not find eternal rest in “that sleep of death” but instead might have hellish dreams for all eternity, that is “the rub.” And it is this thought that “give[s] us pause,” “puzzles the will,” and ultimately “makes cowards of us all.” The “dread of something after death” makes us bear “those ills we have than fly to others we know not of.”

“This speech, possibly the most famous in all of English literature, gets quickly to the heart of the problem: the problem of consciousness in general and dream consciousness in particular. Hamlet is in anguish. Were he a different sort of person with a different sort of life, he might be happy about how things have gone for him. However, the thought of death and the worry that after death he might continue to exist in some horrible dreamland could just as easily worry a happy Hamlet as it does the actual distraught Hamlet. Indeed, the very same set of concerns arise in a conversation Socrates has with two of his students, Simmias and Cebes, on the very day in 499 B.C.E. that he drinks the hemlock cocktail provided at state expense. Socrates is calm and rational in the “Phaedo,” whereas his much younger friends are clearly agitated-fearful both of the prospect of a death that is dreamless and one that is rich in dreams.” (Dreaming Souls By Owen J. Flanagan p. 1-2)

Both Crombie and Flanagan describe the correlation between the metaphors of sleep and wakefulness for life and death in the texts of Hamlet and Phaedo, yet unaware that these two discussions occur simultaneously in these two works in accordance to a highly intricate line to line juxtaposition (and even further interact in more complex structural 'folding') which persists throughout, as presently being explored.      

In the analysis of the third lines from Hamlet and Phaedo in which death and life are juxtaposed, an excerpt from Phaedo was considered which presents Socrates’ famous argument of generation of opposites in which he defends the position that the soul is immortal. Here Socrates compares life and death to sleep and waking which was shown to correlate to an identical simile in the first scene of the third act of Hamlet. Furthermore, this soliloquy (in accordance with the hereto evident line-to-line correlation between the two texts from the beginning) is intricately echoed in the corresponding excerpt from Phaedo where life and death are analyzed in very similar fashion.

An interesting play on this discussion occurs in the (previously mentioned) conversation between Ophelia and her brother Laertes from the third scene of the first act of Hamlet, which corresponds in the juxtaposition of the two texts in Phaedo with the previously mentioned argument on the generation of opposites.

However, before considering the conversation between Ophelia and Laertes in the third scene of the first act of the play, it is important to inspect in some detail the nature of these two characters in an attempt to present an argument that they are in fact a complex reflection of the mythological siblings Apollo and Artemis.

In fact the letters in the two names of these characters contain imperfect yet striking anagrams of the names of these two Greek gods. The name Ophelia having four letters in common with Apollo’s name (when the letters are moved around they spell out APOL), while Laertes’ name has five letters in common with Artemis (four of which spell ARTE), alone this could be seen as mere coincidence, however in context of the present discussion as well as copious other references in the play, combined with many other considerations, this too becomes more than a mere happenstance.

In investigating the hypothesis that the names of these two characters are intended to relate in some fashion to the names of the two Greek deities, it seems fitting to show a general intent (or trend) on the part of Shakespeare to invoke the characters of myth in Hamlet. Although it is more difficult to find such nominal origins to Ophelia’s name (which is derived from Greek οφελος (ophelos) meaning "help"), Laertes on the other hand has a famous duplicate in the Greek tradition; this of course is Laertes, father of Ulysses.  

Interestingly, this brings us to an ancient story from Homer’s Odyssey, which we have already come across in the Phaedo, mentioned by Socrates this is the story of Penelope and her weaving and unweaving the shroud for her husband’s father, Laertes, in an attempt to stay the advances of her many suitors, in wait for her husband’s return from Troy.

This famous act of chastity and marital fidelity will shortly become quite relevant in consideration of the conversation between Ophelia and her brother; it’s relevance to Gertrude’s infidelity is also pertinent.       

Penelope is compared to Artemis in the Odyssey, with the words “Penelope was as lovely as Artemis” (which appear twice in the text, 17.037 and 19.054)  Along with numerous other references to the importance of Artemis as the goddess of chastity to Penelope in her struggle for fidelity: “Penelope wishes that chaste Artemis would give her the peace of death” (18.202); Penelope prays first to Artemis” (20.060); “Penelope calls upon Artemis, daughter of Zeus, to pierce her heart and ease her pain” (20.061);  Penelope wishes that the gods would make her vanish or that lovely haired Artemis would kill her so she could be with Odysseus in the Underworld” (20.080)

Also consider Hamlet's facetious description of his mother Gertrude, “Like Niobe, all tears” in reference to her lack of grief after the death of her husband.

In Greek mythology, Niobe boasted to the goddess Leto that she had six sons and six daughters while Leto had only two children, Apollo and Artemis. The twins avenged this insult on their mother by shooting down all of Niobe’s children, Apollo killed her sons while Artemis killed her daughters, and Jupiter, their father, turned Niobe into stone on a mountain in present-day Turkey. The block of stone continued to cry for her dead children.

Although there are numerous other references to Greek myths in Hamlet, we will consider one other instance which seems more or less relevant to the characters of Laertes and Hamlet in relation to Greek mythology and in particular the goddess Artemis.

There are multiple subtle references in Hamlet to the war of the giants Otos and Ephialtes (whose name means ‘nightmare’ in Greek) against the gods in an attempt to rape Artemis and Hera. These references are specific to the mountains of Pelion and Ossa, which the two giants piled on top of each in a fruitless endeavor to kidnap the goddesses from Olympus.

Artemis brought about their destruction when she took the form of a stag and rushed between them, tricking them into casting their spears, they miss and kill each other in stead.

Consider Apollodorus’ description of this myth:

"Poseidon mated with her [Iphimedeia] and fathered two sons, Otos and Ephialtes, who were known as Aloadai. Each year these lads grew two feet in width and six feet in length. When they were nine years old and measured eighteen feet across by fifty four feet tall, they decided to fight the gods. So they set Mount Ossa on top of Mount Olympos, and then placed Mount Pelion on top of Ossa, threatening by means of these mountains to climb up to the sky ... Ephialtes paid amorous attention to Hera, as did Otos to Artemis … Artemis finished off the Aloadai in Naxos by means of a trick: in the likeness of a deer she darted between them, and in their desire to hit the animal they speared each other." - Apollodorus, The Library 1.53

And the description of Artemis as  ‘the Maiden’ in Callimachus’ account:

"Neither let any woo the Maiden [Artemis]; for not Otos, nor Orion wooed her to their own good." - Callimachus, Hymn 3 to Artemis

Consider also Nonnus’ emphasis on Artemis chastity in his Dionysiaca:

"[Nemesis to Artemis:] 'What impious son of Earth persecutes you? ... If bold Otos again, or boastful Ephialtes, has desired to win your love so far beyond his reach, then slay the pretender to your unwedded virginity." - Nonnus, Dionysiaca 48.395

Hyginus states that some credit Artemis’ rescue and the destruction of Otos and Ephialtes to her brother Apollo:

"Other writers, however, say that they [the Gigantes Otos and Ephialtes] were invulnerable sons of Neptunus [Poseidon] and Iphimede. When they wished to assault Diana [Artemis], she could not resist their strength, and Apollo sent a deer between them. Driven mad by anger in trying to kill it with javelins, they killed each other. In the Land of the Dead they are said to suffer this punishment: they are bound by serpents to a column, back to back. Between them is a screech-owl [a bird which was believed to drink blood], sitting on the column to which they are bound." (Hyginus, Fabulae 28)

In Hamlet, when Laertes storms the castle and confronts Claudius, Claudius refers to Laertes's rebellion as "giant-like," invoking the mythological giants trying to challenge the gods.

CLAUDIUS: What is the cause, Laertes,
That thy rebellion looks so giant-like?
(Act 4, Scene 5)

Later, Laertes mentions Pelion, and Hamlet mentions Ossa, when they're talking about mountains of dirt:

LAERTES: O, treble woe
Fall ten times treble on that cursed head,
Whose wicked deed thy most ingenious sense
Deprived thee of! Hold off the earth awhile,
Till I have caught her once more in mine arms:
[Leaps into Ophelia's grave]
Now pile your dust upon the quick and dead,
Till of this flat a mountain you have made,
To o'ertop old Pelion, or the skyish head
Of blue Olympus. (Act 5, Scene 1)

HAMLET: 'Swounds, show me what thou'lt do:
Woo't weep? woo't fight? woo't fast? woo't tear thyself?
Woo't drink up eisel? eat a crocodile?
I'll do't. Dost thou come here to whine?
To outface me with leaping in her grave?
Be buried quick with her, and so will I:
And, if thou prate of mountains, let them throw
Millions of acres on us, till our ground,
Singeing his pate against the burning zone,
Make Ossa like a wart! (Act 5, Scene 1)

Moreover, in Greek mythology the two giants much like Hamlet and Laertes eventually kill each other. Just before their final duel Hamlet says to Laertes:

HAMLET: Let my disclaiming from a purposed evil
Free me so far in your most generous thoughts,
That I have shot mine arrow o'er the house,
And hurt my brother.
(Act 5, Scene 1)

And later:

"I'll be your foil, Laertes: in mine ignorance...." (Act 5, Scene 1)

Considering all this, we shall now return to the third scene of the first act in Hamlet, where Laertes (and later his father Polonius) extols the virtues of chastity to Ophelia. This conversation harkens back to Normand Berlin’s (previously cited) words from The Secret Cause that “Hamlet is about death and sex.”   

The scene begins with Ophelia’s brother Laertes stating:  

My necessaries are embark'd: farewell:

And, sister, as the winds give benefit

And convoy is assistant, do not sleep,

But let me hear from you. (134)

Within the context of the main subject matter of their conversation (specifically Laertes’ call to chastity) the words “do not sleep” are hinting at another colloquial association with sleeping, that of sex.

After all sex is the ultimate example of the generation out of opposites of life, or simply put, human life is generated through sex of opposites (man and woman), which is of course implicit in Socrates argument that coincides with Laertes’ words in the juxtaposition of Hamlet and Phaedo.

“Then let us consider this question, not in relation to man only, but in relation to animals generally, and to plants, and to everything of which there is generation and the proof will be easier. Are not all things which have opposites generated out of their oppositeswell, and is there not an opposite of life, as sleep is the opposite of waking?” (133-147)

To complete the enfolded correlation between these two coinciding excerpts from the third scene of the first act from Hamlet (and its associated text from Phaedo) and the previously discussed portions from the first scene of the third act of the play (and its associated text from the dialogue), compare Leartes' words “let me hear from you” to Echecrates’ statement in the third line from Phaedo: “I should so like to hear about his death…” (Phaedo, 3) and then the word is echoed for the third time in Phaedo’s following question:  “Did you not hear of the proceedings?” (Phaedo, 4)

Incidentally the references to the ship whose return was slowed by weather, the cause for the delay in Socrates' death that is discussed in the subsequent lines in the beginning of Phaedo is also echoed in Leartes’ words “as the winds give benefit…and convoy is assistant” alluding to the voyage by sea (perhaps ‘that sea of troubles’) upon which he is preparing to embark in the tragic play.

The particular relevance served by the metaphor of a ship as it regards death and dying will be explored at greater length at a later time, but for now consider Laertes’ conversation with Ophelia presently under discussion.

For Hamlet and the trifling of his favour,

Hold it a fashion and a toy in blood,

A violet in the youth of primy nature,

Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting,

The perfume and suppliance of a minute; No more. (136)

Compare Laertes’ description of the inevitable impermanence of Hamlet’s affections towards Ophelia to Socrates’ words from the corresponding part of his argument for the soul’s immortality:   

Socrates:

"Then let us consider this question, not in relation to man only, but in relation to animals generally, and to plants, and to everything of which there is generation and the proof will be easier. Are not all things which have opposites generated out of their opposites? (Phaedo, 133)...and in this universal opposition of all things, are there not also two intermediate processes which are ever going on, from one to the other, and back again; where there is a greater and a less there is also an intermediate process of increase and diminution, and that which grows is said to wax, and that which decays to wane? (143)...and there is a passing or process from one to the other of them? (Phaedo, 145)...“Well, and is there not an opposite of life, as sleep is the opposite of waking?” (Phaedo, 147)

Laertes:

Think it no more;

For nature, crescent, does not grow alone

In thews and bulk, but, as this temple waxes,

The inward service of the mind and soul

Grows wide withal. Perhaps he loves you now,

And now no soil nor cautel doth besmirch

The virtue of his will: but you must fear,

His greatness weigh'd, his will is not his own;

For he himself is subject to his birth:

He may not, as unvalued persons do,

Carve for himself; for on his choice depends

The safety and health of this whole state;

And therefore must his choice be circumscribed

Unto the voice and yielding of that body

Whereof he is the head. Then if he says he loves you,

It fits your wisdom so far to believe it

As he in his particular act and place

May give his saying deed; which is no further

Than the main voice of Denmark goes withal.

Then weigh what loss your honour may sustain,

If with too credent ear you list his songs,

Or lose your heart, or your chaste treasure open

To his unmaster'd importunity.

Fear it, Ophelia, fear it, my dear sister,

And keep you in the rear of your affection,

Out of the shot and danger of desire.

The chariest maid is prodigal enough,

If she unmask her beauty to the moon:

Virtue itself 'scapes not calumnious strokes:

The canker galls the infants of the spring,

Too oft before their buttons be disclosed,

And in the morn and liquid dew of youth

Contagious blastments are most imminent.

Be wary then; best safety lies in fear:

Youth to itself rebels, though none else near. (138)

Compare Laertes' words:

"For nature, crescent, does not grow alone in thews and bulk, but, as this temple waxes, the inward service of the mind and soul..." (Hamlet, 138)

Also the words:

"The chariest maid is prodigal enough, if she unmask her beauty to the moon" (Hamlet, 138)

To Socrates’ words: “where there is a greater and a less there is also an intermediate process of increase and diminution, and that which grows is said to wax, and that which decays to wane?” (Phaedo, 143) as he describes the generation of opposites.

And a little further in Phaedo, Socrates describes the generation of life from death and states that: "And may not the other be inferred as the complement of nature, who is not to be supposed to go on one leg only? And if not, a corresponding process of generation in death must also be assigned to her?" (Phaedo, 169)  

Socrates describes the universal mechanism of generation in nature, "not in relation to man only, but in relation to animals generally, and to plants, and to everything of which there is generation" in which "all things which have opposites [are] generated out of their opposites?" (Phaedo, 133)

Consider the references to plants in Laetes' words: "A violet in the youth of primy nature" (Hamlet, 136); "nature, crescent, does not grow alone" (Hamlet, 138); "The inward service of the mind and soul grows wide withal" (Hamlet, 138); "no soil nor cautel doth besmirch the virtue of his will" (Hamlet, 138) as well as:

"The canker galls the infants of the spring,

Too oft before their buttons be disclosed,

And in the morn and liquid dew of youth

Contagious blastments are most imminent."

Compare these references to plants in Laertes' line from Hamlet to Socrates' words: "Then let us consider this question, not in relation to man only, but in relation to animals generally, and to plants, and to everything of which there is generation" in the corresponding line from Phaedo.

Artemis is the goddess of plants and wildlife. Some animals (such as the dog, mouse and stag) and certain plants in particular are under her tutelage. For example the flower Amaranth (in Greek means unwithering, immortal), a purple and crimson flower is sacred to Artemis and the poisonous hemlock is sacred to her as Hecate. 

Consider James Frazer's comparison of the Hippolytus myth with other stories of unattainable infatuation: 

"In the story of the tragic death of the youthful Hippolytus we may discern an analogy with similar tales of other fair but mortal youths who paid with their lives for the brief rapture of the love of an immortal goddess. These hapless lovers were probably not always mere myths, and the legends which traced their spilt blood in the purple bloom of the violet, the scarlet stain of the anemone, or the crimson flush of the rose were no idle poetic emblems of youth and beauty fleeting as the summer flowers. Such fables contain a deeper philosophy of the relation of the life of man to the life of nature—a sad philosophy which gave birth to a tragic practice." (Sir James George Frazer,  The Golden Bough)

 

to be continued...

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