This is the first of a series of posts on Quotations and significant ideas in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. These posts are meant to supplement the classroom lectures and to add to the discussions happening on your own blogs.
Of Kin and Kindness Online
Each time I begin Hamlet, or Macbeth for that matter, certain lines haunt me. Sometimes the lines are famous quotations, and sometimes they are more obscure, which makes me wonder why my brain keeps repeating these seemingly random phrases.
Hamlet’s first lines in the play are currently echoing in this “nutshell” of “infinite space”.
After his mother’s wedding to his uncle, Claudius asks Hamlet how he is doing. Hamlet replies, “A little more than kin, and less than kind.” Hamlet is literally “more than kin” because he is more related to Claudius having progressed from nephew to stepson; however, the audience learns how much less kind he is for his uncle when he tells Gertrude that he is “too much i’ the sun” and then when he is alone soliloquising “O that this too too sullied/solid flesh”…
The importance of hearing the lines in “the mind’s eye” becomes clearer as Hamlet plays on the homophones of “son” and “sun” to communicate chaos in the microcosm of his world. “Son” represents his microcosmic view of life, while “sun” suggests the macrocosmic view and the seemingly backward rotation of the planet.
I suppose some lines of Hamlet haunt me, and echo in my thoughts because they continue to resonate through time and their relevance is not fixed in space. Shakespeare’s lines become infinite in scope when we can connect them to our own experiences.
So,then I started thinking about the whole “kin” and “kind” ideas, and the ways that large and small collide in the universe of contemporary life. Although I love the classics, I also love examining new technology, new science, and thinking about the changing world we are so fortunate to inhabit. (I would love to call myself a “geek”, but that would be a self-aggrandizement of the Sheldon Cooper kind.)
Then I realized that Hamlet is also talking about not being of the same “kind” as Claudius! He seems to be suggesting that he is better than Claudius. *sigh* So much depth in so few words; how will I ever live up to the challenge of imparting the vastness of this play?
But back to the present and my discussion about contemporary relevance: The play opens with “Who’s there?” Facebook, presently the largest representation of “who’s there” seems to represent a collision like the eclipse of the sun. It is the macrocosmic collision of the microcosm; the digital universe representing the one. Facebook connects many as “kin”, but is often “less than kind”.
Imagine a News feed from the play…
Nayaelah seems to have a Hamlet haunting too, though I will have to leave the discussion of the ways life “seems” to another post, because, as Hamlet says, “I know not seems..”