Harold Bloom published (2003) a short commentary on Hamlet called "Hamlet: Poem Unlimited", and as an epilogue to his popular title, "Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human". Bloom has become a literary darling, however his superb writing style should not be confused with progressive scholarship. Bloom is the champion of the traditional assumption that Shakespeare plays were the output of a provincial prodigy. It has now been more than adequately demonstrated that they were instead the product of the English royal court, and therefore previous studies are all but obsolete.
That is not to say there has not been valuable Shakespeare scholarship. Bloom himself offers useful insights in his own Hamlet soliloquy. For example, he wants to place the soul-searching Hamlet in the company of a King David, but the better comparison is with King Saul. Bloom struggles to see in Hamlet something of a Jacob-the-Grabber, however Bloom is apparently oblivious that Jacob is the Hebrew from of James. King James of Scotland was the Jacob that was trying to steal the birthright from aboriginal Robert Deveroux, Earl of Essex, and by virtue of his favor with the Queen Mum Elizabeth (as a Rebeccah figure). Essex is not Jacob the quiet homebody, but the bellicose, exiled and ultimately embittered Esau.
Like the Biblical Jacob and Esau, King James and Lord Essex play a game of "cat and mouse". Consistent with this, the play within the play of Hamlet is called "The Mousetrap". It could be called "The Killing of Priam", and is creating a parallel with the Illiad in which King Priam of Troy is sacrificed. Recall that Priam was a poetic representation of pharaoh Meremptah elected by Ramses the Great to function as a "fall guy" (of the order of earlier Akhenaten/Oedipus) and forerunner to the eventual favored successor.
King James, called Claudius in Hamlet, does not care to play the role of lame duck Priam/Oedipus. Therefore, Hamlet is lured by Claudius into a trap using Laertes and his poisoned sword as bait. Lord Essex was similarly coaxed into a duel in Ireland using Tyrone as bait. Essex recognized it as such. He extricated himself only to extradite himself to London whereupon an equally deadly trap was triggered. James proved more adept at "defying augury" than Essex.
Bloom sees a parallel with Emperor Claudius of Rome when he writes (p 54), "... we wonder if Hamlet would murder Gertrude, as Nero executed his mother, Agrippina, who had poisoned her husband, another Claudius. Hamlet duly warns himself against just this, but only after disclaiming, 'Now could I drink hot blood.' He is sufficiently rough with her to cause the outcry 'What wilt thou do? Thou wilt not murder me?' In the event, he assuages his rage by manslaughter, skewering Polonius through a curtain, but the thrust is a displacement of his true will, which is to immolate Gertrude."
Hamlet is losing his mind like Nero, but Essex had another much more positive role model at his disposal. Another Claudius, Claudius II had been succeeded by Aurelian, one of the most distinguished Roman Emperors of all time. Although the reign of Aurelian was short, it was signally valorous. He was also known for establishing the cult of Sol Invictus, "Unconquerable Sun" (which was pagan in nature but also venerated by the future Christian Emperor Constantine the Great). Allowing James to succeed as King of England as a “Priam/Claudius/Oedipus” would have been a highly effective strategy for Essex. With patience and strength of character he could become the next Aurelian (of England at least). He did not get that chance.
Bloom begins his book with a discussion of the important of Hamlet's step-father Yorick, who died before Hamlet could be brought up to full maturity. There is no mention of course of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, the famous step-father (and according to some, the actual father by Queen Elizabeth) of Essex. The emphasis on Yorick having been both a mother and father to Hamlet was a subtle knock on Elizabeth, who sold (out) the birthright of Essex and thereby effectively disowned him.
Bloom makes much of the “straight man” Horatio, however does not perceive the significance of Horatio's character and mandate from Hamlet to tell his story.
Hamlet: Poet Unlimited by Harold Bloom is limited scholarship at its best. It is at worst more academic claptrap that fails tragically to find the true heart of Shakespeare through recognizing ancient royalty in their totalitarianism.
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