Buck up, you melancholy dadbod!
October 7, 2015 10:34 AM   Subscribe

Was Hamlet fat? Isaac Butler (previously) investigates for Slate.
posted by Cash4Lead (24 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Marcellus: Something is rotten in the State of Denmark.
Horatio: Heaven directed Hamlet to lose weight
For the final duel in the last Act.
Something foul this way comes, and our Prince
Dealt it.

Exeunt omnes, holding noses.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:00 AM on October 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


Very interesting, thanks for posting it! I have to admit I didn't have high hopes for it, but the guy actually talked to people who knew their Shakespeare and analyzed appearances in the corpus and in general did what you should do when trying to figure out what a word means. I'm impressed.
posted by languagehat at 11:02 AM on October 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


...Might his quietus make/With a bare dadbodkin...
posted by GrammarMoses at 11:02 AM on October 7, 2015 [8 favorites]


Patton Oswalt. Might be a really interesting Hamlet. If he gains a few pounds.
posted by amtho at 11:09 AM on October 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Was Hamlet's depression the cause of his weight gain? Or was it from sharing too many flagons of Rhenish with Horatio and Yorick? Interesting article, cheers.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 11:17 AM on October 7, 2015


Zach Galifianakis as a Shakespearean leading man, please
posted by Apocryphon at 11:32 AM on October 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Falstaff was fat. Hamlet was physically out of shape, ie, fat, or so his mother lovingly taunts him.
posted by Postroad at 11:53 AM on October 7, 2015


I dunno what Shakespeare originally intended (other than his lead character probably looking a bit like Richard Burbage, as the article implies), but there's good reason for the tradition of a svelte Hamlet. It's a visual cue to the audience that this guy has lost his father and his future, and is wasting away with grief for both.
posted by Kevin Street at 11:54 AM on October 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Simon Russell Beale was the Hamlet I saw at Lyttelton Theatre. He's the lost Hamlet I picture over any svelte brooding Hamlet. And when I've seen this piece pop up lately.
posted by lawliet at 12:05 PM on October 7, 2015


I have no particular insight into Hamlet's BMI, but if that skull Trintignant is holding is supposed to be Yorick, I think I have some insight into his death. Poor man clearly had some sort of exotic bone disease.
posted by Panjandrum at 12:40 PM on October 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


Years ago, as an undergraduate, I wrote on this subject, though solely as a joke.

His woes regarding diets:

O, that this too too solid flesh would melt

His obsession with cold cuts:

Thrift, thrift, Horatio! the funeral baked meats
Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.

His anorexic thinking:

I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself king of infinite space.

(i.e., does this nutshell make me look fat?)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:58 PM on October 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


Hamlet is melancholy. This is one of the 4 types of humor theory, still prominent in Elizabethan theorizing about body types. Here is what a melancholy person resembles:


Melancholic Temperament

Humor: Black Bile Basic Qualities: Cold and Dry
The Melancholic temperament tends to be the most problematic, since it's contrary to the Sanguine. However, with proper management, Melancholics can also be healthy.
Face: Squarish or rectangular head and face. Prominent cheekbones, sunken hollow cheeks common. Small, beady eyes. Teeth can be prominent, crooked or loose. Thin lips.
Physique: Tends to be thin, lean. Knobby, prominent bones and joints common. Prominent veins, sinews, tendons. Muscle tone good, but tends to be stiff, tight. Rib cage long and narrow, with ribs often prominent. Can gain weight in later years, mainly around midriff.
Hair: Color dark, brunette. Thick and straight. Facial and body hair in men tends to be
posted by Postroad at 1:12 PM on October 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


I saw the Simon Russell Beale Hamlet at the Guthrie, and he was very good.

Also, from the article:
during the Victorian era—a time of fad diets and fitness crazes where one’s weight was mistaken for an indication of one’s moral fiber
Which era again?
posted by librosegretti at 1:21 PM on October 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


That's the next paragraph of the article, librosegretti.
posted by subdee at 1:47 PM on October 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


If you combine this with the theory that Hamlet was gay, and the fact that Burbage, who originated the role, had a beard, we finally have a second Shakespeare play with a bear in it.
posted by w0mbat at 2:02 PM on October 7, 2015 [10 favorites]


w0mbat: "If you combine this with the theory that Hamlet was gay, and the fact that Burbage, who originated the role, had a beard, we finally have a second Shakespeare play with a bear in it."

Exit, pursued by a beard.
posted by chavenet at 2:07 PM on October 7, 2015 [7 favorites]


I remember what a shock it was to the class when our English I professor told us that all the textual evidence suggests Hamlet is around 30 in the play, rather than in his teens/early 20s as we all assumed. It made him seem pathetic (in the modern sense) and the general feeling was that the guy really should have moved out and gotten a job by that age.
posted by otio at 2:24 PM on October 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


Between that, and the age gap between Romeo and Juliet, it's time to deromanticize Shakespeare's work by reimagining all of his leading men as older and creepier
posted by Apocryphon at 2:43 PM on October 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


... and the general feeling was that the guy really should have moved out and gotten a job by that age.

But that's the main conflict. Hamlet was literally born for one job (being king), and Claudius took that away from him. Wherever he goes and whatever he does, people will assume he's just biding his time until he can lead a rebellion. That's just the way things were back then - if you had a chance at clawing your way to the top of the heap you took it. Claudius seems to be cool with Hamlet being king after he dies, but come on, any truce is always going to be temporary until one manages to assassinate the other.

Hamlet should be out in the public square making speeches and rousing the people against their current king. Claudius is expecting that and is (presumably) ready to imprison his "son" upon the slightest suspicion of treason. But instead Hamlet does the sulky, driven-mad-by-grief thing, and Claudius doesn't know how to react. He can't bring the hammer down on Hamlet without a reason, because the people and Gertrude still have feelings for the former heir.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:01 PM on October 7, 2015 [7 favorites]


Great title.
posted by Poldo at 3:36 PM on October 7, 2015


Now I can't stop imagining Hamlet as Ignatius J Reilly, appalled at the prospect of his overprotective mother wanting to marry Claude Robichaux, and at the idea this might mean him leaving home and getting a job.
posted by um at 6:14 PM on October 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


The age issue seems to be a screwup on Shakespeare's part. Hamlet being at university, and dissed by Polonius as a hot-blooded young man argue for youth, as does the fact that he didn't gain the crown immediately when his father died, (hough you'd expect Claudius to be referred to as regent rather than king in that case.) In Belleforest's Histoires Tragiques, generally considered the source of Shakespeare's story, Amleth has "not attained to man's estate."

So either the age given by the Yorik scene was a mistake, or Hamlet was away in England for a very long time before his return.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 6:32 PM on October 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Slate article says: "Today, however, Hamlet’s heroism is taken for granted" and this is making me really annoyed. This is literally the opposite of the whole point of the play: Hamlet's inability to take decisive action until it's far too late. He is not a hero, and that is his tragic flaw.
posted by Andrhia at 5:53 AM on October 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Paul Giamatti did Hamlet a couple years back. Way too old for the role, but totally nailed his sad-sackery.
posted by whuppy at 6:14 AM on October 8, 2015


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