Champion, Larry S. A springe to catch
woodcocks: Proverbs, Characterization, and Political Ideology
in Hamlet. Studies 15 (1993): 24-39.
HISTORY OF IDEAS / NEW HISTORICISM / PROVERBS / RHETORICAL
This article analyzes Shakespeares conscious use of proverbs
to develop and enhance characterization and also to lend emotional
and intellectual credibility to an ideological leitmotif that foregrounds
political issues of concern to the Elizabethan spectator (26).
The proverbs spoken by Polonius, Laertes, and Ophelia reflect
an intellectual shallowness; Claudius proverbs suggest
something sinister and Machiavellian about his character; and
Hamlets proverbs (as well as the ones others use to describe the
Prince) reveal something of the complexity of the man (28).
Aside from helping to develop characters, Shakespeares application
of proverbs also forces the spectators attention to political
issues that underlie the major action (32), such as the struggle
for power and concern for legitimacy. Given the political climate of
the Elizabethan period, Shakespeares audience was interested in
these political matters. The playwright uses proverbs to generate
a high degree of interest in oppositional politics by depicting diverse
ideologies that compete on stage in recreated Denmark and in the minds
of the English spectators (34).
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Hassel, R. Chris, Jr. “Mouse and
Mousetrap in Hamlet.” Shakespeare-Jahrbuch
135 (1999): 77- 92.
CLAUDIUS / GERTRUDE / HAMLET / MOUSETRAP / NEW HISTORICISM / PROVERBS
Expanding on John Doebler’s work, this essay explores the plethora
of connotations of mouse and mousetrap. In relation
to Gertrude, the mouse reference in the closet scene could be “a
term of endearment” or a pejorative reference to a lustful person
(79). Historically, mouse is also connected with “the devil’s
entrapment of human lust with the mousetrap” (80); hence, Hamlet’s
diction suggests that he perceives Gertrude “at once as the
snare that catches the devil Claudius (and the son Hamlet?) in lust,
and snared herself in the same devil’s mousetrap” (82).
With Claudius, the mouse implies “destructive and lascivious
impulses” (84). Hamlet also is associated with the mouse in
his role as mouser or metaphorical cat. For example, the “cat-like,
teasing method in Hamlet’s madness” appears in his dialogue
with Claudius immediately prior to the start of The Mousetrap
(88). The mousetrap trope becomes “part of a pattern of images
in Hamlet that poises the clarity of poetic justice against
a universe of dark of unknowing,” as “the trapper must
himself die to purify a diseased kingdom” (91).
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