14
HAMLET'S QUESTIONS

What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god-the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals! And yet to me what is this quintessence of dust?

Was't Hamlet wronged Laertes? Never Hamlet.
If Hamlet from himself be ta'en away,
And when he's not himself does wrong Laertes,
Then Hamlet does it not, Hamlet denies it.
Who does it then?

( Prince Hamlet)


Poets' wars and 'little eyases'

Bitter, icy weather and deluges of snow appear to have helped screen the workers who dismantled the Theater, but for actors intensely cold weather had drawbacks. Thick ice had begun to cover English rivers in December and January. Alpine glaciers soon crushed houses near Chamonix, marking the start of colder spells all over Europe, and winters, as a rule, were to be hard for the rest of Shakespeare's lifetime. 1 There is no sign that he regretted stark winters, but freezing weather brings no cheer and heralds bleak revelations in his new play: ''Tis bitter cold, | And I am sick at heart', says Francisco, in its first scene, and later Hamlet remarks: 'The air bites shrewdly, it is very cold.'

Inured as they were to the cold, the gentry might not choose to cross the Thames in biting winds to sit in dark, icy galleries. Moreover, actors had cause for concern as rivalry sharpened in London, especially after mere children -- skilful boys -- began to put on plays again in

-274-

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Shakespeare: A Life
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Illustrations vii
  • Introduction ix
  • A Note on Conventions Used in the Text xvi
  • I - A Stratford Youth 1
  • 1 - Birth 3
  • 2 - Mother, of the Child 11
  • 3 - John Shakespeares Fortunes 25
  • 4 - To Grammar School 43
  • 5 - Opportunity and Need 60
  • 6 - Love and Early Marriage 72
  • II - Actor and Poet of the London Stage 93
  • 7 - To London-- and the Amphitheatre Players 95
  • 8 - Attitudes 120
  • 9 - The City in September 145
  • 10 - A Patron, Poems, and Company Work 169
  • 11 - A Servant of the Lord Chamberlain 196
  • 12 - New Place and the Country 225
  • III - The Maturity of Genius 249
  • 13 - South of Julius Caesar's Tower 251
  • 14 - Hamlet's Questions 274
  • 15 - The King's Servants 295
  • 16 - The Tragic Sublime 318
  • IV - The Last Phase 351
  • 17 - Tales and Tempests 353
  • 18 - A Gentleman's Choices 382
  • The Arden and Shakespeare Families 412
  • A Note on the Shakespeare Biographical Tradition and Sources for His Life 415
  • Notes 425
  • Index 451
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