1 year ago
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
This week’s prompt of a sled immediately brought to mind a strange, curious passage in the play “Hamlet.”
Hamlet’s dad, the late King, is of course dead as the play begins. However, he has returned as a ghost to encourage his son to seek vengeance for his murder.
Problem is, young Hamlet, who has not as yet seen the spirit, can’t be sure that the phantom is really his late father.
His friend Horatio, however, has seen it, and is convinced it is the ghost of the late King. He was on the guard-platform of the castle when it appeared.
Sentinel: “Is it not like the King?”
Horatio: “As thou art to thyself. Such was the very armor he had on when he the ambitious King of Norway combated.”
Horatio: “And so frowned he once when in an angry parley he smote the sledded Polacks on the ice.”
According to the text, the late King had been in various battles – more or less something to be expected from a king – and was involved in a fracas with some Polish guys who were on a sled. The Elizabethans used what for us today is a politically incorrect term, “Polacks,” for Polish people, but it was the 16th century and they knew no better. :-)
In other words, the way the old King had looked during this battle on the ice, this skirmish on sleds, is exactly how he looked when he showed up at the castle as a spirit. So the ghost must be legit.
Whether he is an authentic phantom or some evil spirit just pretending to be the late King is a key problem, which Hamlet spends a lot of time trying to figure out.