UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"The king is a thing": Hamlet and the prostheses of nobility Stewart, Fenn Elan


The language used in critical readings of Hamlet is rife with implicitly teleological terms: according to many critics, and the ghost of King Hamlet, the story of his father's murder and Claudius' succession requires Hamlet to do something. I ask, why should Hamlet kill his uncle, revenge his father, correct his mother, become king, marry Ophelia, and produce heirs to rule when he is gone? While Hamlet's inaction is often described as delay or paralysis, I suggest that the Danish prince resists teleology through his studied ambivalence towards dynasty: land-owning, child-bearing, wars and marriage. Building on recent theoretical and historical work by scholars like Lee Edelman, Will Fisher, Margreta de Grazia and Madhavi Menon, I suggest that Hamlet, through the interventions of its main character, thwarts the assumption that the relationship between a nobleman and his land is natural, that the desire for possession and rule is inherent. Combining de Grazia's invaluable historicism with Fisher's discussion of prostheses, Ir ead the Renaissance nobleman as a prosthetic creature, physically and politically embodied by his marriage, his children, his land. In delaying the revenge he has been called upon to carry out, in hesitating to take up the crown, Hamlet defers the prostheses of nobility, and opens up a space from which to question the dynastic project.

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