Friday, October 23, 2009

The Dreams in Question

Hamlet was famously beset with fearful dreams of what may come should he kill himself:

To die- to sleep-
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die- to sleep.
To sleep- perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub!
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause.
What dreams might those be? Most of us have to guess at the post-death -- I, for one, expect a small, featureless room without furnishings, cable, or pets, but stocked with self-help books on how to rattle things, move chairs, knock things off shelves, and otherwise serve as a quality poltergeist -- but Hamlet's dreams of it have been recently sharpened from the ghost of his father:
I am thy father's spirit,
Doom'd for a certain term to walk the night,
And for the day confin'd to fast in fires,
Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature
Are burnt and purg'd away. But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison house,
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part,
And each particular hair to stand on end
Like quills upon the fretful porcupine.
But this eternal blazon must not be
To ears of flesh and blood.
The ghost doesn't say much, but what he says draws a grim portrait. Then again, maybe crazy Hamlet imagined the entire sequence, and the ghost was nothing more than another bored, sock-hiding poltergeist.

No comments: