Anagrams & Ars Magna: An alchemical reading of Hamlet
Thousands of heavy volumes have been written on Shakespeare's Hamlet since the death of the Bard, but the play seems to diffuse the same fascination years after years. Although some of them have highlighted a certain number of critical points, a vast majority of scholars have just been misreading the famous play. This reluctancy to be uncovered is partly due to the complexity of the issues addressed in the text, as well as its litterary structure. It is also due to the classical myopy of those who get caught by the immediate meaning of the text without seeing its secret function.
A closer analysis of Hamlet, with the virginal eye of the fool, reveals a number of intriguing elements. The purpose of this article is to highlight a striking and fascinating interpretation of the text. Moreover, it is also meant to give students a deeper understanding of Shakespeare, whose Ars Magna is "caviar to the general". But nowadays, it becomes easier for people to get caviar, if they take the time to appreciate it.
A specific methodology is necessary to go beyond the text, or to take the brilliant formula of Marc-Alain Ouaknin, "de lire aux éclats". This set of reading techniques or keys should be considered as a modus operandi to be used in other forms of literature. It comprises the use of anagrams, onomastics, symbolisation, greek and latin translation and elements from various domains such as astrology, astronomy, alchemy, biblical and religious studies, etc.
In the case of Hamlet -and this is valid for all of Shakespeare's works-, the text is the medium for a message which escapes from the medium. In other words, think of the text as a text containing other texts, a true labyrinth in which the crowd is lost.
Shakespeare's Hamlet is a secret account of alchemical operations. So, what really happens in this play? A noble king (read: Jupiter) get killed by his vile and crippled brother (read: Saturn; Claudius= limping in latin) during the darkest time of the Year (21st of December, winter's solstice, beginning of the Sign of Capricorn, under the rulership of Saturn). What was he doing, sleeping outside in a cold garden? The usurpator marries the Queen (Moon) (hierogamos, another famous alchemical symbol), while Hamlet (spiritus Mercurii, or Hamlet as an Hermetic figure (Hamlet= H metal)), deals in solemn black (nigredo) with the four elements (earth, water, air, fire). To do this, he is assisted by his compadres or fellow-students, Horatio, Marcellus (Mars Coelus), Barnardo and Francisco, all students of Wittenberg (read: the mountain of wit or wisdom). They are all philosophers (read: alchemists, truly an antic disposition), dealing with this main operation (read: death of fathers/Saturn and alchemical theatre) in the cold midst of the night. Alas! it is winter too, but I ain't got no green tables, just a keyboard, to solve and coagulate.
What is "this too too solid flesh [that] would [like to] melt, thaw and resolve itself into a dew"(I;2)? Those who can read can see here the four essential steps of an alchemical operation, in which the flesh (materia prima) has to go through several stages to purify itself, (read: Calcinatio, Dissolutio, Sublimatio) to become a dew (a rose, symbol of the Christ.) Check how many Roses you can find in Shakespare's work and you'll know what he was really interested in! Less Matter, with more Art!
What are these "funeral baked-meats [who] did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables"? What are this sulphurous and tormenting flames in which the ghost has to render itself(I;5)? Do you really believe you should read that he "smoted (in an angry pale) the sledded poleaxe (Polacks! what a good joke!) on the ice? Ha!, what about having a blacksmith-philosopher hammering (angrily = Mars) on "his leaded (remember? Saturn) Polar Axis on the ice (cold)"?
Who are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern? Simple jerks? How curious it is that around the same time the first Quarto of the play was published, was also published the "Theatrum Chemicum" of Gerard Dorn (1602). Another book published in 1452, the "Noces Chymiques de Christian Rosenkreutz". This book is, interestingly enough, about alchemy How strange is this mysterious author, bearing this most surprising of pseudonym, (read: Christ-ian Rose and Cross) ! Because it is nothing but the credo of the Templars Knights ("per crucem ad rosam") when they went to deliver Jerusalem, the Holy City, from the hands of the infidels. Quite stunning, indeed! Why would an English playwriter choose a name like this one? The other pal, Guildenstern does also bear an uncommon name. Stern, from the german Sterne, means a star; Guilden refers to guides and guilds. What could be this guiding star or this star of the guilds? Related to the star of David, to the biblical star guiding the people to the Christ's birthplace is not to much of a stretch. But this symbol is also the alchemical image of the aurum philosophorum of the alchemists, the ultimate stage of the perfected matter and soul, the ideal to which they all tend
I think you get the point now. So if you want to get something out of your studies, it'll be time to learn how to read, instead of swallowing the nice fairy tales we too too often get. I'll give you a last one here, 'cause I find it too funny. Laertes can be read as the anagrams of "Stealer", but also of "Esrael t", of Israel and a cross... Do you know by any chance who were the "stealers of the Cross of Israel"? As my mute father use to say, Ora Lege, lege, lege, relege ora et invenies, oculatus abiis. Those that have ears understand. The rest is silence.