Thoughts on TAPoR analysis of Hamlet 3.4

The most noticeable thing about TAPoR is its seemingly infinite amount of unique error messages, and lack of user-friendly design. When analyzing a text, if I use more than one tool per session, the error message: “Sorry, you are trying to access a private text. Please login or contact the owner of the text for permission” is shown. TAPoR also helpfully supplies an analysis of the text within this error message with whatever tool I was trying to use.

Besides this interesting quirk, another issue is using TAPoR on such a small part of Hamlet (Act 3 scene 4) as opposed to the full text. This renders the most visual tool, Fixed Phrase, useless. “Visual”, on a side note, is a very generous word to describe this tool. Below is an example of using Fixed Phrase to search the word “look” through all of Hamlet vs just act 3 scene 4.

 One positive use of TAPoR is the CAPs finder tool – a tool that finds all capital letters, excluding those at the beginning of the sentence. It allows you to easily find the allusions made to Mercury, Jove, and Mars (3.4.57-59).  It is not without its flaws though. Due to the tool excluding the beginning of sentences, it misses the allusion to “Hyperion’s curl” made in line 57.

 The most useful tool on a small space of analysis is the List Words tool. This tool, when sorted from highest frequency to lowest, shows the most common words found within 3.4. Excluding character names, the most common words are “thou”, “look”, and “good”. What is most intriguing about this list is the distribution of the world “good” within 3.4. Of the ten times it is said – and mostly by Hamlet – it is almost entirely after the ghost has come and gone.

You’ll notice that the distribution graph mysteriously ends after the first 5 words. It is the same when analyzing the full text, and unfortunately the word “good”, although said a lot throughout Hamlet, does not get a distribution graph. This makes any comparisons between words in 3.4 and the rest of the text a little discouraging.

From conversations within the TAPoR group, we decided the two most important themes for this scene are Hamlet’s madness, and his relationship with his mother. The distribution of the word “good” – being that it mostly occurs after the ghost advises Hamlet to calm his mother – along with the fact that it is Hamlet saying the word to his mother 9/10 times, hints that there is something to gain from this analysis for both themes. The theme I feel it most strongly says something about is Hamlet’s madness, or his false madness.  Whether or not the word is used as a simple pleasantry (as it often is with “good night”), doesn’t affect the importance of this analysis. His repetition of the word after the ghost’s appearance suggests that he is either trying to convince his mother, himself, or both that all is “good”.  My first tentative conclusion is that Hamlet is questioning his own sanity due to the fact that his mother was unable to see or hear the apparition he believed was in front of both of them. His reaction is to hastily bumble several “good nights”, as well as several other mentions of being “good” and calmly drag Polonius’ corpse from the room as if nothing is wrong.

More quantitative research will be needed to confidently assert this. Searches, frequency, and distribution of synonyms (such as “fair”, “well” or “fine”) could help prove or disprove this conclusion. Close reading, and more qualitative analysis outside of TAPoR (before trying to work with this information within TAPoR) will help form my next post.



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