Singing With the Gravedigger

The song alluded to in Act 5, scene 1 is ‘I Lothe That I Did Loue.’  An excerpt from the song suggests it is a formal song, most likely sung by jesters in court.  The fact that it is sung informally by a commoner/gravedigger (“ah”, “oh”) serves as a parallel to how the rich and the poor become equal in the grave.  This particularly grave (pun intended) scene  emphasizes a key theme in Hamlet: the nature and physicality of mortality.  Hamlet’s soliloquy when speaking of his dear friend Yorick as well as his conversation with Horatio, plays well with the gravedigger’s song. The pairing in this particular scene draws out the meaning in what the other (between Hamlet and the song) is saying.  Evidence in the text suggests it is very likely that while Hamlet was performing both his soliloquy and speaking to Horatio, the gravedigger continued to sing his song in the background.  A performance available on youtube demonstrates how this may have been performed at The Globe; listen closely to the gravedigger in the background as he continues to sing.  This juxtaposition would cement to audiences, of varying backgrounds, the truth in Shakespeare’s tragedy by having it both sung informally atop Hamlet’s formal speech. So too, does this layering balance comedy and tragedy at once, further complicating the mystery surrounding whether Hamlet is a tragedy or a comedy.

Evidence supporting the theory that the gravedigger does in fact continue to sing is the undeniable fact that the song presented in act five of Hamlet is an excerpt from ‘I Lothe That I Did Loue.’ otherwise known as ‘I Loathe that I Did Love.’  That approached, there are obvious huge gaps in verses which, presumably, would have been sung while Hamlet was speaking.  Although the subject matter Hamlet elaborates upon does not mirror the absent verses (from the text) both the voided paragraphs as well as the highlighted paragraphs present enlightening characteristics towards the play’s whole.  For time’s sake, I too shall exclude the verses that were not present in Hamlet – however, their relevance should not be slighted.

Hamlet/Gravedigger’s version:
” In youth, when I did love, did love,
 Methought it was very sweet,
 To contract, O, the time, for, ah, my behove,
 O, methought, there was nothing meet.”
‘I Lothe That I Did Loue’ Original:
“I loathe that I did love,
In youth that I thought sweet;
As time requires for my behove,
Me thinks they are not meet.”

Quick View of Similarities:
thought sweet
time for my behove
methought/thinks not meet

Presented above are the first verses of the two songs discussed, back to back, giving way to many mysteries.  Evidently, there is a repetition of love as well as an informal jaunty-like verse used by the gravedigger: “o, the time, for ah, my behove.”  Both deviations from the original song are perhaps to properly fill the Shakespearean meter.  A further mystery of the changes present in Shakespeare’s edit of the song is a questionable changing of “me thinks” to “methought” to which I can give no proper reasoning for.  Another curious change: from “youth” to “loathe” to only later resubmit “youth” in the preceding line. What can be salvaged from this chain of mysteries, and especially from the concordances between the two different songs, is the combination of “youth,” “sweet” and “love.” In my view, these three words are presented in a fashion that dictate the incapability of sweet young love having any accordance with time – being that, young love is doomed to fail. This reflects almost certainly on Hamlet and his dearly departed Ophelia.

In the screenshot above, I have outlined the basic comparison of both the original and the Hamlet version of the song.  The first stop in examining the songs through Voyeur was to sort the word count from highest frequency to lowest.  This, squared off in green, reflected the above (underlined) key words in the corpus: i, did, love, behove, for… The highest frequencies interestingly begin to form a phrase of their own to describe the raw meaning of the submitted verses.  Surprisingly, “love” squared off in blue in Cirrus, ranks high in usage however, “i” typically has no place in songs about love. Not getting ahead of ourselves (“i” will be further examined later) “love” also plays as strong of a role as “youth” and “sweet” whereas “loathe” (squared off in a teeny-tiny little orange box) plays a barely significant role in the songs.   This fact alone is interesting given “loathe” is found in the title.  As a side note, it may be interesting to note that out of 52 words, 33 are unique in placement.  Simply decoded: over half of the words present in the songs submitted back-to-back into Voyeur, are inconsistent with one another.

Putting these findings aside, I pursued the use of “i” within and between the two songs…

I submitted the two songs separately into Links, a tool in Voyeur that provides a visual stimulus of the links between words within a literary corpus, and received almost identical results – an example shown above.  The results, identical to one another, were also similar to the earlier Cirrus and Word Count results: “i” is undoubtedly the focus.  These tools being simple and similar in function, I finally decided to brave… Mandala.

Yeah, it’s intimidating.

I hoped for the best when selecting the option to remove all magnets and “surprise me!”  There is no room for internet memes and vernacular (word of the day: that one’s for you Act 5 group,) however in this case my reaction was no less than an internet blog appropriate: “LOL.”  I proceeded to “remove all magnets” sans-surprise.  Lo-and-behold, Mandala became my favourite and potentially most useful tool (move over Word Frequency Chart) as I slowly developed what you see before you.  Allow me to explain:

The aim: “i” – squared off in orange and bubbled in pink.  I added “magnets” for each key term (the biggest bubbles mapped around the circle) and “i” attracted the most ‘mini-bubbles’ – staggeringly so.  The fact that it produced a total of 23 matches in both songs and 17 unique matches is not even the most impressive part.  All of the sectioned magnets with multiple colours are the matches “i” produced with the other key word magnets.  Translation: “i” found a match within the songs with every key word with the exception of “death” (I put in the full version of both songs for Mandala when the singular verses produced uninspiring results.)  After this find, I added the opposing magnets “you,” “thou” and “thee.”  “Thee” produced nothing, so I removed the magnet, while “thou” produced one match and “you” produced 7… not even half of the attractions “i” produced.  Both added to the total matches of “i.”  What this all potentially means is that the personal affect of “i” is a very intentional use of the song for Shakespeare in writing Hamlet, and especially in writing this scene.

I decided to dig deeper… Could this perhaps be a very personal scene or act for Hamlet and perhaps Shakespeare, the man? Can the overpowering use of “i” over “you” in the context of these two songs have a similar impact on act five and the entirety of the play?

Well now, isn’t that interesting…

Moving on.

There are a couple more verses also taken from ‘I Lothe That I Did Loue,’ as the gravedigger continues to sing:
“But age, with his stealing steps,
 Hath claw’d me in his clutch,
 And hath shipped me into the land,
 As if I had never been such.”
(HUGE gap in song)
“A pick-axe, and a spade, a spade, (symbol of cosmic tree: life and death)
 For and a shrouding sheet:
 O, a pit of clay for to be made
 For such a guest is meet.”
           [Throws up another skull.]
“O, a pit of clay for to be made
For such a guest is meet.”
*The full song for the original is available here for comparison.
Here too, is an example of repetition: “O, a pit of clay for to be made/For such a guest is meet.”  These lines, to me, reflect the opening verse “me thinks they are not meet.”  Coming full circle, at least within the scope of Hamlet, from ‘not meeting’ to “meet”.  What perhaps allows this and also gives reasoning to why Shakespeare may have cut off the original song at this point is the suggestion of passing time.  In the first line “but age, with his stealing steps” suggests that the youthfulness of the love first discussed has dissipated and age has overcome the initial problem of youth breaking sweet love.  Unfortunately, what seems to replace “youth” as love’s antagonist is it’s cure: age.  What appears to be implied is age grabbing the lovers and sending them to their grave (“a pit of clay for to be made/For such a guest is meet.”)  The emphasis on the last pair of lines in the gravedigger’s song is undoubtedly a foreshadowing of Ophelia’s funeral and the irony of Hamlet’s ignorance of his lover’s death as he laments over “poor Yorick.”  The evidence of the song’s relevance to the play’s whole is provided in the screenshots below.  Using Voyeur I separated the play into 5 segments and submitted both youth and age into the word trends chart.  Clearly visible is the sharp incline of the usage of “age” nearing the play’s end and the sharp decline of the use of “youth.”  As reader’s of Hamlet all know, the love between Ophelia and Hamlet is exaggerated nearer to the beginning of the play, and death envelopes the end.

As a final thought towards these verses and their singer, the inserted stage direction to throw up another skull perhaps alludes to the circle of death.  The gravedigger had earlier mentioned in his riddle that he builds the most permanent houses as his are for the dead and last until judgement day.  However, while he sings he is clearly unearthing bodies to make way for new ones: rendering his houses impermanent.  For Hamlet’s part, he too circulates dead bodies but within his heart.  As he laments the death of beloved uncovered Yorick, he soon will be grieving heavily over the death of the body of Ophelia – soon to be replacing Yorick in the same grave.  All of these events, irony intact, insulate Hamlet’s soliloquy in act five.

Tediously Gaining Results

Since my last post, where I blindly searched words that I thought resembled those most likely found in Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies, I’ve done some further investigation thanks to my lovely group members. They provided me some words that their programs deemed tragic or that they noticed in their past readings of Shakespeare’s tragedies. This was exactly what I needed to help me investigate further because WordHoard requires you to know exactly what you’re looking for.


I used April’s previous blog post to start off with. Monk generated her a list of words that were most often seen in tragedies and with her investigation of the word ‘justify’ I had high hopes for the results I would get in return. My hopes began to dwindle around search number ten where I still had zero results in my lemma search and search number twenty-five crushed me, as I still had no results. I painstakingly built thirty-four searches in total to find lemmas that were associated with April’s results, they were all returned to me stating that there were zero results.

Lovely. How come with Monk it showed that it was super confident that the word ‘justify’ appeared more in Hamlet than all of Shakespeare’s other tragedies, but yet when I searched lemmas or just the simple spelling of it in WordHoard it yielded zero results? This caused me to bring up the entire Hamlet text on different sites on the Internet to just do a simple ctrl+f, or ⌘+f in my case, to look for the word ‘justify’ but still no results…strange.


Next, I moved onto the comment that Dane had left me in my previous blog post about words that he though resembled the tone of a tragedy. Thank goodness some of his words garnered me results or may have gone mad just like Hamlet. I searched for twenty-three different lemmas from the words Dane had provided me; from those I got seven that had matches, 9 total appearance in act five.

Beast(n), duty(n), fall(n), fall(v), revenge(n), slay(v), and wretched(j) were the golden tickets I need to start making my conclusions.

All but one of them appear in 5.2, which leads me to assume that the first part of the act is more light, or comedic than the second scene which is dark and tragic (but I could assume this already since everyone dies in this scene….). But if I had not read Hamlet before and was simply going off WordHoard’s answers to my queries that’s what I would assume.


This led me into thinking about how unique these words were to act five, turns out only fall(n) is unique. The other six words appear more frequently. These “tragic” words appear seventeen times in act 4, fifteen times in acts one and two and nine times in act 3. So if I were not accounting for the amount of words and the actual context they were used in I would assume that act 4 was the most tragic, acts one and two were in the middle making it possibly a tragic comedy and acts three and five were the least tragic possibly even comedic. Strange isn’t it?

Tragedy, Comedy, Comedy, Tragedy

For my final blog post in phase two, I have broken down Act 5 into four parts.  In keeping with my exploration of the tragic and comedic factors in this act (see my last blog post), I hypothesised that each of these parts is either more tragic or more comedic, and I wanted to figure out if the word frequencies supported my hypothesis.

Part 1 Word Frequencies

The first part I looked at included Hamlet and Horatio’s conversation with the gravediggers from the beginning of scene 1 up to the point where the King enters.  Though there are many puns and jokes exchanged between the characters, I believe that the overall thematic elements concerning this scene are indicative of a tragedy.  My results support this opinion.  Tapor cannot identify the comedic play on language that Shakespeare uses, but based on the word frequency one will assume that the overall tone of the dialogue is very morbid.  The central theme is death and even though the word itself is not said very often, there are many allusions to it (highlighted in black boxes) through the use of words such as “drown,” “skull” and “spade.”  The many occurrences of these words sum up to 46 references to death in this one section alone! I think it is safe to say the the word usage in this part is consistent with a tragedy.

Part 2 Word Frequencies

Part 2, spanning from the point that the nobles enter until the end of scene 1, is very different when compared to part 1.  Though the theme of death is still present, it is no longer as frequently alluded to because it is now accompanied by “love.”  My interpretation of this part is that particularly comedic like.  Even though it can be considered a tense moment in the play, it largely consists of Hamlet and Laertes arguing as to who loved Ophelia more, an situation that is also seen in comedies such as A Midsummer Nights Dream.  Due to the difference in word frequencies between part 1 and 2, TAPoR’s results also support this conclusion.  Both the presence of love as a topic, and the plethora of verbs such as “make” and “come,” indicate a lighter tone when compared to the proceeding events.

Part 3 Word Frequencies

Part 3 includes the beginning of scene 2 up to the point where the King enters.  This part is one that I also consider comedic due to Osric’s ridiculous speech patterns and the use of repetition by Hamlet to mock him.  As a result, the word frequencies for part three are not that interesting, but they do suggest the lighter tone that is similarly prevailant through part 2.  For instance, there are many positive adjectives like “good” and “great” used to describe the characters.  However, as if in reminder of events to come, there are also 3 mentions of both nature and faith, which link to the fate of Hamlet and his realitives.

Part 4 Word Frequencies

The fourth and final part contrasts to part 2 and 3, but resemble the first part in that it frequently uses lemmas of “death” and alludes to the phrase through the words such as “drink,” “poison,” “hit” and “shot.”  I also found it interesting that the words “speak” and “tell” are mentioned five times each, making me think as to the theme of regret.  Tragedies usually contain one character who, in the end, regrets his/her decisions and wishes to “speak” in order to explain themselves or apologize.  Though in the case of Hamlet, the usage of these two words is concentrated near the end of the scene where Hamlet wishes Horatio to stay alive and recount his tale, perhaps to avoid this mayhem in future circumstances.

Overall this exploration had been interesting.  It seems that Act 5 begins and ends with diction that suggests tragic elements, while comedic word usage prevails throughout the middle to break the tension.

MONK’s “Tragic” Words: A continuation

As a continuation of my last post

In my attempt to discover words that may participate in MONK’s classification of Act V as more tragic, I found myself being led in another direction of attempting to figure out why MONK insisted on classifying Hamlet as a ‘half-tragedy’ in comparison to the other words. My discoveries in individual word frequencies were interesting, as it would seem that they would contradict the ‘half-tragedy’ classification that MONK previously made. In other words, MONK seems to have contradicted itself.

In comparing the tragedies to all of Shakespeare’s plays, MONK has returned me with the following data:


The first verb that MONK provided on the list as appear most frequent in the tragedies in comparison to the rest of Shakespeare’s plays, was “swear.”

Upon selecting the word to see the break down of frequencies, I was provided with the following information:

“Swear,” as it appears in all of Shakespeare’s tragedies, appears most frequently in Hamlet.



To satisfy my own curiosity, I scrolled further down the list and selected a word that seemed less likely to appear in a tragedy, but still one I did not remember reading that frequently when I did my own reading of the Hamlet text. Selecting ‘smile,’ I was provided with the following chart:

In terms of the number of times the word “smile” appears in the tragedies, it appears most frequently in Hamlet.


I assure you, this pattern remains consistent throughout the list of frequencies that MONK has provided me.

I remain uncertain of if these results are being affected by the glitches and malfunctions that MONK has been experiencing as of late, but this does raise an interesting question:

If MONK’s data hasn’t been affected by its recent problems, where does this leave us with understanding Hamlet as being classified as a tragedy? 

If the words being provided by MONK as most frequently occurring in Shakespeare’s tragedies in comparison to the rest of his plays all appear most frequent in Hamlet, why is it then, that Hamlet is the play that is most frequently classified only as a ‘half-tragedy?’

This is a question that is beyond MONK or my own understanding to fully grasp, and so, it is my hope that the tools of my group members can take this information and further analyze it to bring us closer to an understanding of what this all means for Hamlet as a whole.

Perhaps it is not these tragic words that can be the basis for our classification of Hamlet as a tragedy. Perhaps we must take the comedic words used in Hamlet to understand why MONK refuses to accept it fully as a tragedy?

These are all questions I hope to have answered in my next blog post, as I believe that these answers will guide me to an interesting discovery about Act V in relation to Hamlet as a whole.




MONK: To be, or not to be?

In all of the discoveries that I have almost made, it seems that MONK has made its decision to ‘not be.’

Unable to create worksets that could be compared for word frequencies, which my group discussed as a good initial focus today, I have found myself at a loss of anything useful to blog about other than how this program has refused to co-operate with me. However, it occurred to me today, that perhaps for the sake of my group I shall force MONK to hand me something useful.

Yes, I do mean force.

In the interest of figuring out what classifies Act V as ‘more tragic’ than Hamlet, I began to use the preset corpus and genre worksets in order to determine which words were frequently used by Shakespeare in his tragedies. The following is what I learned in this endeavour.

It is worth mentioning, I think, for those of you that are familiar with MONK, you know that it has this irritating stubborn thing where it just refuses to remember the options that you have selected to search with when you hit previous, so this process was a long and arduous one.


To begin, I chose the preset worksets to be compared would be all of Shakespeare’s plays with his tragedies, in order to determine which words were unique to his tragedies. I was returned with these:

The words provided in this list are those words that appear most frequently in the comparison between all of Shakespeare’s plays and all of the tragedies.

When I select the word “justify” I am provided with a graph of the frequency of that word across te time span of Shakespeare’s writings:

I found it interesting that the year the word “justify” peaked was roughly around the time when Hamlet was written, and so I hit ‘continue’ in order to see the plays in which this word occurs and in which play in occurred most frequently.

The circulation period I was most interested in was between the year 1600-1610. Finding that time frame on the list, this is what I discovered:

The word ‘justify’ occurs more in Hamlet than it does in any other play in this time period.

It also appears more in Hamlet than it does in any other play, and all the plays on this list in all the time periods, were tragedies.

Going through the list, I found similar words of interest to tragedies (not just in Hamlet). For example, the word ‘rehearse’ appears only, or most frequently in this comparison, in tragedies.

Using words like this, I think it will be of interest to our group in analyzing Act V.


I believe that because Act V was classified by MONK as more tragic that the rest of the play, these words will be helpful in assessing why MONK has made this classification and it will provide a starting point for the other frequency analyzing tools in gathering further interesting analysis about Act V.

Sound of Mind

I have struggled an incredible amount with my personal direction and how I wished to attack act five of Hamlet given the “endless possibilities” I have previously mentioned in blog posts, that Voyeur offers. That being said, it is surprisingly difficult to come to any concrete resolution about the fifth act of Hamlet because of Shakespeare’s wide vernacular and thus hard to draw comparisons with my tool. What I’ve decided to focus on for this blog post, lest I go insane with “endless possibilities,” is the questionable ambiguity surrounding Ophelia’s so-called suicide. I would also like to lead into the relationship of Ophelia’s death to Hamlet’s and how Ophelia’s death laid the groundwork for Hamlet’s final speech.
The rhetoric surrounding Ophelia’s death is very passive. Heavy usage of words that give way to her surrender to death, such as “incapable of her own distress” and “creature native…unto that element,” (4.7.2) suggest a far more unintentional death rather than suicide. The proceeding line “heavy with their drink” allude to act five when heavy is used only once more in the rest of the play when addressing the duel between Laertes and Hamlet.

Although this hypothesis is highly subjective, the intentional use of “heavy” in conjunction to “drink” when a multiplicity of words could have been used, can be regarded as an element of foreshadowing as “drink” is mentioned 10 times so closely to “heavy” and envelopes the death of the cast. Shakespeare may have intentionally threaded these words together so the connotation when the words presented themselves again would provide the same feeling of inescapable fate when they are each “pull’d…to muddy death.” (4.7.2)

Although Laertes and Hamlet exchange forgiveness and understanding and meet one another’s demise by poison tipped sword, Claudius’ intention of getting Hamlet to drink the poison as a backup plan is evidence once more of the inescapable design of his demise for even if he survived the duel he would be forced to be swallowed up by the drink. So too, does Gertrude meet her demise by said poison-filled cup and Hamlet’s insistence for Claudius to drink. Although each of these deaths can be viewed as murder, it is due to the play’s progression that it may just as well be viewed as each a suicide because of each character’s inability to move passed their pursuit of revenge. As a result, the deaths of surrounding characters that have no desire to revenge are mere casualties in male driven inertia to a damned fate. Ophelia’s death, although similar in vernacular to Hamlet’s death scene, is unjust and unintentional due to her secondary status and distance from the play’s central theme.
However, Hamlet cannot just be viewed as strictly evil in his blind rage towards revenge of his father’s death. He too, in many ways, surrenders himself to death just as Ophelia does as both are complacent in light of potential knowledge of their fate. Hamlet knows he will die if he were to but look at the circumstance in which he falls, much like Ophelia when she “fell in the weeping brook.” It is evident, however, that their misery was more inescapable than their death and so death is sweet because of it’s “silence.” The connection here becomes clearer in the table below.

“The rest is silence” finishes Hamlet’s life. King Hamlet dies with poison dropped into his ear. Ophelia continues to sing while she is drowning right up until she reaches her death…
In the image presented above, one can see that the final point in which Ophelia is mentioned in the play is also at the precise point in which “silence” is mentioned in conjunction to her name as well as with “good,” but not with “bad” nor with “music” or “sound.” Although this may seem loosely connected, the few times “silence” is mentioned throughout the play (5 times) it is mentioned always within the larger circle of “good.” This could prove the importance of Hamlet’s final speech as his life (from the start of the play) is filled with the ghost and the overwhelming flow of Hamlet’s contemplation being constant “noise” in his mind. Although he claims his madness is feigned, his contemplative nature suggests his mind is never quiet especially in times of distress, which would play heavily on even the most sound of mind. When Hamlet says “the rest is silence,” (5.2.370) there is a peace that he seems to embrace – King Claudius is dead, the man who poisoned the ear’s of men in more ways than one. In connection with his significant last words, Ophelia’s death is harolded with her singing melodious tunes and is finally silenced by death. Her singing, especially at a point when she is drowning and singing is clearly inappropriate, is perhaps metaphorical of her innocence which is in essence who she is and what she represents to each character in their affiliation with her. In hanging on to singing right up until the bitter end, she is defined mad. much the same as Hamlet’s defining characteristic is easily his contemplative nature which in displaying throughout the play has played a key in revealing to others his madness. He too, is contemplative right up until his death: until silence. the silence of death after so many words used to describe the chaos of noise is perhaps what makes this a comedy in the end term because everyone ironically is put to peace with silence. “Silence” although a selectively used word, is the key in this play.

Hamlet: A Misunderstood Tragedy?

In the past few days, our group has talked a lot about the lack of traditional tragic elements in Hamlet.  Though there is a lot of death in this final scene, there are also elements of comedy in conversations with the gravediggers and Oseric, as well as an unexpected resolution between Laertes and Hamlet.  Additionally, Hamlet lacks the fundamental fatal mistake that many tragic heroes have.  (See here for further information about elements of tragedies.)  However, all of these are qualitative assumptions.  The major question is, how can the tools at our disposal help us to better understand the classification of Hamlet? Monk was the obvious choice to aid in this question, but as April suggests, Monk is equally confused about the “tragediness” of Hamlet, and none of us are 100% certain why this is.

I’m not sure exactly how to clarify the question, but I attempted to take a stab at it using my tool.  I started by choosing words from my previous List Word result that I thought were particularly indicative of a tragedy.  In this process, I came up with a list of 12 words: know, dead, grave, death, die, life, purpose, nature, cause, soul, blame and fault.  I then ran these words through the Concordance Tool to see what limited context TAPoR could supply.

Result of chosen words in the Concordance Tool for Hamlet.

I also ran these words with the fifth Act from Macbeth.  Everybody in the group agreed that this play displayed the most definite signs of a tragedy, so I used it as a control with which to compare my results with.

Result of chosen words in Concordance Tool for Macbeth.

The goal was to identify how these words are used differently or similarly in Hamlet and Macbeth (I apologize that the screenshots cannot show the entirety of my results),  though I am not sure that they are good representations.  I immediately concluded that that this job is perhaps best suited for Wordseer or Wordhoard, because then the context and speaker are identified with more ease.  However, there were a few surprising results.  For instance, I did not expect the words “cause” and “blame” to be common in both of these final acts.  Moreover, they seem to both be used in reference to the King (though it has been a long time since I read Macbeth so I can’t exactly be sure).  It made me think of the similarities between Macbeth and Claudius.  Even though Claudius is not the protagonist of the play, he resembles a tragic hero like Macbeth more than Hamlet does.  Both are spurred by ambition and die because of it.  So the question is, do elements of a tragedy need to belong solely to the protagonist?

Overall, my results at this point are not very conclusive.  I think in the coming days I will dabble a bit in the other tools while consulting with my peers,  Hopefully this will yield further evidence regarding the lack or abundance of tragedy in Hamlet.  I am particularly interested to discover how Hamlet’s word usage indicates him as the tragic hero and not just a victim of circumstance.  I’m not sure how to best approach this problem yet, but hopefully my peers will have some ideas.

Defining Hamlet as a Tragedy, or Lack of One: A Quantitative and Qualitative Endeavour(Phase Two, Blog Post Three)

*Note: Due to time constraints, this is my third blog post due for Monday, March.26, submitted early.

As the basis of my research, regarding the fifth act of Hamlet, I have fixated my efforts around one fundamental underlying question: What is the significance of act five of Hamlet, alone, and how does it define this iconic play as a tragedy? I explored this question in my previous blog posts, however, I will now, through this account, elaborate on how I have further employed my digital tool word seer to pursue a tangible answer to this question. As I continue to familiarize myself with the vast array of possibilities and enticing functions offered by the digital tool word seer, my confidence in digital humanities approaches formulating new conclusions and raising new observations regarding familiar texts is increasing
as well. For instance, now that I am able to segregate just the fifth act of Hamlet,  I am able to isolate it as its own distinct and significant entity, and thus, I am able to produce conclusions and hypotheses regarding the single act alone, as opposed to the entire text—a process not as easily accomplished with traditional text analysis and closed reading. Therefore, in my last post I explained my preliminary trials of inputting words from the fifth act of Hamlet into word seer and observing the returned usage frequency results on the heat map function—results I was highly surprised at—and will, in this post, explore how word seer and its comparative features may be implemented to suggest provocative details about the text, such as sudden escalations of the frequency of a given word at a given instance.

One of my primary considerations, regarding Hamlet, an assertion that I have implied in several of my blog posts, is that the play does not appear to confirm to the superficial niche that tragedies are often classified under, in terms of words used. In my last post, I discussed how words such as “death” “loyalty” and “fall” appear remarkably less frequently than I had initially anticipated, prior to conducting the search of act five in word seer. To exemplify, in terms of word frequencies, that the fifth act of Hamlet is relatively sparse in words that one might expect to pertain to a tragedy, I have included results from a test that I conducted using some of the words that I have previously inputted in a search of the entire play, as well as some new words such as “beast” and “wretch”. Upon viewing the results, one will quickly conclude that Hamlet is lacking in these words, leaving room for qualitative speculation as to why this might be.

The same search conducted, this time using the entire play, returns a greater frequency of the same words, yet, not to an overwhelming extent (the results are featured below). Additionally, in carrying out this test, I have satisfied the aim of my previous blog post, which was to apply word seer to compare the frequency of the same words between the fifth act of Hamlet, and the entire text.

Therefore, one is left to infer that in terms of language, Hamlet is variable from other Shakespearean tragedies. Seeing as to this quality, I am
armed with a more quantitatively geared set of evidence in my argument that the so called “revenge tragedy” isn’t much of a tragedy, after all. Of course, when I refer to the term “tragedy”, my evaluation adheres to Aristotle’s classic conception of the genre: I do acknowledge that I have largely concentrated on this definition of tragedy throughout the entire research process of this course, however, I believe that I am well justified in having done so, as Macbeth and Othello—tragically flawed heroes in possession of Hamlet’s lacking “cue for action”—pay dearly for their mistaken acts, acts of which, unless one considers Hamlet’s accidental slaying of Polonius, are largely missing from the play, and not only that, Hamlet is not the only character to pay the price in the end of play. I have highlighted these details so not as to embark on a subjective tangent about the play’s qualities, but rather, to uncover what details digital tools and word frequencies may aid in identifying. Therefore, in conducting the word frequency tests that I have(using word seer) I have searched for meaningful trends, such as repeatedly recurring words, that could potentially suggest the theme of the text, and thus, I could compare these supposed themes with my own standards of what defines a tragedy in order to assess how well Hamlet conforms to the profile of the genre.

However, despite all of these possibilities, I still have, as of yet, to uncover the significance of  act five, itself. Still, I have employed some new methods, using different features of word seer to establish whether Hamlet himself fits the profile of the tragic hero, especially in the final act of the play. In order to do this, I aimed to see how he was defined by other characters in act five, through inputting Hamlet described as “blank” in the related words feature of word seer, and received the results pictured below:

If I were to evaluate Hamlet’s overall level of compatibility with the conventional tragic hero( such as, for instance, Titus or Macbeth) I would certainly consider these results to deviate from the profile. I would have expected words more in accordance with “vengeful”, “wretched” or “rash”, or perhaps synonyms to these terms. Yet, Hamlet is referred to as “young”, which in itself, is not a sufficient tragic flaw. Therefore, on this very subjective, qualitative basis (as an interpretation of quantitative data) I will conclude that Hamlet is, at the very least, not a well-defined
tragic hero. How does this relate to my original posed question? In actuality, searches such as these have led me a somewhat different direction, however, I do find myself armed with an adequate conclusion to answer my underlying question, which has guided me through this phase of research. How is act five significant from the rest of the play, and how does it define the play as a tragedy? Using evidence from my closed reading I will advocate that the fundamental action and exhilaration of the play culminates into act five, serving to establish it as significant on its own, while I will argue that act five defines the play as a tragedy only through its outcome, and not its other plot elements, or word frequencies. Therefore, once again, I have found that my conclusion formulating process has largely compiled both quantitative and qualitative features, and both data and interpretation, using both my personal perspective regarding my experience with the text, and the numerical patterns achieved through my digital tool to render both generalizations and specific statements about the significance of act five of Hamlet as its own unit.


Hamlet: Tragic or Comical?

Is Hamlet truly a tragedy or can it be considered more of a comedy? We’ve noticed, as a group, that when we ask Monk to predict the classification of Hamlet in either Comedy or Tragedy it continually deems it comedic.

But why is this? To further investigate this we’ve decided to compare Hamlet to Macbeth, Titus Andronicus, Merchant of Venice and As You Like It.   Macbeth is a tragedy through and through, while Titus Andronicus was Shakespeare’s first tragedy making them two good candidates to be comparative texts. Comedy on the other hand, we chose As You Like It because it’s a classic comedy and very well known, the choice of Mechant of Venice provided us with a bridge between comedy and tragedy since it is commonly known as a tragic comedy…maybe Hamlet can be a tragic comedy too?

I’m not really a huge reader of Shakespeare so the only thing  that I knew that differentiate a tragedy from a comedy was that a tragedy ended in death, normally numerous deaths, while a comedy normally ended in marriage or marriages. I looked on Wikipedia….which I know it’s not the most reputable source but I just need a quick reference on the differences between the two. They describe a tragedy as linked to “Aristotle’s precept[ion] about tragedy: that the protagonist must be an admirable but flawed character, with the audience able to understand and sympathize with the character.” A comedy has a “happy ending, usually involving marriages between the unmarried characters, and a tone and style that is more light-hearted than Shakespeare’s other plays”. Worhoard isn’t capable of showing me a relationship or qualities in a person to help me un-code a tragedy, however I can look at key words, adjectives and the use of the negative to gain the tone of a comedy.

Knowing the limitations of my tool I turned back to my last analysis where I searched the lemmas of love and death, as well as the use of the negative. I used this method in the 4 additional plays, as well as Hamlet as a whole and just Act 5. I soon realized that the results I received could be misleading because I just got the number of results back and not a percentage. Since not all the plays are the same length if the word love appears 200 times in play X and play Y it will not be the same percentage or concentration. So I also had to get Wordhoard to calculate the total number of words in each play.

These are the results I got (organized on paper so it’s easy to understand and follow):

The results weren’t overly surprising; “love” had a higher appearance in comedies, while “death” had a higher concentration in tragedies. The negative seems to appear more often in comedies than tragedies and this may be a linguistic choice of Shakespeare, but I’m not sure.

My findings that as a whole play, Hamlet, as a whole, falls in the middle between tragedy and comedy when it comes to the lemma “love”, it’s right in-line with tragedy with the lemma “death”, but when you look at the negative it appears to be a comedy. Making it as a whole play a confusing mix of tragedy and comedy, a tragic comedy…

When you single out just Act 5 I can see that it lends itself more to tragedy in both lemmas categories and is in between the two categories when we look at the negative. Since tragedy appears twice, I can label Act 5 as a tragedy.

I think some help from my other group members about synonyms or other words that are comedic or tragic will help me utilize my tool further in uncovering this mystery. Maybe different scenes are more comedic and others are more tragic?



Word seer and the Final Act of Hamlet: Continuing to Narrow the Focus (Phase Two, Blog Post Two)

In continuing to research the text of Hamlet, while employing my tool of expertise, word seer, I have aimed to establish any potential discrepancies or factors that render the fifth act, my group’s act of study, as more “tragic” than the other acts of the play, or otherwise, the only
truly “tragic” act, alone. The focus of my previous post was to fixate on the distinction between my own interpretations, attained through critical closed reading text analysis, and those of word seer’s, while now it is my intent to narrow my scope even further, in concentrating my efforts towards what qualities—both  quantitative and qualitative—define the fifth act of Hamlet as significant as a single entity. In other words, my exploration of the text, both through traditional reading and digital assessment, will be geared towards uncovering clues or evidence to suggest how act five both differs from, and unifies the rest of the play, at the same time. Therefore, I will focus less on the digital tools and how they operate, and more so on the results they return, and how they may be implemented to suggest new conclusions and avenues for research.

My first objective was to segregate act five from the rest of the play, using word seer, and upon further learning how to do this, I will thus evaluate (using the functions of word seer) the comparison between act five, and the rest of the play. This will be my preliminary assessment, and I anticipate that I will have a sufficient indication of what words in act five will outweigh others used throughout the text, which could serve to exemplify certain trends worthy of further investigation, such as increased frequencies in one word that could potentially suggest the development of a motif that pertains to either the plot, theme, conflict, or tone of the text—all valuable quantitative fixtures with the
potential to support or discredit qualitative hypotheses. However, while I am still in the process of determining how to compare the whole play to act five alone, out of respect for the deadline of this post, I concentrated my efforts more towards seeing what I would be able to uncover from a word frequency analysis of the fifth act, alone. Therefore, my first order of business was to expand upon what I began in my last post, which was inputting the words, “soul”, “duty”, “life”, and “death”—words that I feel pertain to a revenge tragedy. last time, however, I was unable to isolate just the fifth act of Hamlet, and therefore was only able to observe how these words were concentrated throughout the entire play; now I am
able to determine their significance within my sphere of study—a large leap forward, in my estimation. The results of my search are featured below.

To my surprise, these words occurred in a relatively sparse concentration, thus, prompting me to consider alternatives in characterizing the theme of the text. I am pleased to comment, as a side note, that now that I am able to work with the fifth act, alone, I am more comfortable, and may be more efficiently discriminative in my research. Therefore, in response to my unexpected results, I felt obligated to try the same assessment once more, this time using the words “die”, “fall”, “revenge”, and “damned”, all words that may also be implemented to characterize both the theme and mood of Hamlet(this procedure is featured below).

Again, much to my surprise, these new inputted words demonstrated similar effects to the first set of words I worked with, although, to an even greater degree. What was most striking is the fact that the word “revenge” is only featured once throughout the entire final act of the play, which leads me to further infer that often the words most frequently associated with a text may not be the most appropriate or commonly recurring. Such changes in word frequencies, as my group colleague Stephanie explored in her blog post—in which she discovered that Hamlet’s motivation for revenge appears to wane towards the end of the text(as he refers to his father less and less)—may be used to raise new qualitative questions such as, “what is really is the number one thing on Hamlet’s mind as he nears his final confrontation with his uncle Claudius?” Stephanie’s work may be observed here:

Therefore, what I was able to obtain from these two assessments was a reaffirmation of my previous theory that, when considering text analysis, digital methods must be examined through a critical scope, while still serving as effective in shattering perhaps invalid preconceptions, such as how I initially believed that words such as the ones that I inputted were infallible in characterizing the themes of the text, whereas, I now recognize that I can employ word seer in a trial and error process of inputting new words that I think of in order to determine which ones could be implemented more effectively in describing the text as a whole, and more specifically, act five. Therefore, I will continue along with this inductive process, in aspiration of uncovering a new, insightful conclusion about both which words best define the fifth act, and what defines
the fifth act as a significant unit on its own, from a perspective of word frequency and usage. Essentially, I feel that the discovery of how to isolate
the act in word seer will greatly facilitate my research process, and I am quite pleased with it, to date, and will therefore continue to explore its
benefits as well as my new findings in my next blog post. In other words, I have narrowed the scope in this account more so than my previous post, and I attend to narrow it even further in using word seer, now that I am becoming more familiar with its functions.

A Start on Act 5

Out of all the acts in Hamlet, Act 5 is my favorite.  There is a great philosophical/humorous conversation with some gravediggers to start off the act.  Then, after Hamlet has his famous nostalgic conversation with a skull, there is a dramatic fight between Hamlet and Laertes in the grave of Hamlet’s supposed lover.  But the excitement doesn’t stop there! After an epic sword fight and a bit of poison, the entirety of the royal family ends up dead!!  I think my new button sums up the whole Act nicely.

"Fortinbras should arrive at any moment to turn this mayhem around."

Yet, as it always is with research, the most difficult part in analyzing this Act is figuring out where to start.  The group and I decided to begin by analyzing the Act individually with our respective tools.  The hope is that we will each discover some areas of interest worth collaborating on.

As the TAPoR expert in this group, I know one of the advantages I have is the ability to isolate certain speakers and areas of the play.  Keeping this advantage in mind, I began my analysis by using the List Words tool, as it always offers a good starting point.

List Words results for Act 5

The results of Act 5 did not offer much that I didn’t already know.  Obviously death is a major theme throughout this Act and the King, Hamlet, Laertes and Horatio all major characters associated with it.  The frequency of the word “know” was a bit surprising for me, but further examination with the Concordance tool informed me that it is used within the conversation of Osric, Hamlet and Horatio.  In this case, Hamlet and Horatio are repeating Oseric’s questions as a means to make fun of him.  However, I did notice that this List Words results were a lot different from my results in Act 3.4, where the focus is specifically on Hamlet, Gertrude, and her past relationships. This thought led me to inquire after Hamlet’s change in character throughout the play.  Wanting to explore this inquiry further, I decided to isolate just Hamlet’s lines and again use the List Words tool.  I also did the same with Hamlet’s lines in Act 1 to give myself a comparison point.

Results on Hamlet's lines in Act 5 (right) and his lines in Act 1 (left).

In these results, I was surprised particularly by the comparative frequencies of the word “father.”  In Act 1 it is mentioned 9 times by Hamlet, but in Act 5 in is only mentioned by him once.  I thought this result was interesting because Hamlet’s main motive throughout this act is to avenge his father, but he hardly mentions him in the moments leading up to, and immediately following Claudius’ death.  It seems as though Hamlet Sr. is no longer the main focus of Hamlet’s attentions towards the end of this play.  I do not think his desire for revenge has abated, but when I thought about Hamlet’s motives deeper, I realized that Hamlet kills his Uncle only after the death of Ophelia and his mother.  Perhaps it is this grief combined with Laertes’ confession that finally gives Hamlet the motive to kill Claudius.  This conclusion would then certainly indicate a change in Hamlet’s motive from the beginning to the end of the play.

As I work further with my group, I’m looking forward to seeing how we can expand on each other’s findings.  I believe the most difficult task will be narrowing all our findings into one conclusion, as there is a lot of information at our disposal and a large variety of tools.  It shall be an interesting process.


In the Context of Things: How One Act May Be a Limited View

The third act of Shakespeare’s Hamlet is full of action, energy and great writing. It has strong character dilemmas, some death, powerful speeches and a play within a play. To most people with some interest and experience with Shakespeare’s works, this would seem like an excellent act and play to work with, but is it really enough to base writing on?

Until this point we’ve all been working with larger documents and even more diverse works, with work collections as big as the entirety of Shakespeare’s known works. I most often used the entire work of Hamlet as the basis of my searches on Wordseer, and with that I often got thorough and useful results, but when I started sizing down to searches focusing only on one act, even the incredibly diverse and action filled act that I and my group get to focus on, I’ve been getting less results than I care to admit and far fewer results than I would like.

One possibility is that this will be fixed when I can start to look at the collective tools working together where whatever small results that one tool can find will begin to raise questions for other tools to answer, and I think that this will happen, but even this approach limits the possibilities because no matter how effective a method you have for deriving information from data and no matter how intensely one scrutinizes their data, the results someone can attain are corrupt if their data is corrupt.

I say this because I think that looking at only one act might possibly corrupt the data that we recieve from doing so. For the uncaring this next part might be a bit technical so I’ll use point form to make it more clear.

  • A digital humanities tool is a survey tool that takes polls from texts to see if such and such a word fits under a certain description.

    • Imagine a text as a nation that we want to ask a question to, and all the words in that text as voting or polled individuals.

    • Every time I enter a search into Wordseer, I ask the individual words of the word population of the text nation “Hamlet” whether they apply to such and such a query. For example I would be asking them “do you describe the word “Ophelia”?” and, if they do, they show up in the results of the poll.

  • A survey tool has less accuracy with a smaller polled group.

    • So, if I don’t poll the entire nation of Hamlet, but rather, I ask the constituency “Act 3” or “Scene 1 of Act 5” I’ll get a less accurate result.
    • Within this constituency there are those that abdicate voting (a specific word is not used in that scene/act, but several synonyms appear in its stead) and those that are running for mayor are going to influence their friends and family into voting for them ( an artistic use of repetition over powers the results ) as well as many, many other small things that if the polling group were bigger would be less aparent and would skew the results less.
  • These same quirks and others like them occur all over the place in texts that make small changes which affect the interpretation of that text more as the text becomes smaller, and no one can anticipate or identify ally of those problems.

However, in the writing of this post, I have found that there are positives to polling a smaller sample size or to analyzing with a smaller text. For one, it clearly and effectively shows an opinion or result specific to that group or text, although that is clear in itself. For another, it clearly outlines the smaller, more specific quirks that I mentioned before, allowing for a clearer interpretation of literary methods.

MONK: Hilarious Hamlet

In the first stages of phase 2 of our group projects, I find I am more intrigued by MONK that I had been initially in phase 1, to say in earnest (but not unfounded) honesty. As promoted by the blog posts of the MONK group and throughout our presentation, MONK, as a text mining tool that focuses on statistical analysis and word frequencies, appears to be more cooperative in answering questions about a broader range of data. Though Act V is not as broad as MONK seems to wish it could be, I have found that I am indeed learning new information about Hamlet, Act V than I had known before.

My initial purpose in embarking on my analyzing journey was to discover what was unique about Act V, that I could not deduce from reading, but could learn from using the analytics of MONK.

In my blog posts from phase 1, I was left pondering the question of, “why does MONK, in comparison to all other tragedies, continuously notify me that it is only half confident that Hamlet is a tragedy?” With this question in mind, I endeavoured to determine if perhaps Act V participated in this strange inconsistency.

To begin, I defined my workset to contain As You Like it, The Rape of Lucrece, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Much Ado About Nothing, and Act V.

Then, selecting my classification toolset and the newly created workset, I began to rate the the training and test sets. As can be seen in the image below, I rated As you Like it, and Much Ado About Nothing as the comedy training sets, and The Rape of Lucrece and Julius Caesar as the tragedy training sets. I left Hamlet and Act V with blank ratings, thus making them my test sets.

This is what I was returned with:


From this image it is easy to have the attention redirected to the fact that according to these queries, Julius Caesar is not a tragedy.

However, MONK’s lack of confidence in Julius Caesar being classified as a tragedy notwithstanding, where the attention must be drawn (as it took me a while to do so), is toward the fact that in a statistical analysis of the plays that are present, MONK has classified both Hamlet and Act V as comedies.

Feeling uneasy about my results, I went back to the user ratings, and removed those anomalies that MONK was picking up, and forced MONK to recognize Hamlet as a tragedy by rating it so.

These were the results I was returned with:

Both analyses were conducted on the basis of nouns.

In classifying Hamlet as a tragedy, and leaving Act V as the test set, MONK returned me with it’s classification that, with a 0% probability of error and 100% confidence, Hamlet is not a tragedy.

However, MONK does believe, that Act V is a tragedy.

The words I was most interested by in the data it used in determining its confidence in the ratings, however, was words like ‘blood.’

The first number displayed, 26.1241, represents the average frequency that the word appeared every 10000 features in the test set, Act V. The second number is the average frequency that the word occurred every 10000 features in the training sets.

From words such as ‘blood,’ MONK has determined that, based on average frequency, act V can be classified as a tragedy.


It was interesting for me to find that based on word frequencies and statistical analysis of noun features, in comparison to other works of Shakespeare, Act V can be classified as a tragedy and Hamlet cannot. Though it would be a worthwhile endeavour to attempt to figure out why MONK refuses to agree that Hamlet is definitely a tragedy, I find (it being my responsibility as a member of the Act V group for phase 2), I am led to research the cause of Act V being classified as more of a tragedy than Hamlet itself.

Because, to me, the subject matter and the words Shakespeare uses in telling the tale of Hamlet’s tragic story, it is difficult for me to understand its classification as anything but a tragedy. Therefore,  I have reached another understanding of MONK that I did not previously have in attempting to analyze 3.4. I wanted, so desperately, for MONK to see and understand Hamlet 3.4 the way I read it. I wanted to force it to read the words on the page in the order that they are in, and take the sentence for what it means.

However, it is this reading that we do as sensible, and feeling people, that leads to an analysis that is incomplete without tools such as MONK, and it is that reading that completes the pure numerical data, which is literally meaningless to any symbolic possibilities that exist in literature.

I digress.


MONK being a tool that uses pure data (and not emotion) in providing a classification, has yet to reveal to me the statistical reasoning for Act V being more tragic than Hamlet as a whole. Although my point here is not that MONK is unable to show me, it is that I have yet to fully understand the reasons it has provided me.

Reading the subject matter, it is rather simple for me to determine why Act V is tragic. The entire cast being wiped out is indeed, quite tragic. However, from reading that same subject matter in Hamlet, I cannot comprehend the reason why the play ISN’T tragic. From the interpretation of Hamlet losing his father, to have his mother marry his uncle, to find out that his uncle-father murdered his mother, and much more, is devastatingly tragic! My point here then, is that my reading and comprehension is not, and cannot always be correct. I would assume, as a university student living in Canada where all people have equal rights, that Othello is a tragedy. However, the audience that Shakespeare wrote for, not knowing a thing about racial equality would consider Othello a comedy.

The evidence of these are in the words, and in the probabilities that MONK discovers. It will classify Othello as a comedy on the basis of words, and in that same way it will classify Hamlet as a ‘half-tragedy.’

It is my hope that we, as the group analyzing Act V, can determine (undeterred by emotional bias) the true nature of Act V in relation to Hamlet by collaborating the various data we get from our digital tools.

I will from here, endeavour to determine why MONK tells me that Act V is so significantly more tragic than the entire text of Hamlet.




Phase 2 and still no light on the capabilities of WordHoard

So begins a new adventure in phase 2, trying to uncover a deeper meaning to Hamlet. I’m very interested to see how well the blending of tools will aid the understanding of the play and in specific if my tool will actually become useful.

To begin the process my group decided to each do our own general search of Act 5 so we have starting off points for an analysis. Playing around with WordHoard is always fun….ha! Not quite sure what to start looking for I played around with lemmas and decided that death and love are more than appropriate for this act as there is a funeral and well, everyone dies thanks to Shakespeare’s classic tragedies. Surprisingly ‘death’ is only seen eight times in both scenes and ‘love’ is seen ten times. One thing that was annoying when searching for the ‘love’ lemma was that I had to do two individual searches; once for it as a noun, and once for it as a verb. Nothing surprising came up when I searched these lemmas though, so that was a dead end for deeper exploration from my aspect

So I turned my searches towards looking at negatives and adjectives. I already knew the anger, sadness, and death that occurred so the fact that there were fifty-nine instances of the word not (or the negative) in the act was not surprising. What it did cause me to notice was that this program calls the gravediggers, clowns. Weird I know, they are given the description of clowns in the character list in our hardcopies but their role is of gravediggers. It would be interesting to see what play source this program pulled the text from because I’ve never read an edition with clowns in it. Anyways, Hamlet leads the way with his use of the negative by saying it 35 times, which just reiterates my analysis of him from act 3.4.

Adjectives on the other hand surprised me. Knowing that the act was a darker one I figured it would be hard to find good or positive adjectives but it was the contrary. The beginning was filled with positive adjectives and it was hard to find negative ones. In the middle there was a constant wave of positive and negative adjectives used amongst the characters. Finally at the end my initial thoughts were confirmed and the negative adjectives poured out during the final battle.

The last thing I looked into was the amount the speakers spoke in the act. Hamlet spoke 44% of the words, while the gravediggers (or clowns according to WordHoard) spoke an astounding 17% of the act. The other nine players spoke the remaining 39% of the act but none of them spoke more than 8% of those remaining words. I hope that makes sense and isn’t overly confusing….

Anyways, I still had the same annoying problems with WordHoard, having endless windows open, having to tediously build my searches because I’m not special enough to have an account. Hopefully my group members can help me find a use for my tool because my initial findings aren’t very helpful or deep.

(only half of the windows I had opened, scary)

Death, Death, Death- Or is that it? (Phase Two, Blog Post One)

Throughout the course of this post, it is my intention to explore the relationship between my interpretations of the text of Hamlet acquired
through traditional text analysis and my closed reading of the text, and the interpretations drawn from employing my tool of expertise, word seer, to critically analyzing certain fragments, in this case, a single act of the play. I will then highlight how these two approaches compare to one another, and pose further questions as to how this comparison may be capitalized upon in order to generate new conclusions or insightful observations.  I would first like to express that I have always been sceptical of classifying Hamlet as a conventional tragedy, as the protagonist Hamlet deviates from the characteristic traits of the tragic hero, and commits no apparent “mistaken act”, and the majority of action does not culminate until the bloodbath of act five, coincidentally, the act I have been assigned to study. Therefore, my interpretation of this act can largely be characterized by the observation that it alone defines this iconic play as the tragedy it has come to be widely recognized as. Without summarizing the plot of the text, it is evident that the catastrophe and other defining aspects of Aristotle’s conceptions of the genre
of tragedy are reserved almost exclusively for act five, as Hamlet and a series of characters surrounding him, including the villainous king Claudius who he seeks to exact a vendetta upon, face their untimely demise. So what does this mean to my interpretation? Death, death, death. Futility, futility, futility. Basically, I believe that the bard is trying to express to us a message that revenge only manifests as death, and highlights the futility of life the struggle associated with it. My interpretation is one among many, however, of course. Even as superficial a source as Wikipedia recognizes a multitude of proposed and perceived contexts and themes that the text carries.

Now, this interpretation is just fine, on a superficial, redundant, basis. However, when we seek to uncover new insights and avenues for exploration that have rarely been embarked on, it is also effective to employ tools such as word seer to aid in identifying new trends.

So, how would I gauge word seer’s interpretation of act five of Hamlet, and, in turn, compare it with my own? In considering the advantages of word seer that my group outlined during phase one of our team assignments, I felt obliged to plug in some words, pertaining to act five in particular, that I felt could be conducive to word seer’s processing. Simple enough, right? However, this was not the case; incidentally, I was unable to segregate the fifth act of Hamlet alone(a task I will fixate on more as my research progresses), therefore, I felt it fitting to exhaust the next best alternative, in examining the entire text again using word seer, in order to apply it more broadly to my interpretations of act five, alone. I must comment, of course, that this may be an instance in which another tool, such as voyeur and its image qualities, could well supplement word seer’s shortcomings. Regardless, I decided to employ words that I feel characterize the themes of Hamlet, and proceeded to observe the concentration of them throughout the text, paying particular attention to the words that more frequently occur towards the end of the text, that being, act five. In this case, I searched “death”(as a fundamental), “life”, “duty”, and “soul”, in order to observe whether or not they appeared heavily towards the text. (These results are pictured below). However, what I was surprised to find was that these words, which all carry emphasis within the “revenge” tragedy, were dispersed throughout the entire text, and did not exceptionally exceed their counterparts near the end of the play.

What exactly did I make of this? Ironically, this interpretation provided by word seer, identifying that none of these words completely define the text in frequency, contrasts to my own closed reading and textual analysis interpretations in demonstrating that words themselves do not necessarily develop into a coherent indicator of theme. Therefore, I am intrigued towards studying speech patterns and speaker frequencies in order to expand my perspective regarding interpreting Hamlet, a process which, I will conclude, could be better achieved by other tools.

Before giving up on my previously advocated frequent words constituting theme theory, I intend, one last time, to compare “death” and “honour” with the other texts in the Shakespeare corpus, in order to see if the frequency exceeds the other texts, perhaps suggesting that Hamlet is founded more on characters, speeches, and themes that favour these words. For now, however, I will reiterate the relationship, and comparison, between my interpretations of Hamlet, and those suggested by my findings in word seer.

It would be an exaggeration to suggest that the two interpretations I worked with were at dueling odds with one another. While word seer’s findings didn’t exactly support my interpretations, (the results would have verified my interpretations were they to contain a higher concentration of the inputted words near the end of the play) they certainly aided me in recognizing that interpretations and perspectives should not be taken at face value, in that, words that are suspected to occur frequently do not constitute the theme of text. Therefore, while my interpretations are geared more towards my closed reading, the word seer interpretations helped me to be aware of leaning towards
one theory or conclusion without considering varying alternatives, and this is the ultimate underlying relationship between what I found and suspected, and what word seer supplemented it with.  In my next post, I will further explore this relationship, in using more detailed
approaches with more specific functions of word seer, and perhaps even other tools that my new group members specialize in, in narrowing down my search more successfully to act five alone. However, this being said, no one is a complete expert, and one of the fundamental values in research is to adapt and learn as one progresses, and that is what I intend to do.