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.

Seeing Eye to Eye

After a bumpy road of fiddling, frustrations, and findings – I believe I have broken through the surface of being worthy of the title “Voyant,” or perhaps as the french may call it: “voyeuse.”   Cheap jokes aside, I feel I have molded my mind enough around  Voyeur to be able to call it my specialized field above others.  Although I initially lacked this confident resolve in my previous post, continued meetings with a constructive team has seen me through to viewing Voyeur and Hamlet with a fresh set of eyes.
The tool enables a broad look at word connectivity within the text. Visual tools like “knots,” “word trends” (as examined in “Getting Off on a Bad Foot”) and “lava” provide a variety of mediums through which to display evidence in a specific fashion or equally varied to appeal to a broader user base. For each and ever self-contained “side tool” there is the option to either play or to read further into it so previous knowledge of any tool is completely unnecessary.   Our group met with more than a little confusion when attempting to analyze the mystery surrounding  knot interpretation.  After both playing with it individually and within group meetings we have come to a semi-understanding of the somewhat erratic knotting patterns.  Without the Hermeneuti information page, we would not have had any clue where to start in comprehending the tangling mess.  Any  way you choose to slice it, Voyeur is undoubtedly user friendly and that is potentially the key to what sets this apart from both its predecessor TAPor and as well from all other digital analysis aids.

As far as analyzing 3.4 has gone, the only obstacle I have encountered has been my own stubborn preference.  As a group, we have come up with several ways in which to tackle interpretation using our tool.  No matter which hypothesis we might have selected, we would have an ample amount of evidence supporting it due to our new understanding of Voyeur.
Some examples have been*:

  • Is Hamlet truly feigning madness or is it deeper than he fully understands?
  • Sexual tensions and the relationship between Gertrude and Hamlet – strictly familial?
  • What is the purpose of Polonius in this scene and why did his death come about in such an under-exaggerated manner?
  • Analysis of the presence of the ghost and the only tender picture painted for Hamlet and his dysfunctional family.

*Stay tuned to find out where we went with our brilliance…Coming to you, this Monday at 9AM (MT)!
On my own, I have played around with both aspects of scene versus entire corpus analysis and I far prefer examining the entire play and other plays/literary works in conjunction with  Hamlet. Although Voyeur has proven more than useful and enlightening to examine a specific scene and its advantages are obvious – my specific tastes lead me to seek wider horizons.  Perhaps my eyes are bigger than my stomach, however phase one has but whet my appetite for the main course next phase.
On another note, one of phase 1’s project requirements realized with the highest has been having been part  of such a reliable and hard working group.  There has been plenty I, and each one of us for that  matter, have put forward individually.  However, it would have taken a considerably longer time if we had not all pushed forward in united effort.  For every discovery that I have personally made using Voyeur, such as seeking out connections of good and evil and their escalating value within the play, I have had at least one peer add their discoveries to my own creating more concrete conclusions rather than theories. Past academic experience has proven a particular rarity in being placed in a group of such high work ethic and dependability.  Our communication is solid both inside and out of meetings and peer brainstorming is equally distributed and all opinions examined with respect.  Aside from newly acquired expertise, I would certainly  bring the copacetic nature that this group has exhibited forward into phase two.

Using the List Words Tool to Begin Anlyzing Act 3.4

TAPoR has a wide variety of tools that perform various functions, though not all of them are helpful in analyzing Act 3.4.  As a result, our group decided to each pick one tool in TAPoR that we found particularly interesting or useful, and use it to examine Act 3.4.  The tool that I choose is List Words.  It does exactly as the name implies, it takes all the words in a document and lists them according to frequency.  I thought that this would be a useful way to examine the speeches of Gertrude and Hamlet separately before comparing them.

In Jennifer\’s blog post last week, she made note that WordHoard is a hypothesis-testing machine due to the specific way in which it functions.  For opposite reasons, the List Words tool in TAPoR is a hypothesis-generating tool. It is a good place to begin on an examination of the act because it takes into account the entirety of the document and displays results in a linear, easy to read format.  However, you are not able to identify the context of the words.  To do that you would have to then input specific words in to the “Collocates tool.”

One of the strengths of the list words tool is that it easily eliminates words like “it,” “as,” “a,” which are referred to as “Glasgow” stop words, making the results a lot more manageable to look at.

Tool Broker Window for List Words

A weakness is that it does not eliminate speaker indications and stage directions.  To ensure that those words did not turn up in my results I had to manually create a special document that included only the lines of speech.  I did this my simply copy and pasting results of the XML extractor in a word document, manually deleting the parts I didn’t want, and then saving the document in a plain text format. This process worked successfully and gave me the following results when used with the tool:\

Gertrude's lines on the left, Hamlet's lines on the right.

From these results I started to make conclusions in regards to the relationship between Hamlet and Gertrude.  The first thing I noticed was that Gertrude references Hamlet by using “thou,” “thy” and “Hamlet” a total of 17 times, as opposed to “you” which is used only 8 times.  (I got the results for “you” by changing the search parameters on the “Words limited to” space to “All words” because “you” is one of the Glasgow stop words omitted by my first search).  On the other hand, Hamlet addresses his mother using “you” a total of 37 times and “mother” 7 times.  These results suggest that Gertrude is a lot more formal towards her son, while Hamlet is a lot more familiar.  As such, Hamlets continuous addresses of “good mother” and “you” are used as a sign of disrespect, displaying his shame at her recent marriage to Claudius.

Another thing I noticed was the use of verbs by the two characters.  For instance, the verbs that Gertrude uses multiple times include “speak” and “come,” while Hamlet uses verbs like “make” and “look” the most.  I believe that this quantitative examination of word usage is indicative of the characters motives in the scene.  While Gertrude’s motive is to convince Hamlet to disclose the reason for his strange behavior, Hamlet’s intention is to make Gertrude feel guilty by forcing her to reflect on her actions over the past few months.

Overall, List Words is a fairly useful tool.  It has shown me the difference of tone and motive in the two characters, but to gain further understanding of the scene I would have to use List Words in conjunction with the other tools that TAPoR offers.