<Previous Page

The Shakespeare Art Museum   Home Page

Next Page>  

Catalog of the Shakespeare Art Collection  --  Oil Paintings on Shakespearean Themes

# 89 "HAMLET"
Description of Painting - Oil on canvas 24" x 30"
by Hannah Tompkins


shakespeare, shakespeare’s plays, william shakespeare, shakespearean, shakespeare in art, hamlet, analysis of shakespeare’s writing, oil painting of hamlet, art on shakespeare, hannah tompkins, artist hannah tompkins, shakespeare art collection, profiles of shakespearean characters, shakespeare in paintings, ophelia, prince of denmark, tradedy, shakespeare art museum


Creative minds like Hamlet's are naturally inclined by curiosity to explore the mysteries of life, art and philosophy. His youthful dedication to life and fulfillment of love and friendship were prematurely aborted by his untimely death.

What 'might have been' is left to speculation, for even at its best, a princely status is a lonely one. Thus he is portrayed in the painting, a solitary figure in his princely world.

Loving life, he probably endorsed the precept "Thou shalt not kill".. but suddenly the ghost of his father appears; a pirate and war-maker in life, and even as a spirit comes in "war-like form" with "martial stalk" and charges his son to KILL, for vengeance, to indemnify his murder by a lustful brother. Hamlet is urged to murder to requite murder Even the ghost admits:
"Murder most foul, as in the best it is."
This murder, however, concerns an issue that Hamlet did not create nor was responsible for. It is another example of sons conscripted to absolve the father's sins. By his own confession the ghost relates that he was by an "incestuous and adulterate brother" poisoned; "cut off even in the blossom of my sin, with all my imperfections on my head" and be-mo "the foul crimes done in my days of nature". He tells Hamlet
"If thou hast nature in thee,
Bear it not... So art thou to revenge".
And Hamlet responds:
"O, all you host of heaven! O, earth, what else?
And shall I couple hell?"
Heaven, earth and hell converge in a convulsive collision. The prince is commanded to divert his nobleness to bloody barbarism, so unnatural to him, he is painted with a bloodless, unnatural complexion. He has become a round peg in a square hole, as indicated by the ground he stand on. His left hand in a gesture of solicitation as he appeals to the ghostly reflection in the glass.

The image in the mirror replies by committing a sword in the hand of his son. This 'authority' image wears the Fool's tunic and executioner's gauntlet and holds a dying rose bud in one hand and the death weapon in the other.

In this contest of forces Hamlet must make a choice; to pursue his own fulfillment or gratify paternal demands. He says:
"Tis dangerous when the base nature comes
Between the fell and incensed points
of mighty opposites."
Decisions and choices: "To be or not to be..that is the question". These choices are shown as stairways going in different directions, as well as the confusion of doors and corridors.

The stone stair-well to the lower left leads down to the pits, the cellar of the soul.. hell, Hamlet's choice.
Heaven is seen through the skylight above, but the sun is obliterated by a heavy cross-beam. Hamlet stands in-between, a divided man.

But once compelled to violence there is no turning back, there is no guiding light. The lantern upper right is but a fading flicker, like Hamlet's goodness, it will soon be extinguished and he will be thrust into a spiritual darkness.

Through a small window on the ghost's right, the dark night sky is illuminated by three stars; a triad of Hope, Faith and Love, but for Hamlet the aperture is too small for escape, and the larger window is also barred.

Hamlet is trapped.. and as Ophelia observes:
"O, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown".
One of the definitions of Tragedy is "the irrevocable sadness on the death or destruction of something that should have been better but never realized its potential".

The Prince of Denmark fits that description. It was a bitter and devastating fall that in its descent dragged down eight lives. It was a futile price to pay to "That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat."

Hamlet was deceived; ambushed by delusion. His legacy was vengeance and death, bestowed by a father who:
"With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts,
O wicked wit and gifts that have the power
So to seduce,"

Copyright © 1990 Hannah Tompkins. All rights reserved.


   <Previous Page

The Shakespeare Art Museum   Home Page

Next Page>