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Catalog of the Shakespeare Art Collection  --  Multi-Color Graphics on Shakespearean Themes

"HAMLET"
Description of Wood-cut 3 colors 10" x 14"
by Hannah Tompkins

 

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The colors like the theme are gloomy and ominous. As an earth color, green can infer life: it is also the element in which the dead are buried .
Hamlet's visage is grim. He clutches a sword with three impaled bodies. The idea of murder was alien to his disposition. He was impelled to it by his father's ghost as the title quote implies:
"So art thou to revenge".
To which the Prince replies, after being roused:
"Now could I drink hot blood".
King Hamlet, upper left, is shown as the King of Spades, whose divinatory meanings are significant in Tarot card symbolism. His lower torso, draped in a shroud ties into Hamlet's fatal sword grip.

Swords= Spades in card suits, representing leaders and warriors as well as force and authority in good or evil references: sometimes it denotes misfortune and disaster. "If this card appears upside down in a Tarot reading the meaning warns of a dangerous wicked person who causes unnecessary disturbance and sadness and who pursues a matter to ruin".
( from S.R. Kaplan: Tarot Classics)

The card also predicts impending disaster, violence, corruption, moral disorder, slander, malice, treachery and desertions.

These interpretations sum up the elements of the play and describe King Hamlet, despite the adjectives of virtue, like "fair", "noble" and "goodly king", that his son has ideally bestowed on him.
The ghost himself confesses:
"Cut off even in the blossom of my sin
But sent to my account
With all my imperfections on my head."
He appears "in fair and war-like form" armed for battle and blood, and after urging Hamlet to fury and revenge he fades out with:
"My hour is almost come
When I to sulpherous and tormenting flames Must render up myself,
Doomed to walk the night
And for the day confined to fast in fires."
This is hardly a catalog of the celestial kingdom of heaven! Yet Hamlet compares him to Hyperion, Jove, Wars and Mercury. (Shakespeare's typical choices of subtle counterpoint: saying one thing, inferring another,)

Hyperion: Greek Titan, and father to Apollo, the Sun god:(= King & Prince Hamlet)
Jove:.... Roman=  to Greek Jupiter: god of Thunder & Lightening.
Mars:.... Roman=  to Greek Ares, god of War.
Mercury.. Roman=  to Greek Hermes, whose one of several designations was as the god of Cheats and thieves.

By his son's admission, King Hamlet may have been all of these. in the end he triumphs in fulfilling the prophecy of the ancient Tarot diviners: the evidence of ruin on Prince Hamlet's blade.


Copyright © 1990 Hannah Tompkins. All rights reserved.

 

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