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-- Philip Weller, November 13, 1941 - February 1, 2021
Dr. Weller, an Eastern Washington University professor of English and Shakespearean scholar for more than 50 years.

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Bradley, A. C. Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth.
2nd ed. London: Macmillan, 1905.
PAGE 403
NOTES ON HAMLET

late' include, or even wholly refer to,1 a time prior to the death of Hamlet's father? And this question would be answered universally, I suppose, in the negative, on the ground that Hamlet was not at Court but at Wittenberg when his father died. I will deal with this idea in a separate note, and will only add here that, though it is quite possible that Shakespeare never imagined any of these matters clearly, and so produced these unimportant difficulties, we ought not to assume this without examination.

 

NOTE B.

WHERE WAS HAMLET AT THE TIME OF HIS FATHER'S DEATH?

The answer will at once be given: 'At the University of Wittenberg. For the king says to him (I. ii. 112):

                       For your intent
In going back to school in Wittenberg,
It is most retrograde to our desire.
The Queen also prays him not to go to Wittenberg: and he consents to remain.'

     Now I quite agree that the obvious interpretation of this passage is that universally accepted, that Hamlet, like Horatio, was at Wittenberg when his father died; and I do not say that it is wrong. But it involves difficulties, and ought not to be regarded as certain.

     (1) One of these difficulties has long been recognized. Hamlet, according to the evidence of Act V, scene i, is thirty years of age; and that is a very late age for a university student. One solution is found (by those who admit that Hamlet was thirty) in a passage in Nash's Pierce Penniless: 'For fashion sake some [Danes] will put their children to schoole, but they set them not to it till they are fourteene years old, so that you shall see a great boy with a beard learne his

   1This is intrinsically not probable, and is the more improbable because in Q1 Hamlet's letter to Ophelia (which must have been written before the action of the play begins) is signed 'Thine ever the most unhappy Prince Hamlet.' 'Unhappy' might be meant to describe an unsuccessful lover, but it probably shows that the letter was written after his father's death.

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