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The «objective correlative» of anthropological transformations (on the example of

«Hamlet» written by W. Shakespeare).

The concept of «objective correlative» was introduced by T.S. Eliot in 1919. A


work of fiction in the light of this concept beginning with its structure and ending
with its phonetic, semantic and syntactic levels is, as we see it, the correlative of
ontological dynamics. Taking into account the fact that anthropological
transformations are synonymous with ontological transformations, one might argue
that these transformations are always reflected in the works of art. The deformation
of the Renaissance humanism has the effect of the deformation of the wholeness of
the individual. Particularly, this deformation reflects in the narrative dynamics of
the tragedy as an «objective correlative», which undergoes modifications in the
dialectical interactions between two experiences: the experience of the reality filled
with phantoms and ghosts and the narrative identifications of this experience.

In the Act I of the Scene I in Hamlet Bernardo states a question: “What is Horatio,
there?” To which Horatio replies: “A piece of him”. Answering that way,
Shakespeare, on behalf of Horatio, divines inevitable crises of the Renaissance
ideas which refer to the anthropological paradigm of thinking. Hamlet being
divided into “parts” becomes a witness of the demoralization and corruption of the
“whole state” of Denmark.

The problem of an individual, who is no longer able to conceive the outside world
in its entirety, becomes one of the main points to be discussed in the postmodern
era. This matter was considered by Jean Buadrillard, Gilles Deleuze, Jacque-
Marie-Emile Lacan, Roland Barthes, Paul-Michel Foucault, Julia Kristeva and
others. William Shakespeare raises the question placing the main characters of the
play as the example of fragmented subjects.

As it has already been said, Horatio becomes the one who adjudges the
fragmented selves. In the play Horatio appears as an allusion to Horace, the poet
from ancient Rome. It is said by Jakob Sider Yost that “a piece of him” is a direct
quotation from one of Horace’s most famous odes: “I shall not wholly die, and a
large part of me will elude the Goddess of Death”. Horace is a poet, whose “telos”
is to be responsible for the entirety of human existence. Julia Lupton claims that “if
Hamlet is the object and mirror of our imaginary fascination, Horatio directs the
symbolic dimension of our subjective capture within the scenes before us.

The crises of the European culture also can be noted in the name of Claudius, the
king who killed Hamlet’s father and married his mother. The etymology of name
“Claudius” goes from the word “cleave” or “clave” which means “to separate”.
John Hunt in his new work «A thing of nothing: catastrophic body in Hamlet»
argues: «It has, I believe, never been observed that the images of body parts in
Hamlet add up to a virtual anatomical catalogue (or “blazon”) of a human form». It
is hard to disagree that in the tragedy certain parts of the body are mentioned
incessantly: eyes, ears, heads, hearts, faces, tongues, lips, cheeks, teeth, jaws, heel,
knees, feet, toes and etc. Everything seems to be methodically deconstructing a
human’s body. Deconstruction of the Renaissance body leads to the deconstruction
of Hamlet’s mind.

In the Act I of the Scene I Marcellus asks: «What has this thing appear’d again to-
night?». The king’s ghost is named by the characters as a “thing”. In the Act IV of
the Scene II Hamlet being delusional says: «The body is with the king, but the king
is not with the body. The king is a thing». The king-betrayer is called as “a thing”.
Well, there is a question, what is the “thing”, the false kings are named by. John
Hunt claims that «the body personal and politic is a provisional structure, both a
form that sustains human being and a shadow through which nonbeing beckons».
The author states that a king possess the body not only physical, but also the body
politic, or spiritual. Two king’s bodies are considered to be two different natures.
According to the theological concept of the XII century, the power and the
authority of the King is the power and the authority from God. The king receives
power and authority only through the mercy of God. The real king is the king who
is possible not only to establish laws, but also to be the condition for the existence
of the Law. Denmark, which was ruled by the real king, was named as “the whole
state”. According to J. Hunt, «The Earth now seems “sterile” to Hamlet, the
firmament a morbid exhalation of infections “vapours”, and godlike man a handful
of dust waiting to return to its disorganized state». Hamlet observes the situation of
the deorganisation of the “whole state” and the appearance of the false kings, who
are warning about the coming catastrophe.

Ontological collapse, which was caused by the results of Hamlets actions, leads to
the deconstruction and madness of world’s soul, which represented by Ophelia.
Having no opportunity of being heard, she is able only to reflect the voices of
others. This can be seen in double or multiple voices, broken syntax, repetitive or
cumulative rather than linear structure, open endings. She is aware in her
incapability of self-expression and the last thing she has to do is to live to the will
of others. That is why she answers to Laertes: ««So please you… my lord… I
don’t know, my lord, what I should think… I shall obey, my lord» (1.3). Ophelia's
language is an index to her enforced silence and circumscribed self. David
Leverenz says: «Here are many voices in Ophelia's madness speaking through her,
all making sense, and none of them her own. She becomes the mirror for a
madness-inducing world. Through her impossible attempt to obey contradictory
voices, Ophelia mirrors in her madness the tensions that Hamlet perceives— Her
history is another instance of how someone can be driven mad by having her inner
feelings misrepresented, not responded to, or acknowledged only through
chastisement and repression». Also, the voice of madness is indeed louder than her
earlier rhetoric, yet it fails to break through or change the constraints. Hamlet’s
madness is mirrored in Ophelia. She cries: «O, woe is me, /To have seen what I
have seen, see what I see!» (3.1.). And this is the moment where, by the reflection
of David Leverenze, «not allowed to love an unable to be false, Ophelia breaks».

Being contaminated with madness, Ophelia’s narrative becomes more fragmented:


«I think nothing, my lord… What is, my lord?... You are merry, my lord… What
means this, my lord?... Will I tell us what this show meant?... You are naught, you
are naught… ‘Tis brief, my lord… You are as good as chorus, my lord…You are
keen, my lord, you are keen…» (3.2.). Ophelia’s attempt of self-identification ends
tragically. “Other” voices through the “passive narrative” of the female character
are trying to break through the Ophelia’s madness. The issue points out that the
“voices” are intended to deconstruct the reality of the Renaissance with its
“rhetorical canon”.

The last chance to be heard and be identificated Ophelia sees in the symbolical
meanings of flowers, which she gives to the characters of the play. She also gathers
flowers for herself: «There with fantastic garlands did she come/ Of crow-flowers,
nettles, daisies, and long purples/ That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,/ But
our cold maids do dead men's fingers call them…» (4.7.). All flowers have the
symbolical meaning of death and funerals. Ophelia dies, being executed by
Hamlet. Eventually, her narrative represents the destruction of the world soul,
which leads to the ghost invasion of the ontological reality. At the end of the
tragedy Horace’s diagnosis confirms: «Now cracks a noble heart». Hamlet’s heart
breaks. He is no longer able not only to preserve the external being, but also to
change the situation, where «The time is out of joint».

This work shows how the anthropological transformations can be reflected in the
works of art through the “objective correlative” of the tragedy written by William
Shakespeare. The main purpose is to invite readers to address the problem of
human’s deconstruction and demoralization.