Hamlet's Ear

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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 4875

Philippa Berry, King's College, Cambridge

An alienation from the hypocrisy of a courtly style or decorum in language afflicts Hamlet from his first appearance in the play. The courtly airs or 'songs', the 'words of so sweet breath', the 'music vows', with which he wooed Ophelia are no longer part of his idiom, although he will briefly redeploy them to disguise his true state of mind. In Act 1 scene 2, we meet a Hamlet whose abrupt retreat from social intercourse is not only signalled by his mourning dress, but is also articulated through an intensely satiric relationship to language. This scathing view of the world is articulated in all of Hamlet's language, in his soliloquies and monologues as well as in his dialogues with others; it finds its most effective form of expression, however, in his use of wordplay. Indeed, before the final tragic catastrophe Hamlet's role as malcontent and revenger succeeds not so much by action as by his disordering, through punning, of social constructions of identity. The centrality of the pun to the view of earthly mutability and death which Hamlet gradually elaborates in the course of the play is aptly illustrated by the fact that he puns not only on his own death ('The rest is silence'), but also as he finally accomplishes his task of revenge and kills Claudius, asking 'Is thy union here?' as he forces him to drink the wine that Claudius has poisoned with a pearl or 'union'. Yet the chief interest of Hamlet's quibbling lies not in his semantic puns, which play upon words with two or more meanings, like 'rest' or 'union', but in his richly suggestive use of homophonic resemblances between words, in order to expand their significance. Through these linguistic acts of expansion, Hamlet comments upon particular elements of the tragic narrative, augmenting their apparent meaning by interweaving ostensibly disparate themes and motifs into a complex unity.

In contrast to the use of wordplay as the supreme instance of a dialogic courtly wit which celebrates the shared values of an aristocratic group, it is through an ironic use of iteration, and of the pun in particular, that Hamlet's echoic or quibbling discourse is able to enunciate, albeit obliquely, those hidden meanings which are concealed within the polite language of the Danish court. Hamlet condemns and rejects that courtly playing upon him as a phallic pipe or recorder of which he accuses Rosencrantz and Guildenstern:

You would play upon me, you would seem to know my stops, you would pluck out the heart of my mystery, you would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass; and there is much music, excellent voice in this little organ, yet cannot you make it speak. 'Sblood, do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe? Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, you cannot play upon me.


In contrast to this courtly attempt to play upon or 'sound' him, Hamlet's resonant unsettling of courtly language follows a different tune. For his quibbles remind us constantly of Hamlet's familial displacement, as a son and heir whose place in a masculine genealogy of kings is no longer certain. In these puns, as well as in the tropes which are applied to him by others, we find a curious refiguring of Denmark's 'heir'—a word which, significantly, is only evoked through homophony in this play—in relationship to 'th'incorporal air' (3.4.109).

In his magisterial study of Shakespeare 's Pronunciation, where he aimed to recover many Elizabethan homonyms which are no longer pronounced alike,...

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Helge Kökeritz concluded that hair-heir-here-hare were four words often pronounced similarly in early modern English; in particular, he noted the likely pun on air-heir inHamlet, together with related puns on hair-heir and heir-here from other Shakespearian plays.1 Through a common interlingual pun, whereby mollis aer (Lat.: soft air) was equated with mulier, the Latin for woman, the attributes of air were frequently associated with the female sex in the English Renaissance. But although Shakespeare could apply this pun quite conventionally, to female dramatic protagonists such as Imogen and Cleopatra, he also used it to trope the beloved youth of the Sonnets; while Imogen is compared to 'tender air' (5.5.234, 5.6.447-53) and Cleopatra, in her dying, is 'as soft as air' (5.2.306), the beautiful youth who is initially exhorted by the poet to 'bear' his father's memory through procreation is also a 'tender heir' (Sonnets, 1, 4). Similarly, Hamlet's airy and echoic utterances emphasize his failure to conform to traditional forms of masculine identity and sexuality; in particular, he rejects the implicit association which runs through the play, between kingship and 'earing' as copulation. Yet the association of his 'air' imagery with a nexus of images related to hearing as well as to fertility serves to remind us that a significantly different use of the ear is central to Hamlet's punning activity, which often appears to imply vocal play on 'ear' as well as 'air' in relation to an unspoken 'heir'. Although Kökeritz did not mention 'ear' in his hair-heir-here-hear combination, elsewhere he noted homonymic play on ear-here, while he also observed that John Lyly puns on ear-hair in Midas (4.1.174f.).2 Hamlet's quibbling language substitutes an echoic or airy form of auditory attention for sexual or procreative modes of (h)earing. The motions of air as wind were often associated by the ancients with a ghostly and uncannily repetitive auditor, the nymph Echo; Abraham Fraunce declared that Echo 'is nothing els, but the reverberation and reduplication of the ayre. Eccho noteth bragging and vaunting, which being contemned and despised, turneth to a bare voyce, a winde, a blast, a thing of nothing',3 while in Ben Jonson's Cynthia's Revels, first performed in 1600, the same year as Hamlet, Mercury asks Echo to:

Salute me with thy repercussive voice, That I may know what caverne of the earth Contains thy airy spirit, how or where I may direct my speech, that thou mayst hear.4

There are certainly puns in Hamlet's soliloquies, yet punning requires a social context in order to be fully effective; it is therefore an apt instrument of the satirist. It is also one of the ways in which a rhetorical emphasis upon the singular fate of the tragic protagonist, as articulated through soliloquy or monologue, can be juxtaposed with a dialogic form of self-undoing, in a comic discourse which is less focussed on the subjective T, and more on the exposure of an illusory social mask. At the same time, as Gregory Ulmer has observed, the pun can often function as a 'puncept', in its formation of new concepts which may hint at another order of knowledge.5

Through multiple entendre, unobserved or hidden relationships can be demonstrated, as various homophones reverberate echoically throughout a text. It is above all through his relentless quibbling that Hamlet meditates upon the sexuality of—and within—families. Yet the oblique meanings of his word-play also extend beyond this immediate sphere of familiarity. For Hamlet reintroduces nature, the body and death into the sphere of courtly discourse, reimaging courtly society in terms of an 'overgrowth' within nature, and thereby reassimilating culture into nature. Thus, in a trope used several times in the play, 'rank' as the foul smell and abundant growth of weeds is substituted for social rank: 'things rank and gross in nature / Possess it merely' (1.2.136-7). Similarly, Claudius' kingship is troped as a sexual excess which is also a 'moor' or wilderness, as well as a disturbing racial difference (3.4.66). And in spite of his several misogynistic diatribes, which attribute this degenerative trend in nature to the female body and female sexuality in particular, through his quibbling language Hamlet also tropes himself as having an obscure figurative association with these processes of decay.

In his encounter with his father's ghost, Hamlet is informed of Claudius' twofold poisoning of the ear of Denmark. Claudius has killed Old Hamlet with 'juice of cursèd hebenon', poured 'in the porches of mine ears' (1.5.62-3); furthermore, he has deceived the court as to the nature of the king's death: 'the whole ear of Denmark / Is by a forgèd process of my death / Rankly abused' (1.5.36-8). But Hamlet, the other ear—and other heir—of Denmark, has already begun to hear Claudius' courtly discourse otherwise—or satirically. He is now fully undeceived by his exchange with the airy spirit. In the ghost's imagery of ears there is an implicit quibble upon 'earing' as copulation, since it is through his incestuous marriage, as well as his murderous attack on the royal ear, that Claudius has interrupted the patrilineal transmission of royal power. The usurper's assumed sexual appetite parallels what Hamlet sees as the disorderly disseminating power of nature—with the result that, in Hamlet's eyes, the state of Denmark 'grows to seed', while Claudius is a 'mildewed ear' of corn (3.4.63). It seems, therefore, that the usurper is a chief tare or weed (in Latin, this could sometimes be aera as well as the more common lolium) in what Hamlet now defines as the 'unweeded garden' of the world; and of course, like Lucianus in The Murder of Gonzago, Claudius has literally used 'midnight weeds' to poison or 'blast' (like a strong wind blighting a crop) both Old Hamlet's life and Young Hamlet's inheritance. But while his uncle, as a 'mildewed ear', is associated by Hamlet with the paradox of a degenerative fertility within nature, Hamlet's own wit performs a more oblique and airy form of generation as well as (h)earing. This is inspired not so much by a commitment to the monarchy as the political (h)earing of the state as by a more feminine and aesthetically responsive form of hearing: one which is appropriate to the narration or the performance of tragedy, and which also interprets human suffering as inextricably interwoven with a tragedy within nature.

In Greek tragedy, the role of listener was an important function of the chorus, as the primary auditors and spectators of the tragic events. It is this echoic and choric mode of hearing which is implicitly required by the ghost of Old Hamlet when he describes his murder to his son; like the mythological figure of Echo, Young Hamlet is left to repeat the ghost's final words: 'Now to my word: / It is "Adieu, adieu, remember me'" (1.5.111-12). But this acutely responsive and implicitly feminine mode of hearing is also comparable to that enacted by Dido when she asks Aeneas to tell her of the fall of Troy, for it is Dido's place which Hamlet effectively occupies when in Act 2 he asks the player to give an impromptu performance of Aeneas' tale. And the more feminine faculty of hearing which motivates Hamlet's interest in the drama also appears to involve responsiveness to the mysterious resonance of nature within language; in the last act, he will trope the more discerning members of society as 'the most fanned and winnowed opinions' (5.2.153): in a figure that is probably derived from the winnowing of the soul by wind in the Aeneid (6.740), they are like ears of corn which have been separated out from the chaff by the activity of the wind. Similarly, through his ironic quibbling, Hamlet uses his different style of hearing to effect an airy and echoic reordering of the world around him, in a discursive equivalent to winnowing whose spiritual implications are apparent from the traditional affinity of air and wind with spirit as well as breath (from the Latin spiritus). A chief result of this reclassification through punning is a reinterpretation of those distorted relations between kin which are integral to the tragedy.

The theme of a kinship which is both rather less than affectionate and also excessive or incestuous is wittily introduced by Hamlet's first paronomasic play on 'kin' and 'kind'. Adnominatio or paronomasia (or 'prosonomasia', as it was sometimes called in the Renaissance) depends on a slight change, lengthening or transposition of the letters in a word; Henry Peacham defines the trope as 'a certayne declyninge into a contrarye, by a lykelyhoode of letters, eyther added, chaunged, or taken awaye', while George Puttenham describes it as 'a figure by which ye play with a couple of words or names much resembling, and because the one seemes to answere th'other by manner of illusion, and doth, as it were, nick him, I call him the Nicknamer chaunged, or taken awaye'.6

In response to Claudius' greeting, 'But now, my cousin Hamlet, and my son—', Hamlet murmurs his aside: 'A little more than kin, and less than kind' (1.2.64-5). The quibble aptly suggests the difficulty of finding suitable words to represent Claudius' outrageous transgression of the conventional boundaries of kinship, which is also, Hamlet implies, a subversion of courtly conventions of gentilité or kindness. However, Hamlet's subsequent homophonic quibble on 'son', is made to his uncle's face, inspired by Claudius' own indirect pun on son-sun in his query about Hamlet's mourning garb. To Claudius' question: 'How is it that the clouds still hang on you?', Hamlet replies 'Not so, my lord, I am too much i'th' sun' (1.2.66-7). This ironically suggests that whereas another homophone of kin and kind—king—does describe Claudius' situation, through the traditional association of king with sun it is also related to Hamlet's own position, as a son (and heir). The pun spells out more clearly the still unspoken pun on kin and king, allying an excess of kinship (since Hamlet is not Claudius' son, and Claudius has married his brother's wife) with an image of kingship (the sun) that is itself excessive, apparently because its brightness is incompatible with those conventions of mourning dress which (in contrast to Hamlet) the Danish court has signally failed to observe. But beneath its apparent compliment to the king as sun, the quibble also alludes to a potentially unhealthy surplus of sons or heirs; we are reminded that in spite of his mourning attire, as a king's son, Hamlet too has a homophonic affinity with the sun, and that, like Claudius, he too may have an unexpected generative potential.

The peculiar difference of Hamlet's disseminating activity is made clear in his retorts to Gertrude. Her description of dying as 'common' is allied by Hamlet's ironic iteration with the 'common' or vulgar usage of 'to die', evoking thereby the commonness of another, sexual, dying; similarly, her question, 'Why seems it so particular with thee?' (1.2.75) is converted by Hamlet into a barbed criticism of the King and Queen's courtly semblance of mourning: 'Seems, madam? Nay, it is, I know not "seems"' (1.2.76). This ironic differing of 'seems', which additionally hints at the links between courtly seeming and the spilling of generative seed (from the Latin: semen), also anticipates the 'enseamèd bed' that Hamlet will later accuse the Queen of copulating in with Claudius. The rejection by Hamlet of sexual activity is also implied in his subsequent reference to a near-synonym for 'seems', when he tells Gertrude that 'I have that within which passeth show' (1.2.85); later, in his quibbling exchange with Ophelia during the play scene, the sexual meaning of 'show' will be stressed. None the less, it is Hamlet's mocking echoes of courtly language which turn the meaning of 'common' or ordinary words back towards the body and sexuality. He will warn Polonius, in a remark which appears to imply his own erotic intentions towards Ophelia: 'Let her not walk i'th' sun. Conception is a blessing, but not as your daughter may conceive. Friend, look to't' (2.2.186-7). Here the use of a semantic pun, or antanaclasis, in which the same word (conception) has two different meanings, clarifies the difference of Hamlet's fertilizing powers from those of his uncle; the nephew's sun-like powers seed a legacy or inheritance which operates above all at the level of signs (from the Greek, semeion), in the realm of words and ideas. And while he assists conception, as understanding, in women in particular—for the 'conceits' which are attributed to both Gertrude and Ophelia (3.4.104, 4.5.44) are directly or indirectly inspired by Hamlet—this son also 'conceives' much himself. For him, morbid meditations, or 'conceits' concerning natural and human corruption, are themselves part of a (re)generative process. But if, through his quibble on 'conception', the gendered identity of the heir is effectively called into question, what kind of heir is he?

As The Murder of Gonzago is about to be performed, Claudius greets Hamlet with 'How fares our cousin Hamlet?' (3.2.89). Hamlet replies with a triple quibble. Redefining 'fares' in terms of sustenance, he simultaneously converts 'fare' to 'air' by paronomasia, and he also quibbles thereby on the unspoken 'heir': 'Excellent, i'faith, of the chameleon's dish. I eat the air, promise-crammed. You cannot feed capons so' (3.2.90-1). Although the word 'heir' is only evoked through homophony in the play, this quibble makes explicit the obscure but important connection which runs through the play, between the dispossessed 'heir' of Denmark and 'air'; at the same time, it presents us with the trope of the displaced heir as a 'chameleon' or shape-shifter who is not, he warns Claudius, as stupid as a castrated cock or 'capon': a bird which allows itself to be overfed for the table. Instead, it seems, Hamlet is mysteriously feeding on himself (as heir/air), in a way which is not only consistent with the mutable identity of the chameleon (a creature which was nourished by air), but which also hints at his affinity with the mysterious singularity of the double-gendered phoenix. And the substance which Hamlet figuratively feeds on is paradoxically full as well as empty, although as 'promisecrammed', its fecundity is associated only with words. Thus while the empty flattery of Claudius to his 'son' is ironically dismissed by Hamlet, his quibble suggests none the less that the airy substance of speech does afford him a curious kind of nourishment, where none might be expected.

This metamorphosis of the heir of Denmark through and in relation to air begins, of course, on the battlements of Elsinore, where, as Hamlet and his companions wait for the ghost to appear, he declares: 'The air bites shrewdly, it is very cold'. To this Horatio replies: 'It is a nipping and an eager air' (1.4.1-2). His words aptly convey the change that has already begun to affect Hamlet, in his assumption of a satiric demeanour, expressed through a mordant or biting wit which is 'eager', or sour. In its later echo by the ghost's reference to the curdling of his blood by Claudius' poison, 'like eager droppings into milk' (1.5.69), this reference to the eager air, ear or heir attributes to Hamlet a property of bitterness which parallels the corrupting effects of Claudius' fratricide. But these images in Act 1 also give a new, autoerotic dimension to Hamlet's satiric temper. For as he develops a new, biting relationship to the air, as well as to the courtly language (or promises) which fill it, he is also consuming his identity as heir.

In feeding upon himself (as well as others) through his mordant quibbling, Hamlet plays the part of Narcissus as well as Echo. Like the addressee of Shakespeare's Sonnets, he can be accused of self-love, or of 'having traffic with thyself alone' (Sonnets, 4.9). But in also assuming the implicitly feminine role of the 'tender heir' (as mollis aer or mulier) who will bear the father's memory (Sonnets, 1.4), Hamlet is able to redefine both his father's and his own inheritance verbally or vocally, through his airy conceits. In this respect, his own legacy or inheritance will be twofold: while his 'story' is bequeathed directly to Horatio, who by telling it will preserve his name, it is Fortinbras who will be the ultimate recipient both of that story and of Hamlet's 'dying voice'—which chooses him, perforce, as the future king of Denmark. Significantly, neither man is even a member of Hamlet's kin-group, much less his child. Hamlet thereby refigures inheritance in terms of a phoenix-like succession to other men (and most importantly, to two rather than to one), as a succession which circumvents the generative obligations of patriliny. And this formation of a different bonding 'between men'—a bonding across rather than within families—is effected by the historical reverberations of Hamlet's echoing voice.

When Polonius refers to Hamlet's replies as 'pregnant', he attributes a feminine or fecund character to his quibbling; similarly, the tropes and puns used by Claudius of Hamlet's melancholy or madness figure it as concealing an airy fecundity which is apparently feminine. The prince is twice imaged as a female bird on her nest in late spring or early summer: 'There's something in his soul / O'er which his melancholy sits on brood' (3.1.167-8);

This is mere madness, And thus a while the fit will work on him. Anon, as patient as the female dove When that her golden couplets are disclosed, His silence will sit drooping


But a more grotesque, and implicitly masculine, version of this differing of gendered models of generation is later proposed by Hamlet himself when, in his remark to Polonius about the dangers of Ophelia walking T the sun', he defines the sun as a breeder of worms or maggots which eat the flesh, and so accelerate the decay of dead matter: 'For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a good kissing carrion—' (2.2.182-3). Yet in the myth of the phoenix as reported by Pliny (an account which was often cited in the Renaissance), a worm or maggot plays a central part in the bird's solitary work of regeneration through self-consumption: Pliny tells us that 'from its bones and marrow is born first a sort of maggot, and this grows into a chicken'.7

In his reflexive relationship to air, therefore, Hamlet has a superficial resemblance to Narcissus as well as Echo. However, several of the images I have mentioned were connected in Renaissance iconography with Hermes or Mercury, a classical deity whose identity was especially marked by paradox and doubleness. This god, whose emblematic creature was a cock, herald of the dawn, and who was frequently depicted with a pipe as well as his more familiar caduceus, combined his role as a divine messenger and god of eloquence with attributes of trickery, secrecy and concealment; according to Richard Linche in The Fountaine of Ancient Fiction: 'Mercurie was often taken for that light of knowledge, & spirit of understanding, which guides men to the true conceavement of darke and enigmaticall sentences'.8 And Mercury's identification by Macrobius with 'that power [of the sun] from which comes speech' hints at another, solar, aspect of his classical identity, whereby he was associated with the return of fertility to the earth in springtime.9 The affinity between Mercury and obscure yet meaningful utterances makes it hardly surprising that in Cynthia 's Revels it is Mercury who temporarily restores the speech of Echo, inviting her to 'strike music from the spheres, / And with thy golden raptures swell our ears' (1.2.63-4). It was this play, in fact, which was the first production of the 'little eyases', or young hawks, whose 'eyrie' was the Blackfriars playhouse: the Children of the Chapel.

Yet Charles Dempsey has recently pointed out, in his reinterpretation of Botticelli's Primavera, that it was Mercury as a wind-god (for example, in the Aeneid, 4, 223ff.), able to calm harsh winds and storms, and to disperse clouds, who was most explicitly regarded as a god of spring, or Mercurius Ver.

Botticelli shows Mercury dispersing and softening clouds with his upraised caduceus in the Primavera, a representation of him that unequivocally identifies him as acting in his archaic persona as a springtime wind god. By this action he ends the season that began with the warming west blowing its regenerative breath over the bare earth, shown as Zephyr and Chloris, and that reaches its fullness in April, the month presided over by Venus.10

In the Primavera, clusters of seeds swirl about the god's winged sandals, but no act of copulation is associated with this generative process. Instead, Mercury's fertilizing role is implied to supplement rather than complement that of Venus as a goddess of nature. Indeed, although the mythographers are understandably silent on the subject, their curious debates about whether or not Mercury has a beard, together with the emphasis on his youthfulness (in other words, his difference from adult masculinity), created a distinct aura of ambiguity around his sexual identity, as Joseph A. Porter has shown.11

The Primavera suggests that Mercury enjoys a different and more harmonious relationship with the feminine generative principle within nature from that attributed to figures of masculine generation. In alchemical texts, Mercury likewise emblematized the mysterious changes wrought within nature or matter by a principle of ambiguous gender, sometimes called Mercurius duplex; in this literature, 'our Mercury' was analogous to the spiritus which was the secret transforming substance within matter, and was variously described as 'divine rain', 'May dew', 'dew of heaven', 'our honey'. Such was its ambivalent character, however, that alchemical Mercury was also identified with that part of matter which, phoenix-like, fed upon itself in order to produce transmutation.12

Similarly, Hamlet's puns may indeed articulate a covert but coherent level of meaning, in a Renaissance alchemization of language. While his mercurial messages function to disrupt the fixity of social identities—along with the embassies or utterances of aberrant father figures—they hint too at the existence of a different order, hidden within the visible one. Douglas Brooks-Davies has pointed out that the imagery of Mercury was often appropriated by royalist panegyrics during the Renaissance;13 yet in Mercury's oblique association with Hamlet, what appears to be figured is the enigmatic difference of a son and heir who is identified with 'th'incorporal air' and its movements, and hence with a grotesque form of verbal as well as vernal regeneration—through worms of maggots. In French, worms are vers; this not only links spring—le ver—with the worm, but could also suggest an additional pun in Hamlet's discourse of worms: on the putrefying activity of vers as verse. This serves to remind us that in spite of a nominal affinity, Hamlet never occupies the solid place of the earthly father; instead he is distinguished by a mutability of identity which implicates him in the more sexually ambiguous spheres of nature and spirit, and identifies him especially with the mobility of air or wind. It is note-worthy in this connection that it is the mercurial bird, the cock (whose castrated equivalent—the capon—Hamlet mentions in his ironic remark to Claudius about eating the air), which by its crowing dispels the apparition of the paternal ghost in the first scene of the play, thereby eliciting allusions to the cock's connection with that other son/sun figure, Christ, with whom the Mercurius of the alchemists was indeed often equated (1.1.119-46).

Hamlet's satirical rejection of the generative activity—or 'earing'—which would make a son a father has often been dismissed as misogyny; by this move, however, he confirms his separation from that genealogy of fathers upon which a hereditary (in contrast to an elective) model of kingship depends. And curiously, this is a dislocation which Claudius' assumption of the throne has already initiated. Yet through his mercurial and quibbling language 'of darke and enigmaticall sentences' Hamlet accords the final inheritance of all costly or aristocratic breeding to nature, and 'my lady Worm': 'Here's fine revolution, an we had the trick to see't' (5.1.88-9).


1 Helgë Kökeritz, Shakespeare's Pronunciation (New Haven, 1953), pp. 90-1, 111. Kökeritz observes that air-heir are punned on by Lyly in Mother Bombie, 2.2.24-6 and 5.3.13, and are given as homonyms in Charles Butler, English Grammar (1634) and R. Hodges, A Special Help to Orthographie (1643). He emphasizes that 'no homonymic pun has been admitted here which has not stood the combined test of phonology and context' (pp. 64-5). See also Margreta de Grazia and Peter Stallybrass, 'The materiality of the Shakespearian text', Shakespeare Quarterly, 44 (Fall 1993), 3, pp. 255-83, where the wordplay in Macbeth on air-hair-heir is discussed.

2 Kökeritz, Shakespeare's Pronunciation, p. 111. See also Stephen Booth's comment on 'hearsay' in Sonnet 21, line 13, in his edition of Shakespeare's Sonnets (New Haven, 1978).

3 Abraham Fraunce, The Third Part of the Countesse of Pembrokes Yvychurch: entituled, 'Amintas Dale ' (London, 1592), p. 15r.

4 Ben Jonson, 'Cynthia 's Revels ', in The Complete Plays of Ben Jonson, ed. G. A. Wilkes, vol. 11 (Oxford, 1981), 1.1.104-7.

5 Gregory Ulmer, 'The Puncept in Grammatology', in On Puns: The Foundation of Letters, ed. Jonathan Culler (Oxford, 1988), pp. 164-90.

6 Henry Peacham, The Garden of Eloquence (London, 1577), sig. Kiir; George Puttenham, The Arte of English Poesie, eds. G. D. Wilcox and Alice Walker (Cambridge, 1936), pp. 168-9.

7 Pliny, Natural History, trans. H. Rackham (London, 1938), vol. 3, x, ii, p. 294.

8 Richard Linche, The Fountaine of Ancient Fiction (London, 1599), Rir-Riv.

9 Macrobius, The Saturnalia, trans. Percival Vaughan Davies (New York, 1969), pp. 114-15.

10 Charles Dempsey, The Portrayal of Love: Botticelli's 'Primavera' and Humanist Culture at the Time of Lorenzo the Magnificent (Princeton, 1992), p. 40.

11 See Joseph A. Porter, Shakespeare's Mercutio: his History and Drama (Chapel Hill, 1988), pp. 32-53.

12 Charles Nicholl, The Chemical Theatre (London, 1980), p. 46.

13 Douglas Brooks-Davies, The Mercurian Monarch: magical politics from Spenser to Pope (Manchester, 1983), passim.

Source: "Hamlet's Ear," in Shakespeare Survey: An Annual Survey of Shakespeare Studies and Production, Vol. 50, 1997, pp. 57-64.


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