POLONIUS
THE
DIVINE
PIG
IN
HAMLET



 In
the
original
story,
Amleth

(Hamlet)
discovers
a
spy
hiding

in
a
pile
of
straw,
and
 thrusts
a
sword
into
the
straw
and
through
the
man’s
body.
He
afterwards
drags
out
the
 body,
kills
the
man
and
cuts
his
body
into
small
pieces.
Amleth
boils
these
in
water
and
 throws
them
in
the
pig
sty
to
be
devoured
by
pigs.


He
then
is
sent
to
England
where
he
 refuses
to
eat
the
pork
because
he
says
that
the
meat
tastes
of
corpses.
The
King’s
 steward
then
confesses
that
the
pigs
had
escaped
and
eaten
the
corpse
of
a
dead
 robber.
 
 In
the
play,
Polonius
is
spying
on
Hamlet
(and
on
others),
and
has
concealed
himself
in
 Gertrude’s
chamber.

This
is
where
Gertrude
and
Claudius
have
sex
and
is
described
as
 follows:
 In
the
rank
corruption
of
an
enseamed
bed
 Stewed
in
corruption
honeying
and
making
love
 Over
the
nasty
sty
(3,4,92‐4)
 

 Hamlet
then
spots
a
movement
behind
the
arras,
stabs
his
sword
through
the
curtain
to
 kill
Polonius.
Afterwards
he
says
he
will
“lug
the
guts
into
the
neighboring
room”
 (3,4,214)
and
later
oddly
goes
to
“draw
apart”
or
cut
up

(4,1,24)
the
corpse.
 
 The
question
is
why
does
the
author
give
Hamlet
this
strange
phrase
of
lugging
his
 “guts”,
why
strangely
is
the
bedroom
over
a
“sty”
and
why
instead
of
the
straw
is
 Polonius
concealed
behind
the
arras?
And
for
that
matter
what,
if
anything,
does
this
 have
to
do
with
his
name
Polonius?

Elizabeth
Watson
in
a
useful
article

‘Old
King,
New
 King,
Eclipsed
Son
and
Abandoned
Altars
in
Hamlet’
(2004)
notes
that
the
word
arras,
 for
a
kind
of
textile
made
in
that
town
and
used
for
wall
hangings,
can
be
seen
as
a
pun


www.darkladyplayers.com


on
ara
the
Latin
word
for
altar,
especially
since
it
is
often
expressed
with
a
preposition
 ad
aras
meaning
to
the
altar.
She
further
notes

(on
page
489)
that
ara
was
sometimes
 used
as
a
pun
on
the
Latin
hara
meaning
pigsty.
It
was
for
instance
used
in
this
way
in
 Babio,
a
medieval
comedy
in
Latin
verse.

 
 So
the
reasons
why
the
author
introduces
the
arras
are
complex.
Firstly
it
creates
the
 association
of
a
sacred
death
on
an
altar
and
associates
that
with
a
stabbing
through
a
 curtain.
This
sacred
association
makes
sense
if
the
author
is
parodying
Titus
Caesar
 stabbing
through
the
curtain
of
the
Temple
and
thinking
he
has
killed
the
Hebrew
God
 as
described
in
the
Talmud.

It
also
makes
sense
of
Polonius’
allegorical
identity
as
God
 the
Father

(which
can
be
inferred
separately
since
he
is
the
father
both
of
Laertes
who
 is
clearly
identified
as
a
Christ
figure
and
of
Ophelia
who
is
clearly
identified
as
both
the
 Virgin
Mary
and
the
Woman
Crowned
with
the
Sun
from
Revelation).
So
on
one
hand
 the
playwright
is
giving
us
a
comic
parody
of
the
killing
of
the
Christian
God
on
an
altar/
 behind
a
curtain.
 
 Secondly
however,
because
Polonius
is
killed
punningly
in
the
hara,
he
is
killed
in
the
 pigsty,
which
explains
why
Gertrude’s
chamber
is
above
a
“nasty
sty”.
Maybe
it
also
 explains
his
name
and
those
“guts”.
Polonius
is
a
pun
on
polony
a
popular
seventeenth
 century
pork
sausage
thought
to
come
from
Poland,
and
guts
are
what
sausages
are
 made
from.
So
Hamlet
is
killing
Polonius
as
a
pig
and
taking
his
guts
for
sausages.
 Overlaid
with
the
previous
allegory,
then
the
author
is
hinting
that
the
Christian
God
is
a
 swine.
 
 Finally
the
author
only
hints
at
the
pig
references,
but
has
substituted
for
them
the
Diet
 of
Worms.
This
Convocation
in
1521
was
indeed
whether
the
Christian
God
was
in
a
 sense
cut
up,
and
was
eaten
differently
by
Luther
from
the
Catholic
clerics.
This
 substitution
helps
confirm
that
Polonius
is
indeed
a
heretical
comic
allegory
for
the
God

 who
is
eaten
in
the
Mass,
and
who
is
being
parodied
by
being
turned
into
an
implicit
 string
of
unkosher
sausages.

Or
maybe
just
ham.
 
 John
Hudson
is
a
graduate
of
the
Shakespeare
Institute
at
the
University
of
 Birmingham,
and
is
Founder
of
the
New
York
Shakespeare
ensemble,
the
Dark
Lady
 Players,
who
are
currently
working
on
an
allegorical
production
called
Hamlet’s
 Apocalypse
for
the
fall
2010.

 
 


www.darkladyplayers.com