Home
Shop  |  Calendar  |  Join  |  Buy Tickets  |  Hamnet  |  Site Rental  |  Press Room  
  
About UsWhat's OnUse the CollectionDiscover ShakespeareTeach & LearnFolger InstituteSupport Us
Publications
• Shakespeare Quarterly

   Sign up for E-news!
   Printer Friendly

Hamlet’s Alchemy: Transubstantiation, Modernity, Belief



KATHERINE EGGERT


This essay addresses the history of disputes over the physics of transubstantiation in order to dispute the historicity of skepticism that is typically applied to the treatment of the Eucharist in Hamlet. It then turns to the way that Hamlet’s pondering of the nature of physical change also touches on alchemy, whose own theories of material change are inextricable from medieval and early modern theories of Eucharistic transformation. Alchemical imagery flashes only occasionally in Hamlet, but alchemy’s associations with transubstantiation should lead us to perceive quite a different model of belief in the play than one that imagines a medieval community of believers disaggregating into an early modern individuated skepticism. Because both transubstantiation and alchemy had always been associated with bad—that is, counter-Aristotelian—physics, acceding to them had always implied a simultaneous state of belief and unbelief. When Hamlet brackets the fate of human flesh with alchemy and transubstantiation, it exposes Hamlet’s hopeless nostalgia for a medieval, preskeptical, Eucharistic-style unity of body and spirit as false nostalgia.



Bookmark and Share   
 
     Copyright & Policies   |   Sitemap   |   Contact Us   |   About This Site
RSS   
 
  Address:
201 East Capitol Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
Get directions »
    Hours:
PublicReading Room
10am to 5pm, Monday through Saturday8:45am to 4:45pm, Monday through Friday
12pm to 5pm, Sunday9am to noon and 1pm to 4:30pm, Saturday
    Phone:
Main: 202 544 4600
Box Office: 202 544 7077
Fax: 202 544 4623