To be or not to be so like the king that was and is the question of these wars
Rich in Dirt - the Ghost's Sin
Hamlet said his Uncle Claudius was "no more like my father than I to Hercules." But later he said, "My fate cries out, and makes each petty artery in this body as hardy as the Nemean lion's nerve." The Nemean lion was the "invincible" beast from whose hide Hercules fashioned his famous tunic. He also said, "Let Hercules himself do what he may, the cat will mew and dog will have his day." That one is very cryptic, but there's a good chance that Hamlet is likening himself to Hercules.
And then there's this set of parallel lines:
Do the boys carry it away?
Ay, that they do, my lord; Hercules and his load too
Let four captains
Bear Hamlet, like a soldier, to the stage;
"Hercules and his load" seems to be a reference to the Globe theater, which flew a banner depicting Hercules holding the Earth. According to the legend, Hercules temporarily relieved Atlas of his load so that Atlas could perform one of Hercules' tasks for him.
The second set of lines is related to the first because there are boys or captains carrying Hercules or Hamlet, in one case carrying away the stage, in the other carrying Hamlet to the stage.
So, why did Shakespeare have Hamlet say Claudius was no more like Hamlet Sr than Hamlet Jr was like Hercules? And having used that line, shouldn't he have avoided the subsequent references to Hercules, if they were not intentionally related? None of the three reference to Hercules were important to the plot or the theme, unless it was to establish that Claudius and Hamlet Sr were really alike in some important way.
The tragic flaw of Claudius was that, like the rich man on the camel, he was unable to part with his ill-gotten possessions (including land), even to save his soul. Could Hamlet Sr have the same flaw?
Horatio had asked the Ghost a series of questions, trying to determine why it had returned to Earth. One question struck a nerve:
Or if thou hast uphoarded in thy life
Extorted treasure in the womb of earth,
For which, they say, you spirits oft walk in death,
Speak of it: stay, and speak! Stop it, Marcellus.
The ghost was "doom'd for a certain term to walk the night," because he could not part from his "extorted treasure in the womb of earth," including the land he had acquired by killing Fortinbras Sr on the day Hamlet was born ("cursed spite that I was born to set it right") and the day a gravedigger was hired, the land that Hamlet was heir to, the land that was now the "question of these wars," on the verge of becoming a plot of ground "not tomb enough and continent to hide the slain."
The ghost was "for the day confined to fast in fires, til the foul crimes done in [his] days of nature [and his nights of re-visiting the womb of earth] are burnt and purged away."
Hamlet Sr only asked Hamlet to revenge his murder and to remember him. But I think there are ample grounds to suspect that the Hamlet Sr also wanted his son to kill his usuper so that, through his namesake, King Hamlet could vicariously reclaim his earthly kingdom, his womb of earth, his battlefield and graveyard.
Did Hamlet Jr share his father's love of dirt?
"'tis a vice to know him [Osric]. He hath much land, and fertile: let a beast be lord of beasts, and his crib shall stand at the king's mess: 'tis a chough; but, as I say, spacious in the possession of dirt."
"Tis a vice to know him," yet Hamlet knows him well..."to know a man well, were to know himself."
Why, then, 'tis none to you; for there is nothing
either good or bad, but thinking makes it so: to me
it is a prison.
Why then, your ambition makes it one; 'tis too
narrow for your mind.
O God, I could be bounded in a nut shell and count
myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I
have bad dreams.
Which dreams indeed are ambition, for the very
substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.
To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause
One part of Hamlet, his "old stock" does share his father's love of dirt. Hamlet fears succumbing to that ambition for dirt more than he fears returning to dust.
Hamlet's father and the land he obtained by killing Fortinbras Sr are the question of the impending war. There is a hint of a parallel situtation when Hamlet mentions Jepthah:
Am I not i' the right, old Jephthah?
If you call me Jephthah, my lord, I have a daughter
that I love passing well.
Nay, that follows not.
What follows, then, my lord?
'As by lot, God wot,'
and then, you know,
'It came to pass, as most like it was,'--
the first row of the pious chanson will show you
more; for look, where my abridgement comes.
The conventional explanation of this is that because the bibilical character Jephtha sacrificed his daughter to fulfill an oath, it does not follow that Polonius loves his daughter. This is almost certainly a correct interpretation. But there is more to it.
(1) “As most like it was” sounds like “so like the king that was”
(2) The story of Jephtha, in Judges 11, sounds most like the story of Hamlet. The Ammonites were preparing for war against Israel to recover land Israel had taken from them, just as young Fortinbras was preparing for war “to recover of us, by strong hand and terms compulsatory, those foresaid lands so by his father lost” in the fatal duel with old King Hamlet.
Judges 11.12 ... What hast thou to do with me, that thou art come against me to fight in my land?
Judges 11.13 ...Because Israel took away my land... now therefore restore those lands again
"To be or not to be"..."so like the king that was and is the question of these wars."
"You the judges bear a wary eye."
Your argument, Ray, seems almost too subtle to grasp, relying so much on surmise. I will ponder this further.
Forget the word play for now. Just look at things that are not at all subtle.
Your father killed somebody to gain a piece of land to which you are the heir.
Because of that land, thousands of your countrymen are about to die in a bloody war.
Then you learn that the deadly duel that started all this occurred on the day you were born and on that same day, the head gravedigger was first hired.
Can you put all that out of your mind - dismiss it as trivial background noise?
Or would you see it as the main theme of your life (especially if your life consists of just one afternoon within the Wooden O)?