During our 2012 vacation in England, we visited Shakespeare's House (it was built in 1470). While there we signed up
|Tom at Shakespeare's House in June 2012|
In this written assignment, we were tasked with illustrating with an example a creative work that has been influenced by a work by Shakespeare. I have chosen as my example an episode entitled “Mortal Coil” from the American TV series, Star Trek Voyager. In this episode, the character Neelix dies and is resurrected after 19 hours. His death experience causes him to question the purpose of life, and his own reason for existing. This very same contemplation and reflection on the meaning of life occurs in Act V, Scene 1 of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
What I particularly appreciate about the science fiction genre is its ability to explore socially sensitive topics in a very meaningful way; topics which are too controversial, and often the cause of much public debate can be explored in this totally innocuous format. From our course we learned that Shakespeare, in a very similar manner, would use plays to do the very same thing.
Hamlet was written around the year 1600. Queen Elizabeth I is near the end of her reign. There is fear of the unknown. Who will assume the throne? It is a time of transition; a time when there will be a transfer of power.
Shakespeare also uses Hamlet to question the church’s teachings. The character Ophelia commits suicide and yet will receive a Christian burial, an act which is questioned by the gravediggers. Hamlet observes one of the gravediggers singing as he works, and notes that the job of digging graves is such a miserable way to make a living, how can anyone be singing while they performed such work? “Has this fellow no feeling of his business? He sings at grave-making.” says Hamlet.
Other Hamlet missives include Hamlet’s contemplation on the value of life when in the end, a person’s corpse can be treated in such a manner – commenting on the gravediggers tossing up skulls and other bones as they’re digging deeper into the ground. At one point, Hamlet morbidly asks the gravedigger to tell him how long it takes for a corpse to rot. In the end, Hamlet’s conclusion is that man comes from dust, and returns to dust, at least dust has a purpose – to fill holes in the wall and block out the wind’s draft.
In the Star Trek episode, Neelix reaches a very similar conclusion and even goes so far as to attempt suicide himself just to be rid of this earthly shell, this “mortal coil” that entwines him and prevents him from escaping an otherwise worthless existence.
Click here for the story of our 2012 Visit to Shakespeare's House : ENGLAND TRIP: Day 6: Part 6: Shakespeare's House and his Daughter's House/Ghosts