The Spectre and the Pin: Trompe-l’oeil and Hermeneutic Mourning in HamnetHatice Karaman, Ayşegül Ernur
The tragic death of Hamnet, son of William Shakespeare, is commonly linked to Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, which is possibly the ghostliest work of tragedy ever penned. A few years after the tragic event, the tragedy was written, and thus it sparked a number of psychoanalytical interpretations highlighting its Oedipal undertones in regard to Shakespeare’s loss. In her 2020 novel Hamnet, Maggie O’Farrell centres on Agnes Hathaway and her children in Stratford-upon-Avon by deliberately distancing the Bard as far as possible from the story. The novel revolves around the untimely death of young Hamnet, leaving his mother and family, yet especially his twin sister Judith, in a state of excruciating sorrow and mourning. By bracketing grief and mourning using Jacques Derrida’s observations on the work of mourning, this study will first approach the narrative of O’Farrell in a phenomenological way. While in Hamnet, the son is referred to as “the pin” keeping the entire Shakespeare family together, in the tragedy, Hamlet the son represents complete disarray. Therefore, the second goal of this paper is to propose an interpretation of the play as a “hermeneutic mourning” piece through a reading of “trompe-l’oeil” of the memory between Hamlet and Hamnet.