IS HAMLET FAT? I posted here about reports in the 1960’s that Jackie Gleason might do Hamlet. Kids, Jackie Gleason was a brilliant fat comedian. The caption of my post was: “HAMLET AS A FAT MAN—JACKIE GLEASON.” I have always thought that Gleason would have been very good as Hamlet—which implies that I take for granted that Hamlet can be played by a fat man who is a good actor.
Now, Isaac Butler has raised the question in this article in Slate: “Is Hamlet Fat?” Butler points out that Hamlet is being played right now by Benedict Cumberbatch and has been played by a long line of great slender actors, with the only exceptions being Simon Russell Beale and Paul Giamatti (whose Hamlet I posted on here).
Yet there is a long running debate among scholars and critics that goes beyond the question of whether Hamlet can be played by a fat man. The contention is that—according to the text of the play—Hamlet is in fact fat. Butler says: “During the play’s final sword duel, King Claudius turns to Queen Gertrude and says that Hamlet will win the duel, and Gertrude replies, ‘He’s fat and scant of breath….’”