ASSERTIONS THAT HAMLET CAN’T BE FAT. Despite the apparent evidence in the play that at least Hamlet’s mother thinks he’s fat, many critics have found the thought of a fat Hamlet hard to accept. The first argument they make is that the text of Hamlet is unsettled. Gertrude’s line appears only in the first quarto, which is considered unreliable. Isaac Butler links to an article by Elena Levy-Navarro which describes at length various other textual arguments that have been advanced to reject the thought that Hamlet is fat. These arguments are not strong enough to explain the strength of the belief that Hamlet can’t be fat.
In fact, Levy-Navarro describes a tradition in Germany in part attributed to Goethe that Hamlet is fat and this fatness explains a perceived weakness of character. She quotes one nineteenth century German critic that: ““It is a masterly stroke of the poet to bring Hamlet’s indecision and inertness, his melancholy and heartache, into connexion [sic] with his physique, so as to account physiologically for his turn of mind and character”. Despite this German tradition, the current belief—however arrived at—is that it is odd to encounter a Hamlet who is not thin and athletic.