Miles and Hamlet - No major spoilers (was Re: More on Martha Wells)

Hallie O'Donovan hallieod at indigo.ie
Fri Jul 11 14:33:29 EDT 2003


Minnow:

>Melissa wrote in reply to Hallie:
>
>>(Besides, I didn't get the "Miles=Hamlet" thing, so who's thick?)
>
>Nine Vorkosigan books in, I don't either; I think I must be missing something.
>
>In fact, I'd've said Miles is about as unlike Hamlet as he could possibly
>be, in practically every respect, even leaving family and circumstances to
>one side.
>
>Seriously: I don't think the rest of the series is going to be spoiled for
>me if that's explained, now.  Please?

This was a more than slightly tongue-in-cheek remark made in response 
to Anna's query about the Miles books, (which, happily, she 
understood as such, as I think, did Melissa).   But if you really 
want to know why Miles put me in mind of Hamlet, and it seems you do, 
a set of resonances started forming when I was reading about Hamlet's 
'antic behaviour' and remembered, for some reason,  Cordelia's 
(breathless) complaint about the 'little bugger' being hyperactive. 
Can't think of other exact instances, but I'm pretty sure Ivan at 
least, describes Miles in similar terms more than once.  And then I 
thought of the way Hamlet was so much more intelligent than virtually 
everyone around him, and Miles is clearly well above average 
intelligence (if he'd been surrounded only by the likes of Polonius - 
ugh).   Though their intellects don't stop either of them from being 
totally emotionally stupid sometimes - or totally lacking in common 
sense!

And they both speak to the dead, even if only Hamlet's speaks back. 
Both are driven by expectations imposed on them by some combination 
of society and family, though in different ways.   (Actually, there's 
a toss-up - not sure whether I'd choose to have my dead father 
appearing and telling me to kill my uncle to revenge him, or hear 
that my grandfather had had to be prevented from dropping me out a 
window, (or an action to that effect).)   Both are charismatic, 
though there aren't nearly as many women around to prove Hamlet's 
appeal as there are to prove Miles's.  Still, revive Hamlet and keep 
him alive for a series as long, and maybe...

A critic wrote that Hamlet was at once the funniest and the saddest 
of Shakespeare's tragic heroes, and I agree about Hamlet, and think I 
feel that way about Miles to an extent.  Lots of others may not share 
this feeling, and I'm not even sure myself how much of my response 
has to do with beginning the books with _Memory_.  Obviously Miles 
made all his own trouble there, but I still felt his misery very 
strongly, as I felt for Hamlet's.   Maybe if Horatio had just dumped 
Hamlet in a bath and poured ice over him he'd have got out of 
Elsinore and gone off to found a mercenary army?

Obviously there are plenty of major dissimilarities as well - one 
which comes to mind is that Miles is not at all misogynistic, but 
then, he'd want to be really warped (oops, bad word in the 
circumstances) to be so, with Cordelia as his mother.  And - not that 
she ever *would*, but I shudder to think how Miles would have reacted 
if his father had died and Cordelia had married a man who turned out 
to be his killer, within two months of Aral's death!  Mind you, 
Bujold would probably have been lynched herself, by fans, had she 
tried anything of the sort.  Or poisoned.

Heh.  We should vote to have Book-a-Minute do the Vorkosigan books - 
that could be fun!  (Though I don't think their Hamlet's that great.)

Hallie.


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