University of Hertfordshire

Hamlet in Helmand: "Wild Justice"

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

  • Graham Holderness
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Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCritical Insights: Hamlet
PublisherSalem Press
ISBN (Print)978-1642650266
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


“Shuffle off this mortal coil you c***.
It’s nothing you wouldn’t do to us.”
This is a quotation from the recorded speech of Sergeant Alexander Blackman of the British Royal Marines as he shot to death a wounded and captured Afghan insurgent in Helmand Province in September 2011.
Inside that quotation lies another much more familiar quotation, from Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil
Must give us pause. (3.1.67-9)
Quotation is the natural condition of language and of poetry. It has no end, and possibly no beginning either. Which means that for good or ill, by accident or intention, Shakespeare has become inextricably implicated in this controversial incident.

ID: 15451628