“There is neither good nor bad except that which we think” (2.2.251-250).
Hamlet begins with a lot of cerebral action. Hamlet’s mind is the only place where we see this play. It is impossible to know if Hamlet is mad or not, and if his mother is being adulterous or not. Hamlet’s interpretations of events are the main voice in the play. The Tale of Gorgik’s action is also limited to Gorgik’s interpretation of reality. Gorgik is a character who struggles to understand and read the court world.
Hamlet and Gorgik both rely on the evolving understanding of their social contexts to help them navigate. The reader’s experience of navigating a book is similar to their social navigation. The play’s action is affected by their interpretations, just as a reader’s interpretations create the meaning of a piece of text.
Gorgik and Hamlet are both deeply involved in the worlds that they navigate. The two must remain involved and interpret, even though they don’t know the rules. Delany says that Gorgik has a similar situation. He is able to experience his new environment because he lacks knowledge.
Gorgik’s ignorance brought him closer to his lords, ladies and potters than any other young boy. At its core, it is exactly at this point that you lose sight of all around, everything that controls, shapes, and determines your every move. (52)
Gorgik prospers in the modern world thanks to his ignorance. He’s “closer to lords-and-ladies” than a more educated outsider. The reason for this is that his interpretation of the situation is a simple observation. It is his ignorance that allows him intimacy with all the players. He is not a world citizen, but he’s a part. He has to interpret and read what they do, but he’s too close at the center of it all to understand its workings. The bird and the fish are unaware of their medium. He has no knowledge of the medium he uses but still manages to travel through it successfully.
In order to make sense of the world, he uses his observations. Gorgik is left to interpret the text himself, as there is no external information. Readers, on the other hand, don’t have the supposed knowledge and distance of an apprentice. They are more involved in what they read because it is a part their world. The reader will have to become part of the text’s world in order to understand it.
She becomes more and more aware of the text and its context, and is therefore able to better understand the meaning that she carries within. She must blur the line between her and the text so that the text becomes a part of the context in which she interprets it. This brings her closer to the meaning, which is within herself.
Stanley Fish asserts that reading is a personal experience. In “Is There A Text in This Course?” he claims that “communication happens within situations. To be in a circumstance is to have (or possess) a set of assumptions. The reader has “structures” of assumptions which influence the way she interprets a text. These structures are what form the context in which she reads a given text.
These structures cannot be separated from the reader. These assumptions are symbiotic, as the reader is both “possessed by” them and also possesses them. The “structure of assumption” of an interpreter is what determines the outcome of any interpretation.
Gorgik is different in his choice of interpretive position from Hamlet. He does not immediately interpret what he observes. He only evaluates what is necessary for his survival. In part because he does know what is behind his visions, he can remain in the good graces with royalty. Gorgik has more success than Hamlet at navigating the world, because he constantly changes his interpretation. Hamlet believes he knows what is true. But he never sees things from a paranoid point of view. Hamlet is unable to kill King Hamlet while he prays. This is an example of Hamlet choosing a static interpretation. Hamlet has to face the final act in the play. Hamlet has felt it from the very beginning. Yet, when faced with the chance to act on his feelings, he is unable. He is given the opportunity to act, but lacks an understanding of its meaning.
“Am I then reveng’d/ To take him in the purging of his soul/ When he is fit and season’d for his passage? “Am I reven’d/To take him/ In the purging his soul/When he is ready and season’d to his passage?” No” (3.3, 84-87). The King, on the other hand, reads himself differently. The King is convinced that he doesn’t have enough concentration or remorse for forgiveness. Hamlet is told that Claudius wouldn’t have been forgiven if Hamlet didn’t kill him. Hamlet misses out on his chance for revenge when he pauses to consider the true meaning of the situation. Gorgik wouldn’t hesitate to kill Claudius if the situation was the same.
Gorgik does not claim to be able to interpret the play, while Hamlet is constantly reminded that he knows everything. After killing Polonius, Hamlet launches into a tirade in which he lashes out at his mother over what he calls adultery: “Sitte dich hin/ Und lass mich dein Herz wringen; denn so werde ich/ Wenn es aus penetrable Material ist? It must be a bulwark and proof against the senses” (3.4,34-37). He accuses her of sin and chastises her. He says that he can judge right from wrong and reprimands his mother. But he does so because he sees everything through an emotional lens. Hamlet, with his dominant voice and sense of justice, has a profound effect on the play. Gorgik is also affected by Hamlet’s voice. Gorgik is affected by a subtler and more significant effect.
Gorgik is saved by Hamlet’s inability of interpretation. Hamlet thinks he can objectively evaluate everything. Objectivity is just another interpretation. He believes that he has a perfect understanding of the situation, but instead he sees all through a paranoid lens. Gorgik does not claim to be an expert in analysis. He weaves through the royal lives, interpreting as he goes.
Gorgik then becomes a symbol for the different influences he experiences. Delany concludes that Gorgik represents “the best of all the worlds he has encountered. The institutions of each civilization have contributed to this scarred giant.” (77). Gorgik is not a Hamlet who shouts to be known in every world he enters. He is more like a Gorgik that moves effortlessly through various roles and influences them along the way. He doesn’t create these worlds but becomes a “product” or a by-product of them. Gorgik’s ability to move between contexts is enhanced by his silent observation and lack of interpretation. Hamlet, on the other hand, is never without a pontificate.
Gorgik’s reading skills are better than Hamlet’s. He is a better reader than Hamlet. The reader’s task is to analyze a text. She must weave through the texts, and at times read so intensely that her awareness of the differences between text and herself is lost. Hamlet has a flawed interpretation. He doesn’t acknowledge that he is interpreting his world. He constantly judges and evaluates rather than absorb and deduce.
Hamlet believes that he is a separate entity to the world around him. He stops to interpret and expound instead of navigating. Interpretation happens as a reader navigates a text. The same way Gorgik’s worlds are shaped by the texts he navigates, the reader is also a creation of those texts. Interpretation happens unconsciously as she navigates.