Wine and Hamlet - The Chalice and The Pearl

Hamlet and Wine - Part 2

I'm very fond of the story of Hamlet, and had a blast recently when getting to see "The Compleat Works of Shakespeare (abridged)". This 2 hour romp squishes every Shakespeare play down into a mere 2 hours - and the last segment is all dedicated to Hamlet. They redo the play in faster and faster time until it is a 5 second death-fest. And then they do it backwards!

All of this fun reminded me not only of how great the play is, but also how much wine plays a part in it! It seemed that many of the key scenes involved wine to set the mood or carry an action. The wine is the thing to catch the conscience of the King! Let's just see how many ways wine gets involved in the story.

First, when Gertrude comes in to chat with Hamlet, he agrees to stay in Denmark with her. The King says he's thrilled and that when the partiers in the castle drink tonight, it won't just be to health, it'll be in thanks that Hamlet will hang around. Oh, they'll play some music, too.

This gentle and unforc'd accord of Hamlet
Sits smiling to my heart: in grace whereof,
No jocund health that Denmark drinks to-day
But the great cannon to the clouds shall tell;
And the king's rouse the heaven shall bruit again,
Re-speaking earthly thunder.

Later, when Hamlet is up on the roof with his buddies waiting for his dad's ghost to come talk to him, Hamlet looks scornfully down on the partiers and their drunken dancing. He says:

The King doth wake to-night and takes his rouse,
Keeps wassail, and the swaggering up-spring reels;
And, as he drains his draughts of Rhenish down,
The kettle-drum and trumpet thus bray out The triumph of his pledge.

Rhenish means the dry wines coming from the Rhine region in Germany. What a tasty way to end a day! Wassail comes from 'ves heil' - be healthy - and was a pre-Christmas tradition of drinking a lot and toasting to each other's health.

Hamlet doesn't approve of this over-the-top partying. He says,

This heavy-headed revel east and west
Makes us traduc'd and tax'd of other nations:
They clepe us drunkards, and with swinish phrase
Soil our addition;

Apparently Hamlet wanted them to drink in moderation, but they of course would have none of that!

Hamlet and Wine - Part 2

Wine in Movies and Books

All content on the WineIntro website is personally written by author and wine enthusiast Lisa Shea. WineIntro explores the delicious variety and beautiful history which makes up our world of wine! Lisa loves supporting local wineries and encouraging people to drink whatever they like. We all have different taste buds, and that makes our world wonderful. Always drink responsibly.