|Yorick's Skull (Eugene Delacroix)|
Perhaps the most poignant scene within all of Shakespeare's many plays is the one most commonly referred to as "Yorick's skull."
Yorick, a beloved court jester from Hamlet's youth, is now deceased. When his skull is exhumed within the adult Hamlet's presence, an opportunity for philosophical angst of the gut-wrenching kind has now begun. Hamlet stares death right in the bony face and cries: Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him… a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now… Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar?
Had Yorick's pelvis instead surfaced during that famous graveyard scene, would Hamlet's words have been nearly as quotable? Probably not – for it is only within recent times that pelvic organs are being equated with "second brains."
In a February 2010 Scientific American article, Adam Hadhazy discusses the "often-overlooked network of neurons lining our guts…" He contends that this "little brain in our innards, in connection with the big one in our skulls [and Yorick's], partly determines our mental state [including merriment] and plays key roles in certain diseases throughout the body."
Could it therefore be that Yorick's songs and kisses [and perhaps death] were at least partly attributable to his intestines? Could it be that Hamlet – for all of his wavering wisdom – was just too much a product of his times to lament (out loud) the empty space where once a jejunum quivered with delight?
Alas, poor reader! Even second brains (and third eyes) might never fully know the answers to these
Copyright February 3, 2013 by Linda Van Slyke All Rights Reserved