Theories and speculations

A Crazy Quantum Theory for Hamlet

Particles move in a wave pattern unless observed, at which points of observation our human imaginations are only capable of seeing tangents – creating the illusion that particles travel in straight lines, even though experiments clearly demonstrate that they don’t. The problem is not in the stars but in ourselves – the problem is not the science but the tangential nature of human perception. In the strange world of quantum physics there are no realities or certainties. Replacing these are probabilities. Even the instant of the present is rendered uncertain because of the uncertainty of the next and previous instant. Quantum physics appear to reveal a strange world, but in truth it is not so strange. It is a science of stories. Stories and histories are constructed in the same way, from ‘concrete’ observations which are then embedded in an accepted trajectory and which, once embedded, are almost impossible to shift. (A recent example of this is the way the Labour Party are still blamed for the financial crisis due the fact that they were in power when it happened, and the narratives formed in the press – even though as a narrative this is palpably absurd.) Our only recourse in this world of inventions is the making of our own stories. So once Claudius has made himself the apparently legitimate king the revelation of a different history exclusively and specifically to Hamlet is a problem. Special knowledge is as useful as special providence. Providence is common to all or akin to madness. The ghost of Hamlet’s father is part of a more complex pattern of events – a wave form, if you like, where everything else happens. Hamlet considers it precisely as a modern physicist would, on the basis of probability, and famously ponders the odds to himself. Anything could have happened. This is the significance of the ghost. Shakespeare uses this Deus Ex Machina to break the rigid lines of assumption that are created by governments and eponymous rulers. The ghost forces Hamlet to consider what might have happened as more real than the events which common assent says did happen. The reason the ghost still has authority is because it is a voice from the fabric of probability. You could say, in fact, that far from being a mythical figure it is a mathematical one. It simply expresses aloud the most likely course of events. It is the voice of quantum probability, and it expresses the unseen curve of the past. Having acknowledged the high probability of the ghost’s version of events – a probability which Hamlet had in any case already acknowledged – he still therefore needs to test it, and the only way to test probability is by making a story. This is why the turning point of Hamlet is a play written by Hamlet. It shows us, in a crude and simple way, what stories do. The question then is what does Hamlet the play then become? The work is literally a quantum leap. It reveals the relationship of storytelling to a reality composed of probabilities, and of course in doing so it demonstrates the central role of fiction as truth telling in a secular world.

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