Between the One and the Nine: Counting and Telling in Hamlet and The Winter’s Tale


  • Luke Wilson Ohio State University



As is suggested by the ambiguity in certain key terms (tell, tale, count, account, recount, and so on), counting and narrative are intimately associated, especially in Shakespeare. This essay considers this association in the opening of Hamlet and in a couple of scenes in The Winter’s Tale. Gaps in dramatic mimesis are often filled diegetically, an operation that is sometimes numerically inflected. Scholars have suggested that Shakespeare’s dramaturgy works by a combination of the mimetic and diegetic that points inferentially towards a wider fictional world (fabula). I argue that this operation may be understood numerically, as sometimes additive and sometimes multiplicative. Where telling gives way to showing in Hamlet 1.1, it does so as if in an attempt to start counting, initiate a movement forward that is both mimetic and diegetic. The Winter’s Tale, I propose, shows us linear and logarithmic counting set in contrast to one another, raising the possibility that these may be associated with diegesis and mimesis respectively.

Author Biography

Luke Wilson, Ohio State University

Associate Professor, Department of English, Ohio State University






Monographic Section