The dried tuber syndrome


The symptoms of  the dried tuber syndrome are easily recognizable: melancholy, indolence, fear of the future, sense of loss; as far as T.S.Eliot is concerned a whole generation between the two great wars suffered from the consequences of its contamination. The causes? The sense of uncertainty produced by the loss of past values and the impossibility of replacing them with new ones. If the present is not fertile enough to offer new perspectives and hopes and at the same time slowly dries whatever we used to believe in, we just become like emptied tubers that would rather stay hidden in the darkness of the earth than grow and face the oppressive light of the day. Hamlet, for example, clearly suffered of that disease. He had seen his world gradually falling apart: the death of his father, the hasty marriage of his mother with his uncle who had become in the meanwhile King of Denmark too. When the play starts Hamlet has already been deprived of many certainties: his family, the mother figure, maybe even his succession to the throne of Denmark. The first time we meet him in the play he already displays the early symptoms of the syndrome: bitterness, melancholy, dullness. So when his father’s ghost informs him that his brother, the King, had shamefully murdered him while he was sleeping in his orchard, he actually deals the final blow to Hamlet’s psyche, At first he seems to be willing to react, to revenge immediately his father and kill the infamous murderer, but when the adrenaline is off, he realizes that he just can’t do it: “Oh cursed spite/that I was ever born to set it right“, he ponders. His father’s revelation should require a prompt reaction but Hamlet delays it – in fact the ghost will have to reappear a second time to incite his son to act –  showing signs of confusion and psychological stress. The frustration deriving from his inability to accomplish what he feels a moral duty towards the memory of his father leads him also to consider suicide. He will eventually react only when he realizes he has fallen in his uncle’s trap, before dying.


3 thoughts on “The dried tuber syndrome

  1. T.S.Eliot’s work was afflicted by the angst of modernity that Hamlet knew nothing of. True, Shakespeare’s work, like any classical writer’s work, has a universal intonation of its own transpiring through all ages, but I would refrain from drawing parallel to the sense of loss that a royalty such as Hamlet feels and the sense of loss of a modern man in Eliot’s work. Keeping in mind the nature of aristocracy of Europe in the middle ages where regicide by aristocrats were not at all uncommon, I would rather say Shakespeare’s protagonist, in real life, would not have felt so melodramatic as the dramatist attributes in his character..

    • Very true, but I have never been able to see Hamlet as a royalty,but rather as a modern sensitive young man whose mind was troubled by the death of his father and the jealousy of the mother. After all, had Hamlet behaved as a royalty, wouldn’t the play have been much shorter? Let’s make… act III, that is when he has got the chance of killing Claudius, while he seems to be praying. Would a royalty have delayed his act of revenge,because of that prayer?:)

      • Yes, Hamlet has traits of both being a man out of time and a man of his time. Accepting Hamlet as a modern sensitive man would confer the play a savour I haven’t tasted yet. I guess I’ll try to read Hamlet through with that outlook once, not being conscious of the time and circumstances that produced the play, but as a separate entity standing out of the flow.

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