The obvious connection between Austin Powers and Hamlet struck me inside the Sunseed Coop a little while ago. What, after all, is Hamlet so famously lacking in throughout the first four acts of the play if it’s not mojo?

Consider this soliloquy, spoken after Hamlet has watched one of the newly arrived tragedians perform a speech recounting the fall of Troy, and the murder of Queen Hecuba’s husband, King Priam:

Oh, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!
Is it not monstrous that this player here,
But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
Could force his soul so to his own conceit
That from her working all his visage wanned,
Tears in his eyes, distraction in his aspect,
A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
With forms to his conceit? And all for nothing—
For Hecuba!
What’s Hecuba to him or he to Hecuba
That he should weep for her? What would he do
Had he the motive and the cue for passion
That I have? He would drown the stage with tears
And cleave the general ear with horrid speech,
Make mad the guilty and appall the free,
Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed
The very faculties of eyes and ears. *Yet I,
A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak
Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause,
And can say nothing—no, not for a king,
Upon whose property and most dear life
A damned defeat was made. Am I a coward?*
Who calls me “villain”? Breaks my pate across?
Plucks off my beard and blows it in my face?
Tweaks me by the nose? Gives me the lie i’ th’ throat
As deep as to the lungs? Who does me this?
*’Swounds, I should take it, for it cannot be
But I am pigeon-livered and lack gall*
To make oppression bitter, or ere this
I should have fatted all the region kites
With this slave’s offal. Bloody, bawdy villain!
Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!
O vengeance!
*Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,
That I, the son of a dear father murdered,
Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words*
And fall a-cursing like a very drab,
A scullion! Fie upon ’t, foh!

Lots of words in that, I know… and maybe they’re hard to follow separated from their context. Easier just to remember Austin Powers absent his mojo. This lack of mojo is what Hamlet means by “a dull and muddy-mettled rascal… unpregnant of my cause”, and all the rest.

He shows a flash of color in his mother’s bedchamber, when he rashly stabs at the figure hiding behind the arras, and in so doing mistakenly kills his beloved’s father. His first real recovery of mojo, though, comes onboard the ship bound to England and his execution. As he later retells the episode Horatio:

Sir, in my heart there was a kind of fighting
That would not let me sleep. Methought I lay
Worse than the mutines in the bilboes. *Rashly—
And praised be rashness for it: let us know
Our indiscretion sometimes serves us well
When our deep plots do pall, and that should teach us
There’s a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will—*

That is most certain.

Up from my cabin,
My sea-gown scarfed about me, in the dark
Groped I to find out them, had my desire,
Fingered their packet, and in fine withdrew
To mine own room again, making so bold
(My fears forgetting manners) to unseal
Their grand commission, where I found, Horatio—
O royal knavery!—an exact command,
Larded with many several sorts of reasons
Importing Denmark’s health, and England’s too,
With—ho!—such bugs and goblins in my life
That, on the supervise (no leisure bated,
No, not to stay the grinding of the ax)
My head should be struck off.

Again, many words, words, words. The gist of it, though, is that by letting himself be moved by the “kind of fighting” in his heart, prompts Hamlet to make the discovery of the documents that were meant to seal his death upon arrival at the court of England. Note that these impulses, the kind of fighting in his heart, are the promptings of the “divinity that shapes our ends.”

Of course, this being Shakespeare’s HAMLET, the shape of these ends is tragic. Still, it is divinely crafted.


My point in all this is to say that I have become clear over the last couple days that the root of my anxiety is really over the dependability of my own mojo… understanding that real mojo is that virtue that Socrates ultimately defined as “a gift given by God to the virtuous”. My anxiety, that is, is over losing my own virtuousness, and thereby getting cut off from the influx of virtue, upon which this Imaginary Mission depends.

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