Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024664, Thu, 3 Oct 2013 21:34:10 +0300

Andron & Niagarushka in Pale Fire
Andronnikov and Niagarin, two Soviet experts in quest of a buried treasure (Zemblan crown jewels), have been compared to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

HAMLET Denmark's a prison.
ROSENCRANTZ Then is the world one.
HAMLET A goodly one, in which there are many confines,
wards and dungeons, Denmark being one o' the worst.
ROSENCRANTZ We think not so, my lord.
HAMLET Why, then, 'tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison.
ROSENCRANTZ Why then, your ambition makes it one; 'tis too narrow for your mind.
HAMLET O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I
have bad dreams.
GUILDENSTERN Which dreams indeed are ambition, for the very
substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.
HAMLET A dream itself is but a shadow.
ROSENCRANTZ Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy and light a quality that it is but a shadow's shadow.
HAMLET Then are our beggars bodies, and our monarchs and outstretched heroes the beggars' shadows. (Hamlet, 2.2)

Shade "was the shadow of the waxwing slain / By the false azure in the windowpane." Is Botkin, alias Kinbote, alias Charles the Beloved, last King of Zembla, Shade's shadow? Is Kinbote (Shade's neighbor) a waxwing? In Hamlet (5.2) Osric is a lapwing running away with the shell on his head.

See the blind beggar dance, the cripple sing,
The sot a hero, lunatic a king.

The first of these lines (from Pope's Essay on Man) is quoted by Shade in his poem (Pale Fire, Line 419). In a variant (see Kinbote's Commentary for Lines 417-421) Shade quotes both lines.

Kinbote's Zembla seems to be a peninsula, but Novaya Zemlya (Pope's "Nova Zembla") is an archipelago. Treasure Island is a novel by R. L. Stevenson (the author of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde).

Yes, after a thorough perlustration of the loot that Andron and Niagarushka had obtained from the Queen's rosewood writing desk (mostly bills, and treasured snapshots, and those silly medals) a letter from the King did turn up giving his address which was of all places—— Our man, who interrupted the herald of success to say he had never——was bidden not to display so much modesty. (from Kinbote's Commentary for Line 741)

Queen Disa, "Duchess of Payn, of Great Payn and Mone" (Index to PF), brings to mind Desdemona, Othello's wife in Shakespeare's tragedy.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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