Hamlet: Whither wilt thou lead me? Speak. I’ll go no farther.
Ghost: Mark me.
Hamlet: I will.
Ghost: My hour is almost come,
When I to sulph’rous and tormenting flames
Must render up myself.
The exchange between Hamlet and his father’s ghost in act one, scene five, of Hamlet might as well mark the fate of Shakespeare’s undeadness and of the zombie’s eternal return. Hamlet Sr.’s ghost returns again in act three, scene four, this time to remind Hamlet of the promise he has made to the father and on which he must deliver even at the cost of his own death. The “sulph’rous and tormenting flames” that would have consumed anyone else have left the ghost unscathed, it would seem: “My father, in his habit as he lived! / Look where he goes even now out at the portal,” Hamlet declares to his mother (3.4.135-36). The “portal” or access to the world of the zombie, while inaccessible to Gertrude, who sees nothing and no one, is a shifting space that the undead can locate, invade, relocate, and spread: it moves from the castle’s frontiers to its inner bedchamber.
Shakespeare’s undeadness is a similarly mobile (motile) legacy. His (Its) eternal return, which is marked repeatedly by the last and the next adaptation of a Shakespeare play, just as it is by the discovery of the last and the next re-mediation -- across the stage, the screen, the archive, and Web 2.0 -- zombifies and entrances us in performances of the wholeness of an organizing network that simultaneously invests the zombie-bard with periodicity and transcendence. William Shatner argues that it is the human “liveness” of Shakespeare that ensnares us as viewers; yet, the mobility of so many re-mediations is more undead than alive. Indeed, more objectified than human. Shakespeare is the experience of mediated meaning itself: the dead and lifeless made undead through media. Yet, an undead Shakespeare also opens up portals (possibilities) of disorganization. It is these portals that we discover in our mash up of Shakes-media/objects: commodities, experiments, and productions that might dissect the Shakespearean body and open it up to reveal what Deleuze and Guattari might refer to as a “Body without Organs” (BwO).
*This post was co-authored by Jen Boyle and Tripthi Pillai