ECA and the Prince of Denmark

In an alternate universe where the Internet was invented in the 16th century, Hamlet alleged corruption in the court at Elsinore, and pinpointed Claudius and Polonius as key custodians. He identified two critical periods – the two months before the death of his father, King Hamlet, on September 6, 1601, and the period just after his web broadcast of The Mousetrap, on Twelfth Night, 1602. Instant messages were retrieved forensically (if surreptitiously) from Claudius’ iPhone and Polonius’ BlackBerry, and their regular e-mail accounts were extracted from the server.

After viewing the statistics on Polonius’ email, Hamlet realized he could eliminate Polonius from suspicion. Polonius had only rare and courtly communications with Claudius, with the remainder of his e-mails offering long-winded advice to his two teenage kids. Turning to Claudius’ e-mails, Hamlet uncovered communications in August 1601 with Voldemand and Cornelius, intermediaries with Fortinbras of Norway. This email exchange was significant for the political developments between Denmark and Norway but did not appear relevant to the death of King Hamlet, nor unexpected since King Hamlet had delegated diplomacy to his brother. Hamlet was outraged by the volume of sexting between his mother and his uncle, and only moderately relieved to find that it had started just a few weeks before Claudius and Gertrude’s wedding.

The analytics uncovered a surprising volume of email from Claudius to two of Hamlet’s childhood friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. It appeared Claudius had asked R&G to spy on him, and the most recent messages were encrypted. Deeply suspicious, Hamlet enlisted his trusted friend, Horatio, who sidelined in forensic investigation, to run a password cracking program. “Cl@udiu$_No1” turned out to be the encryption key. Reading the text en clair, Horatio was horrified to learn that Claudius had arranged for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to deliver a coded message requesting the King of England to kill Hamlet. Horatio replaced the coded message with one requesting the deaths of R&G.

Unfortunately, Hamlet did not continue his covert retrieval of Claudius’ e-mails. Had he done so, he might have seen the exchange with Laertes that resulted in the duel with the poisoned sword.

Postscript: Fortinbras accomplished his hostile takeover of Denmark and carried out due diligence in merging the e-mail systems of Denmark and Norway. He used analytics to determine which messages needed to be kept and which could be destroyed, and to suppress all duplicates. Regrettably, we have been left with no examples of 16th century sexting.


  1. Peg, I think we need an analysis of how things would have been different if Romeo and Juliet texted.

  2. Brilliant! I see the tale of the melancholy Dane with new eyes. I hope you’ll apply this witty and inventive aproach to other classics. Thanks.

    BTW, do you mean Voltemand?