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Hamlet
by William Shakespeare, Alan Durband (Editor)
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This edition of Hamlet represents a radically new text of the best known and most widely discussed of all Shakespearean tragedies. Arguing that the text currently accepted is not, in fact, the most authoritative version of the play, this new edition turns to the First Folio of 1623--Shakespeare's "fair copy"--that has been preserved for us in the Second Quarto. Introducing fresh theatrical momentum, this revision provides, as Shakespeare intended, a better, more practical acting script.



Topic: November: Hamlet (22 of 22), Read 4 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Monday, October 29, 2001 09:31 AM Speaking of coincidences, whoever timed Hamlet with Halloween is a genius. I try to approach Hamlet appreciating the small things first, because the play is so intellectually monolithic. The play is one of deepest mysteries, unsure identities, and pervasive skepticism. Just take the first scene, a scene whose significance slipped under my radar for years. In the first 30 or so words of the play, the audience is bombarded by personal identifiers: 'Who's, me, yourself, King, Barnado, he, you, your, thee, Francisco, I.' Lines 3-5 enact a diminishing: 'King--->Barnado---->He'. From royal rank to name to anonymity. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are indistinguishable from each other, Hamlet has two fathers, there are two Hamlets, there are 2 plays within the play 'Hamlet', The play has 2 writers: Shakespeare and Hamlet himself... the complexities are endless, identities shifting sand. I've always wondered if there is a single valid adjective in 'Hamlet', a solitary one that says what it means. Take a relatively simple sequence from a relatively simple character (Claudius)- Act I, scene 2: KING CLAUDIUS: 'Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet, To give these mourning duties to your father: But, you must know, your father lost a father; That father lost, lost his, and the survivor bound In filial obligation for some term To do obsequious sorrow: but to persever In obstinate condolement is a course Of impious stubbornness; 'tis unmanly grief; It shows a will most incorrect to heaven, A heart unfortified, a mind impatient, An understanding simple and unschool'd: For what we know must be and is as common As any the most vulgar thing to sense, Why should we in our peevish opposition Take it to heart? Fie! 'tis a fault to heaven, A fault against the dead, a fault to nature, To reason most absurd: whose common theme Is death of fathers, and who still hath cried, From the first corse till he that died to-day, 'This must be so.' We pray you, throw to earth This unprevailing woe, and think of us As of a father: for let the world take note, You are the most immediate to our throne; And with no less nobility of love Than that which dearest father bears his son, Do I impart toward you. For your intent In going back to school in Wittenberg, It is most retrograde to our desire: And we beseech you, bend you to remain Here, in the cheer and comfort of our eye, Our chiefest courtier, cousin, and our son. QUEEN GERTRUDE: Let not thy mother lose her prayers, Hamlet: I pray thee, stay with us; go not to Wittenberg. HAMLET: I shall in all my best obey you, madam. KING CLAUDIUS: Why, 'tis a loving and a fair reply: Be as ourself in Denmark. Madam, come; This gentle and unforced accord of Hamlet Sits smiling to my heart: in grace whereof, No jocund health that Denmark drinks to-day, But the great cannon to the clouds shall tell, And the king's rouse the heavens all bruit again, Re-speaking earthly thunder. Come away.' Calling Hamlet's feelings 'simple, unschooled, peevish' is so wide of the mark as to be surreal... unless these are calculated taunts. After blocks of persuasion, calling Hamlet's accession to stay in the court a 'gentle and unforced accord' is hilarious (or sly?), and the desire of Claudius to keep the extremely dangerous and unpredictable Hamlet at hand (on a leash, so to speak) is couched in the deception: 'Here, in the cheer and comfort of our eye' Cheer and comfort my ass. But all the power of words is not doubted... one of my favorite moments is in the very beginning: HORATIO: Well, sit we down, And let us hear Bernardo speak of this. BERNARDO: Last night of all, When yond same star that's westward from the pole Had made his course to illume that part of heaven Where now it burns, Marcellus and myself, The bell then beating one,-- [Enter Ghost] Apparently the Ghost doesn't just show up when the bell beats one, he arrives when the words describing the bell are spoken too. The story, here, summons the ghost. This play, all in all, is the greatest summoning of thoughts ever put to paper.
Topic: November: Hamlet (28 of 32), Read 35 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Thursday, November 01, 2001 01:27 PM From the first line in "Hamlet" we know that something is wrong. Barnardo is going to relieve Francisco. Barnardo speaks first, not a greeting but a challenge. To which Francsico's response says, in effect, "Hey, I'm the one who's on guard here." This is noted in the World's Classics Oxford edition. The note also says that this should be staged so that the audience is quite clear as to who is on guard duty. We soon find out that Barnardo is jumpy because he is spooked. The ghost may or may not be Hamlet's father. All that is known for sure is that it looks like dead Hamlet senior. As the play is titled "Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark" one would expect that young Hamlet now sits on the throne. We learn, however, that young Hamlet has not taken his rightful place but that it is his uncle who now reigns. This is very disturbing but the tension rises quickly when we see that Hamlet attends the wedding of the new king and his mother dressed in black. This is an act of treason. Only the thin ambiguity of the situation insulates Hamlet from the fatal consequences of such an act. Hamlet is telling the world that he does not accept Claudius as the king. It is very daring of Hamlet to make this known. Hamlet is later still more daring when he speaks under the even thinner protection of his feigned madness. The struggle between Hamlet and Claudius for the throne cannot be so open or brutal as to turn the kingdom against the victor or destabilize the kingdom already threatened from without. Everything must outwardly appear to be orderly but we see the seething emotions beneath the surface. Claudius and Gertrude must have had some assumption that Hamlet would accept the situation. As it turns out, he doesn't. When Claudius refuses to let Hamlet leave Elsinore, he has fresh in his mind the efforts of Fortinbras in the countryside to raise an army. So he puts Hamlet under what amounts to house arrest. This struggle means that it is very dangerous to be associated with either side. Look what happened to the spies Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Laertes tells Ophilia to fear association with Hamlet. Polonius, as her father, tells her to leave Hamlet because he is feckless. Later, Polonius, as the servant to the king, uses his daughter as bait to trap Hamlet. This is why Hamlet refers to Polonius as Jephtha, the Judge of Israel, who sacrificed his daughter (Judges 11:30-40). If Hamlet had married Ophelia the very risk that she would bear an heir to the throne would seal her fate. "Sweets for the sweet," indeed. Dean. All roads lead to roam.
Topic: November: Hamlet (29 of 32), Read 36 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, November 01, 2001 01:40 PM Ah, already so many delightful and challenging posts here. Like George, I find I am fascinated by the story within the story of this play...of the identity and the art about identity... Johnathan, you wondered if anyone had an offbeat perspective on this play that you could serve up to impress your teacher. I do. It is a perspective I have argued many a time and I think the world could use a decent essay about this: I take a stand that Ophelia is not mad, does not go mad. I say,, she kills herself because of the absolute truth of Hamlets ideas about women in civilization...that it is only important how she looks it doesn't matter if a woman is virtuous or kind or intelligent. Ophelia has her own existential breakdown, just like Hamlet. I also take the stand that Hamlet is not a knave but a hero...but sadly he can not find a way for his artful vision to help the people in his life...anyway mnore later...must chew on Dean's latest post!
Topic: November: Hamlet (30 of 32), Read 37 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Thursday, November 01, 2001 02:57 PM Dean-- Perceptive notes and remarks... but you're perceiving one angle I cannot see. I can't find one moment in the play where I feel Hamlet and Claudius are dueling for the throne- Hamlet seems to me outrageously indifferent to questions of power and politics. He is a student, content to be (to paraphrase) the king of a nutshell, attracted to intellectual debate, theatricality, and reading. That personality doesn't lend itself to the necessary 'otherness' of kingship. In my conception, Ophelia is twisted out of Hamlet's sphere by lies that paint him as a machiavellian 'prince', which he couldn't be less like. Hamlet writes some of 'Hamlet', the most important parts being: a poem in a letter- 'Doubt thou the stars are fire; Doubt that the sun doth move; Doubt truth to be a liar; But never doubt I love. 'O dear Ophelia, I am ill at these numbers; I have not art to reckon my groans: but that I love thee best, O most best, believe it. Adieu. 'Thine evermore most dear lady, whilst this machine is to him, HAMLET.' a letter to Claudius- 'High and mighty, You shall know I am set naked on your kingdom. To-morrow shall I beg leave to see your kingly eyes: when I shall, first asking your pardon thereunto, recount the occasion of my sudden and more strange return. 'HAMLET.' and (most probably) this speech of 'The Mousetrap'- Player King: I do believe you think what now you speak; But what we do determine oft we break. Purpose is but the slave to memory, Of violent birth, but poor validity; Which now, like fruit unripe, sticks on the tree; But fall, unshaken, when they mellow be. Most necessary 'tis that we forget To pay ourselves what to ourselves is debt: What to ourselves in passion we propose, The passion ending, doth the purpose lose. The violence of either grief or joy Their own enactures with themselves destroy: Where joy most revels, grief doth most lament; Grief joys, joy grieves, on slender accident. This world is not for aye, nor 'tis not strange That even our loves should with our fortunes change; For 'tis a question left us yet to prove, Whether love lead fortune, or else fortune love. The great man down, you mark his favourite flies; The poor advanced makes friends of enemies. And hitherto doth love on fortune tend; For who not needs shall never lack a friend, And who in want a hollow friend doth try, Directly seasons him his enemy. But, orderly to end where I begun, Our wills and fates do so contrary run That our devices still are overthrown; Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own: So think thou wilt no second husband wed; But die thy thoughts when thy first lord is dead. These writings emerge from a mind too plainly brilliant to be concerned with mere royal concerns. Or even most practical concerns. Hamlet, after all, leaves Messrs. R&G alive to spy for almost the entirety of the play. Hamlet, in the first scene, dreams more of suicide than rebellion... if he had been allowed to leave for Wittenburg or alternatively if the ghost had never appeared, I'd guess Hamlet would've lived out Claudius's reign searching for mental truth and searching hard for himself. I don't want to overstress Hamlet's vaunted sensitivity however- most of the times I read this play I end up counting Hamlet as Shakespeare's greatest villain. He kills on whim (R&G), in Polonius' case indiscriminately, and it's hard to argue he didn't know he would end up killing the insanely bereaved (and generally innocent)Laertes in a swordfight. O, and he slaughters Ophelia's mind and spirit while he's at it. These are not power plays, they are the actions of a (however noble) mind completely at home with death.
Topic: November: Hamlet (31 of 32), Read 27 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Thursday, November 01, 2001 10:55 PM Why does Claudius send Hamlet to be killed under the loose guard of R&G if Claudius himself does not see Hamlet as a threat? Also, Hamlet is not so fond of killing that he does not spare Claudius while he is at prayer. Besides deaths are a usual occurrence in a civil war. I hear in Hamlet's suicidal speeches rage and frustration at the turn of fortunes which have been thrust upon him. The throne has been taken from him and he sees no way of getting it back. Dean. All roads lead to roam.
Topic: November: Hamlet (32 of 32), Read 28 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Friday, November 02, 2001 12:32 AM I absolutely agree that Claudius sees Hamlet as a threat, though I suspect Claudius has guessed that the (his words) ' something in his soul, O'er which his melancholy sits on brood...' is the grief over his father's murder and desire for revenge, not politically motivated concerns. Regardless, Claudius IS fighting for his throne/life, I just don't believe Hamlet is also struggling to gain a crown. Here, by the way, is Hamlet's reason for sparing Claudius at prayer: HAMLET: Now might I do it pat, now he is praying; And now I'll do't. And so he goes to heaven; And so am I revenged. That would be scann'd: A villain kills my father; and for that, I, his sole son, do this same villain send To heaven. O, this is hire and salary, not revenge. He took my father grossly, full of bread; With all his crimes broad blown, as flush as May; And how his audit stands who knows save heaven? But in our circumstance and course of thought, 'Tis heavy with him: and am I then revenged, To take him in the purging of his soul, When he is fit and season'd for his passage? No! Up, sword; and know thou a more horrid hent: When he is drunk asleep, or in his rage, Or in the incestuous pleasure of his bed; At gaming, swearing, or about some act That has no relish of salvation in't; Then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven, And that his soul may be as damn'd and black As hell, whereto it goes. That is not exactly a comforting rationale to me, or a reason to see Hamlet as without a dark side. I see where Claudius is hungry for power, in his actions and words. Plainly stated. Claudius says: ' 'Forgive me my foul murder'? That cannot be; since I am still possess'd Of those effects for which I did the murder, My crown, mine own ambition and my queen. May one be pardon'd and retain the offence?' Where is a correspondingly plain statement of Hamlet's need to be king? I can't find even the hint of one. I don't want to quibble overmuch on this point- power politics do play a role in the play, as your note clearly showed, and I'm sure could lead to an interesting discussion. I just want to read the character of Hamlet himself as accurately as possible, since he speaks a full third of the play's lines. I just can't see Hamlet as a metaphysical Robespierre.
Topic: November: Hamlet (33 of 59), Read 52 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Friday, November 02, 2001 05:04 PM Could Claudius (should be Odious) have been next in line for the throne? The rest of the court doesn't act like he usurped it. I like George's comments about Hamlet's personality being that of a thinker, an explorer of ideas, rather than a seeker of power or the military type, despite his ability with the sword. The fact that Hamlet is a thirty year old student suggests that he is intellectually inclined, possibly involved in what would be graduate level studies, and his facility with language and his insights indicate a prodigious mind. I bet Shakespeare identified with him. When I read this play in high school there was discussion about Hamlet's tragic flaw being his reticence to act, but upon reading it again I don't see Hamlet's hesitation to kill Claudius as a flaw. In order for Hamlet to kill Claudius and then not be executed himself, he would have to provide proof that Claudius murdered his father. It makes sense that Hamlet would want to confirm his suspicions first and even then he would need to convince key people of Claudius' guilt before he took action, otherwise avenging his father's death would be tantamount to suicide. So, I find it reasonable that Hamlet waited to act and instead did his own method of sleuthing first. Hamlet's acting mad seemed to carry an emotional satisfaction, as if he were "acting out" which provided a necessary vehicle for his rage and frustration. I question that Hamlet consciously decided to act mad so much as he just spontaneously acted that way, even HAD to act that way, in order to accommodate his erratic and overwhelmed emotional state. His mind may have been clear but his emotions were not under control, and in order to keep his suspicions under wrap this is how it all came out. There may have been method to his madness, yet a type of madness still it was. Robt
Topic: November: Hamlet (34 of 59), Read 38 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Friday, November 02, 2001 09:14 PM Robert-- Very good points. I too read Hamlet's stalling more forgivingly than I did in my own youth. There is a problem though. If I called Hamlet dull, essentially an ass, as frivolous with his words as a hooker is with her body, and lacking of true passion, I would probably be way off the mark. All these things, however, are what Hamlet says about his own character. Assuredly he is wrong, but he is extremely critical of himself. I don't think he is stalling to find a sneaky way to kill Claudius without being killed in return. I think he is dealing with some essential questions of life and death. I think Hamlet is caught by honesty. He knows that the clearest ming is a mind that can consider things without an agenda. I'm gonna try to make this as clear as my interior muddles will allow. Look at what Claudius says in IV, 7, 117-122. That is exactly the sentiment that devastates Hamlet... Claudius says it without batting an eye. Why? Because Claudius is NOT thinking about what he's saying, he's deploying his sentiments like puppetstrings, because he wants his words to coerce Laertes into killing Hamlet. If one is speaking to manipulate, one doesn't care about the content of what one says... only the effect matters. Hamlet, the ultimate student, wants to consider all things without trying to prove anything. Claudius doesn't have TIME to feel remorseful until months after his heinous act... he's too busy spitting forth sentences like battalions. This is probably why Hamlet is fascinated by actors and theatricality-- the agendas of actors are NOT the agendas of their characters. They have driven a wedge between what, say, Julius Caesar says he wants and what the actor who plays Caesar wants. If one can add agendas to words, one can subtract them, get down to the bedrock-zero of agendaless clarity...or as Hamlet said best: 'the readiness is all'. Forgive this ramble... it is what your post provoked in me.
Topic: November: Hamlet (35 of 59), Read 40 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Friday, November 02, 2001 10:39 PM George, It's Hamlet's desire for "agendaless clarity" that most endears him to me. Yes, I see that he is consumed with questions of life and death that arise out of his terrible situation. What I am reacting to is some distant classroom discussion about Hamlet's tragic flaw, like Macbeth's ambition or Richard's lust for power, where Hamlet was reduced to reticence, and I can't see Hamlet's immersion in philosophy as a flaw. I suppose Hamlet could have just poisoned the King and taken a boat to the continent and started again under an assumed name thereby avenging his father's death and surviving. But that would be running out on his kingdom, too, and Hamlet had more of a sense of leadership than that. Hamlet's challenge was such a huge conundrum (like how to stop terrorism!) that all his presuppositions were shattered. There's just no easy philosophy to inhabit. Every turn is problematic. To nuke or nuzzle, that is the question. Sorry, it's late and I'm mixing historical periods here. Anyway, there's a ramble in return. Robt
Topic: November: Hamlet (36 of 59), Read 34 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Saturday, November 03, 2001 08:03 PM Whoa and wow! So much here... I tend to see a huge part of this story as how the truth has transformed people and a search on how do we take truth and history and live with it, love with it, avenge the crimes and not take the innocents with the punishment. Hamlet would have been content to be a student..what happens is that he finds history and truth. Now, why that is communicated by a ghost appearance I could not say, I find that storytelling device of a ghost representing truth and history amazing(and deserving a different post/s)... but a huge part of the plot is that truth/history changes Hamlets destiny/self destiny...he is transformed by history of his fathers death/life and then everything rests on how he acts and processes history. Hamlet is terribly clumsy. He basically kills Ophelia by being heavy handed with his knowledge(a strange twist on Adam and Eve where Eve corrupts Adam, here Hamlet corrupts Ophelia)...he has an epiphany... and somehow he takes his own epiphany and forcefeeds it on everyone else around him...I see this as how do we process oour personal truths and community truths...how much liberty does a 'realized person' have on his community? And one of the most important aspects of this story is that Hamlets life is only begun once he hears the ghosts history, once he ends his childhood...once the bubble is broken. It is a weird coming of age story because our hero is so old. (uh oh, Hitchcock reference here-Hitchcock's hero's are often like Hamlet...they are way too old to be having coming of age, they are single at an age we would think is unhealthy) It is unhealthy that Hamlet is so old. This indicates a protected life and it is sad that his fathers death also means that discovering the history is without the guidance of his father/wiseman. Anyway, I can only ramble because I feel desperate to throw out things that enter my thoughts about Hamlet... A conflict of the play is that the audience feels compassion and frustration because we suddenly see that the throne belongs to the wrong person...it's not wrong or right that there is a struggle for throne...it is a frustration and moral sense of justice for the audience to feel. It is not wrong or right about Hamlets role in this, he is almost oblivious to his right to the throne---he is a king because he is struggling to find a way to the right thing...sadly his feeling for justice throws the baby out with the bathwater...
Topic: November: Hamlet (37 of 59), Read 38 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Saturday, November 03, 2001 08:22 PM "Sense of leadership" yes and he states specifically that he hoped for the crown when he lists his grievances against Claudius in Act V, scene ii, lines 65-67 He that hath kill'd my king and whored my mother, Popp'd in between the election and my hopes, Thrown out his angle for my proper life Hamlet wants it all as he tells Opehlia in Act III, scene i, lines 89-90 I am very proud, revengeful, ambitious, Hamlet cannot be suicidal and at the same time afraid of dying for killing Claudius. Hamlet is chafing at the intrigues which he has to use to attain what he wants, what he feels is rightfully his. What confines Hamlet is that he wants it all. When he doesn't kill Claudius at prayer Hamlet wants even more: he wants revenge, the throne and Cladius damned to hell. To kill him at prayer would send him to heaven. Dean. All roads lead to roam.
Topic: November: Hamlet (38 of 59), Read 35 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Saturday, November 03, 2001 08:44 PM I can see how it might appear that Hamlet can not kill himself. Also, I think that the idea of a bad guy getting into heaven just because he died while praying could be a logical area of irritation to Hamlet. But I look at the whole thing with Hamlet not as though he wimped out on death or suicide. I feel he did not become truly alive until he heard of history and truth of his fathers death...and that he was not able to be completely human? alive? come of age? ----until---he asked himself and acknowledged that he himself could decide wherther life was of his choosing, whether he was up for it. I feel there is a step between his knowledge of history and life...and then his realization that he could live to the fullest, and if he wasn't going to embrace the challenges and the good news bad news of history, he could die. I feel that this play suggests that we all ask our selves how do we want to-well heh heh "play"? Are we good sports or sore losers? much to think of here... hello Dean and George and Janet and Robert and Jonathan and all the brave of Hamlet readers... seize the day eh? Candy That for which we find words is something already dead in our hearts. There is always a kind of contempt in the act of speaking. Nietzsche
Topic: November: Hamlet (39 of 59), Read 34 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Saturday, November 03, 2001 10:45 PM I'm sorry, I myself just can't believe in Hamlet's supposed thirst for royalty, a notion which renders Hamlet the same as Macbeth and hence less original a character. Logic tells me that if all Hamlet really wanted was the throne of Denmark the play would only be one Act long... because Hamlet is light-years more intelligent than Claudius, and it would only take him a scene or so to figure out how to get it. Regardless, the cunning engineer of the deaths of R&G would kill Claudius covertly and not risk being executed as a regicide or confined as a madman, the likeliest consequences of publicly killing a king. Hamlet is not primarily struggling with the unworthy Claudius... he is primarily struggling with himself. And if 'Hamlet' is just a psychologically-advanced study of Kremlin-style politics, how much sadder for us as readers. Hamlet doesn't need court intruiges to feel isolated, he is isolated by the mere quality of his character and the depth of his mind. Remember, this brilliant son of a warrior-king was in academia before the assassination, not chafing at the bit to lead armies of his own. His father was a natural man torn right from the pages of viking sagas. Hamlet is the opposite of his father, and obviously a lot of his melancholy stems from that fact. As for example, when Hamlet refers to himself disdainfully here: 'O, God! a beast, that wants discourse of reason, Would have mourn'd longer--married with my uncle, My father's brother, but no more like my father Than I to Hercules:' As his own opposite Hamlet chooses Hercules, showing his recognition that brute, unthoughtful force is the furthest thing from him. It is not, however, the furthest thing from Hamlet Sr. It's pretty damn close. Hamlet Sr. presumably envisioned a son much like Hotspur from Henry IV one. Hamlet obviously feels much guilt for not being that son. These are the roots of Hamlet's isolation, and probably play a large share in determining his difficulty in taking brutal, Laertes-like revenge...
Topic: November: Hamlet (40 of 59), Read 39 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Sunday, November 04, 2001 12:33 AM Claudius is every bit a match for Hamlet. He is clever, charming and loved by the people. He is a good king who prepares for war yet sends ambassadors to try for a diplomatic solution. He is shrewd enough to have murdered the king with impunity and charming enough to have gained support in obtaining the crown for which his wedding to Gertrude was a factor. Hamlet's issue with the marriage is not that it happened but that it happened so quickly. The timing of it allowed Claudius to pop in between the election and Hamlet's hope for the crown. Hercules was not a symbol of brute force. He used much cleverness in the completion of his labours. What we do get from this passage is how much Hamlet detests Claudius. Hi, Candy. The news which Horatio brings of a ghost in the image of his father gives Hamlet some hope of breaking out of the confinement in which Claudius has just placed him and furthering his ambitions. Dean. All roads lead to roam.
Topic: November: Hamlet (41 of 59), Read 34 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Sunday, November 04, 2001 02:31 AM Dean-- My sincerest apologies, but I am done debating this particular issue with you. To say that Hamlet approved of the marriage of Claudius and Gertrude except for the speed with which it took place, and only objected on the grounds that it blocked his march to power, these are ideas so far from the play I'm reading I can't even dialogue with them. To say that, for whatever his virtues, Claudius is an intellectual match for Hamlet-that is a diminishment of Hamlet I can't even fathom. Presumably you would be as fascinated by the play 'King Claudius' as you are by this one- I can't say the same. To say 'The news which Horatio brings of a ghost in the image of his father gives Hamlet some hope of breaking out of the confinement in which Claudius has just placed him and furthering his ambitions.' is amazing... I can only surmise that, by your conception, the ghost's appearance near the end of the play is to further Hamlet's ambitions some more? Nothing personal, but to take a play and a character complex enough to hold universes in and reduce them down to an anecdote from some Machiavellian power manual, to boil down Hamlet's 'quintessence of dust' speech to his despair at not having a crown with which to adorn his brow, these are things I want no part of...
Topic: November: Hamlet (42 of 59), Read 31 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ernie Belden drernest@pacbell.net Date: Sunday, November 04, 2001 02:55 PM I have done poorly with plays in the past. They just aren't my thing (should be ashamed of it!) But Hamlet is the great exception. I have read it perhaps a couple of times, seen it as a film and had the good fortunate to visit Elsenor Castle while on a short visit to Denmark. The castle is very impressive but did not look like the castle that was presented in the movies. Can't wait to get started on it. Pretty soon my own computer will be set up and I may well overwhelm you nice people with postings. Up to now I shared a computer with my very busy wife and at times even with grand kids. Ernie
Topic: November: Hamlet (43 of 59), Read 30 times Conf: Classics Corner From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Sunday, November 04, 2001 03:05 PM Get that computer humming, Ernie. I'm looking forward to your comments. Ruth "I don't have a favorite song. I only have the song I'm singing today" Berenice Reagon
Topic: November: Hamlet (44 of 59), Read 36 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Sunday, November 04, 2001 05:20 PM Welcome, Ernie. The ghost tells Hamlet of the skill of Claudius and blames him as the seducer: Act I, scene v, 42-45 Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast, With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts,-- O wicked wit and gifts, that have the power So to seduce! He tells Hamlet not to bother his mother Act I, scene v, 84-86 But, howsoever thou pursuest this act, Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive Against thy mother aught: leave her to heaven... In Act III Hamlet confronts his mother with charges of murder, incest and adultery. He causes her great distress by berating her for having let herself be seduced by Claudius. Hamlet lists Claudius's evils, telling his mother why her marriage to Claudius bothers him so. He ends the list with the most important thing, the fact that Claudius stole the crown from Hamlet: Act III, scene iv, 88-93 A murderer and a villain; A slave that is not twentieth part the tithe Of your precedent lord; a vice of kings; A cutpurse of the empire and the rule, That from a shelf the precious diadem stole, And put it in his pocket! When the ghost arrives Hamlet is reminded of the injunction against offending his mother: Act III, scene iv, 99-101 Do you not come your tardy son to chide, That, lapsed in time and passion, lets go by The important acting of your dread command? O, say! The ghost responds Act III, scene iv, 102-103 Do not forget: this visitation Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose. What the ghost wants and what Hamlet promised is revenge. Hamlet had missed his chance for revenge because Claudius was at prayer. The irony is that Claudius was not in a state that would have sent him to heaven had Hamlet killed him then. The ghost reminds Hamlet that he promised to put revenge at the top of the list. As Robert said in #35, Hamlet could easily revenge his father and leave. It is Hamlet's desire for what is rightfully his which complicates matters. Hamlet is compelled to kill Claudius but he wants to do it so that he obtains the crown. Claudius is compelled to kill Hamlet but he must find a way to do it so that he is assured of keeping the crown. Dean. All roads lead to roam.
Topic: November: Hamlet (45 of 59), Read 35 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Sunday, November 04, 2001 07:52 PM I love the whole mad theme. Hamlet figures the world he inhabits has gone mad so why can't he? The ghost, although I believe in ghosts, is a theatrically effective metaphor for Hamlet's awareness of the true horror of the situation. Hamlet is also horrified that everybody's pretending that everything's all right, which renders the social atmosphere at Elsinor like a dance of denial with treachery lurking at every curtsy. So, Hamlet was just cracking up that they think HE'S mad! Oh, please. He thinks: you're the ones who are crazy; you people are full of s#!+. So, Hamlet played the satirist. Satire holds a prime position: you can draw on the experiences of both comedy and tragedy and it is perfectly permissible for one to have a happy ending. The role appeals to me. Does Hamlet seek wisdom or power? I see Hamlet as a tragic hero, rather than a tragic villain, who is gifted, noble and aware. He desires truth over glory. I see his motivation to be king more about leadership than a lust to be number one. Fortinbras offers a tribute to Hamlet at the play's finale. Claudius is the villain. Change the scenery. The World Trade Center is destroyed. Suddenly we're on a world stage. Clandestine invaders threaten the kingdom. It is dramatic. It is a complete conundrum. It has the trappings of tragedy but I refuse to designate a genre. I don't want bodies littered all over the place with all the principle characters dead and me the title character. So, what are the alternatives? Calling our current events a comedy is a stretch but if we hold to Shakespeare, we're going to divide things in two, so I'll aim for the lighter side, eking out of it a satiric stance. Perhaps I'll have to play mad and drop the whole psyche for a spell to look at things from an entirely other perspective. Hamlet, my friend, I am looking for truth, too. Robt
Topic: November: Hamlet (46 of 59), Read 34 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Sunday, November 04, 2001 08:08 PM Dean-- I'm sorry, I simply disagree. One more whip to apply to the flesh of this late & lamented horse... 2 simple questions: If, as you say, Hamlet passes on killing Claudius at prayer because 'Hamlet is compelled to kill Claudius but he wants to do it so that he obtains the crown.', then why does he not say or even think that then? Why, instead, does he say he passes to find a more horrible revenge later? Is he lying to himself? Or does he not understand his own motives? And if the crown and a clever murder are Hamlet's quest then why does he go to the fencing duel he knows is a trap and kill Claudius in front of the entire court? His ACTUAL way of killing Claudius is diametrically opposed to any plan of gaining power. It would be inconceivable to argue that Hamlet, Horatio's warnings in his ears, going to face the revenge-drunk Laertes, doesn't at least suspect the endgame is at hand. In fact, we KNOW Hamlet suspects, because he says so in this breathtaking passage: 'Not a whit, we defy augury: there's a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all: since no man has aught of what he leaves, what is't to leave betimes?' So if he suspects, and he wants the kingship, why does he go? I implore you to search this glorious quotation that reduces all earthly things, crowns included, to their proper minor perspective. Don't let this beauty pass you by in a hunt for clues to a power-hungry Hamlet that doesn't or only fitfully exists. I'll only add that I would be suspicious of ANYONE (myself included) who claimed to have discovered a single ruling motivation for Prince Hamlet, since the greatness and complexity of the play banishes that possibility. I don't have these answers either, but I do have a strong drive to try at least to look in the right places.
Topic: November: Hamlet (47 of 59), Read 35 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, November 04, 2001 09:59 PM I think we have reached that point where it is time for me to step in with a reminder that everyone has a right to express his opinion and be treated with respect -- no matter how radically someone may disagree with him. We've traveled this route before with The Brothers Karamazov. Let's not go there again. It's time to agree to disagree and move on. Robt, our English teachers must have studied the same books. My English teacher was also big on fatal flaws, and Hamlet's supposedly was his inability to act. Yet, as you pointed out, he certainly had a lot of good reasons to proceed with caution, and that interpretation doesn't make a lot of sense to me now. Most of the actors who have played Hamlet have been middle-aged. Since he is described as a student, I always thought that he should be played by someone much younger. You referred to him as a thirty-year old student. Does the text tell us how old he is? The younger he is, the more his emotional turmoil makes sense to me. Of course, discovering that your uncle murdered your father with the connivance of your mother would be enough to push most of us over the edge. Note that the Gertrude/Claudius relationship is repeatedly referred to as "incestuous" since in those days marrying a former brother-in-law was against Church law unless you had a special dispensation. That must have made it seem even more horrible. I have a question. In the scene where Hamlet tells Ophelia to get to a nunnery, does he know that he is being observed? In the Branagh movie he did, but I don't know if that is how the scene is usually interpreted. It's true that Hamlet treats Ophelia abominably, but isn't his anger understandable in light of the fact that Ophelia has totally rejected him at the request of her father? This must have hit him particularly hard since it came at a time when he was feeling such despair. Ann
Topic: November: Hamlet (48 of 59), Read 30 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, November 04, 2001 10:16 PM Beej, How is the side by side version of Hamlet going? I'd be interested if you could post a short excerpt from the modern English version. Ann
Topic: November: Hamlet (49 of 59), Read 31 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Sunday, November 04, 2001 10:59 PM Hamlet's age is indicated in Act V, scene i, 174-175 when we are told that Yorick's skull has been in the ground for 23 years. Hamlet says that he remembers that Yorick carried him on his shoulders. That would put Hamlet in his late twenties or early thirties. We get a strong indication that Hamlet has overheard Polonius's plan to "...loose my daughter to him:..." when Hamlet refers to Polonius as Jephthah. Jephthah, one of the Judges of Israel, promised God that if he won a certain battle he would sacrifice the first creature to greet him on his return home from battle. On his return, the first to greet him was his only daughter. Jephthah kept his word to God and sacrificed her. (Judges 11:30-40) In mid-conversation with Polonius, Hamlet begins to sing a popular ballad about Jephthah. Polonius says that like Jephthah he has a daughter whom he loves. Hamlet says that it "does not follow" with the double meaning that it isn't the next line of the ballad or it doesn't follow that he loves his daughter as he would use her for political ends. Act II, scene ii, 400-406 HAMLET O Jephthah, judge of Israel, what a treasure hadst thou! LORD POLONIUS What a treasure had he, my lord? HAMLET Why, 'One fair daughter and no more, The which he loved passing well.' HAMLET Am I not i' the right, old Jephthah? LORD POLONIUS If you call me Jephthah, my lord, I have a daughter that I love passing well. HAMLET Nay, that follows not. Dean. All roads lead to roam.
Topic: November: Hamlet (50 of 59), Read 27 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Monday, November 05, 2001 08:39 AM Ann-- If your reminder was directed at me, I apologize... there was absolutely no offense intended. Sometimes I make the mistake of arguing too hard for things I care about. I will honor your wishes, however, and express no more opinions on that matter. I get tricked sometimes by the vividness of works like 'Hamlet' (I loved Robert's post when it turned, at the end, to address Hamlet directly) into taking it as seriously as life itself, and getting too passionate about it. Once again (old story), I got carried away. Forgive me.
Topic: November: Hamlet (51 of 59), Read 24 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Monday, November 05, 2001 09:29 AM Here's my contribution to the ramblings..... I see Hamlet as a man of integrity, pensive intelligence, and a deep commitment to honor. He is not a politician, but he is caught up in the politics of court life. Hamlet has had the luxury of being a lifelong student in Wittenberg, and has been taught to debate and consider many perspectives. Taking action has not been required to this point in his life. He's 30 years old, and has spent those years in the comfortable knowledge that he will assume the throne at his father's death, which he thinks is many years away. To my knowledge, he has never had to assume the mantle of authority. All of a sudden, he finds his father has been poisoned, and his mother, who cuckolded the king, has married his uncle. That would tend to upset anyone, particularly a philosopher with royal obligations. He is not power hungry, but he does have a sense of noble responsibility, I think. He was raised as a prince, after all. He debates the merits of suicide, the nature of life, and murderous revenge. He loses his beloved Ophelia through the machinations of Polonius, a foolish, predictable crony of the king. Hamlet holds Polonius in disdain. I think he chides Ophelia to get to a nunnery because he's too worn out to deal with a woman who does not think on her own, and who is so easily turned on him. Ophelia is a bit of a dilemma for me. On the one hand, she's a ninny, easily manipulated. On the other, her situation is such that her personal security is caught between the sure protection of her father and the king, and the iffy future of Hamlet. Since this is Shakespeare, I suppose we're meant to accept her descent into a true madness. But, I have to wonder if she simply decides life is too much to bother with. I think she knew exactly what she was doing. Two people, Ophelia and Hamlet, use madness for their own ends. The courtiers are readily accepting of mad behavior because it fits with their political and personal expectations. It seems to me that only two people think with any depth - Claudius and Hamlet. Their motivations are what distinguish them. Claudius is driven solely by protecting his throne. Hamlet, though, is burdened with the ability to consider a situation beyond its surface. Hamlet is surrounded by manipulative people playing political games. He decides to hide behind a mask of madness until he can get things sorted out. I do not see him as flawed with inaction. I see him more as a man torn by conflicting ideas. He needs to get those settled in his own mind before he makes his move. He is determined to kill Claudius, but refuses to do so when he thinks Claudius is at prayer. Hamlet wants C. to go to hell, not Heaven, and refuses to make a martyr of him. He wants the perfect revenge, with all the philosophical edges neatly cut. I thought Hamlet's one liners were quite clever, and that he was enjoying himself with his puns and double meanings. That was an act of sanity, and gave him a tenuous sense of control. It was interesting how readily others accepted his madness. Their personal agendas needed Hamlet to be a bit crazy, and few attempted to look past his behavior. Claudius was on to him, though he used Hamlet's supposed madness as an excuse to send him off to England. I have seen this play several times, and each time, I see something new. Janet - isn't this playing sometime in the spring at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival?! Count me in. K
Topic: November: Hamlet (52 of 59), Read 21 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Monday, November 05, 2001 11:39 AM I think that Ophelia really does go mad but not because she was rejected by Hamlet. Both Laertes and Polonius warned her about this so it could not have come as a surprise. Indeed, she is following her father's advice and she is breaking off with Hamlet by returning his letters The imperative "get thee to a nunnery" was not necessarily an angry thing to say to a woman, either in Shakespeare's time or in Hamlet's (1050). There were only two options available for most women: marriage or religious orders. So, Hamlet could merely be giving her advice to avoid marriage. Besides what really upsets Ophelia is Hamlet's "madness." Which he fakes well enough to convince her. She interjects: O, help him, you sweet heavens! O heavenly powers, restore him! O, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown! She is, however, very devoted to her father. I think that the unexpected death of Polonius drives her mad. Nevertheless, Hamlet feels responsible. I agree, Kay, Hamlet is definitely faking madness as he says at the end of Act I, scene v: How strange or odd soe'er I bear myself, As I perchance hereafter shall think meet To put an antic disposition on, to give himself time to sort things out: The time is out of joint: O cursed spite, That ever I was born to set it right! Dean. All roads lead to roam.
Topic: November: Hamlet (53 of 59), Read 25 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, November 05, 2001 11:44 AM The imperative "get thee to a nunnery" was not necessarily an angry thing to say to a woman, either in Shakespeare's time or in Hamlet's (1050). This was a double-entendre..a nunnery in Shakespeare's time, besides being a convent, was also a 'slang' term for a house of prostitution. Beej
Topic: November: Hamlet (54 of 59), Read 23 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Monday, November 05, 2001 12:15 PM Yes, Beej, thanks for the reminder. I was so concerned about our modern interpretation that I had forgotten about that. Dean. All roads lead to roam.
Topic: November: Hamlet (55 of 59), Read 22 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, November 05, 2001 12:45 PM Trust me, Dean. You can easily run circles around me on this stuff. This nunnery business stays vividly in my memory only because my introduction to Shakespeare came from the nuns who taught in my Catholic high school. As a 15 year old with an overactive imagination, it allowed me many, many hours of fantasizing about what exactly might be going on at that convent next door to my school. Beej
Topic: November: Hamlet (56 of 59), Read 15 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Janet Mego vsjego@cs.com Date: Monday, November 05, 2001 03:10 PM This has been, as I knew it would be, a fascinating discussion. Kay, I think your summation is an insightful one, cutting to the heart of things succinctly. Robt, the parallels with the ever-present, ever-haunting terrorism in the U.S. and the upset Danish kingdom are apt ones. I myself have felt "madness" perhaps reminiscent of Hamlet's own--just when I feel that the center does not hold (oh, why not throw in a little Yeats here--it fits with the Elizabethan concept of the "Chain of Being"--that the rightness of structure in the universe was subject to being thrown out of whack by an act of evil magnitude)--I feel sanity creeping back in, and I can tell myself, get your s**t together and do what it takes to make your world better. I think Hamlet does this, too, off and on throughout the play. Making his world better means avenging his father's death, an act he's sworn to and for which he's put all trivial matters aside (everything else). But he's NOT an "action hero," which is not to say he's "fatally flawed" with inaction. Interesting that after Mel's version of the play came out one of the few things negative critics could think of to say was "Hamlet, ostensibly a man of inaction, played by an action hero? Ridiculous!" Pretty lame, IMO. To reduce Hamlet to a man of inaction is to applaud any knee-jerk reaction involving someone's death as its result taken without thought and planning. I suppose it could be argued that Polonius's death is exactly that. However, here is a very complex character filled with paradox. He takes lots of actions, yet none, until the death of Claudius in Act V, are the "right" ones. He is extremely intelligent and sensitive, yet at times, and I think that the moment he stabs Polonius is one of them, very close to actual madness, if not over the edge. He fluctuates, perhaps, between absolute sanity, or the idea that everything must be thought through completely, and absolute madness, the idea that nothing must be. I think it is the tension between these extremes that makes him truly, truly tragic. His "madness" and Ophelia's are foils, though, and I think that Shakespeare intends her as a symbol of quintessential madness in her final scenes, another sensitive, intelligent character whose father has been murdered, but with a completely different effect than that of a father's murder on Hamlet. There are so many fascinating questions left unanswered by the Bard in this play that I think he must have had more fun imagining what thinking people would make of it than with any other one. Maybe that's what makes it his "best." On the other hand, he could be on some other plane, reading this over my shoulder, chuckling, and muttering, "she thinks too much! Such (wo)men are dangerous! Look what happened to Cassius, and to Hamlet, for that matter!" Janet
Topic: November: Hamlet (57 of 59), Read 11 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Monday, November 05, 2001 06:24 PM The death of Polonius is the turning point in the play when Hamlet sees the futility of all the calculated planning and decides that all that is needed is readiness. Hamlet is a man of impulsive action who is faced with the challenge of controlling himself. But he cannot help but act. His first impulsive act is to wear black to the wedding. This certainly must have been a factor influencing Claudius to refuse Hamlet’s request to leave Elsinore. Claudius could not ignore the possible threat and defiance which this act could represent especially as it came when Denmark is under the cloud of impending war. Horatio tells us that Denmark is preparing for war because young Fortinbras is raising an army to regain the land which his father had lost in single combat with Hamlet Sr. It is interesting to note that the play begins and ends with single combat. I had previously said that Claudius was preparing for war but I have reconsidered. I think that it was more likely Hamlet Sr., as George said, the warrior-king, who was preparing for war. But now Claudius is king. His first act as king is to send ambassadors to Norway with instructions that they are not to deviate from what Claudius himself has written. As it turns out, Claudius’s diplomacy is successful. It is entirely possible that Claudius killed Hamlet Sr. to take the throne in a bid to avoid war with Norway. Claudius is very much ingratiated to Polonius. I can see Polonius working to secure the approval of the electors and securing popular support for Claudius’s ascension to the throne. (Later, Laertes would quickly turn public opinion against Claudius.) My opinion of Polonius is such that I can easily imagine him supplying the poison. (I think that Gertrude was ignorant of the murder. When Hamlet confronts her with it her surprised and puzzled reaction dissuades him from pressing the point.) Enter Hamlet, obviously not happy about the marriage which I presume was also the coronation. Hamlet is angry about how quickly it happened but he doesn't consider that the threat to Denmark required that a new king be crowned post-haste. Hamlet unconcerned about the well-being of Denmark, pursues his goals without consideration of anything else. In the end, Hamlet’s actions bring about the destruction of the entire Danish royal house and all of Denmark is lost to Norway as Fortinbras becomes the elected king. Dean. All roads lead to roam.
Topic: November: Hamlet (58 of 59), Read 6 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Monday, November 05, 2001 07:58 PM Theatrics abound. First of all it is a play; then the play within a play (THE MURDER OF GONZAGO complete with a crafty adaptation) mirrors the play HAMLET. This, in turn, awakens our awareness that HAMLET, the play we're viewing (or reading) mirrors our life, too, our own personal and collective drama (in which we are beset by terrorists,) thereby extending the experience to be a play within a play within a play. And is God watching this scenario that He has authored? That would add another reflection into this hall of mirrors, and onward it goes into infinity. Shakespeare offers other ruminations on theatricality throughout the play and I am a lazy s. o. b. not to quote these passages in the same thoughtful manner that George and Dean have in order to illustrate their points. I recall Hamlet discussing theatrics with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and the traveling players. Also, Hamlet is quite the actor himself, acting mad. Actually, many characters are acting: Claudius is acting like he is mourning his brother's accidental death; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are acting like their friendship to Hamlet goes deeper than their employment to the King; Ophelia acts like she doesn't want to see or speak to Hamlet; Polonius acts like he is Hamlet's trusted old friend; the court acts like nothing is wrong; and as the play progresses the performances of various characters escalate in their departure from reality. Any character who is not acting stands out: Horatio, the ghost and Hamlet in his introspection come to mind. They are ballasts against the artifice. And so, I find myself saying the lines out loud, as MAP recommended, echoing them while watching video versions, my thespian tendencies aroused, seduced by the gorgeous language, playing along with the others. Robt
Topic: November: Hamlet (59 of 59), Read 6 times Conf: Classics Corner From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Monday, November 05, 2001 08:36 PM Ah those thespian tendencies. Gotta watch those, Robt. Speak the speech I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly upon the tongue. For if you mouth it, as many of our players do, I had as lief the town-crier spoke my lines... I think I can still do it all. Ruth,with fond memories of her college dramatics days "I don't have a favorite song. I only have the song I'm singing today" Berenice Reagon
Topic: November: Hamlet (60 of 81), Read 35 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Tuesday, November 06, 2001 10:46 AM There's so much to chew on here, particularly regarding the roles played by each character. I think Ophelia was driven to distraction by her father's accidental death and Hamlet's supposed madness. She allows herself to play the role of a fragile woman and uses that as an excuse for her passive aggressive behavior. I think it was all too much for her, and she opted to drown herself. She was not mad, but she was depressed. The court believes she knew exactly what she was doing, and shouldn't be buried in hallowed soil. Did Shakespeare add that burial scene to verify she was cognizant when she drowned herself? Dean- I have no doubt that Claudius is as crafty as they come. However, I do not think his murder of his brother had any motive other than ascension to the throne, with Gertrude as his queen. His subsequent determination to rid the court of Hamlet, the true heir, speaks to Claudius' selfish ends. Hamlet made a declaration of war when he wore black to the coronation/wedding. I wonder why the throne wouldn't have gone automatically to Hamlet. Isn't that the natural succession? And if so, why wasn't the court protesting, not to mention Hamlet? One would think Gertrude would be asking questions if she were totally innocent of the king's death. Surely she's not that much of a ninny. I believe she did not know what was planned. I must be missing something here. K
Topic: November: Hamlet (61 of 81), Read 37 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Tuesday, November 06, 2001 11:52 AM It's safe to assume that Hamlet was away in Wittenberg when his father died and therefore could not immediately take his place on the throne. The threat of war from Norway meant that a new king had to be found in a hurry so they elected Claudius. Claudius mentions this in his opening speech "...nor have we herein barr'd Your better wisdoms, which have freely gone With this affair along." They went along with the idea and I think that Claudius and Polonius did the convincing. Marrying Gertrude could actually have helped him secure the crown. Gertrude would have gone along with Claudius rather than supporting Hamlet's claim because that would mean that she would remain queen. Which raises the question, do Claudius and Gertrude love each other or is it a marriage of convenience? Dean. All roads lead to roam.
Topic: November: Hamlet (62 of 81), Read 42 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Tuesday, November 06, 2001 12:21 PM It would be a shame not to mention here quite possibly the most impressive literary site on the net since it relates to the subject at hand: http://shakespeare.palomar.edu/ Which gives one access to essays on Shakespeare by Hazlitt, Coleridge, Pater, and many many others. Robert-- I thought your post on Hamlet's theatricality and artifice wonderful; it makes me curious if Dostoevsky stole his 'lie your way to the truth' principle directly from Hamlet Kay-- I'm obviously constrained from commenting on the 'missing something' you're asking about, but I suppose I can mention a note from the scholar Harold Jenkins in his outstanding Arden edition of Hamlet: 'The succession by a king's brother rather than his son was permitted by the system of an elective monarchy, which Denmark in fact had. The succession of a brother is paralleled within the play in Norway. Dover Wilson's argument that Claudius is a usurper is refuted by Honigmann and Stabler, who show that ambiguity on that point is inherited from the source material. I do not think, with Stabler, that uncertainty about Hamlet's rights can have designed as part of his plight; nor that the first scenes create a mystery about the succession. It is clear that Claudius became king with full public consent, and the king publicly nominates Hamlet as his successor.'
Topic: November: Hamlet (63 of 81), Read 46 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Tuesday, November 06, 2001 01:07 PM One piece of advice that Machiavelli gave in The Prince was that the prince could feel free to murder a father with impunity so long as he did not deny the son his patrimony. If the prince both murdered the father AND denied the son his patrimony, then the son would seek revenge. Otherwise, not. That kind of thing creates a temptation to view Hamlet as a Machiavellian fable. However, I do not view Hamlet as a Machiavellian figure at all. Putting it simply, even if the murder had resulted in his becoming king, I cannot imagine his acceptance of that situation. Further, the Machiavellian prince is a person of action, quick and clean. Hamlet is a man of thought--so much so that any impetus toward action is deflected by thought. We are assured several times that the general population adored Prince Hamlet. Therefore, I am convinced that he could have killed Claudius, announced the reason for that, and ascended the throne with no problem. That would have been Machiavellian. Throughout this play, I find myself saying, "Oh, for God's sake, do it or forget about it!" Did not his obsessive, endless thought about this dilemma in the end result in far more destruction than the other course of action would have? The real catch here is his mother. How to handle her? I am fascinated with the relationship between Hamlet and his mother. That scene when he confronts her in her bedroom is fantastic! This is Freudian stuff three centuries before Freud. More about that later lest this note get out of hand. Steve
Topic: November: Hamlet (64 of 81), Read 44 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Tuesday, November 06, 2001 01:41 PM Steve-- 'However, I do not view Hamlet as a Machiavellian figure at all. Putting it simply, even if the murder had resulted in his becoming king, I cannot imagine his acceptance of that situation.' Couldn't agree more. 'Further, the Machiavellian prince is a person of action, quick and clean. Hamlet is a man of thought--so much so that any impetus toward action is deflected by thought.' Not entirely true-- Hamlet does kill Polonius spontaneously, hoist R&G with their own petards without a second thought, go off with a possibly lethal apparition (his father's) without hesitation, etc., He is also, apparently, the quickest and best swordfighter on the planet. Action isn't so much the problem as action in this particular circumstance. There are several instances in S's plays of great people who are rendered impotent by the mere presence of certain other individuals: Antony is a great warrior, except when he's near Caesar: 'Soothsayer: Therefore, O Antony, stay not by his side: Thy demon, that's thy spirit which keeps thee, is Noble, courageous high, unmatchable, Where Caesar's is not; but, near him, thy angel Becomes a fear, as being o'erpower'd: therefore Make space enough between you.' In 'Julius Caesar' Brutus is noble except when thinking about his 'evil spirit', Julius. I would venture a guess that Hamlet, though thoughtful, being also naturally spontaneous, quick, brave, and very funny, finds his true self eclipsed somewhat when dealing with issues that stem from his intimidating father- a father rendered positively frightening by his transformation into a ghoul that trembles at the morning cries of roosters. What the hell is Hamlet supposed to make of this? His ultra-direct, invincible father now plays tag in the night with warriors: ' MARCELLUS: Shall I strike at it with my partisan? HORATIO: Do, if it will not stand. BERNARDO: 'Tis here! HORATIO: 'Tis here! MARCELLUS: 'Tis gone!' How sad. It's enough to shred the mind of any loving but ambivalent son.
Topic: November: Hamlet (65 of 81), Read 39 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Tuesday, November 06, 2001 02:00 PM Thanks for the link, George. Hamlet has two concerns with the King’s promise of succession. One, he thinks that the promise is empty air: Act III, scene ii before the play begins KING CLAUDIUS How fares our cousin Hamlet? HAMLET Excellent, i' faith; of the chameleon's dish: I eat the air, promise-crammed: you cannot feed capons so. Chameleons were believed to live on air because they eat so rarely and quickly that no one had actually observed one eating. Two, Hamlet must wait for the crown Act III, scene ii after the play ROSENCRANTZ Good my lord, what is your cause of distemper? you do, surely, bar the door upon your own liberty, if you deny your griefs to your friend. HAMLET Sir, I lack advancement. ROSENCRANTZ How can that be, when you have the voice of the king himself for your succession in Denmark? HAMLET Ay, but sir, 'While the grass grows,'--the proverb is something musty. The proverb is “While the grass grows the horses go hungry.” On the other hand Fortinbras may be more content to wait for the crown as his uncle is “impotent and bed-rid.” Dean. All roads lead to roam.
Topic: November: Hamlet (66 of 81), Read 41 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Tuesday, November 06, 2001 03:26 PM Ann, In some instances the modern version of Hamlet is hysterically funny.. here's a short example, and right from the beginning with Act one, Scene one: (original text): Francisco: You come most carefully upon the hour. Barnardo: 'Tis now struck twelve. Get thee to bed, Franciso. Francisco: For this relief much thanks. 'Tis bitter cold, and I am sick at heart. (modern version): Francisco: You're on the dot. Barnardo: It's turned twelve. Off to bed, Francisco. Francisco: Many thanks for coming. It's bitterly cold. I'm fed up. Sure loses a lot with the modern translation, doesn't it? Beej
Topic: November: Hamlet (67 of 81), Read 43 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Tuesday, November 06, 2001 03:50 PM An elected monarchy, huh? Interesting. Thanks to all who provided a courteous response. K
Topic: November: Hamlet (68 of 81), Read 37 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Tuesday, November 06, 2001 05:39 PM Beej, That is priceless. Now I wonder what they did with the "To be or not to be" speech. This reminds me a bit of reading some of the modern translations of the Bible and comparing them to the old King James version. Ann
Topic: November: Hamlet (69 of 81), Read 38 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Tuesday, November 06, 2001 05:53 PM With his last breath, Hamlet supports the election of Fortinbras as king: But I do prophesy the election lights On Fortinbras: he has my dying voice; And so Fortinbras, which means strong in arm, regains his father's losses and more without ever having raised his arm against Denmark. Fortinbras shows that he is honourable when, according to the terms of the agreement with Claudius, he moves his troops peacefully through Denmark to attack Poland. Dean. All roads lead to roam.
Topic: November: Hamlet (70 of 81), Read 42 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Tuesday, November 06, 2001 06:56 PM Ann, for you..anything. Hamlet's Soliloquy; modern version: 'To live or not to live. That is the issue. Is it more noble to endure the blows of fickle fortune, or to fight against overwhelming odds and overcome them? To die is to sleep: nothing more. And if- by sleep- we could end the heartaches and the thousand everyday anxieties that humans suffer, it would be an outcome to be cordially welcomed. To die...to sleep...to sleep and perhaps to dream...Yes, there's the catch! Those dreams that we might have during that sleep of death- after we've cast off the hurly-burly of mortal life- must make us hesitate. That's what makes us tolerate suffering so long. Who would bear the torments of the world we live in- the tyrant's injustice, the arrogant man's rudeness, the pangs of unrequited love, the slow process of law, the insolence of persons in authority, and the insults that the humble suffer- when he could settle everything himself with a mere dagger? Who would be a beast of burden, grunting and sweating with fatigue, if it were not that the dread of something after death- the unexplored country from whose territory no traveler returns- makes us ambivalent and makes us choose to bear the troubles that we have, rather than fly to others that we know nothing about. That's why our intelligence makes us all cowards, and why our determination- normally so healthy looking- takes on a sickly pallor through thinking too much about precise details. This process causes ventures of the highest importance to go astray and lose their impetus. But hush! The beautiful Ophelia! Young lady: remember all my sins in your prayers.' Beautiful. Beej
Topic: November: Hamlet (71 of 81), Read 25 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Mary Anne Papale mapreads@aol.com Date: Wednesday, November 07, 2001 07:45 PM One of the marvelous things about Shakespeare is that his stage direction is sparse, thus leaving so much open to interpretation. Witness, for example, the many ways actors have played Hamlet. The variations are endless. Here's my take on something mentioned: As noted, Hamlet has been summoned home from school upon the death of his father. How long after the death did the word get to him? Perhaps 2-3 weeks? Add another 2 weeks for him to get home, and when he arrives there's a coronation. I believe Gertrude & Claudius may already be married. But in any event, Hamlet is still in mourning. Of course he wears black, not as an act of treason, but because he is in mourning. At this point Hamlet has not seen the ghost. Hamlet doesn't get fired up until he himself sees the ghost. Also, Hamlet has spent all these years with his studies. He apparently has shown no interest in assisting his father in ruling or waging battle. This leads me to believe that Hamlet had been ambivalent about his own right to the throne, and thus Claudius was free to jump into the breech. MAP
Topic: November: Hamlet (72 of 81), Read 29 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Thursday, November 08, 2001 03:17 AM Hamlet's appearance in black at the coronation/wedding could be interpreted as nothing more than grief which is what Claudius and Gertrude say they do. However, there is an ambiguity: how much of Hamlet's choice of attire depends on legitimate feelings of grief or treasonous anger at losing the crown. Then we see that Hamlet dislikes Claudius. It is Claudius who decides that he should remain at Elsinore but Hamlet says that he will obey his mother. Hamlet in his first soliloquy says that his father has been dead for less than 2 months. He says that Claudius isn't as good as his father and that the wedding happened quickly. If Claudius isn't good enough to take Hamlet Sr.'s place who is? Why is he so upset that the wedding happened so quickly? Then he says: But break, my heart; for I must hold my tongue. If he were to express any of these thoughts they could be taken as treason and would put him in danger. Because we are not directly threatened by Hamlet's ambitions we can afford to give him the benefit of the doubt but Claudius cannot. It is interesting that he cannot yet express his desire for the crown even in soliloquy. It is kept from everyone, even us, until after we have all seen the king's reaction to the play. Hamlet has to be careful about what he says. When he is speaking to Rosencrantz and Gildenstern, they try to get Hamlet to speak of his ambition in a heavy-handed way. Hamlet suspects that they are working for the king and presses them to admit it. Later, knowing that Claudius and Polonius are listening, he, under the thin veil of madness, tells Ophelia "...I am very proud, revengeful, ambitious, ..." After the play, having secured Horatio and us as impartial witnesses to the guilty reaction of the king, Hamlet is able to speak more openly: ROSENCRANTZ Good my lord, what is your cause of distemper? you do, surely, bar the door upon your own liberty, if you deny your griefs to your friend. HAMLET Sir, I lack advancement. ROSENCRANTZ How can that be, when you have the voice of the king himself for your succession in Denmark? HAMLET Ay, but sir, 'While the grass grows,'--the proverb is something musty. A little later, when he is with his mother, Hamlet is even more direct when he says that Claudius stole the crown from him: [Claudius is] A murderer and a villain; A slave that is not twentieth part the tithe Of your precedent lord; a vice of kings; A cutpurse of the empire and the rule, That from a shelf the precious diadem stole, And put it in his pocket! On his return after sailing for England he tells Horatio the list Claudius's crimes, in obvious order of importance: Act V, scene ii, 64-66 He that hath kill'd my king and whored my mother, Popp'd in between the election and my hopes, Thrown out his angle for my proper life,... And finally, Hamlet's dying words concern the election. Although he could not say so at the beginning of the play, even to us, by the end he has made it clear that he wanted the crown. Dean. All roads lead to roam.
Topic: November: Hamlet (73 of 81), Read 29 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Tuesday, November 06, 2001 11:48 PM "Unless the viewer of 'Hamlet' can believe that Hamlet was born and will die, unless the viewer's imagination is carried offstage into the life for which there is no direct evidence onstage, the play dies with the protagonist. A character understood to have no life offstage can have no life onstage." From "God: A Biography", by Jack Miles, quoted in GOD, INTERRUPTED, a review by James Wood of Miles' recent book CHRIST, A CRISIS IN THE LIFE OF GOD. The review appears in the New Yorker magazine of 11/12/01. pres, who finds it difficult to disagree but doesn't consider the matter settled. "I just kind of conjured them up out of my subconscious and put them in order of ascending peculiarity." EDWARD GOREY
Topic: November: Hamlet (74 of 81), Read 35 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Thursday, November 08, 2001 02:31 AM Ophelia is warned that Prince Hamlet is using her and is not serious about her- Hamlet toys with her and bombards her with innuendos. Polonius believes (and bets his head) that Hamlet is mad with love for his daughter- Hamlet directs numerous obscure references at him that relate primarily to Ophelia. Gertrude fears that Hamlet is 'mad' (angry with her/insane...double meaning)- Hamlet alternately raves at her and berates her. R&G expect to find ambition at the heart of Hamlet's rage- Hamlet tells them he lacks advancement. Claudius, with his criminal conscience, worries that Hamlet suspects him- Hamlet puts on a play that re-enacts his crime. With everyone in the play but Horatio, Hamlet seems to speak (with supercharged brilliance) right into the category they were putting him anyway. He knows what everyone expects to see and hear because he is the ultimate student of human nature and literature's most intelligent character. His ghostly father puts Hamlet on a collision course with death right from the beginning. Shakespeare's insight here is crucial: Kings are already dead, at least as human beings. Their life is taken from them by cares of State. So Hamlet can avenge his father and be executed for murder, or he can succeed, become king, and live out his life in thrall to the throne, surrounded by hollow hangers-on and an unfaithful mother. Either way, this student-at-heart must surrender his freedom to learn, to play, to have an individual life. Hamlet, in 'Hamlet', is actually killed in Act I Scene 1 in my opinion. There are two Hamlets in the play, and both of them are the walking dead. But being the student he is, he must stall and improvise to buy time with which to study death. And study life. He goes on a whirlwind tour of the minds that are left around him, grasping each of them to their essence, then letting go. Plays, as Shakespeare well knew, have all the semblances of life without actually being ALIVE. Hamlet himself is a living and dying play... which is Shakespeare's unsurpassable achievement. Hamlet turns overtly to us at the end with this: 'I am dead, Horatio. Wretched queen, adieu! You that look pale and tremble at this chance, That are but mutes or audience to this act, Had I but time--as this fell sergeant, death, Is strict in his arrest--O, I could tell you-- But let it be. Horatio, I am dead...' Hamlet comes to recognize his living death, but also his role as the Player Prince, and talks to the 'audience'. He could tell us what he's learned in his study of death, but it is beyond words. He also recognizes the similarity of his condition to the ghost of his father that fled in the beginning at cock crow, subtly compared when he says 'The potent poison quite o'er-crows my spirit'. Shakespeare, incessant punner, may even be giving double meanings this late in the game with 'the rest is silence'; the rest (relaxation) comes to the character Hamlet with silence (the end of speech). If any man knew 'aught of what he leaves', it was Shakespeare, working through the relentless mind and voice of his Hamlet.
Topic: November: Hamlet (75 of 81), Read 21 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Thursday, November 08, 2001 02:08 PM Very interesting notes, all. Beej, thanks for posting the "modern" translation of the To Be or Not To Be speech. That really is not bad. The poetry is missing, of course, but it did clarify a few expressions I didn't understand. Earlier Kay said she had problems understanding Ophelia. I concur. Emotionally, she strikes me as a ninny. Rationally I can understand that she must have been very young and completely dependent on her male relatives. As George said, she had been warned that Hamlet was only toying with her. He was, after all, heir to the throne and probably destined for a political marriage to someone else of royal blood. In those days, if a girl lost her "virtue," she lost all. Therefore I can understand why she felt compelled to cut Hamlet off completely. I can also understand why her father's death was such a total blow to her. Be that as it may, I have trouble emotionally identifying with her, probably because she is so passive -- something very far from my own personality. I can understand Hamlet's resentment that Claudius had usurped the throne, but I question the extent of his own political ambitions. I believe he had a kind of "I don't really want it just yet, but it isn't fair that you've got it" attitude. If being king were his goal, wouldn't there be scenes in the play showing Hamlet conspiring with his friends and the soldiers to stage a coup? MAP mentioned the different interpretations of this play. The performances we have seen certainly influence our opinions. In the Branagh movie version, Gertrude and Claudius can't keep their hands off each other. There are also some bedroom scenes between Hamlet and Olphelia, which don't strike me as plausible, but which certainly make Hamlet's anger at Ophelia more understandable. The addition of overt sex also explains why this version is quite popular with the younger set. Ann
Topic: November: Hamlet (76 of 81), Read 17 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Thursday, November 08, 2001 02:20 PM "this monstrous Gothic castle of a poem" quoted by James Agate in his review of Gielgud's 1944 Hamlet. I have not been able to trace the source but, then, I haven't gone any farther than the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. Kenneth Tynan, HE THAT PLAYS THE KING, 1950, of a 1944/45 Gielgud performance: "When I saw this Hamlet, Leslie Banks had been replaced as Claudius by Abraham Sofaer, who with the Jewish actor's gift for appearing to be a dignified but slightly pathetic intruder, managed to capture an altogether remarkable slice of the audience's sympathy, and so restored the balance of a play too often obscured by the eclipsing charm of its hero." W. H. Auden: "I would question whether anyone has succeeded in playing Hamlet without appearing ridiculous." pres "I just kind of conjured them up out of my subconscious and put them in order of ascending peculiarity." EDWARD GOREY
Topic: November: Hamlet (77 of 81), Read 20 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Mary Anne Papale mapreads@aol.com Date: Thursday, November 08, 2001 02:39 PM Asimov indicates that in Shakespeare's time, the line of succession to the throne often went to a brother of the king in lieu of an absent or youthful son. But also known by Elizabethan audiences was the notion of the "wicked uncle", similar to the "wicked step-mother". Had Hamlet been in Elsinore when his father died, he might have taken over the throne. Was it Woody Allen who said that being there is 9/10ths of success? Here's another take on the story: In Updike's prequel Gertrude & Claudius, that duo had long been having an affair behind the King's back. Polonius knows this and is complicit. Updike stops short of saying Gertrude was in on the assassination, but she's not altogether unhappy either. It's an interesting theory, and it does explain why Hamlet is so rude to Polonius. MAP
Topic: November: Hamlet (78 of 81), Read 20 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Thursday, November 08, 2001 04:22 PM In concert with the asides about various performances of this play, the best I have ever seen was a filmed 1964 stage production starring Richard Burton. John Gielgud directed. Hume Cronyn played Polonius. This was done on a minimalist set with minimalist costumes. Burton wore a black pullover and black slacks, for example. One would have to buy this to see it. It's hard to find. Can longer get it on tape. It is out on DVD, however. Now, as I was saying about the central character, Gertrude. . . . Steve
Topic: November: Hamlet (79 of 81), Read 20 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Thursday, November 08, 2001 08:35 PM Steve, I saw the Burton version when I was in high school, but I can't remember what his take was on Hamlet. Can you refresh my memory? I've been listening to a lecture by Peter Saccio on Hamlet from the Great Courses on Tapes series. (I have a friend who buys these tapes, which are basically college lectures, and then lets me borrow them). Saccio had some interesting comments on Gertrude. He said the part was "underwritten" because it leaves so many questions about her unanswered. Was she in love with Claudius? Had they committed adultery while Hamlet senior was still alive? Was she in on the murder of her husband? He commented that the part of Gertrude was really suited more to a movie actress than a stage actress because the camera could zero in on the actress's facial expressions. The expressions could reveal so much more than the actual dialogue. He particularly complimented Julie Christie's performance in the Branagh version. He also mentioned Lawrence Olivier's version of Hamlet, which was based on Hamlet's supposed Oedipus complex. In this version, Gertrude was lovely and even younger than Olivier. Hamlet lusted after her. It's hard for me to see how the text could support that interpretation, but then I've never seen the video. As for Hamlet himself, Saccio emphasizes his youth. He teaches at Dartmouth and says that it is easy to recognize Hamlet's quickly changing emotions in many college students. From the information provided here on CR, it sounds like Hamlet was around 30 -- which doesn't seem that young to me, even at my advanced age. Ann
Topic: November: Hamlet (80 of 81), Read 19 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Daniel LeBoeuf dan1066@yahoo.com Date: Thursday, November 08, 2001 10:39 PM In concert with Robert's take on the self-reflexive nature of this play, one of my favorite lines is Hamlet's response to the query as to what he's reading: "Words. Words. Words." The play opens with the most enigmatic query: "Who's there?" The characters are in the dark, but isn't the playwright addressing the audience as well? Add to that, as Robert noted, the mousetrap play and this work messes in the gray area between subjective opinion and objective text. Which of us, reading this play, can answer anything as clearly and concisely as Hamlet as to what's being read? This play is just a series of words--but, as is made clear by the "modern translation"--Shakespeare was a word-smith par excellance and there is a method to its madness. Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: November: Hamlet (81 of 81), Read 14 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Friday, November 09, 2001 08:33 AM "this work messes in the gray area between subjective opinion and objective text." Dan- I like that. The possibilities for interpretation abound, and I enjoy playing with the different options through respectful discussion. When I read the play, I tend to dig deeper than when I am experiencing it in the theater. Though my mind is actively noting differences in direction and interpretation when I'm in the audience, I inevitably get caught up emotionally and leave the performance emotionally drained. Part of that enjoyment is from being immersed in the spoken poetry of Shakespeare. The rest comes from the outright, downright drama of the tragedy. K
Topic: November: Hamlet (82 of 117), Read 60 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Saturday, November 10, 2001 12:16 PM The primary benefit of discussing Act III, scene 4 would be drawing Steve out on the subject of Gertrude, but I also find it one of the most puzzling scenes in the play. Hamlet kills Polonius behind the curtain, saying that he thinks perhaps it is the king. I find that odd, considering he has just left the king at prayer and he hears Polonius's (admittedly muffled) voice before he strikes. Maybe he really doesn't know who is behind there, or maybe he's saying that to give Gertrude the impression that he is in fact ready and willing to slay Claudius. I can't tell. Hamlet's absolute disgust for both Claudius and the queen's relationship with him is clear: Lay not that mattering unction to your soul, That not your trespass, but my madness speaks: It will but skin and film the ulcerous place, Whilst rank corruption, mining all within, Infects unseen. Also clear is that Hamlet's 'feigned' madness is hugging the curve of the real thing, as the image of his father reappears: Ghost: Do not forget: this visitation Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose. Whatever Hamlet's motivations are, they have been blunted by his conflicting emotions. I am very suspicious here of Gertrude's doublespeak- she claims her heart is cleft in twain by Hamlet's accusations, then marches to the next scene to rejoin Claudius. I think Shakespeare made this scene this way to show us Hamlet's first misjudgement of character in the play- he has wasted his words for the first time. He has not turned Gertrude against Claudius, she has not gone mad with guilt a la Ophelia. If Hamlet can misjudge his mother he can misjudge his father... an interesting development. Hamlet makes his father sound like a 'complete man', smart and strong, all virtue and no vice. Was he? And if he was, why was Hamlet avoiding his footsteps prior to the play's beginning? The ghost's first appearance was witnessed by all present- here only Hamlet sees him. Is ghost 2.0 actually there? This time the ghost is dressed in ordinary clothes, as Hamlet was used to seeing him. Is he the coinage of an ashamed Hamlet's brain? This question is left brilliantly unanswered by Shakespeare. Speculating at a point: Hamlet is critical of everyone (including himself) in the play but his father. He is cursed with the ability to see behind things, he knows not 'seems'. With his father, Hamlet lets be. It is relaxing to his mind and spirit to have at least one thing in his life that he doesn't remorselessly dissect down to the heart of its mystery. That thing he loses. Worse, the ghost of his father becomes yet another thing to be suspicious of. But there is one and only one other transparently obvious thing in the play that Hamlet refuses to examine closely... the trap laid for him at the end. He built his world view around one act of faith (belief in his father) set like a jewel in an ocean of skepticism. I'd venture that this precious faith is the reason Hamlet avoided the court, to avoid seeing through Hamlet Sr. That brought him a measure of peace. Through the odyssey of the play, Hamlet learns again to let be and not look behind the obvious doom awaiting him. Once again, looking away, though painful at first, brings him peace at the end.
Topic: November: Hamlet (83 of 117), Read 59 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Saturday, November 10, 2001 02:56 PM George, you were quite right earlier to point out to me that Hamlet certainly is capable of being a man of action. This simply emphasizes my real question though. Why the long delay here by Hamlet? He continually berates himself about not getting on with the revenge. He is apologetic about the delay when the ghost appears in Gertrude's bedroom. The problem is compounded by the fact that one can never really take Hamlet at his word regarding the reasons for this. I can't anyway. Whatever stands in his way can only be psychological. The monkey wrench in the situation is that his mother is married to the perpetrator and is obviously deeply in love with him and frankly, pretty sexed up by him. Do you notice--or is it just me?--that both the ghost and Hamlet seem to be more upset with Claudius bedding down Gertrude than with Claudius killing Hamlet Senior? When either of them speak of Claudius's crimes they spend a lot of time talking about incest, lust, adultery, female frailty, and on and on. There may be good reason for Getrude's vulnerability to Claudius. Claudius is a sensitive, loving husband. Hamlet Senior strikes me as a cold, stiff, militaristic man who hates women. I don't think life was so great for Gertrude with Hamlet Senior, and I don't think we can trust Hamlet's idealized portrayal of his dead father. So it seems to me that one of the main reasons for Hamlet's delay is his quandary of how to deal with his mother after his revenge if he cannot get her on his side before he does it. In the end his problem is solved. He only kills Claudius after it is clear that his mother is dying AND after she herself realizes Claudius's treachery with that poisoned cup. I have an idea about the killing of Polonius. Steve
Topic: November: Hamlet (84 of 117), Read 61 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Daniel LeBoeuf dan1066@yahoo.com Date: Saturday, November 10, 2001 04:01 PM Steve: I find your take on Hamlet fascinating. I never noticed that he does seem more upset with the sex than the poisoning. Hamlet as a momma's boy (in a loose sense) unable to do anything until he is sure his actions will be sanctioned by mother. I never noticed that there are two parents here and that Hamlet is fond and dutiful to both and not just one. I admit my reading suffered from this one-sided perspective. I never considered Gertrude's influence on Hamlet's actions; only Hamlet's ghostly father's. Isn't Laertes and Ophelia without a mother in this play? Is she dead or something? As a foil to Hamlet, Laertes functions solely on his father's advice and this helps the tragedy along. Hamlet, while giving ear to the advice of his father's ghost, waits until the proper moment to avoid upsetting his mother and in essence delays the inevitable tragedy. I admit I haven't thought it through, but this is credible and thought-provoking material. I really want to hear Steve's take on Polonius now. Dan It's OK--they're all smoking!
Topic: November: Hamlet (85 of 117), Read 62 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, November 11, 2001 12:30 AM Today I finished listening to the BBC audio version of that scene with Gertrude and Hamlet. Hamlet is played by Kenneth Branagh and Gertrude by Judy Dench--quite a pair. I too was struck by the horror that the sexual relationship between Claudius and Gertrude produced in Hamlet. Maybe Olivier's portrayal of Hamlet's Oedipal love for his mother wasn't so far off base after all. Hamlet seems particularly appalled by the fact that his mother is enjoying sex at her advanced age --- what, late 40's or early 50's? "You cannot call it love, for at your age The hey-day in your blood is tame, it's humble, And waits upon the judgement: and what judgement Would step from this to this (Hamlet Sr. to Claudius)... O shame! where is thy blush? Rebellious hell, If thou canst mutine in a matron's bones, To flaming youth let virtue be as wax And melt in her own fire: proclaim no shame When the compulsive ardour gives the charge, Since frost itself as actively doth burn, And reason panders will." Mummie has obviously stepped out of her customary role her and Hamlet doesn't like it one little bit. I think Steve's idea that Hamlet senior wasn't such a great guy after all has merit. Remember that the apparition tells Hamlet is suffering because he died unconfessed. Just what kinds of sins is he paying for? Derek Jacobi plays Hamlet both in this audio version and Branagh's movie. It's a wonderful performance and I can certainly understand Gertrude's attraction to him. Ann
Topic: November: Hamlet (86 of 117), Read 58 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Sunday, November 11, 2001 07:10 AM When I lived in Key West, a rowdy town back then, I attended an evening of scenes from Shakespeare at the local theater. Two scenes stole the evening. The first was the scene from RICHARD III where Richard seduces Lady Anne after murdering her husband. The mood was set when the actor playing Richard couldn't get his sword all the way down into the scabbard, so while speaking his lines he gave a passionate thrust which ripped the sword through the scabbard halfway down. Then a few minutes later Lady Anne spun around to face her evil suitor and the coil of hair on her head loosened from its moorings and stood out at a right angle on her head. Cheers erupted and everybody began to enjoy the show, although the production was intended to present the tragedies as tragedies and the comedies as comedies. But the real scene stealer was Hamlet's "To be, or not to be" soliloquy performed by the same actor who had been Richard. The lights came up on Hamlet contemplating an apple as if it were a wholesome Yorick, and after delivering the line: "That is the question!" he bit into the apple and started chewing it. The rest of the melodious speech was projected with a spray of apple bits to the audience's glee and produced enough laughter to settle the question once and for all. Robt
Topic: November: Hamlet (87 of 117), Read 55 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Sunday, November 11, 2001 02:01 PM Steve #93 So it seems to me that one of the main reasons for Hamlet's delay is his quandary of how to deal with his mother after his revenge if he cannot get her on his side before he does it. By, "get her on his side" do you mean so that she can support him in his bid for succession? But doesn't Hamlet berate his mother for having taken Claudius as a lover after he had struck a blow against the person whom he thought was the king? Doesn't this shoe that he is prepared to act regardless of his mother's feelings? One of the things which is holding Hamlet back is the ghost's command to Hamlet: Act I, scene v, 64-65 But, howsoever thou pursuest this act, Taint not thy mind, The Oxford World's Classic (OWC) edition by G.R. Hibbard gives this explanation: " 'Take revenge on Claudius, but on no account stoop to his methods.' He thus presents the hero with the dilemma that is at the heart of revenge tragedy: how is the nobility of the successful avenger to be preserved?" The ghost has good reason to re-appear to Hamlet after he has killed Polonius because killing a man who is standing behind an arras is hardly more noble than killing a man in his sleep. If Hamlet were truly noble would he have struck at a defenseless man? Claudius expresses remorse for the murder of his brother on at least two separate occasions. Hamlet kills five people and never feels the least regret. Hamlet seems to me to be very much like Richard III. Dean. All roads lead to roam.
Topic: November: Hamlet (88 of 117), Read 57 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Sunday, November 11, 2001 02:22 PM Gertrude herself is not any power player or plotter, and Updike aside, she clearly did not know of Claudius's murder of her previous husband at the time it occurred. She simply appears to be an older woman who is deeply in love and having fun sexually for the first time in her life. The thing is here, you can't trust anything Hamlet himself says. Sometimes he is even fooling himself. This is one of the things that is so fascinating about this play, and the thing that gives rise to so many different interpretations--all with evidence to support them. I think he is fooling himself about his father. I chose to believe that Hamlet knows perfectly well it is not the king behind the arras in Gertrude's bedroom after he runs Polonius through. You might say, "Yes, but he asks, 'Is it the king?'" And I say in response that he is manipulating Gertrude with this question. He just left the king praying elsewhere in the castle, for chrissakes, and knows perfectly well that the king is not behind the arras in his mother's bedroom. I think he probably knew it was Polonius and was ready to do him in, knowing that P. was working so assiduously for Claudius. His asking "Is it the king?" is his little way (a little commercial) of getting Gertrude prepared psychologically for what he must do in the end. That's my own explanation for all that, and I didn't steal it from anybody--the killing of Polonius part anyway. I hope my mother would be proud. Steve
Topic: November: Hamlet (89 of 117), Read 56 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Sunday, November 11, 2001 02:45 PM Here is the fascinating question for me. How come the ghost allows himself to be seen by Horatio and the guards but not Gertrude? Steve
Topic: November: Hamlet (90 of 117), Read 53 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Sunday, November 11, 2001 03:38 PM Steve, it is possible that the King followed Hamlet to his mother's chambers, after all, they do speak to each other for a while before the voice is heard from behind the arras. At any rate, if Hamlet killed Polonius deliberately or unintentionally the result is the same. Claudius now has justification to get rid of and even kill Hamlet for the safety of everyone. The advantage which Hamlet had over the king due to the mousetrap play is completely lost. After, the arranged encounter with Ophelia (which is also a mousetrap play), Claudius had determined that Hamlet be sent to England. After the death of Polonius, Claudius arranges for Hamlet's death. Dean. All roads lead to roam.
Topic: November: Hamlet (91 of 117), Read 51 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Sunday, November 11, 2001 04:24 PM Regarding Polonius' death: Isn't hiding in a Queen's chamber a dangerous thing to do? What about the Queen's safety? Someone lurking behind a drapery in a royal bedroom could be an assassin. Why is Hamlet's impulse to strike at the curtain so off base? This is where I question Gertrude's loyalty to Hamlet, because she could have informed the court that Polonius was eavesdropping and Hamlet didn't know who was behind the curtain and persuaded them that Hamlet was acting in her defense. But somehow public opinion came out against Hamlet when we had been informed that Hamlet was a popular Prince, so somehow another story got out. Certainly Claudius helped malign Hamlet's name, but what about Getrude? Hamlet was getting to be a lot of trouble to her at this point. Perhaps she was passive and without an advocate Hamlet's popularity plummeted. Robt
Topic: November: Hamlet (92 of 117), Read 51 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, November 11, 2001 04:58 PM Robert, Gertrude seems to have been convinced that Hamlet was stark raving mad, which may be why she didn't try to invent a more rational excuse for his behavior. I think she was going for the "not guilty by reason of insanity" approach. Dean, as you pointed out, Claudius had already determined that Hamlet would go to England before Polonius was killed. Do you think he only decided to have him killed after the killing of Polonius? Hamlet's frequent ravings about his "incestuous" relationship with Hamlet's mother made it pretty clear he was no friend of Claudius. Ann
Topic: November: Hamlet (93 of 117), Read 49 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Felix Miller felix3rd@bellsouth.net Date: Sunday, November 11, 2001 06:31 PM quote: Here is the fascinating question for me. How come the ghost allows himself to be seen by Horatio and the guards but not Gertrude?-Steve Someone remarked above (it may have been Steve, or others as well) that Ghost Hamlet seems not an admirer of women. Perhaps that is why Hamlet particularly is singled out for the full disclosure. Horatio and the guards are simply means to get Hamlet to the parapet. Which begs the question why the parapet, when Ghost Hamlet communicates with Hamlet minor later in other places? I think it is all a matter of focus, Hamlet major and minor are the driving forces in the play. And Hamlet minor is the conduit for his father (it is too "new age" to say he channels his father.) O the Book/ Of the Dead, and the dead bright sun on the page/ Where the team stands ready to explode/ In all directions with Time... Felix Miller
Topic: November: Hamlet (94 of 117), Read 56 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Sunday, November 11, 2001 06:39 PM Steve-- I agree almost entirely with your outstanding notes so far... keep 'em coming. With Hamlet though, the complexity of response must have a complex cause, with disparate or even contradictory elements. Although you are dead-on about the Hamlets hatred of Gertrude's, er, sexual second-wind, I don't think Gertrude is the largest factor dragging on Hamlet's revenge either. She IS a factor, as you've inarguably shown. But the psychological pressures stemming from the father seem larger to me. Hamlet has shunned the court, the military, typical princehood. Hamlet Sr. arrives and de facto asks Hamlet to go to war... a twisted war at that with no allies and against a king. We get a glimpse of the domineering, even insulting way Hamlet Sr approached fatherhood here: HAMLET: Haste me to know't, that I, with wings as swift As meditation or the thoughts of love, May sweep to my revenge. Ghost: I find thee apt; And duller shouldst thou be than the fat weed That roots itself in ease on Lethe wharf, Wouldst thou not stir in this. In fact, Hamlet's does sweep to revenge meditatively and with anger co-mingled with love... strange that he should've predicted the slowness of his response in a sentence meant to evoke rapid revenge.
Topic: November: Hamlet (95 of 117), Read 59 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Sunday, November 11, 2001 08:36 PM ... matter of fact, a wild guess came to me about the Gertrude/2 kings dynamic: Gertrude is said to live by Hamlet's looks. She does undoubtedly love and adore him. Strangely though, I believe Hamlet when he says: That it should come to this! But two months dead: nay, not so much, not two: So excellent a king; that was, to this, Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother That he might not beteem the winds of heaven Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth! Must I remember? why, she would hang on him, As if increase of appetite had grown By what it fed on: and yet, within a month-- Let me not think on't--Frailty, thy name is woman!-- A little month, or ere those shoes were old With which she follow'd my poor father's body, Like Niobe, all tears:--why she, even she-- So when Hamlet last saw his father and mother together, they were close and seemingly in love. What changed? Hamlet left. He reached the age where he should've become a warrior by his father's side, but he left. If, as I guessed, he went to Wittenberg to become what his father was not and keep his perfect memory of his father intact, then in a weird way it's his father's fault that he didn't stay. Perhaps Gertrude blamed Hamlet Sr. for Hamlet's absence. Regardless, Hamlet Sr's death brought Hamlet home, one assumes to the delight of Gertrude. Better yet from her perspective, she, at play's start, has a reknit family unit- a son at her side and a husband who wouldn't traipse around the world in wars and duels. Claudius is the new-model leader, winning through diplomacy and deception, not one-on-one combat. I believe Gertrude loved Hamlet Sr. when he was THERE... she's no proto-feminist offended at Hamlet Sr's views of women, in fact, she probably shared them. She seems pretty docile. As for Claudius the loving husband, it is all smoke and mirrors. He LETS Gertrude drink the poison as he looks on; when it comes down to it, he chooses the kingdom over her, just as he chose it over his brotherly bond. Granted, he is good at appearing good to her, but at his core he is a political animal with no regard for anything but himself. He is so in love with himself/deluded that when he is cut by the poison blade he says this: HAMLET: The point!--envenom'd too! Then, venom, to thy work. [Stabs KING CLAUDIUS] All: Treason! treason! KING CLAUDIUS: O, yet defend me, friends; I am but hurt. Ridiculous. This man is fighting for his crown from beyond the grave- only he, of all the fatally wounded in the final scene, fails to come to terms in some manner with death. His last breath is a pathetic lie.
Topic: November: Hamlet (96 of 117), Read 59 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Sunday, November 11, 2001 09:09 PM Doggone it, George, I forgot about that speech by Hamlet describing a loving relationship between Gertrude and his father. I shouldn't have because it is a relatively famous one what with the "frailty, thy name is woman" thing. I guess I tend to believe it, too. We're still left with an obviously close relationship between Gertrude and Claudius. Maybe Gertrude is easy. In any event, I think we are onto the weighty issues regarding this play, and these comments by everyone are all great. Steve
Topic: November: Hamlet (97 of 117), Read 56 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, November 11, 2001 09:57 PM Claudius does warn Gertrude about the poison: "Gertrude, do not drink," he says, but it is too late. As Derek Jacobi played the part, this line was said in desperation. Others might interpret it differently. If Claudius didn't love Gertrude, why did he marry her? I don't think the marriage enhanced his claim to the elected throne, but it did open him up to criticism. Both Hamlet senior and junior are incensed by the "incestuous" marriage of Claudius and Gertrude because traditionally it was against church law to marry a brother-in-law or sister-in-law without a special dispensation. This stemmed from a Biblical prohibition. Henry VIII married his brother's widow, Catherine of Aragon, after the pope gave him a dispensation. He later claimed that this was invalid, which he argued made the marriage to Catherine invalid, thus clearing the way for him to marry Anne Boleyn. Surely the Hamlets were not alone in being upset about this aspect of Claudius and Gertrude's marriage. BTW, Hamlet Sr. does tell Hamlet not to be too hard on the little woman: "But, howsoever thou pursues this act, Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive Against thy mother aught: leave her to heaven, And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge To prick and sting her." And just what were those "foul crimes" that force Hamlet senior to burn until they are expiated? I am thy father's spirit; Doom'd for a certain term to walk the night, And for the day confined to fast in fires, Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature Are burnt and purged away." The more I think about it, the more inclined I am to sympathize with those aged lovers. Hamlet Sr. might not have been missed for good reason. Ann
Topic: November: Hamlet (98 of 117), Read 56 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Sunday, November 11, 2001 10:15 PM Ann-- Well, look at it this way- your husband invites his worst business rival over for dinner planning to poison him. He puts out a glass of red wine with cyanide in it. You pick it up unexpectedly and he says 'don't drink that honey, you don't even like red wine'. You say 'I feel like trying it' and raise the glass... taking a fatal sip. I ask you, do you consider your husband's warning sufficient? How much does he really love you then? Sure, his shouting 'don't drink BECAUSE IT'S POISONED!' would be embarrassing, even actionable... but one must choose. Claudius warns Gertrude insofar as he can publicly, but ultimately chooses to let her die rather than take some heat himself and reveal what he truly is. He may, in some convenient way, love Gertrude... I believe he does. But what did it really amount to? A king with a queen is stronger than one without... Claudius simply wants it all, crown, wife, adoptive (hopefully adoring) son, etc., He is an atrocious human being in my view.
Topic: November: Hamlet (99 of 117), Read 56 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Sunday, November 11, 2001 10:37 PM Bad guy. Yes. I don't think there's any arguing that. Still, I like the way he discusses problems with Gertrude. I like the look of their relationship. And I don't remember Macbeth, for example, showing much guilt or getting down on his knees and attempting to pray for forgiveness. On the other hand and as in Macbeth, one killing leads to another. Claudius comes to realize that its him or Hamlet. On a somewhat related subject, Hamlet determines that his best strategy is to feign madness. It appears to me that as the play wears on, he crosses the line and is in fact nuts for awhile. Steve
Topic: November: Hamlet (100 of 117), Read 54 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, November 11, 2001 11:08 PM Steve, "It appears to me that as the play wears on, he crosses the line and is in fact nuts for awhile." I like that. It explains some of Hamlet's really strange dialog. But, George, it all depends on how that scene is played! I grant you that an actor could interpret Claudius's behavior the way you have. However, that isn't the way I saw it performed. For better or worse, it has affected my view of Claudius. After all, he could hardly have yelled to his wife, "Stop! I'm trying to kill your beloved son, not you." In any case, once Claudius utters the warning, he has implicated himself. Gertrude's death immediately follows her drinking the poison, and it's pretty apparent why Claudius knows it's tainted. Ann
Topic: November: Hamlet (101 of 117), Read 55 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Sunday, November 11, 2001 11:49 PM It seems odd that the ghost cannot be heard or seen by Gertrude especially after the ghost beckoned Hamlet away from the others so that they would not be overheard. Although Hamlet at the time of speaking with the ghost is ready to fly to revenge and he tells Horatio: Touching this vision here, It is an honest ghost, that let me tell you: For your desire to know what is between us, O'ermaster 't as you may. Hamlet changes his mind on both these points as he later says that: The spirit that I have seen May be the devil: and the devil hath power To assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps Out of my weakness and my melancholy, As he is very potent with such spirits, Abuses me to damn me: I'll have grounds More relative than this: the play 's the thing Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king. In effect, he would catch the conscience of two kings: Claudius and the spirit in the the image of his father. Just before the start of the play, Hamlet says to Horatio: One scene of it comes near the circumstance Which I have told thee of my father's death... Dean. All roads lead to roam.
Topic: November: Hamlet (102 of 117), Read 62 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ernie Belden drernest@pacbell.net Date: Sunday, November 11, 2001 11:16 PM I just finished reading many of the postings. Many of our readers tried hard to understand Hamlet, his personality, motives, actions. But one of the first postings caught my eye. This is the comment of a Chinese girl student who has no admiration for Hamlet since he does not act like a real man should. He is indecisive conflicted, confused, etc. Comments later on note the fact that he was a student at age 30. There is also the question if he actually wanted to take over the kingdom. But there is no question that he paid serious attention to his father's ghost and wanted revenge. Again he was conflicted as to how to go about it and last but not least while in love with Ophelia he found himself preoccupied with his difficult, complex situation. All this reminded me of a an interesting discussion I had many years ago with a lady professor of literature who was retired from the University and had taken off for a year in Europe and did some research at the Bancroft Library where I worked part time while a student at Cal. We became friends and discussed at length essential differences between American Students and the European archetypical student,the thinker (Gruebler as the Germans will say) confused about the meaning of most everything especially the purpose of life and his future role. Many years later I visited Vienna, where I was born and went to see a Mozart Opera and as I had done before went to the next door opera student hangout where they served mainly wine and beer. I was with an American friend who looked around and asked me why these young people, obviously students, were reading books. I remembered then and told my friend that these guys were "seeking wisdom and meaning". I had forgotten about this phenomenon I had observed as a teen ager. Well there may have been a contemporary Hamlet sitting around with a book. It's the culture, also reflected in Hamlet's attempt to make sense of all these gruesome and puzzling events. The lady professor at Cal. had noted the same thing and it became one of her most notable impression of European students. Ernie
Topic: November: Hamlet (103 of 117), Read 65 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Monday, November 12, 2001 12:24 AM Dean, Good point about the ghost's selective appearances. Why do the soldiers see him, but not Gertrude? Could he be a figment of Hamlet's imagination in the second instance? Ernie, those were interesting comments about the differences between European and American students. I was thinking again about the Chinese student's comments on Hamlet after I finished listening to it. This is a very emotional play and the emotions of the characters are expressed without much restraint. Asian cultures put a premium on being outwardly agreeable and keeping your emotions private. I imagine this play seems very strange indeed to many of them. Personally, I'm wondering how they could possible understand it. Maybe they read it in Chinese or have a modernized English version. If so, all the poetry would be lost. Ann
Topic: November: Hamlet (104 of 117), Read 65 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Monday, November 12, 2001 12:50 PM Dean, in No. 89 above I too expressed my fascination with the question of why Gertrude cannot see and hear the ghost. There is no reason to believe anything other than that the ghost does not wish her to see him and does not wish to engage in discussion with her. Of course that begs the real question, why? You quotations are apt. (". . .the devil hath power to assume pleasing shape." My favorite Shakespearean quotation of all time!) But whether or not the ghost is some devious device of the devil, does not "The Mousetrap" play and later events confirm the accuracy of the ghost's report of the murder of Hamlet Sr.? Steve
Topic: November: Hamlet (105 of 117), Read 59 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Monday, November 12, 2001 03:37 PM Before the scene in Gertrude's closet, it is not her bedroom but a private chamber, the ghost had already told Hamlet not to disturb Gertrude's state of mind. It follows that he wouldn't want to spook her by showing himself. When he notices her troubled state at Hamlet's reaction, he tells Hamlet to comfort her. Hamlet does and he goes on to tell her that he is faking madness. He makes her promise to keep his secret which she does. Ann, I think that we are meant to think that the ghost is not in Hamlet's imagination because we are told of his appearance and we hear what he says to Hamlet. If we had experienced the ghost as Gertrude had, only through Hamlet's reaction and speech, then we could say that Hamlet imagined it. Steve, I think that you are right. After the play Hamlet is jubilant to have confirmed what the ghost had told him. Later, in Gertrude's chamber Hamlet refera to the ghost as father for the first time. Some notes from OWC: - "nunnery" does not have the sense of brothel because Hamlet is speaking to Ophelia about avoiding breeding. - Ophelia's first two songs speak of love and death which indicate that she is driven mad by Hamlet's rejection and her father's death by Hamlet. As an aside, I hope that you will indulge me in expressing a concern on a matter of speech. Something can raise a question or lead us to a question or bring us to a question but only a person can beg a question which is a form of circular reasoning. With all the possible ways of saying "raise the question," I hope that you will agree that there is no need to use "beg the question" in this context. My concern is that an important distinction not be lost. Dean. All roads lead to roam.
Topic: November: Hamlet (106 of 117), Read 56 times Conf: Classics Corner From: S.F. Strahan Date: Monday, November 12, 2001 04:05 PM Wow, a lot of Hamlet notes over the weekend! On the question of why Gertrude does not see the ghost-- I've always thought that Hamlet Sr. was never visible to Gertrude for the same reason he doesn't appear (as far as we know) to Claudius; since he wants justice (or revenge) for his wrongful death, he appears only to those who might be able to forward that cause. He does not appear to those who might be culpable in his death. He doesn't know, but like Hamlet, may fear that Gertrude was a party to his death. He loves her even after death and doesn't want to look her in the eye as his brother's bride and maybe see something that would indicate that she didn't love him as much as he had thought when he was alive. That the ghost still cares for Gertrude is clear in his admonishing of Hamlet to deal gently with her and "leave her to heaven". Note, that he doesn't actually say that Gertrude is an innocent party to the crime, but rather begs Hamlet to be merciful to her and leave the judgement of her to God--which sort of implies that the ghost doesn't know if she is innocent or not, but perhaps has a qualm about it. There is a strong sexual subtext to Hamlet. In many productions the scene with Hamlet and Gertrude in Gertrude's chambers has an um...electric quality to it, sometimes with the son flinging his mother down on the bed and pinning her there, them delivering their lines pantingly, with their faces close. It's very Oedipal, what with Hamlet being so angry that Claudius (and not himself!) has become king, that Claudius has his mother's affections. One can read Hamlet's reactions not as anger that his mother acted unseemly by marrying quickly, but as jealousy that she chose Claudius as her king instead of him! That might shed some light on Hamlet killing the person behind the arras...he has spewed out contempt for his mother bedding down Claudius as if she were a common whore...now he finds that there is someone hiding in her bedchamber. No one with a legitimate reason to visit the queen in her chambers would be hiding. Perhaps he just blows up thinking that Gertrude has got yet *another* lover! Imagine his fury! I've thought that the bit about "A rat! Is it the king!" wasn't about Hamlet actually thinking it was Claudius behind the arras, but rather all part of him taking shots at Gertrude. Sometimes it is played out as really part of his torturing her and one has the impression that he doesn't really care who is behind the arras; he just wants to terrorize his mother to the greatest extent possible. ~~Susan~~ "Then would you read a Sustaining Book, such as would help and comfort a Wedged Bear in Great Tightness?" ---Winnie The Pooh
Topic: November: Hamlet (107 of 117), Read 54 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Monday, November 12, 2001 08:00 PM Susan, the problem is that Hamlet berates his mother after he kills Polonius not before. I never liked the Oedipal interpretation. After all, not even Oedipus was Oedipal. I prefer to think that the succession is the issue as he himself says at the height of his rant. Dean. All roads lead to roam.
Topic: November: Hamlet (108 of 117), Read 47 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, November 13, 2001 09:45 AM Someone mentioned our illustrious student overseas, who does not like Hamlet or his actions. I have no problem with their opinion...much of how Hamlet handles the situation is shabby and heavyhanded, and worse hurtful---as we see with Ophelia. But it is easy for a student or anyone to say they "don't like Hamlet" but what would they have done instead? With this play we have very bad people. I can barely think of an elder who I respect in the play. Ophelia's father reads her love letters to others, Gertrude marries too quickly after her husbands death. Claudius kills his own brother. These actions and people are morally wrong. Not one of them appears to know how to "do the right thing". Of course Hamlet Jr. would be outraged...depressed...disillusioned. Who wouldn't? Which, I would love to ask our fair student...how could Hamlet have done "the right thing"? Is it even possible to do the right thing? Hamlet makes so many errors...he stereotypes all women after his knowledge of his mothers actions. He has every reason to see his mother as frail, as morally slack...but to bind all women such? His own father he sees as a warmonger...he does not want to be that way either to take conflicts and solve them with violence. That is good. He comes up with a clever way to find evidence, by constructing a play that will out his uncle. I think he is a hero and correct for not wanting to adopt others ways of living...his mother, uncle and father, and even Ophelias' pathetic father. He wants to amend history. How can he do that? How can we? Instead, all backfires and he does act in each of the ways he tried to reject...and it is incorrect to consider Hamlet a character of inaction. His actions are mostly in his thoughts, he has an active mind in the attempt to find the right thing to do. How do we do the right thing? Candy That for which we find words is something already dead in our hearts. There is always a kind of contempt in the act of speaking. Nietzsche
Topic: November: Hamlet (109 of 117), Read 49 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Tuesday, November 13, 2001 11:24 AM Dean, you are quite right to object to a sloppy use of the phrase "begs the question." I stand corrected. You are also correct that the location of Act III, Scene iv, is not Gertrude's bedroom. The fact is though that the scene is often staged with Gertrude's bed as a prop, as Susan correctly observes. I think that is because so many people have discerned that the source of Hamlet's quandary has so much to do with his attitude toward his mother, and they wish to find ways to portray that. Even T.S. Eliot in his famous essay on the play says, ". . .the essential emotion of the play is the feeling of a son towards a guilty mother." Steve
Topic: November: Hamlet (110 of 117), Read 51 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Tuesday, November 13, 2001 11:42 AM Candy-- Fantastic if risky questions. I just finished reading Bloom's wonderful essay on Hamlet in 'How To Read and Why', one I assume you've read also. It focuses on the meat of the play: it's ever-experimental nature and Hamlet's seven soliloquies, those seven teaching us better than anything in literature 'how to speak to ourselves'. Bloom says Hamlet is trying to exert the powers of the mind over a sea of troubles or a 'universe of death' but ultimately fails because he thinks too honestly and too lucidly. But the cognitive music generated in the effort it seems to me transcends 'failure'. I think any accurate accounting of Hamlet's motivations would have to face those soliloquies head-on... a very difficult task. Setting aside the obvious red herrings of Hamlet as simple procrastinator or Hamlet as seeker of the crown, two views which wilt in the face of the intellectual vistas contained in the 'to be or not to be' speech or the gravedigger scene, we are left to come up with reasons for Hamlet's actions that will EQUAL in complexity and weight the things he says to himself. Bloom rightly points out that when Hamlet says: ' Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them? To die...' he is saying that when you take arms against the sea, the sea will end you and your troubles with you. This is not a man hoping to out-stall misery or who relishes the prospect of lording over a court of Polonius's and Osric's. This is not a man hoping for any conventionally happy outcome whatsoever. This is a man dealing with thoughts that are poisonous- the play invariably doubles things, 'mirrors nature', and the poison that drips from swordblades and swirls in goblets in Act V is prefigured by the mental poison that begins killing Hamlet in Act I, more slowly, more cruelly for sure... but brings with it desperate epiphanies.
Topic: November: Hamlet (111 of 117), Read 53 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, November 13, 2001 12:15 PM "An important scientific innovation rarely makes it's way by gradually winning over and converting it's opponents...What does happen is that it's opponents gradually die out and that the growing generation is familiarized with the idea from the beginning." Max Planck For me, this play continues to intrigue me not because of the details of the corruption among characters...but because of the painful idea that Hamlet polluted by the previous generation(or history if you like) must realize the worries of the world, the sea of troubles, and to do anything, he must also die to eliminate the corruption. This is why he is also a hero figure to me. In this play, there does not seem to be any way to cure history that has already occurred. I see this play as an instrument for safely working through how we, the reader or audience is going to take on history. Of course this relates to several world myths, particularly the Christ story, where Christ dies to amend history...ideally so we can live free of the karma of our "parents". So far neither the Christ story or the Hamlet story has had many smart intelligent readers...the evidence being we continue to deal with history with the proven damaged means we see in the Hamlet story(patterns repeated in conflict resolution). Once again, reading has not seemed to help planet earth. You'd think four hundred years after the Hamlet story had entered our world consciousness we would be able to walk away from violence and hurtfulness. Sheesh, you'd think just one decent read through and we would throw down our barbs...and reject the patterns recorded in this play. Sheesh, are human primates ever stupid. Candy That for which we find words is something already dead in our hearts. There is always a kind of contempt in the act of speaking. Nietzsche
Topic: November: Hamlet (112 of 117), Read 53 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, November 13, 2001 12:34 PM p.s. Yes, I have read most of the essays in that Bloom book, George. He does have an enthusiastic attitude to Hamlets talking/revelations. I like how Bloom declares that talking to oneself can also produce self-knowledge... There are so many great critiques of Hamlet...I would be lost to begin to quote them...I am sorry to say, Steve, that Eliot is not one of my favorite critics especially when it came to Hamlet. I am not much into a psychological approaches to reading literature.(I in fact feel too much of the world has gone psychological...in a "bad science" kind of way. Psychology when properly applied is about recognizing patterns. Not labeling people Oedipal or penis envied.I find it blase to focus on momma pretty boy attitudes towards literature. I think calling characters "ninny's" is also counter productive)I do not agree that the central emotion of the play is Hamlets feelings etc for his mother. I believe that is what was critical to Eliot's emotions about the play though. Poor boy. Upon my jillioneth reading of this play, I again reach the conclusion that humans are idiots...except for the sweet princes and princesses of the world...if only there were more sweets like Ophelia and Hamlet...maybe then????? we could have a fun way of living, that is all of the population having a fun run at it... ...at what point will reading and thinking about Hamlet provide the next generation with innovation towards daily life already in place...like Max Planks apt observation to application of new ideas...??? Maybe it is plainly a bad play because it has been unable to inspire hundreds of generations to walk away from b.s. Candy That for which we find words is something already dead in our hearts. There is always a kind of contempt in the act of speaking. Nietzsche
Topic: November: Hamlet (113 of 117), Read 36 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Mary Anne Papale mapreads@aol.com Date: Tuesday, November 13, 2001 09:58 PM Ann & Steve, I actually have the video of Burton's Hamlet, purchased a couple of years ago in Stratford, Ont. My view of Burton's portrayal is that there is what I would call a contained fury: there's plenty of emotion, but it's much more intense than Olivier. Dean, I see what you mean about Hamlet & Richard III, but Richard's talent for conniving and control makes Hamlet seem like a flailing, out of control murderer. Bloom says (in the chapter on Love's Labors Lost) that there are only two happy marriages in all of Shakespeare: The Macbeths before the murders, and Gertrude & Claudius. Ouch! MAP
Topic: November: Hamlet (114 of 117), Read 42 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Wednesday, November 14, 2001 03:15 AM Steve, your response is greatly appreciated in form and content. Mary Anne, I agree. But whereas Hamlet is not the chess master that Richard is, he has a far greater success in gaining the sympathy of the audience. He convinces us that Claudius and Gertrude are evil and that Polonius, R & G deserve to die. At least, that is the effect which he had on me. Upon this reading, what I see is that Claudius could have gained the crown for the higher end of preventing a war. I see that Claudius would not hurt Hamlet because of the love which Claudius felt for Gertrude. I see that Hamlet, spurred on by the ghost, eventually forces Claudius to take action against him. Dean. All roads lead to roam.
Topic: November: Hamlet (115 of 117), Read 48 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Wednesday, November 14, 2001 10:31 AM I'm puzzled by Hamlet's sea voyage. It's hard to imagine why Hamlet lets himself be placed on a ship to England, or even what he'd have done if the expediency of the sea battle hadn't occurred. Hamlet seems to be literally 'drifting' here, and returns from the sea much changed. It's a critical commonplace that the Act V Hamlet is a different person- as one example of that, he only mentions his father once in passing during all of Act V. Hamlet dies with one very earthly concern, a concern for his 'name', his reputation. For the first time in the play, again in Act V, Hamlet seems proud of his name and sure of his identity: HAMLET: [Advancing] 'What is he whose grief Bears such an emphasis? whose phrase of sorrow Conjures the wandering stars, and makes them stand Like wonder-wounded hearers? This is I, Hamlet the Dane.' So Hamlet is concerned for the good of his 'name', and he knows full well that name will stand or fall with Horatio. So he goes on the sea voyage to allow Claudius his attempt to murder him. He collects Claudius's written command for the 'present death of Hamlet'. Then he makes his case to Horatio: HORATIO: 'Why, what a king is this!' HAMLET: 'Does it not, think'st thee, stand me now upon-- He that hath kill'd my king and whored my mother, Popp'd in between the election and my hopes, Thrown out his angle for my proper life, And with such cozenage--is't not perfect conscience, To quit him with this arm? and is't not to be damn'd, To let this canker of our nature come In further evil?' Hamlet has been suicidal all play long, but here acts outraged that Claudius would try to kill him. Hamlet never wanted to be Denmark's version of the power-hungry Fortinbras (whom Hamlet describes here): 'Led by a delicate and tender prince, Whose spirit with divine ambition puff'd Makes mouths at the invisible event, Exposing what is mortal and unsure To all that fortune, death and danger dare, Even for an egg-shell.' But Hamlet does want Horatio to report that he had full, justifiable reasons to avenge himself. Hamlet is fighting for his name. It's the only reason I could find why Hamlet says these things and boards his own death-ship voluntarily.
Topic: November: Hamlet (116 of 117), Read 35 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Thursday, November 15, 2001 10:57 AM Thanks for the report on Burton's interpretation, MAP. I had trouble coming up with a description but yours seems to capture it as I recall, lo these many years later. Also, I recall it being a very active, athletic performance by him in the sense of his movement. As a result, one wonders whether his Hamlet has actually lapsed into real rather than feigned insanity. This discussion has come to focus on the central question of the play, the question that fascinates everyone. This is the question of, why the delay by Hamlet? It is because there are so many approaches to the answer that this play has lasted as it has. It is a very interesting mystery in that regard. Steve
Topic: November: Hamlet (117 of 117), Read 23 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, November 15, 2001 07:28 PM I was in the library today and dug up the ol Eliot essays...and I had quite a laugh because he says(after he obsessed about mommy heh heh)that Hamlet fails because of Shakespeares weakness with the play. He says that Shakespeare didn't know what to do so he makes Hamlet do nothing.... This ties into what you just posted Steve, and what I have been saying as I beat around the bush...you say why does Hamlet take so long to do something...and I say what can he do anyway? Terry Eagleton says it is impossible to act with authenticity in the world of Hamlet(that's our world too buddy!)but in some ways, I think I understand what he means...and this again works with the idea of why did it take Hamlet so long to do something... Eagleton seems to say that there isn't anything one can do in this society because it's corrupt and impossible to be "authentic". Candy the depressed, misanthropic,existentialist who is jealous of people who don't read....dam them!!!!! An important scientific innovation rarely makes it's way by gradually winning over and converting it's opponents...What does happen is that it's opponents gradually die out and that the growing generation is familiarized with the idea from the beginning. Max Planck
Topic: November: Hamlet (118 of 119), Read 22 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Sherri Kendrick sheval@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, November 20, 2001 06:37 AM I just wanted to say that I thought I'd have time to reread this play and discuss, but RL has gotten in the way. I have been reading the posts and have thoroughly enjoyed the discussion. This is a great group! Sherri
Topic: November: Hamlet (119 of 119), Read 6 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Friday, November 23, 2001 10:27 AM Finally had time to read this incredible discussion. I think that I understood the feelings between Gertrude and Hamlet as those between a mother and a much beloved son. I can certainly see that it would be fun theatrically to explore oedipal feelings between the two but I don't think it's born out in the play. I also read the relationship between Gertrude and Claudius as being one of those attractions that overrode each of their very real feelings for Hamlet Sr. One doesn't need to negate the other. There are no speeches in which Gertrude expresses her feelings for Hamlet Sr, but her son's description of her actions toward him in the beginning of the play are fairly clear. Claudius expresses very real guilt about his murder of his brother in a speech when he is alone on stage. Also, when Laertes asks Claudius why he didn't proceed against Hamlet for killing Polonius, he says: O, for two special reasons, Which may to you perhaps seem much unsinewed, But yet to me they're strong. The Queen his mother Lives almost by his looks, and for myself (My virtue or my plague, be it either which), She is so conjunctive to my life and soul That, as the star moves not but in his sphere, I could not but by her. This speech seems to me to express both Gertrude's intense love (maternal, in my reading) of her son and Claudius' love for her. I suppose it could also be interpreted as Claudius' dependence on her for a legitimacy of claim to the throne, but as Hamlet's brother, would he need her? In any case, it doesn't read as that to me. Steve, do you belong to netflix (dvd online rentals)? They have a dvd of the Burton performance of Hamlet. It's supposed to be arriving at our house any day now. Also, I recently finished listening to the Branaugh version on audiotape. I agree with your reaction to Derek Jacobi as Claudius, Ann, and loved Judi Densch as Gertrude. Maybe that is what has influenced my view of the relationship between Claudius and Gertrude. I haven't been able to find the movie on dvd though. Do you know if it has been put in that format? Barb
Topic: November: Hamlet (120 of 133), Read 35 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Felix Miller felix3rd@bellsouth.net Date: Friday, November 23, 2001 11:03 AM Quoting from Steve: This discussion has come to focus on the central question of the play, the question that fascinates everyone. This is the question of, why the delay by Hamlet? This is a heavy question. I have thought about this point much over the years. Some approaches to playing Hamlet, especially the Burton take, stress the emotion and rage of Hamlet, letting him appear more a man of action than the events of the play would suggest. How many times in the play does Hamlet take decisive action against Claudius or the agents of Claudius? Four times, if you count setting up the play within the play. He kills Polonius (either mistaking him for Claudius or not,) he stages the Mousetrap, he sets up R & G and he finally kills Claudius at the climax of the dueling scene. Each of these actions (excepting the play) is an immediate reaction to some action of another character. Staging the play is more active in its effect on Claudius than as a personal act by Hamlet. You might say that when Hamlet has time to think, his actions are passive (feigning madness, staging the play, the un-wooing of Ophelia.) An amusing game with Shakespeare is substituting one character for another in a different play and imagining what would happen. If Hotspur had been the son on the parapet when the ghost told the story of murder, the play would have been over in the next scene, after Hotspur had dashed down the stairs and skewered Claudius. O the Book/ Of the Dead, and the dead bright sun on the page/ Where the team stands ready to explode/ In all directions with Time... Felix Miller
Topic: November: Hamlet (121 of 133), Read 26 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Friday, November 23, 2001 09:29 PM Barb, We rented the Branagh video and I watched it with my son last spring. I don't know if it has been released on DVD. Julie Christie is Gertrude in the film version and, much as I admire Judi Densch, Julie Christie is almost perfect in the film version. It is obvious that she and Claudius have a very physical relationship. Watching her face in the final scene, it is clear that she is devastated when she realizes that Claudius has poisoned her son. I love that speech of Claudius which you quoted. I feel that Gertrude's feelings for her son were strictly maternal. Rather than feeling a sexual attraction towards his mother himself, Hamlet seems primarily disturbed by the thought that his mother is involved in a sexual relationship with anyone. He views this as completely inappropriate. Maybe, like many children, he subconsciously assumed that part of her died with his conception. :) Let us know what you think of the Burton version. Felix, if I read you right, you think that Burton's interpretation is not supported by the text. Correct me if I am wrong. Ann
Topic: November: Hamlet (122 of 133), Read 27 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Alice CK aliceck@pacbell.net Date: Saturday, November 24, 2001 02:58 AM Wow, this has been a fascinating discussion to read! I am new here (only just found this site) but would like to add some thoughts. I hope that this is still a "live" discussion and I will get some responses! With regard to the political aspect of Hamlet's dilemma, wouldn't Shakespeare's audience have been well aware of how coups were generally engineered? After all plenty of other Shakespeare plays dealt with such matters (the Wars of the Roses etc.). If "Hamlet" were about a struggle for the succession of the throne, surely Hamlet would have promptly begun gathering adherents and plotting Claudius' overthrow. Maybe I'm influenced by having seen the Olivier movie as a kid, but the setting of "Hamlet" has always seemed to me to be the interior of Hamlet's mind, not the political stage. The castle and its inhabitants seem more like something from one of Hamlet's nightmares than like any real place & people. On another note, is it just me or does Hamlet seem totally anti-sexual, maybe misogynistic? His disgust at Gertrude's affair with Claudius seems almost too marked, even for a young man whose mother has been cavorting with his uncle. And his behavior to Ophelia is extremely ambivalent and resentful. I agree with those who have said that nothing about him suggests that he really wants to be king. His dilemma is how to avenge his father, not how to win the throne for himself. In Hamlet's mind, he never seems to look beyond the moment of killing Claudius to what would actually happen then (i.e. that Hamlet would become king) -- he seems to know in advance that Claudius' death means his own death. Are we allowed to discuss other perspectives of "Hamlet" here? I'd love to talk about "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" -- one of my favorite plays and a great "worm's eye view" of "Hamlet."
Topic: November: Hamlet (123 of 133), Read 24 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Saturday, November 24, 2001 06:50 AM Welcome, Alice! I haven't been participating in this Hamlet discussion, but I have been eavesdropping. I wanted to greet you and hope you stick around awhile. We'd love to hear more about you. Please introduce yourself in the Welcome Conference. Also, the Constant Reader and Reading List conferences have several book discussions going. I hope you join us. Or start your own thread on a book you would like to discuss. Sherry
Topic: November: Hamlet (124 of 133), Read 24 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Robert Armstrong rla@nac.net Date: Saturday, November 24, 2001 08:25 AM Welcome, Alice. Thanks for your comments. I'm also a fan of Tom Stoppard's ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD. I'd have to reacquaint myself with it to really contribute something but I'd enjoy any comments you have on the play. I like the way Stoppard engages in verbal fencing. Satire is certainly in the spirit of Hamlet's character who experiments with the two edged sword of comedy and tragedy. Robt
Topic: November: Hamlet (125 of 133), Read 24 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Saturday, November 24, 2001 10:22 AM Welcome, Alice! Since I've just finished reading the play, then listening to Branaugh's audio version, I am still interested in discussing it and it sounds like others are too. We are always interested in other perspectives, I think, especially after the meat of the initial discussion. However, I haven't read the play that you mentioned. One of the nominations for our other reading list for next year was Tom Stoppard's Arcadia which I voted for because I've been interested in reading one of his plays for a while. BTW, if you are interested in reading them with us, you still have time to vote for the books we will read here in Classics Corner next year as well as those on the Constant Reader list (under the heading "Reading List"). Both votes are due by November 28th, I believe. Barb
Topic: November: Hamlet (126 of 133), Read 26 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Saturday, November 24, 2001 10:50 AM Alice and Ann, I thought a lot about Hamlet's attitudes toward both his mother and Ophelia while I was reading the play. I had the sense that the bitterness of both had to do with discovering that his mother had probably been unfaithful to his father while he was living. Even at 30 (has that guess about his age been confirmed?), one has the sense that your mother and father are an untainted unit if nothing contrary to that image has been introduced. I had the sense that his mother had been placed on quite a high pedestal in Hamlet's mind which gave her a long way to fall after his father's ghost introduced new facts. In his bitterness, he distrusted and hated all women to a point, though his tenderness toward both Gertrude and Ophelia break through at various points. Alice, I like your description of the setting of the play being the interior of Hamlet's mind. And, I also didn't get the sense that this was the ordinary jockeying for political power. In my New Folger Library edition of Hamlet, there is an article by Michael Neill (whoever he is) that gives an historical perspective to the play. He says that the story is an ancient one, belonging to Norse saga, which had been told in many forms. It was adapted by Thomas Kyd and done on English stages until at least 1596. Neill speculates that Shakespeare's original intention may have been to simply polish up that play but that his wholesale rewriting produced a work "...so unlike Kyd's work that its originality was unmistakable even to playgoers familiar with Kyd's play." I'll give up on paraphrasing and just quote Neill's paragraph that I find most interesting. It ties in with your comment, Alice. The new tragedy preserved the outline of the old story, and took over Kyd's most celebrated contributions--a ghost crying for revenge, and a play-within-the-play that sinisterly mirrors the main plot; but by focusing upon the perplexed interior life of the hero, Shakespeare gave a striking twist to what had been a brutally straightforward narrative. On the levels of both revenge play and psychological drama, the play develops a preoccupation with the hidden, the secret, and the mysterious that does much to account for its air of mystery. In Maynard Mack's words, it is 'a play in the interrogative mood' whose action deepens and complicates, rather than answers, the apparently casual question with which it begins, 'Who's there?' Interesting, eh? I think Shakespeare adds multiple shades of psychological greys to the usual black and white questions of political intrigue and maybe removes the latter all together. Barb
Topic: November: Hamlet (127 of 133), Read 26 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Felix Miller felix3rd@bellsouth.net Date: Saturday, November 24, 2001 11:47 AM Ann asked: Felix, if I read you right, you think that Burton's interpretation is not supported by the text. Correct me if I am wrong. I must qualify anything I say about the Burton Hamlet by stressing that I only saw this production once, many years ago. I enjoyed Burton's performance very much, but it seemed to me that he was swimming upstream, so to speak, in approaching Hamlet as a man of action, instead of reaction, which is how I read the character. But there are enough complexities in the text to allow many interpretations of the character. In addition, the text is just one element of a complete production, and a really strong performance, like Burton's, can carry off an interpretation which seems a stretch when you simply read the text. O the Book/ Of the Dead, and the dead bright sun on the page/ Where the team stands ready to explode/ In all directions with Time... Felix Miller
Topic: November: Hamlet (128 of 133), Read 30 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Alice CK aliceck@pacbell.net Date: Saturday, November 24, 2001 01:00 PM Thanks for the welcome, everyone! I would highly recommend reading "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" (the movie with Tim Roth and Gary Oldman was also excellent) just for the new window it opens onto "Hamlet." In fact, now that I think about it, my concept of "Hamlet" being about what's going on in Hamlet's brain may have also come from this play -- imagine wandering around in someone else's dream, and you get an idea of how R&G feel in Stoppard's play. Stoppard envisions R&G not as slimy spies or buffoons but as confused and hapless people who are caught up in something they don't understand, ordered to "glean what afflicts" Hamlet (but in fact he runs circles around them when they try to grill him), and end up being executed for no reason. Their situation is seen as a metaphor for life, where we've all been dropped into a play in which we're not the stars, just expendable characters used to swell a scene or two. The head Player of the acting troupe says to R&G when they complain about being left in such confusion, "Uncertainty is the normal state. You're nobody special." I also can't resist quoting this bit from "R&G Are Dead," spoken by Guildenstern after the Players have been rehearsing a particularly death-filled scene: "No, no, no . . . you've got it all wrong . . . you can't act death. The [i]fact[/i] of it is nothing to do with seeing it happen -- it's not gasps and blood and falling about -- that isn't what makes it death. It's just a man failing to reappear, that's all -- now you see him, now you don't, that's the only thing that's real: here one minute and gone the next and never coming back -- an exit, unobtrusive and unannounced, a disappearance gaining weight as it goes on, until, finally, it is heavy with death." Of course, that's exactly how R&G meet their end -- it's only the leading characters like Hamlet and Claudius who get to die dramatically on stage.
Topic: November: Hamlet (129 of 133), Read 26 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Saturday, November 24, 2001 01:20 PM ANN, you say: "Maybe, like many children, he subconsciously assumed that part of her died with his conception. :)" I would rather think that Hamlet followed what I believe to a be a common idea down through the ages, a masculine myth to enslave women, that a portion of the woman (unspecified) dies when the husband dies. (Unless, of course, the wife is buried or burned with the husband). And when Gertrude shows a quite lively affection for Claudius, Hamlet is outraged, not on his own account, but because sacred proprieties, the decencies themselves, have been violated. I feel that Hamlet's reaction to his mother's marriage to Claudius boils up after the Ghost (Hamlet's conscience ?) charges him with avenging his father. Goaded continuously by his doubts about that, this further confusion further churns his psyche. pres "I just kind of conjured them up out of my subconscious and put them in order of ascending peculiarity." EDWARD GOREY
Topic: November: Hamlet (130 of 133), Read 26 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Saturday, November 24, 2001 01:36 PM GREETINGS ALICE: Great posts. I am a great Stoppard fan, but must report, sadly, R&GAD lost its luster on further acquaintance. Will look at it again. From some distance, I feel that the main, and almost only, point of R&G is that there is "life out there, Barnaby" apart from the blood and thunder of the main characters. I don't find any illumination of Hamlet. I do think that "the worms eye view" is a great idea, but . . . pres "I just kind of conjured them up out of my subconscious and put them in order of ascending peculiarity." EDWARD GOREY
Topic: November: Hamlet (131 of 133), Read 24 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Saturday, November 24, 2001 03:07 PM Alice- Wonderful posts. I think the 'verbal tennis' scene in R&GaD captures the volleying of words in Hamlet very well. I was hoping once we'd buried the phantasmal power-mad Hamlet posts like yours would surface... you show a great openness to the play's questions. As for Hamlet's asexuality, I agree, but only with the Hamlet in front of us, the post-ghost Hamlet. The glimpses we get of the previous one, - HAMLET: No, not I; I never gave you aught. OPHELIA: My honour'd lord, you know right well you did; And, with them, words of so sweet breath composed As made the things more rich: their perfume lost, Take these again; - [Reads] 'To the celestial and my soul's idol, the most beautified Ophelia,'-- That's an ill phrase, a vile phrase; 'beautified' is a vile phrase: but you shall hear. Thus: [Reads] 'In her excellent white bosom, these, &c.' QUEEN GERTRUDE: Came this from Hamlet to her? LORD POLONIUS: Good madam, stay awhile; I will be faithful. [Reads] 'Doubt thou the stars are fire; Doubt that the sun doth move; Doubt truth to be a liar; But never doubt I love. 'O dear Ophelia, I am ill at these numbers; I have not art to reckon my groans: but that I love thee best, O most best, believe it. Adieu. 'Thine evermore most dear lady, whilst this machine is to him, HAMLET.' etc., THIS Hamlet seems to me very different. I loved your comment on Claudius's death meaning Hamlet's death too... exactly right. Although I'd push the point further and say that Hamlet is dead the moment the ghost arrives and he 99% knows it. After the ghost pushes him into a campaign against the powers that be, everything afterwards is borrowed time for our young prince.
Topic: November: Hamlet (132 of 133), Read 20 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Saturday, November 24, 2001 03:12 PM Good point Pres, about the obvious dishonor to Hamlet Sr. After all, he had not even been dead 2 months before the marriage took place. Barb, do you think it is certain that Gertrude's affair with Claudius started before the elder Hamlet was murdered? If so, was Gertrude guilty of complicity in the crime? Felix, I saw the Burton version many years ago too. Burton was such a dynamic presence that his performance made a strong impression on me, although I can't remember any details. Alice, welcome to Classics Corner! Your comments about the possible misogyny of Hamlet were very interesting. He is really cruel to Ophelia, isn't he? I wonder how close their relationship had been. During the mad scene, Ophelia sings a song about a man who has sex with a young girl, falsely promising to marry her just to get her into his bed. If in fact her relationship with Hamlet had progressed that far, Hamlet could well have felt totally betrayed by Ophelia's earlier rejection, coming at a time when he was tortured by his father's untimely death and the scandalous behavior of his mother and uncle. Does that to a certain extent explain, as opposed to justify, his behavior to her? Now that you have found us, I hope that you will be able to join us in future discussions. December 1 marks the official start of the discussion of Victory by Joseph Conrad. January 1, we will begin discussing The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. Currently, we are in the process of voting for books to discuss for the rest of 2002. Check out the note in this conference titled "Nominations - Time to Vote" if you are interested in voting. Ann
Topic: November: Hamlet (133 of 133), Read 20 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Saturday, November 24, 2001 07:09 PM Good question about Gertrude initiating her affair with Claudius prior to Hamlet Sr.'s death, Ann. I'm not sure where I got that idea. Need to go back and see if I just assumed it or if it is more specifically alluded to at some point. BTW, my husband is much more interested in seeing Brannaugh's Hamlet now that he knows that Gertrude is played by Julie Christie. He's a big Judi Densch fan as well, but his admiration for Julie Christie is a bit different and goes way back. Barb
Topic: November: Hamlet (134 of 140), Read 22 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Sunday, November 25, 2001 06:57 PM In Act V, scene i, 247-248 Hamlet asserts his right to the throne by a convention well established in the play: This is I, Hamlet the Dane. Hamlet's resentment of Claudius from the very beginning is due to the fact that Hamlet sees himself as the rightful king. Unfortunately, he is the only one in Denmark who does. It is this which isolates him. It is precisely to stop Hamlet from raising supporters that Claudius confines Hamlet to Elsinore. When the ghost tells Hamlet the story of the murder, Hamlet exclaims O my prophetic soul! My uncle! Hamlet was already suspicious of Claudius the ghost gives Hamlet some way of overthrowing Claudius. The ghost tells Hamlet to pursue the task of revenge with untainted mind. The idea of tainted motive is a major them in the play. Hamlet's delay arises from several factors not the least of which is Hamlet's distrust of the ghost. But, even by the eye-for-an-eye rule which the ghost urges on Hamlet, some justification is required before one kills someone. Hamlet needs to have the king's guilt made evident to himself and an impartial witness. For this he enlists Horatio. R&G try to dissuade Hamlet from his ambition. I think that by doing so they were acting out of concern for him. I agree that they died for no reason although Hamlet does justify his killing of them to Horatio. Concerning Gertrude and the murder of Hamlet Sr., I think that she knew nothing of it not only because of her reaction when Hamlet confronts her with the idea but also because she doesn't hesitate to drink from the poisoned wine after Claudius had asked her not to drink. If she had known about the murder, I surmise that she would have more readily heeded Claudius. From the beginning Hamlet's concern about the wedding is that it happened so quickly. Hamlet feels that this speed to the altar robbed him of the throne. This is what makes Hamlet disproportionately angry with his mother. Just after he tells his mother that Claudius stole the crown from him the ghost enters. Hamlet says something which touches at once on the lost crown and the revenge of his father: Do you not come your tardy son to chide, That, lapsed in time and passion, lets go by The important acting of your dread command? Tardy son - Hamlet arrived too late to claim the crown for himself. - Hamlet moving slowly to exact revenge lapsed in time and passion - Hamlet fallen to an unexpected (i.e., not kingly) state because of the short time and passion leading to the wedding. - Hamlet has departed from the standard set by the ghost by the time which he has taken and his passion for the crown (i.e., a tainted mind). The ghost wants Hamlet to execute vengeance regardless of the consequences to Hamlet. I would have to say, then, that the ghost wants Hamlet's destruction. Dean. All roads lead to roam.
Topic: November: Hamlet (135 of 140), Read 25 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Alice CK aliceck@pacbell.net Date: Sunday, November 25, 2001 09:27 PM George, I've been thinking about my concept of Hamlet's asexuality, and I don't think his love poetry to Ophelia disproves it. I think there's a big difference between writing chaste poetry hymning someone's white bosom, and actually doing the wild thing with aforesaid bosom. I just think that Hamlet's conflicting attitudes towards Gertrude and Ophelia stem more from a kind of sexual panic than from the traditional notion of an Oedipus complex. Hamlet's language to Gertrude about her marriage to Claudius ("to live in the rank sweat of an enseamed bed; Stew'd in corruption; honeying, and making love over the nasty stye") smack more of complete disgust with their sexual relationship than of sexual jealousy. Dean, I would agree that Claudius is concerned for the safety of his throne -- later on, he handles Laertes (who has managed to raise a rabble all yelling "Laertes shall be King!" when he storms into the castle bent on revenge for Polonius' death) very masterfully. My only issue was that I don't think Hamlet's motivations are political. Obviously his father wanted him to overthrow Claudius and take the throne; therefore Hamlet's quandary is not only that he has to kill Claudius but that his duty to his father requires that he seize the kingship when it's the last thing he wants to do. He just wants to go back to being a student with Horatio.
Topic: November: Hamlet (136 of 140), Read 27 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Sunday, November 25, 2001 10:07 PM Alice, "He just wants to go back to being a student... " How can we accept this without ignoring Hamlet's own words (on several occasions) that the crown was stolen from him and that he is king of Denmark? Dean All roads lead to roam.
Topic: November: Hamlet (137 of 140), Read 24 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, November 25, 2001 11:29 PM Dean, You made a good case for Gertrude not knowing about Hamlet Sr.'s murder. Ann
Topic: November: Hamlet (138 of 140), Read 23 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Alice CK aliceck@pacbell.net Date: Monday, November 26, 2001 12:25 AM Dean, I would distinguish between what Hamlet feels is his obligation (to claim the crown) and what he really wants to do (go back to Wittgenstein or wherever he was). I liked the points made earlier about how it must have been somewhat odd for the next in line to the throne in a war-beset kingdom to spend so many years out of the country at a university. We can assume that Hamlet Sr. had things well under control and that Hamlet Jr. had no reason to think that his father would die any time soon; but a different crown prince would have been fighting in his father's wars and learning to be his right-hand general. Perhaps if Hamlet Jr. had spent more time in Denmark since becoming an adult, the electors would have given the crown to him instead of Claudius. I do see the main theme of this play as being Hamlet's struggle to be the son/man he thinks he ought to be. Maybe all the killing he does is his attempt to measure up to the "warrior king" role model. He certainly does more navel-gazing than any other Shakespeare character I can think of -- not so very different from college students today! "Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man." -- Francis Bacon
Topic: November: Hamlet (139 of 140), Read 20 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Monday, November 26, 2001 09:07 AM Alice-- Reconsidering the sexuality issue, I might agree more with you than I do with myself. His horror/distaste for the subject might pre-date his father's death... it's so hard to make out. He definitely torments Ophelia with sexual innuendos later in the play. I wonder if Hamlet's rage against physical love can be classified under a larger heading of rage at physical matter itself? After all, these lines sound suspiciously similar to the ones you cited as Hamlet's hatred of sex- -HAMLET: ' he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft.' They refer to Yorick, of course, but they have the same feel. You've raised a very interesting point here though. I don't think Hamlet is trying to live up to the 'warrior' model by killing old men behind curtains and hounding women into instability... I've learned by reading 'Hamlet' never to underestimate Hamlet himself... his mind has a laser-like ability to burn away pretensions, and the idea of him walking around puffed up with a sense that he was a mighty warrior because he killed Polonius is just impossible to me. Hamlet may be navel-gazing, but one in every million humans are lucky to escape life with the level of insight he achieves (one in every million literary characters too!) (BTW, Alice, your 'aforesaid bosom' line was classic.) Dean-- I'm curious, and if you get the time... could you please give me your take on the famous 'to be or not to be' soliloquy? HAMLET: To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep; No more; and by a sleep to say we end The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep; To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause: there's the respect That makes calamity of so long life; For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely, The pangs of despised love, the law's delay, The insolence of office and the spurns That patient merit of the unworthy takes, When he himself might his quietus make With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear, To grunt and sweat under a weary life, But that the dread of something after death, The undiscover'd country from whose bourn No traveller returns, puzzles the will And makes us rather bear those ills we have Than fly to others that we know not of? Thus conscience does make cowards of us all; And thus the native hue of resolution Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought, And enterprises of great pith and moment With this regard their currents turn awry, And lose the name of action.--
Topic: November: Hamlet (140 of 140), Read 13 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Mary Anne Papale mapreads@aol.com Date: Monday, November 26, 2001 11:24 AM Once again, I see an opportunity for a variety of opinions: Hamlet was on his way back to school when the worried Claudius stopped him. But just because Claudius was worried that Hamlet would amass forces to regain the throne doesn't mean that's what Hamlet had in mind. That thought doesn't occur to Hamlet until the ghost appears. That's when Hamlet starts thinking about how he might avenge what he now is told was his father's murder. But even at that, Hamlet is a study in passive-aggressive behavior. He's never before shown any inclination toward the leadership thing, and they apparently didn't teach "Coups 101" at school. So he's clueless as to how to get the job done. And this uncertainty is what makes the play great. Without it, there would be no Acts II to V. MAP
Topic: November: Hamlet (141 of 150), Read 37 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Monday, November 26, 2001 06:08 PM Mary Anne, Hamlet began his aggression before he was refused leave to return to school and before he met the ghost. His attire says that he doesn't accept that he is not king. His opening words emphasize it. We don't know yet that he is a student; only that he is a prince, he has not become king and he doesn't like it. His first soliloquy opens with O, that this too too solid flesh would melt Thaw and resolve itself into a dew! Hamlet's loss and despair of getting the crown are so great that it leads him to question the value of life itself. But why is he not the king? Hamlet blames his mother's "dexterity" to re-marry another royal. How often does Hamlet mention time in this speech? Why is time a factor? We just learned that Hamlet came from Wittenberg so he could not be home in time to make his claim to the throne. But Hamlet can say nothing about it... for now. (Later, in the chamber scene, he tells his mother how angry he is that she married so quickly thereby letting Claudius steal the crown.) George, I will get to the "to be or not to be" speech but I would like to consider what leads to it first. Mary Anne's comments gave me a chance to begin this. I will post more thoughts shortly. Dean. All roads lead to roam.
Topic: November: Hamlet (142 of 150), Read 35 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Alice CK aliceck@pacbell.net Date: Tuesday, November 27, 2001 01:09 AM George, I agree with you about Hamlet's ability to see through others' pretensions and masks, but I'm not so sure he's equally good at seeing his own pretensions. He seems to me the epitome of a very scarily intelligent person who is almost afraid of his own intelligence -- the type of person Matt Damon was supposed to be portraying in "Good Will Hunting." (Remember how Damon's character in that film always instantly saw through the hidden desires and motivations of everyone around who was trying to manipulate him or use him for their own ends, but he couldn't seem to figure out what it was he wanted?) BTW I didn't mean that Hamlet thought he was a big-time warrior dude for stabbing Polonius behind the curtain -- what I meant was more that he was trying to become more inured to violence and death, as being things that a king regards as unfortunate but expedient, while his own private feelings would have preferred to avoid the whole business. That he did not behave in a very kingly fashion at all shows, to my mind, more that he didn't have the faintest idea how to go about acting like a king, than that he was actually a vicious and bloodthirsty type of person. Mary Anne, LOL at "Coups 101." Dean, I think the "too too solid flesh" speech shows more Hamlet's general state of ennui and despair, than his anger at not being king. "Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man." -- Francis Bacon
Topic: November: Hamlet (143 of 150), Read 34 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Tuesday, November 27, 2001 09:57 AM Dean-- Thanks. Alice-- I'll take your post backwards: the way you rephrased your point in paragraph 2 makes a lot of sense. That I can agree with. Your first paragraph made me wonder though- are not knowing what you want in life & seeing through your own flaws and pretensions mutually exclusive concepts or do they feed each other sometimes? I suspect the latter here. Nobody explains Hamlet like Hamlet. That sounds simplistic, but in literature it is actually rare. Think about Doctor Faustus wandering through 5 Acts never knowing what kind of person he really was. I think Hamlet, despite his famous delay, knows already what he wants: he wants theatre, he wants to read, he wants knowledge, nobility, truth. Perhaps he even wants to write, to be William Shakespeare. I think Hamlet also knows that his father is killing him. Think about it... Hamlet turns out to be pretty damn hard for Claudius to exterminate. Not an easy guy to kill. But if I had been assigned the task of assassinating Hamlet (without worrying about collateral damage), I could've thought of no better way than to make a ghost appear that looked like his father and make it say what it said. Hamlet is a dead man by Act 1. and he knows it. His delay is precisely because he hasn't figured IT out yet to his own satisfaction; what he is, what family is, what love is, what life is...and what death is. But the Act 5 Hamlet has gotten as close to sharply knowing these things as anyone ever will. And the 'revenge' motif is a shell game. I have wholehearted admiration for anyone who, facing sure and imminent death, can say to themselves 'I am ready and that is enough. Let be.' That sounds and smells and looks to me like a person who has figured out what they wanted and what they were.
Topic: November: Hamlet (144 of 150), Read 37 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Mary Anne Papale mapreads@aol.com Date: Tuesday, November 27, 2001 10:29 AM Well, Dean, that's where you and I have a difference of opinion: I don't see Hamlet's wearing black as treason or as demonstration of his grief over his loss of the crown. Claudius sees it that way, but I believe that Hamlet's overriding grief is for his father. And I choose not to view Hamlet's motives through Claudius' eyes. As I said several times before, there are many ways to frame the words of Shakespeare. MAP
Topic: November: Hamlet (145 of 150), Read 36 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Tuesday, November 27, 2001 06:01 PM Mary Anne, I agree. The way I see it, each one of us would direct this play differently, each putting the emphasis on different aspects of Hamlet's character. And so each of us is the sole director of the play in er own globe, and we share our visions here. I admit that a Hamlet who is ambitious and proud is new to me and I'm looking to see how well it can be contained within the bounds of the text. Is there any place in the text which contradicts this aspect of Hamlet? I have yet to see it but I hasten to add that this is a question of emphasis. So, George and Alice would direct a scholarly Hamlet compelled by obligation, Mary Anne would perhaps put more emphasis on Hamlet's grief, I would have a Hamlet with emphasis on pride and ambition. So I agree with Rosencrantz that it is Hamlet's ambition which makes Denmark a prison. And when Hamlet says O God, I could be bounded in a nut shell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams. I see that he could be content were it not for the "bad dreams," which I take to mean anguish of pride and ambition. (The OWC annotates "bad dreams" as "the ghost.") And so when Hamlet says To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them? He asks whether nobility lies in enduring the wounds to pride and ambition caused by "outrageous fortune" or to struggle against unbeatable odds but the act of opposing will end the injury to pride. From OWC: - Hamlet speaks in general terms, never using "I" or "me." - It is not evident whether "in the mind" is to go with "to suffer" or with "nobler." [OWC prefers the latter, I have opted for the former.] - The two courses which Hamlet considers are "fortitude in endurance" and "courage in resistance." Dean. All roads lead to roam.
Topic: November: Hamlet (146 of 150), Read 27 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Alice CK aliceck@pacbell.net Date: Wednesday, November 28, 2001 12:20 AM Oh Dean, I don't want to think of "bad dreams" as meaning "the ghost!" Tell me I don't have to! I've always linked that statement (which is one of the most moving and pathetic in any literature IMO) to Hamlet's earlier phrase "For in that sleep of death what dreams may come When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause." If Hamlet's nightmares are so bad now, no wonder he's afraid of dying and being alone with his subconscious. (BTW, does anyone else think that the "to be or not to be" soliloquy is maybe just a bit un-Christian, maybe even heretical by the standards of the day?) George, I loved your comment "No one explains Hamlet like Hamlet." That's pretty much what I meant by "navel-gazing." Can you think of any other Shakespeare play where the title character spends so much time talking about himself, the fact that he's feeling depressed, what he thinks about things, what kind of person he is, etc.? Granted others are constantly asking him about himself, but even his soliloquys are full of the subject. You may be right that Hamlet possesses more insight into himself than most people do -- he probably does, on some level, already know what he wants. The impression I get is that he is paralyzed by his situation -- it's hard enough to lose your beloved father (and your mother, through her immediate remarriage and total absorption in her new husband), but to learn that he was murdered by his brother and that you have to revenge him, is enough to mess with anyone's happy. (When you think about it, Hamlet's reaction to his situation is strikingly normal, unlike the totally implausible reactions of so many dramatic characters both in Shakespeare's time and in modern movies. Why on earth should we expect someone in such a situation to not be messed up, confused, transferring his emotions to inappropriate targets, etc.?) Your comment about Hamlet being killed by his father is interesting because personally, I've never been convinced that Hamlet's conversations with the ghost were entirely a product of the supernatural rather than (at least partially) a product of Hamlet's own mind. (I know Horatio and the others saw the ghost; but am I right in remembering that Hamlet is the only one who ever hears it speak?) I would not put it past Hamlet's subconscious to do such a thing to him. "Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man." -- Francis Bacon
Topic: November: Hamlet (147 of 150), Read 26 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Wednesday, November 28, 2001 04:33 AM Alice-- Your memory is absolutely correct about the ghost and you may very well be right about Hamlet's projecting subconscious... though the point is rendered somewhat moot by the fact that Claudius IS guilty and everything apparently happened just as the ghost/subconscious said. The truth Hamlet seeks is also striking him down. My only fundamental difference of opinion with you is in the reasoning & value behind Hamlet's so-called 'paralysis'. In traditional terms of action, you are right, he is paralyzed. In terms of thought though, his mind is unleashed, free, moving at a white-hot, even perilous pace. From Hamlet's point of view it must look something like this: 'The moment I land the killing blow on Claudius I die. I either get away with it and become encased in the false cares & rituals of kingship, or I am killed as a traitor. Regardless, I am profoundly afraid of replacing my father as king, becoming evermore like him & everless like myself. And no matter what turn events take, I can never trust my point of origin, my mother, or by extension, any women whatsoever, again. My judgement hour is at hand and I am NOT ready for it. I must feign madness to gain time to understand what is happening to me and what that 'me' actually is.' One of my favorite Shakespearean scenes is in Henry IV, part 1 when Falstaff falls to the ground mid-battle counterfeiting death in order to gain life. The audience finds it funny and takes the comfortable way out, judging Falstaff a coward and Hal a hero. But then Falstaff speaks: 'Sblood,'twas time to counterfeit, or that hot termagant Scot had paid me scot and lot too. Counterfeit? I lie, I am no counterfeit: to die, is to be a counterfeit; for he is but the counterfeit of a man who hath not the life of a man: but to counterfeit dying, when a man thereby liveth, is to be no counterfeit, but the true and perfect image of life indeed. The better part of valour is discretion; in the which better part I have saved my life.' In normal terms, Hal the action hero gets the better of this scene. But in intellectual terms, Falstaff is the hero, able to choose authentic life over counterfeit heroism. Think of Hamlet's delay as Falstaff's counterfeit moment stretched over 4 Acts. Except our dark prince may be in quest of a 'true and perfect image' of death too. If Hamlet had acted right away in Act 1, he would've been a counterfeit hero and the pawn of forces internal and external that he did not understand. The Hamlet that glimpses the divinity that shapes our ends in Act 5 is no counterfeit. He has earned the name he shares with his father.
Topic: November: Hamlet (148 of 150), Read 28 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Wednesday, November 28, 2001 11:52 AM Alice, the OWC note that "bad dreams" is the ghost applies only to Hamlet's short remark to R&G. It doesn't apply to the beautiful passage which you mention and I agree with you that I would never want it to. George, I am very much enjoying your posts. Your Hamlet as a man of action and strong character is very appealing to me. Can we agree that a self-pitying Hamlet is the worst incarnation of this remarkably complex character? Be that as it may, your posts have brought me to a heightened awareness of the poignancy of this tragedy. There is no denying Hamlet's humanity and you have expressed it very well. Dean. All roads lead to roam.
Topic: November: Hamlet (149 of 150), Read 17 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Alice CK aliceck@pacbell.net Date: Wednesday, November 28, 2001 09:03 PM George: my notion about the ghost being in part a production of Hamlet's own brain has less to do with the accuracy of the ghost's statements (which only proves that Hamlet subconsciously already knew what Claudius had done, which we get anyway from "o my prophetic soul! Mine uncle?"), and more to do with the burden of vengeance the ghost lays on Hamlet. I don't know what Danish customs regarding avenging the death of a family member were, but Hamlet's dilemma here reminds me a bit of Orestes' dilemma -- and Orestes was pursued by the Furies for years, wasn't he? All I'm trying to say is that it's a pretty heavy burden to put on poor Hamlet, whether it was Hamlet's father's ghost who did it or Hamlet himself. I only brought up the point because you mentioned that you felt it was a very effective way of achieving Hamlet's death. That leads to all sorts of other ideas about parents "killing" their children with their expectations and demands (Hamlet Sr. just wants his son to take over the family business, after all!) and about neurotic young people with suicidal impulses and how those impulses are acted out. "Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man." -- Francis Bacon
Topic: November: Hamlet (150 of 150), Read 9 times Conf: Classics Corner From: George Healy malword@ameritech.net Date: Thursday, November 29, 2001 01:23 AM Dean-- You give me far too much credit... but thank you. Alice-- You're right to make the distinction between the situation and the FORCE of revenge's burden. Well put. That's kind of what I meant when I said the truth is helping to strike Hamlet down. I don't pick up easily on Hamlet as a 'neurotic young person with suicidal impulses' because of his wisdom... he sounds to me at least as wise as Jesus or Mohammed or Plato or Emerson etc., So the youthful element slips by me; I'm not used to that level of verbal/intellectual resource from the young. I suppose that element is there... but I tend to compare Hamlet more to artists in crisis like Strindberg and Hart Crane and Nietzsche rather than to teenagers prodding the big black marble of death around with mental fingers for the first time to see how it feels.
Topic: November: Hamlet (151 of 156), Read 27 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Thursday, November 29, 2001 11:40 AM How does Hamlet compare to Marcus Aurelius? Alice mentioned that "to be or not to be" seemed non-christian and it occured to me that it could be an inqiry into stoicism. The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius provide a fascinating picture of a would-be Stoic sage at work on himself. The book, also called "To Himself," is the emperor’s diary. In it, he not only reminds himself of the content of important Stoic teaching but also reproaches himself when he realises that he has failed to incorporate this teaching into his life in some particular instance. Would Hamlet then be the opposite of M.A., whereas M.A. reproaches himself for non-Stoic behaviour, Hamlet reproaches himself for Stoic behaviour? Alice, I was thinking of the tangibility of the ghost in terms of the gods appearing to humans to provide help or mischief but I think that the Furies is an even better example. Dean. All roads lead to roam.
Topic: November: Hamlet (152 of 156), Read 20 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, November 29, 2001 07:54 PM Wow, it never fails to amaze me what a demanding read this one is...just keeping up with the ideas that are brought to reading this story by others is a challenge! I have really enjoyed the posts here... I feel that I have always read this without a doubt to the honour of Hamlets thoughts and...I have always disliked Cladius and Gertrude from the get go...for me the betrayal of Cladius to his brother and to his king has always put Hamlet into my favour. I have no questions or doubts of Hamlets character...I feel he is absolutely right to feel offense and bitterness at the actions of Claudius...I also agree with George, and I see that right away once Hamlet sees the truth of history, he knows he is ona trajectory to death. I sometimes see this as an "end of childhood" story or a "coming of age" story....even though it seems obvious that Hamlet is not a child but a man. He is protected by his society...school has kept him protected from the reality of war, revenge and hate and ambition. I am not so sure I see Hamlet as at issue by ambition. But Dean, I have appreciated your dedication to this argument and vision...it does make for an interesting take on this classic. You worked hard here, and I did enjoy these avenues you followed. For me though the story continues to be about seeing the world for what it is...seeing humans as locked in history and that we seem to not be able to find a way out of the battles of previous genenrations... I love him...I love Hamlet...he is all that I see as the greatest about humans. I do not like how he treated Ophelia...but just as I feel angry at Hamlet for being a cad..there he is stricken by the reality of loss over Ophelia...he has yet another transformation within the play...as a lover...as broken hearted as now seeing how he should have behaved with his love. I think there is much in the play to support the fact that Hamlet and Ophelia were in love and had happy times. Sometimes I find myself thinking about the idea that we don't often prepare our kids for disillusion...I think we think it won't happen to them, we can protect them...I see Hamlet as a story much like Sidhartha...a young man sees through the protection of his parents and sees reality and then what does one do with history and truth. Well I repeat myself, sorry. I watched Hamlet version starring Ethan Hawke the other day. It was a little slow but you know what, I really liked it. I thought it was cool that it was set today...and in Manhattan. The set direction, the miseenscene was incredible. Casting very good. Bill Murrary believe it or not was Polonius. Kristen Dunst, Ophelia, the great underrated Diana Verona was Gertrude, Kyle McLaughlin was Claudius and Sam Sheppard was the ghost. There were scenes in video strores with action films on in the background like The Crow(a revenge goth movie) and Hamlet wandered in the action section of the vidseo store. There is no "to be or not to be" or really it is skimmed over...and he talks to himself on video and plays it back, which I thought was a good idea for the kind of self examination he goes through. The architecture was awesome in this movie and Hawke made a beautiful Hamlet. All in all, I feel as sad today reading these comments and re-reading Hamlet as I did the very first time I ever read this play...I can not believe that this story never seems to stop challenging me and I feel about the burden of history and how well this story deals with this kind of burden... I love all of you for taking so much time to discuss this, you really are all special people!!! love and peace and kisses Candy An important scientific innovation rarely makes it's way by gradually winning over and converting it's opponents...What does happen is that it's opponents gradually die out and that the growing generation is familiarized with the idea from the beginning. Max Planck
Topic: November: Hamlet (153 of 156), Read 18 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Dean Denis dddenis@telus.net Date: Friday, November 30, 2001 11:01 AM Thanks, Candy. In general, I agree with you but I have a hard time accepting Hamlet as a heroic figure given his treatment of R&G. How do we reconcile Hamlet the hero and Hamlet the killer of R&G? Dean. All roads lead to roam.
Topic: November: Hamlet (154 of 156), Read 18 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Friday, November 30, 2001 11:45 AM Gee, call me crazy but weren't R and G sneaky friends who betray Hamlet? Who are pawns and believers in the very system and history that Hamlet is reeling from? There are very few characters I like whatsoever in this story, Dean. The only ones are in fact...Ophelia, Hamlet and Horc.(can't spell it sorry) The rest all seem like cheaters and self serving and supportive of a universe where being a good guy is almost impossible. Hamlet makes a lot of mistakes. He does. It's unbearable how he hurts Ophelia with the truth about women...and how men see them. I believe it is that reality that it doesn't matter how intelligent or kind women are...men only care about our looks and we might as well marry for shallow reasons. These are harsh truths for anyone, but especially a woman to hear form her lover. I think we have a few reasons to believe that Hamlet made love to Ophelia. In Branaughs version, there is a sex scene. And both Mel Gibson and Brannaugh's interpretation of grief after Ophelia's death...shows men who have completely realized they didn't know what they had till it was gone. Incredible heartwrenching scenes. The younger generation in this play are the societies only hope...but there doesn't seem to be any way for them to deal with the truth when they hear it. Dean, no matter how you look at it Claudius was a prick and a cheat. There's no way around it. Although it has been a tradition for a brother to marry his dead brothers wife(I believe this happens often in various cultures) it was too soon after Hamlet Sr died. These "adults" are disgusting. The reason we know much of what Hamlet wrote to Ophelia is because her own father reads them aloud!!!! The world is a sham and nightmare in Hamlet. How do we think Hamlet could have dealt with history differently? If we could answer that, we could deal with our own burdens of history today...and the reality that our culture does not show us how to deal with history...it might be impossible to be real and honest and kind in our culture as it is...I believe that is a major issue in Hamlet. Candy An important scientific innovation rarely makes it's way by gradually winning over and converting it's opponents...What does happen is that it's opponents gradually die out and that the growing generation is familiarized with the idea from the beginning. Max Planck
Topic: November: Hamlet (155 of 156), Read 17 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Friday, November 30, 2001 02:26 PM Candy, Of course you are right that Hamlet treats Ophelia shabbily, but don't you think she also treated him badly? She completely cut him out of her life just when he needed her most. I don't think the fault is all Hamlet's. Ann
Topic: November: Hamlet (156 of 156), Read 16 times Conf: Classics Corner From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Friday, November 30, 2001 03:05 PM I agree. I think it was very wrong for her to go to him and let her elders listen in on their conversation. In the Ethan Hawke version...Ophelia is wearing a wire put there by her father and Hamlets mother. He is totally appalled when he catches her wearing this wire. And hurt. Still...I tend to look at elders in literature as the ones who set the tone of the world...it was wrong for Ophelia to treat Hamlet badly, and to shun him, and to allow the elders to spy on their meeting...but she was following their orders. In many ways, that is exactly what we would call a good offspring, one who respects their elders orders, and advice. It was the advice she followed of the elders that made her betray Hamlet. On the one hand we are frustrated at Hamlet being rebellous...and then we are judging Ophelia for following the advice and guidance of elders. Again, this action supports my feeling that it is impossible to be kind and loving in the society and world of Hamlet. It's a terrible maze of lies and murder and cheating. How should Hamlet have acted? love and peace Candy An important scientific innovation rarely makes it's way by gradually winning over and converting it's opponents...What does happen is that it's opponents gradually die out and that the growing generation is familiarized with the idea from the beginning. Max Planck

 

 
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