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Home :: Archive :: 1993 :: November ::
Re: Gertrude
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 759. Thursday, 11 November 1993.
 
(1)     From:   James Schiffer <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 10 Nov 1993 14:18:49 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   RE: SHK 4.0747  Re: Gertrude
 
(2)     From:   Kimberly Nolan <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 10 Nov 1993 18:57:28 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 4.0747  Re: Gertrude
 
(3)     From:   Cary M. Mazer <
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        Date:   Thursday, 11 Nov 93 8:48:42 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 4.0747  Re: Gertrude
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           James Schiffer <
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Date:           Wednesday, 10 Nov 1993 14:18:49 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 4.0747  Re: Gertrude
Comment:        RE: SHK 4.0747  Re: Gertrude
 
Let me try again to pose my question: when the Ghost says, "Ay, that
incestuous, that adulterate beast," he makes two charges against Claudius (and
I assume Gertrude).  The charge of incest would apply whether Claudius is alive
or dead (thus, he says later in the speech, "Let not the royal bed of Denmark
be/A couch for luxury and damned incest").  But could Claudius and Gertrude be
regarded as adulterous if their relationship began after King Hamlet had died?
I don't think so.  Two possibilities exist here: 1) Gertrude was unfaithful
while her first husband was alive (how does the Ghost know this?  That's not
clear, but neither is it clear how he learns that Claudius poured hebona in his
ear); 2) Gertrude was not adulterous, but the Ghost thinks of himself as still
alive & therefore makes his accusation.
 
As Fran Teague suggests, the issue of Gertrude's guilt has important
implications for actors playing Gertrude and Claudius.  We may not be able to
determine if they committed adultery, but actors playing their roles may want
to decide one way or the other.
 
Gertrude's possibile guilt in this regard also has implications for the actor
who plays Hamlet.  Does he accept the Ghost's accusation as true?  Is this why
he says later in 1.5, "O most pernicious woman!"?  Does this throw light on
Hamlet's line to Horatio in 5.2: "He that hath killed my king and whored my
mother"?
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kimberly Nolan <
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Date:           Wednesday, 10 Nov 1993 18:57:28 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 4.0747  Re: Gertrude
Comment:        Re: SHK 4.0747  Re: Gertrude
 
Yes David--it certainly seems plausable to me.  My feeling has always been that
Hamlet Sr. was not a particularly devoted husband--or king for that matter. He
is not concerned with *domestic* affairs.  I am also always fascinated by
Hamlet's description of Gertrude in I.ii "why she would hang on him as if
increase of appetite had grown by what it fed on."  Again I wonder if she
was every really *fed*, is her true crime an excess of desire--always a
transgression for women of this period.
 
K. Nolan
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Cary M. Mazer <
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Date:           Thursday, 11 Nov 93 8:48:42 EST
Subject: 4.0747  Re: Gertrude
Comment:        Re: SHK 4.0747  Re: Gertrude
 
Re: Gertrude:
 
Let me second Fran Teague's gracious seconding of me, and draw your
attention to Ellen O'Brien's essay, in a recent *Shakespeare Survey*, on
actresses' performances of Gertrude vis-a-vis standard cuts in the
performance texts of *Hamlet*, which explores how the performances of the
role that individual actresses were able to build were shaped by the "map"
of the role provided by the scripts they had at hand.  (I write this after
seeing ACTER's splendid touring 5-actor *Hamlet* last night, and after a
long conversation with Miranda Foster about how her protrayal of Gertrude
was shaped by the experience of doubling Ophelia, and vice versa).
 
Cary M. Mazer
 
 
 
To Terence Hawkes:
 
Terry,
 
Your move.
 
Cary
 

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