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Home :: Archive :: 1993 :: November ::
Re: Hamlet (the father), Gertrude, Incest, Ted Hughes
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 789.  Sunday, 14 November 1993.
 
(1)     From:   Roy Flannagan <FLANNAGA@OUACCVMB>
        Date:   Saturday, 13 November 93, 11:06:11 EST
        Subj:   Hamlet (the father) and Gertrude
 
(2)     From:   David McFadden <
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        Date:   Saturday, 13 Nov 1993 16:39:02 -0500
        Subj:   Re: Incest
 
(3)     From:   William Godshalk <
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        Date:   Saturday, 13 Nov 1993 23:25:47 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 4.0775  Re: Gertrude, Incest, and Adultery
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Roy Flannagan <FLANNAGA@OUACCVMB>
Date:           Saturday, 13 November 93, 11:06:11 EST
Subject:        Hamlet (the father) and Gertrude
 
Isn't the audience supposed to believe what Hamlet says about his father, that
he was an Hyperion as compared with the satyr Claudius? and isn't he a real man
(possibly not of a PC variety), according to Hamlet?  Aren't we judging him
outside the context of his son's testimony if we call him a prig?  If he's a
prig, Hamlet's another one. Putting down the Dane may involve re-judging the
text.  Even the "old mole" business may just reflect Hamlet's hysteria at the
time he says it.
 
Gertrude in turn may be a cow, in the modern English sense of the term (again
not PC), and she certainly is pliable.  But she is to some degree loyal to her
son.  Though she doesn't do exactly what Hamlet begs and cajoles her to do in
the closet scene, she may indeed drink the poisoned cup in order to prevent her
son's doing it (has anyone brought that up?).
 
Might someone (Steve, you busy?) compile the Q and Folio versions of the closet
scene and send them to SHAKSPER, for all to examine?
 
Roy Flannagan
 
[I'll give a shot early next week at compiling the Q1, Q2, and F1 closet scenes
unless someone else would want to.  --HMC]
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David McFadden <
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Date:           Saturday, 13 Nov 1993 16:39:02 -0500
Subject:        Re: Incest
 
Kimberly Nolan asks: "Speaking of inheritance--has anyone thought of Claudius
as a second son fraught with all the baggage that role carries?"
 
Hm, since it's often easy to forget that Hamlet Sr. and Claudius are
brothers, wouldn't it be terrific to put together a production in which the
Ghost and Claudius are played by the same actor! Does anyone know if this has
been done? The only Hamlets I've known (and I've loved 'em all) are Laurence
Olivier, Richard Burton, Derek Jacobi, Mel Gibson, Kenneth Branagh, and the
Canadians R. H. Thompson and Brent Carver. In none of these productions was
Claudius given a smidgen of a sympathetic portrayal, nor was anything made of
the kinship between Claudius and Hamlet Sr. other than what is in the hard
lines of the text.
 
By the way, Ted Hughes in his *Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being*
(1992, and unless my search mechanism is at fault, this is the first
reference to this dazzling-stimulating-complex book to appear on SHAKSPER)
makes a big thing of the Rival Brothers theme as it appears throughout the
plays--and the poems. It's frustrating that the book lacks an index, and my
rather too-quick reading left me feeling too overwhelmed for comfort. I'm
going to have to read it more attentively and slowly. Hughes seems to make
more of the Rival Brothers theme in other plays than he does in Hamlet. But
without breathing the word "incest" he does state that Hamlet's killing of
Claudius is a replay of Claudius' murder of Hamlet Sr. and therefore the
Prince will have to die in turn, for the same set of sins. He also avers that
the Prince's bond with Gertrude is the cause of his rejection of Ophelia,
that Hamlet and Laertes form a subset of the Rival Brothers theme, and that
Hamlet's black suit links him with the black skin of Othello, which leads
Hughes into a whole series of interconnecting themes. These themes come
together under the heading of the "Tragic Equation," which Hughes sees
"maturing" throughout the plays as they are written, ending with its
"dismantling" in The Tempest. His prime thesis is that Shakespeare must have
been a student of Giordano Bruno's, since Bruno was in England at the right
time, they had friends in common, and Hughes sees Bruno's ideas given major
treatment throughout the plays.
 
Has anyone else on-line read Hughes' book, and found it at all helpful in our
ever-growing appreciation of the plays?
 
I seem to have managed to talk myself into rereading the Hughes book starting
toot sweet.
 
There certainly are a lot of Rival Brothers in Shakespeare.
 
David W. McFadden
 
PS The Hughes book came out in paperback a week after I bought it hardcover.
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Godshalk <
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Date:           Saturday, 13 Nov 1993 23:25:47 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 4.0775  Re: Gertrude, Incest, and Adultery
Comment:        Re: SHK 4.0775  Re: Gertrude, Incest, and Adultery
 
And, Milla, Henry also had Anne Boleyn charged with incest - with her brother.
As I recall the case, he confessed.
 
Bill Godshalk
 

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