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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: December ::
Re; *Hamlet*: Dumb Show and Stage History
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0977.  Tuesday, 6 December 1994.
 
(1)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Sunday, 04 Dec 1994 22:49:12 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Hamlet's Dumb Show
 
(2)     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Sunday, 4 Dec 1994 16:42:25 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0961 Re: Dumb Show
 
(3)     From:   Dom Saliani <
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        Date:   Sunday, 04 Dec 1994 22:07:06 -0700 (MST)
        Subj:   Hamlet: stage history
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Sunday, 04 Dec 1994 22:49:12 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Hamlet's Dumb Show
 
I haven't been following this thread very closely, so I apologize if this point
has been made. Stanley Cavell's essay "Hamlet's Burden of Proof" in DISOWNING
KNOWLEDGE claims that the answer is obvious. Claudius doesn't react because
that's not the way Hamlet died! Cavell goes on to suggest that old Hamlet
dies, not because Claudius poured something into him, but because Hamlet poured
something into Gertrude. I'm not sure how generally accepted Cavell's answer
is, but his initial suggestion -- that old Hamlet wasn't poisoned in the ear --
I find tempting.
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Sunday, 4 Dec 1994 16:42:25 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 5.0961 Re: Dumb Show
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0961 Re: Dumb Show
 
Regarding the dumb show and Claudio's rather understated response to it:
Perhaps Claudio is only frightened by the play itself, since the murderer in
the play itself is identified as "nephew to the king".  In other words, the
play and not the dumb-show offers more than a mirror, it offers a threat.
Claudio is able to deal with his crime better than with its punishment, as his
attempt at prayer shows.
 
Cheerio,
        Sean.
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dom Saliani <
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Date:           Sunday, 04 Dec 1994 22:07:06 -0700 (MST)
Subject:        Hamlet: stage history
 
Thanks to John Mucci, Don Foster and David Kathman for responding to my query.
I must say, however, that I am more confused than ever.
 
Mucci mentions Nashe who in 1589 appears to allude to *Hamlet*. I checked for
the complete reference and found that it included more than quoted by John. It
reads:
 
     ... yet Seneca read by candle-light yields many good sentences as
     *blood is a beggar*      and so forth; and if you entreate him fair in a
     frosty morning, he will afford you whole Hamlets, I should say
     handfulls of tragical speeches ...
 
What strikes me about this particular reference is that it would appear that in
1589, Nashe is referring to a printed version of *Hamlet* or am I being
semantically challenged in my reading?
 
The Gabriel Harvey quote is also very interesting. I accept Harold Jenkins
attribution of this quote to the year 1598 for the reasons he outlines in the
Arden edition of the play. But once again, I am struck by the curious
suggestion that Harvey is also referring to a printed version of *Hamlet*. He
mentions *Hamlet in the context of two obviously printed works *Venus* and
*Lucrece* :
 
     ... The younger sort take much delight in Shakespeare's *Venus and
     Adonis*, but his *Lucrece*, AND his tragedy of *Hamlet* have it in
     THEM to please the wiser sort...    *emphasis mine*
 
I don't think that Harvey would be referring to Q1 here and it is quite
obvious, with all due respect to David Kathman, that Harvey is not speaking
about a stage production but rather a written text. Could it be that a
manuscript version of the play was circulating among Shakespeare's private
friends?
 
I am grateful to John Mucci for his tip about Scolocer's *Daiphantus*. I was
not aware of this reference to Hamlet and it is interesting to say the least.
I am going to make it a priority to read the entire text of the poem.
 
Where I do question John is in his concluding remarks in which he quotes
Clarendon hazarding a conjecture that *it seems not improbable that it might
have been at some entertainment in honor of the king's accession* that the
play was performed.
 
After reading Lilian Winstanly, I can't see how the play *Hamlet* could have
ever been presented to James. There are just too many parallels between the
life and character of James and Hamlet for such a performance to be tolerated.
Dare I bring up the bitter attack on Burleigh through the character of Polonius
as another reason for keeping a lid on the play?
 
To repeat my question, why is it that the play *Hamlet* despite the numerous
references to it before 1598 and its printing history in 1603-5 does not appear
to have been performed in England till about 1619-20? Was the performance
of the play prohibited. The play should have been a box-office smash and
contemporary allusions to it should be a matter of public record if indeed it
was performed during this period of time.
 
Help! I am confused.
 
Dom Saliani <
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