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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: February ::
Re: Welsh; Shylock; Fortinbras
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0081.  Tuesday, 7 February 1995.
 
(1)     From:   John Owen <
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        Date:   Monday, 6 Feb 1995 15:10:28 -0800
        Subj:   RE: SHK 6.0075  Re: Welsh
 
(2)     From:   Alexander D. Smith <
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        Date:   Monday, 6 Feb 1995 17:16:08 -0600
        Subj:   Re:  Fortinbras at Winnipeg
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Owen <
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Date:           Monday, 6 Feb 1995 15:10:28 -0800
Subject: 6.0075  Re: Welsh
Comment:        RE: SHK 6.0075  Re: Welsh
 
It is difficult for me to understand Terence Hawkes statement regarding
character vs. political analysis, as the two are completely in harmony in this
case. The idea of 1 Henry IV only as a political tract reduces the
heartbreaking personal implications of the scene. Mortimer is quite tragically
a nincompoop who marries a woman he can't communicate with; and his
co-conspirators are the unstable Hotspur, the half-mad Glendower and the
self-seeking Worcester. The realization, certain by the end of the scene, that
they are utterly doomed is almost unendurably pathetic.
 
Regarding Shylock, I don't want to get into a war where the only weapon is
repeated assertion, but I feel compelled to remind Ms. Kagan that the motive
Shylock himself confesses is that of "making what merchandise I will". In other
words, Antonio is bad for business. Shylock's treatment at the hands of the
Christians inflames the desire to destroy the merchant, but that intent is
calculated before the action of the play. Shakespeare's humanization of the
character is purely a post facto transformation of a villainous stereotype.
 
John Owen
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Alexander D. Smith <
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Date:           Monday, 6 Feb 1995 17:16:08 -0600
Subject:        Re:  Fortinbras at Winnipeg
 
David Glassco called the war Fortinbras is preparing for in the background
during IV, iv a 'pointless war'.  I couldn't disagree more.  Old Norway
(Fortinbras' father) and King Hamlet (Hamlet's father) made a 'bet' and fought
a war a short while ago.  The deal was that whoever won would get the all of
the land that the loser had conquered.  King Hamlet won, slayed Old Norway, and
took the lands.  Now Fortinbras' will not sit passivley by and let his father
be killed and his honor destroyed and all of the lands he had conquered by
taken away.  He prepares to wage war againt Denmark to regain the land that
King Hamlet won from his father and to regain his father's honor.  In IV, iv
Fortinbras is not preparing for his attack on Denmark, but rather on Poland.
Perhaps this is a 'pointless war' in the senese that there is no real reason as
to why Fortinbras should attack Poland save to gain some more land, but it is
not at all pointless in how it speaks of Fortinbras' person.  Fortinbras takes
what he wants.  He does not let his environment confuse and reduce him to a
coward in "bestial oblivion" (IV, iv) as becomes of Hamlet in this chaotic and
disguised world (a world where his mother runs to marry his uncle, his uncle
kills his father and crowns himself, Ophelia, the woman he loves, is used as
bait before him so that Poloniuns can spy on him, and his two close friends,
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, are sent to spy on him by Claudius).  Fortinbras
can motivated himself to fight for a war that does not have very special and
close meaning to his heart, yet Hamlet cannot motivate himself to fight for
something of the greatest importance (avenging his father's murder).
 

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