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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: February ::
Re: Hamlet and Fortinbras
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0105.  Tuesday, 14 February 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Ron Moyer <
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        Date:   Monday, 13 Feb 1995 9:53:03 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Hamlet, 4.4
 
(2)     From:   David Evette <
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        Date:   Monday, 13 Feb 95 16:36:57 EST
        Subj:   [Hamlet's "Rightly . . ."]
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ron Moyer <
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Date:           Monday, 13 Feb 1995 9:53:03 -0600 (CST)
Subject:        Hamlet, 4.4
 
Scott Shepherd's suggestion that Hamlet's 4.4 soliloquy has the dramaturgical
effect of intensifying the "comparative effect" of Hamlet/Fortinbras seems apt;
further, the strong expression of the "How all occasions" speech helps to keep
Hamlet and his bloody thoughts in the audience's mind during his England
trip/absence from stage (and gives wonderful chance for rhetorical and
emotional display.  While theatrically effective, the soliloquy is redundant
(e.g., "Now could I drink hot blood"), lacks some logic (as has been discussed
on this thread), and seems a bit silly for Hamlet to express this strength of
purpose at the moment when he has the least power in the play--being escorted
out of the country. Apparently someone in the King's Company (the author
perhaps) found the speech unnecessary or undesirable, for it was omitted in the
First Folio text.
 
--Ron Moyer, Theatre, Univ. of South Dakota  <
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(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evette <
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Date:           Monday, 13 Feb 95 16:36:57 EST
Subject:        [Hamlet's "Rightly . . ."]
 
I endorse Scott Shepherd's parsing of Hamlet's "Rightly to be great / Is not to
stir without great argument" as needing to be read so that "not" governs the
entire infinitive phrase rather than "to stir" by itself (Riverside 4.4.53-54).
 To understand Hamlet is not necessarily to agree with him, however.  From one
end of the canon to the other, in _Titus Andronicus_, _Romeo and Juliet_,
_Merchant of Venice_, both parts of _Henry IV_, _Henry V_, _Julius Caesar_,
_Troilus and Cressida_, _Lear_, _Coriolanus_, and _Winter's Tale_, as well as
in this play, Shakespeare carries out investigations of masculine honor,
particularly those elements of the code that define manhood as the willingness
to kill ("If it be man's work I'll do it") and relate it to the obligation for
revenge.  The _trouvailles_ here is a pile of corpses that consists mostly of
the young male combatants but also includes Juliet, Ophelia, Gertrude, the Boy
in _Henry V_, and the Norwegian and Polish Williamses and Bateses for whom, as
Hamlet goes on to tell us, the dirt fought over by Fortinbras and his Polish
counterpart will not be sufficient to make graves.  I have fond memories of
that wonderfully straightforward and practical critic Alfred Harbage asking the
members of his graduate seminar to identify the grounds for Hamlet's delay, and
scowling impatiently through a series of convoluted psychological hypotheses
before somebody finally said, rather to the shame of the rest of us, "Thou
shalt do no murder."
 

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