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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: November ::
Re: Hamlet/Ophelia/Laertes
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.1104.  Sunday, 2 November 1997.

[1]     From:   Abigail Quart <
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        Date:   Friday, 31 Oct 1997 10:12:12 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1091  Re: Hamlet

[2]     From:   Elizabeth Dietz <
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        Date:   Friday, 31 Oct 1997 11:25:46 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1095  Re: Hamlet/Ophelia

[3]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Friday, 31 Oct 1997 17:28:46 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1095  Re: Hamlet/Ophelia

[4]     From:   Parviz Nourpanah  <
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        Date:   Saturday, 1 Nov 1997 12:54:04 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1088  Q: Hamlet/Ophelia


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Abigail Quart <
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Date:           Friday, 31 Oct 1997 10:12:12 -0500
Subject: 8.1091  Re: Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1091  Re: Hamlet

Mathew Gretzinger has a good point about Hamlet's jealousy of people who
can express emotion. The "what's he to Hecuba" is a sore point with
Hamlet, and he keeps trying to bring himself up to the performance level
of acted emotion.

But I still see Laertes as a worm. He seemingly acts as Hamlet would
like to see himself act, full of bravado and panache, without
hesitation. Hamlet wouldn't kill Claudius in the act of prayer, but
Laertes swears he'll kill Hamlet even in church. Sounds good. Bold. But
when the jig is up, Laertes doesn't take the risk. He rats on Claudius
and begs Hamlet's forgiveness.  Hey, I thought the guy murdered your
father! Hamlet is willing to face God with Claudius' blood on his hands,
but Laertes wants to make sure his own are pristine for that difficult
interview. Little wuss.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Elizabeth Dietz <
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Date:           Friday, 31 Oct 1997 11:25:46 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 8.1095  Re: Hamlet/Ophelia
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1095  Re: Hamlet/Ophelia

Another angle on the scuffle at Ophelia's grave:  instead of love, or
guilt, a look at the tradition of the blazon suggest competitive
self-interest.  Early modern lit has a long tradition of praising a
beloved lady-and dismembering her in the process (see Nancy Vickers'
"Diana Described," among others).  The verbal conquest/dismemberment of
the lady serves to (1) prove the poet's virtuosity (even as by
cataloging her parts, he claims to immortalize her) and (2)rescue the
poet from himself being shattered by the inadequacy of language to allow
him to speak fully (which Vickers describes as a sort of
Medusa-effect).  In this scenario, Laertes and Hamlet triangulate their
own aggressive competition through Ophelia, each claiming a defining
relationship with her.  It's somewhat witty, given the blazon's
function, that both of them have arguably "put her in her grave" through
their actions.

Elizabeth Dietz
elizabeth-dietz@uiowa edu

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Friday, 31 Oct 1997 17:28:46 -0500
Subject: 8.1095  Re: Hamlet/Ophelia
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1095  Re: Hamlet/Ophelia

Terence Hawkes writes:

>That a place of
>extinction (a grave)  should be capable of metaphorical linkage with a
>place of generation (a bed) tells us a lot about a wholesale reinvention
>of death that the culture at large had embarked upon. This and much more
>is brilliantly explored in Michael Neill's fascinating new book 'Issues
>of Death: Mortality and Identity in English Renaissance Tragedy'  (OUP).

Doesn't the womb/tomb connection go way back? If you don't want to see
it in Homer (and why not?), surely it's present in Virgil's
<italic>Aeneid</italic>. The cave into which Dido and Aeneas go, I
think, is a teasingly ambiguous example. Aeneas goes in as a Trojan (you
may laugh), and comes out, reborn, as a Carthaginian. At least for a
little while.

Yours, Bill Godshalk

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Parviz Nourpanah  <
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 >
Date:           Saturday, 1 Nov 1997 12:54:04 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 8.1088  Q: Hamlet/Ophelia
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1088  Q: Hamlet/Ophelia

> Hamlet exclaims: "Dost thou come her to
> whine, / To outface me with leaping in her grave?" (V.1.262-3).  Why
> does Hamlet feel that his romantic love for Ophelia is threatened by her
> own brother?

I have been a member of SHAKSPER for a couple of weeks now, although
this is my first contribution to it. Here goes:

What has struck me as quite unusual and surprising in these discussions
on Shakespeare's plays is the tendency to read abnormal/unnatural (I am
quite hesitant over the choice of words, I hope I am giving offense to
nobody) forms of love, e.g. incestuous or homosexual, into what seem to
me to be the most perfectly obvious and natural relationships between
fathers and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends of the same gender,
etc. As an Iranian who has spent only four years in the North of England
studying literature (where the atmosphere was, if anything, pruder and
more conservative than here in Iran), I even find some of the
terminology that modern Westerners use (like homo-erotic (?) quite
bewildering.  For me, brought up in a very close family community, the
reaction of Laertes to Hamlet, and vice versa, (or even the Duchess of
Malfi and her brother) is not only perfectly obvious, but indeed, I do
not see how it could be otherwise, (even without postulating the
existence of a sexual relationship between them). Even today, in Iran,
brothers and fathers get annoyed or upset if they find a girl of their
family has been having some form of relationship; even perfectly legal,
above-board courting is quite difficult for them to accept. This
attitude is not only tolerated, but in fact lauded, and is distinguished
from mere jealousy with a word with has more positive connotations. A
brother *should* be jealous of his sister, it is a perfectly acceptable
feeling.  I think that maybe in the west (pardon the huge
generalization), where family bonds are somewhat more relax, Laertes's
attitude is rather difficult to accept, but maybe in Shakespeare's time,
family ties were rather more similar to eastern countries today.
 

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