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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: November ::
Assorted Responses to Ham. (Was Heir)
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.1168.  Wednesday, 19 November 1997.

[1]     From:   Tim Richards <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Nov 1997 22:42:55 +0800
        Subj:   Claudius and Gertrude

[2]     From:   Jonathan Hope <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Nov 1997 10:05:29 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1166 Your grammarian

[3]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Nov 1997 11:47:10 -0500
        Subj:   Re:  Hamlet as Heir

[4]     From:   Gregory Koch <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Nov 1997 12:31:51 -0500
        Subj:   Re: Hamlet as Gertrude's Heir

[5]     From:   Scott Shepherd <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Nov 1997 13:55:31 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1166  Re: Hamlet as Gertrude's Heir

[6]     From:   Scott Shepherd <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Nov 1997 14:11:48 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1166  Re: Hamlet as Gertrude's Heir

[7]     From:   Scott Shepherd <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Nov 1997 14:47:18 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1166  Re: Hamlet as Gertrude's Heir


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tim Richards <
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Date:           Tuesday, 18 Nov 1997 22:42:55 +0800
Subject:        Claudius and Gertrude

Christine Mack Gordon wrote:

>...are incestuous and adulterate synonyms, or does the
>former refer to the current relationship between Claudius and Gertrude
>and the latter imply a relationship before King Hamlet's death?

I thought it was meant to refer to the current situation; that in the
Ghost's eyes Gertrude is still bound to him, or at least his memory, and
thus her relationship with Claudius is adulterous.  Incestuous because,
I suppose, as her brother-in-law Claudius stood as a brother to her.

Tim Richards.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jonathan Hope <
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Date:           Tuesday, 18 Nov 1997 10:05:29 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 8.1166 Your grammarian
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1166 Your grammarian

>>In the Folio text (TLN 864), Hamlet speaks to Horatio of "our
>>Philosophy." That "our" gives quite a different feel to the line.
>
>Yes, but even if it's your it doesn't mean Horatio's philosophy, any
>more than
>
>        Your fat king and your lean beggar are but variable service
>
>refers to a king and beggar belonging to Claudius.  Your grammarian
>knows the technical name for this construct.  It's a colloquial,
>generalizing sort of your that survives today in phrases like "it's your
>basic boy-meets-girl story."

Scott's right - it is sometimes called 'generic you'.  Katie Wales has
an article on it.  I don't have the reference on me, but can get it if
anyone is interested.  The contemporary locus classicus for this is Alf
Garnet (Archie Bunker for US readers, though I don't know if they
carried generic you across too).

Jonathan Hope
Middlesex University

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Tuesday, 18 Nov 1997 11:47:10 -0500
Subject:        Re:  Hamlet as Heir

Sean Kevin Lawrence and Scott Shepherd quibble that "election" does not
necessarily imply a vote of an assemble.  I agree; it might even just
mean "choice," as in "election of remedies."  It all depends on context;
and in the context of Hamlet there is no reasonable alternative to
election by the Witan.  Why else would Hamlet give Fortinbras his dying
voice?  And if appointment was the process, who was the appointing
authority?  In any event, the point is not how many people participated
in making the choice, but that there was a choice-the new king was not
pre-ordained to be the natural heir of the prior king.  Therefore,
someone or some group of someone's made a deliberate decision to prefer
Claudius over Hamlet, the natural heir.

Lysbeth Benkert-Rasmussen makes the valid point that Claudius' allowing
a march over his territories might not have been so wise.  Certainly not
in the Branagh version.  Also, the march would probably have entailed
more than mere passage-the Norwegian forces would likely have been
permitted to forage off the land, so Denmark was making a material
contribution to the war effort against Poland.  BUT  all diplomacy
involves risks and compromises.  The alternative to taking this chance
was that Fortinbras would invade Denmark, kill a lot of people and waste
the land anyway.  On the other hand, Claudius' deal gave him more time
to be prepared, foreknowledge of the route of march (and possibly a
voice in selecting it), and the good chance that both the Polish and
Norwegian forces would be severely debilitated by the engagement.  Isn't
this better?

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gregory Koch <
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Date:           Tuesday, 18 Nov 1997 12:31:51 -0500
Subject:        Re: Hamlet as Gertrude's Heir

>>I hate to strain a point, but I don't believe that "election" always
>>implies a vote in early modern English.

Made weaker - more falliable than one smoothed in by popularity.
("Whose blood and judgment are so well commingled, that they are not a
pipe for fortune's finger...")

>Ghost's reference to Claudius as "that incestuous, that adulterate
>beast" (1.5.42); are incestuous and adulterate synonyms, or does the

The ghost was on the bias that poison makes: and did not stomach his
brother's quick mating, which could be synonymous with abnormal
relations...

>yet after he gets Norway to chasten his nephew,  the first thing
>Claudius does is to give Fortinbras permission to move his troops
>through the middle of Denmark.  Surely not the wisest move given the

Hey - he got away with everything 'til Hamlet runs him through...

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Scott Shepherd <
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Date:           Tuesday, 18 Nov 1997 13:55:31 -0500
Subject: 8.1166  Re: Hamlet as Gertrude's Heir
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1166  Re: Hamlet as Gertrude's Heir

There's calculated ambiguity about the particulars of Gertrude's guilt.
The Mousetrap story is clear:  the king's dead before the queen takes a
new lover.  But as for Gertrude, the ghost at least suggests adultery,
and Hamlet says flat out "kill a king and marry with his brother"
(although presumably we know his informational source, which never said
this).

We're left to wonder.  Making a bad second match, a back-then-incestuous
one, is definitely part of the accusation, but we knew that much before
the ghost revealed anything, and does it qualify for "such an act that
blurs the grace and blush of modesty" etc., or "such black and grained
spots as will not leave their tinct"?

Hamlet's closet-scene attack is basically a bad-second-marriage lecture,
but his presentation implies that Gertrude 1) made a *choice* between
Claudius and Old Hamlet, and 2) chose Claudius knowing him to be "a
murderer and a villain."

Scott Shepherd

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Scott Shepherd <
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Date:           Tuesday, 18 Nov 1997 14:11:48 -0500
Subject: 8.1166  Re: Hamlet as Gertrude's Heir
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1166  Re: Hamlet as Gertrude's Heir

>And despite the ghost's request to leave Gertrude to heaven,
>he certainly succeeds in poisoning young Hamlet's mind even more in
>terms of his relationship with his mother.

I've always thought the ghost gives Hamlet two separate warnings:

        taint not thy mind
        let [not] thy soul contrive against thy mother aught

both of which he has trouble with.

It's the same "now make sure you don't do [exactly what you end up
doing]" irony as

        I find thee apt,
        And duller shouldst thou be than the fat reed
        That roots itself in ease on Lethe wharf
        Shouldst thou not stir in this.

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Scott Shepherd <
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Date:           Tuesday, 18 Nov 1997 14:47:18 -0500
Subject: 8.1166  Re: Hamlet as Gertrude's Heir
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1166  Re: Hamlet as Gertrude's Heir

>to give Fortinbras permission to move his troops
>through the middle of Denmark.  Surely not the wisest move given the
>young man's proven disposition.

The wisdom of it is settled by "such regards of safety and allowance As
therein are set down" and proven when Fortinbras in fact passes through
peacefully.

If anything it emphasizes Claudius' diplomatic prowess if he has so
neutralized the threat that he can invite the very same army into his
kingdom without fear.

The reason Fortinbras enters Denmark at all is not to cast doubt on the
king's foreign policy but so Hamlet can see him go by.
 

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