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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: November ::
Re: Assorted Responses to Ham.
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.1176.  Thursday, 20 November 1997.

[1]     From:   Louis C Swilley <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 19 Nov 1997 09:36:39 -0600 (CST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1168  Assorted Responses to Ham. (Was Heir)

[2]     From:   Scott Shepherd <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 19 Nov 1997 14:09:55 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1168  Hamlet as Heir

[3]     From:   Scott Shepherd <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 19 Nov 1997 15:05:12 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1171  Re: No Matter (Troilus and Hamlet)

[4]     From:   Andrew Walker White <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 19 Nov 1997 19:47:03 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Claudius' Error

[5]     From:   Sean Kevin Lawrence <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 19 Nov 1997 18:47:07 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.1168  Assorted Responses to Ham. (Was Heir)


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Louis C Swilley <
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Date:           Wednesday, 19 Nov 1997 09:36:39 -0600 (CST)
Subject: 8.1168  Assorted Responses to Ham. (Was Heir)
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1168  Assorted Responses to Ham. (Was Heir)

I don't know exactly how this information might bear on the discussion
of the Claudius/Gertrude marriage (incest? adultery?), but didn't Henry
VIII argue that his marriage to Catherine of Aragon was invalid because
he should not have been given a dispensation to marry his dead brother's
wife?

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Scott Shepherd <
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Date:           Wednesday, 19 Nov 1997 14:09:55 -0500
Subject: 8.1168  Hamlet as Heir
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1168  Hamlet as Heir

Surely election means choice, and surely in Shakespeare's Elsinore kings
were chosen, though it's unclear by whom.  Certainly not the people:

        The rabble call him lord,
        And as the world were now but to begin,
        Antiquity forgot, custom not known
        (The ratifiers and props of every word),
        They cry "Choose we! Laertes shall be king!"

Also it seems your elective chances were improved if you had "the voice"
of the king, or at least the voice of the person who last had the voice
of the king.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Scott Shepherd <
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Date:           Wednesday, 19 Nov 1997 15:05:12 -0500
Subject: 8.1171  Re: No Matter (Troilus and Hamlet)
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1171  Re: No Matter (Troilus and Hamlet)

I'm not sure I agree that "in Hamlet's little joke matter is words and
not meaning."  When pressed for "the matter that you read, my lord"
Hamlet gives Polonius (more or less) what he's looking for:  what we
would call the subject-matter.   Which jibes with Troilus' use of
"matter."

The joke ("What are you reading?" "Words") is the same both times, but
Troilus expresses a preference for matter and Hamlet doesn't.

As for words vs. deeds, that Hamlet has issues with both is clear, but
that he equates them is harder to maintain since he is generally
obsessed with a distinction between them:  thought turning action awry,
actors not making their actions and words proportionate, speaking
daggers instead of using them, unpacking his heart with words vs
carrying out the revenge heaven and hell have prompted him to, etc.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew Walker White <
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Date:           Wednesday, 19 Nov 1997 19:47:03 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Claudius' Error

The strategic error, of letting Fortinbras move troops through Denmark
on his way to Poland has always puzzled me.  Wouldn't it have made more
sense, and proven more strategically effective, to simply _sail_ past
Elsinore?  Or is the area so completely iced over at that time of year
that you need to march anyway?

I take Claudius' assent to mean that he is paralyzed by his suspicions
of Hamlet.  Had Hamlet not been in the way, the passage through Denmark
may not have been permitted.  This was a vassal state of Denmark's after
all.  Which leads to a director's question for those on the list:  How
have you all handled this embassy?  Has Voltimand delivered the first
part as good news, but the second part as bad news?  With a tone of
voice that says "I had to accept this, but Your Highness may wish to
refuse?"

Just curious,
Andy White
Arlington, VA

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Kevin Lawrence <
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Date:           Wednesday, 19 Nov 1997 18:47:07 -0800
Subject: 8.1168  Assorted Responses to Ham. (Was Heir)
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.1168  Assorted Responses to Ham. (Was 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.

Just because some decision is made by a group of people does not require
any constitutional structure more formal than a general gathering of the
powers that be with enough collective authority to ensure the
appointment of a new king.  Hamlet could simply be lending Fortinbras's
self-nomination a certain level of moral force.  No knowledge on
Shakespeare's part of the precise constitutional structure of early
modern Denmark is required.  In principle, this is how leaders continue
to be "elected" in a lot of countries, none of which have a Witan!

Cheers,
Sean
 

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