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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: July ::
Re: Various Re: Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0751.  Monday, 14 July 1997.

[1]     From:   Andrew Walker White <
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        Date:   Friday, 11 Jul 1997 13:21:31 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0746 Various Re: Hamlet

[2]     From:   Nick Clary <
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        Date:   Monday, 14 Jul 1997 11:31:46 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 8.0750  Re: Various Re: Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew Walker White <
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Date:           Friday, 11 Jul 1997 13:21:31 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 8.0746 Various Re: Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0746 Various Re: Hamlet

As for the question of how Hamlet knows Polonius has been keeping
Ophelia from him, the evidence is not direct but is implied pretty
strongly.  Hamlet knows Ophelia well enough to know that she is not
refusing his letters/presence of her own volition.  Her father would be
by far the most natural culprit.  Referring to him as a "fishmonger",
i.e. pimp, may simply refer to the fact that Polonius is keeping the
door to his household shut, and is taking charge of Ophelia as if he
were her pimp.

He doesn't have to know about the plot until he comes into the Lobby
and, instead of Claudius or Gertrude, finds Ophelia just walking around
as if nothing were unusual about her free and open presence in the
castle.  The very fact that she's suddenly there to be seen and spoken
with, is evidence enough of a plot. Hence his "soft you now", which
indicates surprise at seeing her-"soft" meaning "wait a minute", in this
context.

As for the "madness" that Hamlet pleads in his apology to Laertes, I
would agree with those who say that S. didn't make too many fine
distinctions.  The madness here referred to is his impulse, under the
stress of stalking his father's killer and finding yet another spy in
his midst.

One more Director's question:  does Hamlet really think Claudius is in
Gertrude's room, behind the arras?  He's just left him behind in the
chapel (which, at Elsinore, is near a spiral staircase leading to the
Queen's chambers, I believe) and I've always wondered whether this meant
his remarks after stabbing Polonius were meant as sarcasm.

Any takers on that one?

Andy White
Arlington, VA

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Nick Clary <
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Date:           Monday, 14 Jul 1997 11:31:46 -0400
Subject: Re: Various Re: Hamlet
Comment:        SHK 8.0750  Re: Various Re: Hamlet

With regard to Hamlet's madness, I thought I'd share a little something
I came across recently.  In 1824, George Farren published a pair of
articles for The London Magazine (April and May) on the madness of
Hamlet and the madness of Ophelia, respectively. A third article "On the
Soliloquy To Be or Not to Be'" appeared in June; it's emphasis on
Hamlet's state of mind. In his analysis of Hamlet, Farren refers to
"Dr.  Mason Good's "The Study of Medicine," treating of "Ecphronia
Melancholia" (vol.iii. p.81), which, as Farren points out, was Johnson's
acknowledged authority for his remarks on "Melancholia Attonita."  In
general, Farren's studies set out the differences between Hamlet's
mental state and Ophelia's: the former suffering a disorder in which an
unstable condition of mind vacillates between reason and the irrational,
and the latter suffering "a trauma after which her speech and behaviour
betray characteristics of legal insanity."  Farren subsequently
published condensed versions of these essays in a book entitled
Observations on the Laws of Mortality, and on the Principles of Life
Insurance with an Appendix, containing illustrations of the Progress of
Mania, Melancholia, Craziness, and Demonomania, as displayed in
Shakespeare's Characters of Lear, Hamlet, Ophelia, and Edgar. London:
Dean and Munday, Threadneedle-Street, 1829.

Cheers,
Nick Clary
 

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