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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: July ::
Re: Hamlet and Characters
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0782.  Tuesday, 22 July 1997.

[1]     From:   John Boni <
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        Date:   Monday, 21 Jul 1997 08:30:21 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0773 Re: Hamlet and Characters

[2]     From:   Simon Malloch <
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        Date:   Monday, 21 Jul 1997 20:04:11 +0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0759  Re: Various Hamlet

[3]     From:   Ron Ward <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 22 Jul 1997 16:10:48 +1200 (NZST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0773  Re: Deception


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Boni <
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Date:           Monday, 21 Jul 1997 08:30:21 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 8.0773 Re: Hamlet and Characters
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0773 Re: Hamlet and Characters

Andrew White says, "And sending Claudius' soul to hell...is what it's
really about" for Hamlet.

Isn't that part of the overall pattern of change for Hamlet?  He who was
reluctant to act and had been told by the ghost to protect his mother
and his soul, in becoming disposed to action, to bloodiness, must-and
does-change his values.  Stabbing Polonius, Hamlet has acted on impulse,
by instinct, rather than after thinking it out.  His almost relieved
response to Gertrude's, "What have you done?"-"I know, not, is it the
king?"  expresses a hopefulness: Perhaps it is all over and I didn't
have to think about it, and motivates his treatment of Polonius' corpse,
the angry and contemptuous, "I took thee for thy better."

When he sees Claudius apparently praying, Hamlet falls prey to the
destructive element of revenge; Old Hamlet was killed with his sins
still on him, should Claudius be allowed better?  So, Hamlet plays god,
dealing with an antagonist's soul as well as his body.  He chooses NOT
to kill Claudius for the wrong reasons (from one point of view), then,
assuming Claudius in Gertrude's room may have undone his prayers'
effects, Hamlet strikes quickly-and in error.

We are often so caught up with the sensitive, troubled Hamlet, that we
ignore the (necessarily) bloody Hamlet he becomes.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Simon Malloch <
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Date:           Monday, 21 Jul 1997 20:04:11 +0800
Subject: 8.0759  Re: Various Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0759  Re: Various Hamlet

> People think. Hamlet doesn't. It's called art.
>
> T. Hawkes

This is such a cold and discouraging view of art, and one I feel which
is contrary to the human response to that medium.

When one reads Hamlet,  or any other piece of literature,  one
conceptualises the characters.  The scenery and other details of
composition are also constructed in the mind's eye.  The next step
usually involves conceptualising the characters' movements,  speeches,
and,  often,  facial expressions, tone of voice and other details.  It
is only natural therefore to wonder at a character,  such as Hamlet,
thinking.  He is conceived of as a human,  and therefore we assume that
he contains all of man's attributes.

Much of the play involves Hamlet "thinking,"   and this aspect has
invited much literary debate,  such as his over-thinking,  or
thinking-too-well.  Clearly he does think,  in order to arrive at
numerous decisions within the play,  such as that involving his "antic
disposition."  Several of the soliloquies in the play may be read as
Hamlet's thoughts spoken-out-loud,  mainly for the audience to hear, if
one wishes to look at it on a practical level.  To the reader,  they may
as well be thoughts unspoken.

To suggest that Hamlet does not think appears to me to go against much
of what the play is about;  not to mention the natural human curiosity
for detail.  It also goes against the "drowning" or engrossing effect
that art has on the individual, namely its capacity to draw one into the
world of the novel, play or poem,  to feel what is happening and to
expand on the visual, spritual, emotional, and intellectual (etc.)
components which the author provides.  To be thus absorbed by a piece of
literature is one of the joys of reading.

Simon Malloch.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ron Ward <
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Date:           Tuesday, 22 Jul 1997 16:10:48 +1200 (NZST)
Subject: 8.0773  Re: Deception
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0773  Re: Deception

I have only been deceived by S in the Winters Tale. The death of
Hermione is presumed by the audience. Of course you could say she was
dead and brought to life again but it is still an expectation of the
audience that she will not appear again.
 

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