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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: November ::
Re: Laertes as King
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.1180  Friday, 20 November 1998.

[1]     From:   Roy Flannagan <
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        Date:   Thursday, 19 Nov 1998 08:05:07 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1174  Re: Laertes as King

[2]     From:   N. R. Moschovakis <
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        Date:   Thursday, 19 Nov 1998 09:46:15 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.1174  Re: Laertes as King


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Roy Flannagan <
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Date:           Thursday, 19 Nov 1998 08:05:07 -0500
Subject: 9.1174  Re: Laertes as King
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1174  Re: Laertes as King

Might the point of having the "Laertes as king" scene be to show him as
a hothead and a fool, as well as to show Claudius performing well under
pressure?  Claudius is king of a chaos, on a very shaky throne, if the
rabble can be roused to support Laertes.  Laertes says something utterly
ridiculous when he dashes in, "Give me my father!"  I made fun of it
yesterday in a review session in my Tragedies class: this is tearing a
passion to tatters, it is like jumping into the grave with Ophelia, it
is the Laertes school of overacting. Polonius is dead.  What does he
want, his father's rotting body?

Claudius is cool ("Let him go, Gertrude."), and he sees immediately that
Laertes's wrath and cry for vengeance can easily be directed against
Hamlet, as soon as he and Laertes can talk in private.  The little
rebellion is stupid, Laertes is stupid: his misdirected energy will be
quickly usurped by a Machiavellian like Claudius.  He doesn't wise up
until he himself is dying of his own poison; then he can say "The King's
to blame" and ask for Hamlet's reciprocal forgiveness.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           N. R. Moschovakis <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 19 Nov 1998 09:46:15 -0600
Subject: 9.1174  Re: Laertes as King
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.1174  Re: Laertes as King

John Drakakis writes that *Hamlet* offers

>a stringent interrogation- and an admission of the
>inefficacy of- the Elizabethan ideology of kingship

and elegantly illustrates his claim with some of the thematic
juxtapositions Shakespeare uses to associate politics with madness, and
a tyrant's order with popular disorder. But does Shakespeare's ingenious
investigations of the meaning of tyranny amount to a rejection of
monarchy per se? I think not. The difficulty lies, it seems to me, in
the assumption that there was just one Elizabethan "ideology of
kingship."

Although the Homilies said that obedience to the worst monarch is
preferable to rebellion in God's sight, nonetheless it is well known
that theories of resistance (variously inspired by French Calvinists and
by recusant Catholics) were known and in circulation - though of course
not condoned by the state - in Elizabethan England. Let's not make the
subject black and white; not all Elizabethans would have acquiesced in
the statement that "you're either for all monarchs or against all
monarchy." Some monarchs were recognized by all parties as being worse
than others.

The fact that Shakespeare chose, in Hamlet, to play up a tyrant's
pathetic attempts to rely on divine-right rhetoric to bolster his
position (something he'd already shown in detail in Richard II) does not
imply that Shakespeare was necessarily an anti-monarchist, or that he
thought all monarchs were equivalent to tyrants. Maybe, in fact, he
thought these things, but the case of Claudius does not demonstrate that
this is the case.
 

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