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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: July ::
Re: Incest
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0695  Tuesday, 28 July 1998.

[1]     From:   Dana Spradley <
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        Date:   Monday, 27 Jul 1998 10:42:00 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0684  Re: Incest

[2]     From:   Scott Oldenburg <
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        Date:   Monday, 27 Jul 1998 14:54:12 -0700
        Subj:   Incest

[3]     From:   Pervez Rizvi <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 28 Jul 1998 14:10:02 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0691  Re: Laertes & Ophelia in Q1 & Q2


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dana Spradley <
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Date:           Monday, 27 Jul 1998 10:42:00 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 9.0684  Re: Incest
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0684  Re: Incest

Re: Miles Taylor's speculations concerning the politics of incest
figuration under James I:

I'm glad to see someone else has started thinking about this topic,
which I explored at length in a dissertation chapter on Pericles that
lost me a Yale Ph.D. advisor, putting a rather annoying nail in what
became the coffin of my academic career. Even the publication of an
improved version of said thesis a few years later in the relatively
obscure journal Assays VII (1993? or was it 1992...) couldn't save my
professional hide.

I'd be happy to see someone else take up this cross and see whether they
have any more luck broaching the topic in the academic institution of
today. But I must caution you, Miles - there seems to be a taboo on
politicizing the family dynamics of the last plays nearly as deep as the
taboo on sexualizing "normal" familial relations that Freud ran into.
Just think - what would have been the reaction if Pericles had piped up
and actually accused Antiochus of incest - who would have believed him?
And who would believe you is you accuse James, as I did, of committing
what would have been felt as "symbolic incest" somewhere deep down in
the political unconscious of Shakespeare's contemporary audience? You'll
get very few takers among established academics, I'm afraid.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Scott Oldenburg <
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Date:           Monday, 27 Jul 1998 14:54:12 -0700
Subject:        Incest

Satia B. Testman asks about Ophelia's family romance.  Actually it's not
so "off-base."  Ernest Jones describes Laertes' relationship to Ophelia
as a "brother-sister complex," similar to the "father-daughter complex"
he finds between Polonius and Ophelia.  As he says, "The sister is
usually the first replacement of the mother as an erotic object. . . .
His relationship to his sister duplicates that of the two parents to
each other and in life he often plays a father-part in regard to her.
In the present play the attitude of Laertes towards his sister is quite
indistiguishable for that of thier father, Polonius" (*Hamlet and
Oedipus* p. 157-158). I, however, disagree with Jones on the exact match
between the attitudes of Laertes and Polonius.  If anything Laertes,
perhaps because of his age, is more competitive with Hamlet;  since the
relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia has sexual overtones, Laertes
may appear to some readers as being involved in a romantic competition
with Hamlet. However, Bruce Young's suggestion that Laertes' concern is
with his sister's honor seems more on mark to me. On the other hand,
seeing as Jones by no means does a thorough job with
Laertes/Polonius-Ophelia, it's certainly worth the time to investigate.
Indeed, the early modern obsession with virginity itself may turn out to
be Oedipal in nature.  This is perhaps hinted at in the
"fish-monger"scene.

All the best,
Scott Oldenburg

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Pervez Rizvi <
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 >
Date:           Tuesday, 28 Jul 1998 14:10:02 +0100
Subject: 9.0691  Re: Laertes & Ophelia in Q1 & Q2
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0691  Re: Laertes & Ophelia in Q1 & Q2

Professor Urkowitz draws attention to the differences between Q1 and
Q2/F in Ophelia's mad scene. The interesting point is that the bawdy
St.  Valentine's song and the mournful 'And will he not come again' song
appear to have been transposed. The Q1 placement of these songs is more
apt. The mournful song  follows the lines 'It grieves me to see how they
laid him in the cold ground, / I could not choose but weep' because she
is thinking of her father. Later, with Laertes on stage, she sings the
bawdy song. G.R. Hibbard, in his Oxford edition, comments that in this
passage 'Ophelia appears to be confusing [Laertes] with Hamlet.' I think
Hibbard is right: there is a partial parallel in The Two Noble Kinsmen,
where the mad Jailer's Daughter believes her Wooer to be PalaMonday, the
man because of whom she has gone mad, and asks to sleep with him.
Ophelia's conceit that Laertes is Hamlet is the cause that brings the
bawdy song to her mind, not the preposterous notion of incest.

The other interesting thing to consider is what this means for the order
in which the Q1 and F versions of Hamlet were written. Hibbard, writing
in Thomas Clayton's anthology 'The Hamlet First Published' argued that
Q1 is (a report of) an intermediate version, between Q2 and F. He
considers scene 4.1 (the scene after Hamlet kills Polonius/Corambis). In
Q2, Claudius enters with R&G who are immediately sent away, only to
return later when Claudius calls for them. In Q1, Claudius enters with
them ('Lordes') but they hang around the stage until told to go and look
for the body. In F, Claudius enters alone and calls for R&G when he
needs them. This certainly gives the impression of progressive
improvement in staging, suggesting that the order of composition was
Q2-Q1-F.

The question is: were the songs transposed in Q1 deliberately, i.e.
because that is how they were performed? If so, it would suggest that
the Q1 version of Hamlet was written after the F version. On the other
hand, the Q1 reporter could just have forgotten which song came where
and chosen the natural place for each one, imposing a method on
Ophelia's madness which Q2 and F do not.
 

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