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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: June ::
Various *Hamlet* Postings
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0520  Tuesday, 2 June 1998.

[1]     From:   Ed Taft <
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        Date:   Monday, 01 Jun 1998 11:57:58 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Hamlet 4.4.33ff

[2]     From:   Linda Hobbet <
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        Date:   Monday, 1 Jun 1998 12:00:11 -0700
        Subj:   RSC Hamlet

[3]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Monday, 01 Jun 1998 16:59:12 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0518  Re: Branagh's Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Taft <
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Date:           Monday, 01 Jun 1998 11:57:58 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Hamlet 4.4.33ff

Larry Weiss's analysis of "How all occasions, etc." seems compelling to
me, and I want to suggest to Larry (and others) that maybe "coward" is
the key word here. Hamlet, of course, is mad at himself and therefore
castigates himself by using this word, but we might be able to agree
with him and yet not be so hard on Hamlet as he himself is. What I mean
is this: maybe Hamlet now feels that he knows enough to postulate that
Claudius should be killed. But Hamlet is afraid that if he does so, he
might go to hell  because, after all, revenge is not exactly thought of
as a Christian act. So, his "will," to use Larry's approach, is
paralyzed, even though he knows that Claudius deserves to be killed. He
is scared of (1) dying and (2) going to hell. If so, who would feel
differently than Hamlet at this point? Only a *truly* mad man, right?

--Ed Taft

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Linda Hobbet <
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Date:           Monday, 1 Jun 1998 12:00:11 -0700
Subject:        RSC Hamlet

It is interesting to return from my trip to find the lively discussion
my little question about the RSC Hamlet sparked.  I have mostly lurked
on this list, as an amateur I am intimidated by all the experts, but I
may jump into this one.

Some of the vitriol directed at Branagh makes me think of a Hamlet
symposium I once attended.  Someone asked the panel of scholars what had
been their favorite production of Hamlet.  One, the only woman, said she
found something to enjoy in almost all the productions she had seen;
another said he had never seen one he liked; all the others cited the
first production they had ever seen (often as a child); several added
that they hadn't liked another since.  It was so clear that they had
fixated on experiences that had grown to mythic proportions in their
minds, or some unattainable mental ideal.  It seemed sad and I swore to
myself never to fall into that trap.  But I can empathize.  It's not
possible to wipe the mental slate clean, and finding fault is always
easy; nothing is perfect.

Speaking of which, I have a question.  It's funny - if you know a text
well, sometimes cuts stand out like sore thumbs, and sometimes the mind
fills them in for you.

Justin wrote: >>> I know it has become culturally vogue to have Hamlet
be completely insane and the Ghost false-but to push it so far as to
have an interpretation in which Claudius is obviously meant to be
*innocent* of Old Hamlet's murder is beyond my comprehension (by
removing and altering his two on-stage confessions and all other outward
signs of guilt).<<<

I noticed the missing confession before the nunnery scene, but not the
ones in the prayer scene (though I can't specifically remember them
being there either).  Hamlet's behavior at the party certainly gave even
more reason than usual for others to regard him as insane.  Though the
party-goers didn't see the ghost, Horatio did, so Hamlet wasn't the only
one to see it (though Horatio was so oddly cold and disapproving
throughout I sometimes wondered if he was working for Claudius).  It
seemed Claudius' guilt was more ambiguous than usual, but even if all
the overt confessions were excised, his anguished need to pray after the
Mousetrap (even given Hamlet's provocative behavior) is circumstantial
evidence.  Unless you think of it as guilt for a murder (Hamlet's) he
feels he will have to commit in the future.

Did they cut or alter all the following lines from the prayer scene?  If
they altered them; does anyone remember how?

"It hath the primal eldest curse upon't -
A brother's murder."

"What if this cursed hand
Were thicker than itself with brother's blood,"

 "Forgive me my foul murder?
That cannot be, since I am still possess'd
Of those effects for which I did the murder -
My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen."

I was also interested in the statement that they based it on the First
Quarto.  I noticed the scene with Horatio and Gertrude of course, but
the program didn't say anything about the text they used.  I am not
familiar with the First Quarto (I'm curious, so it's on order).  To me,
moving "To be or not to be" had a big impact on it's meaning.  Is it in
this position (before the arrival of R & G and the players) in the First
Quarto?  Is Fortinbras missing too?  What other influences come from the
First Quarto?

Thank you,
Linda

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Monday, 01 Jun 1998 16:59:12 -0400
Subject: 9.0518  Re: Branagh's Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0518  Re: Branagh's Hamlet

Carol Barton notes my comment that

> >  Hamlet tells us four things that, if accurate, make it inexplicable
> > that he has not yet killed Claudius.

and says

> I should like to debate the "inexplicable" aspect of this argument
> with you, Larry.

Sounds like fun, Carol, but I'm not sure we disagree about all that
much.

Ms. Barton begins by agreeing that Hamlet does in fact have sufficient
strength and means.  The balance of  her post seems to question that
Hamlet in fact has the will.  I agree, although I am not certain of the
reason and suggested a different one than Carol surmises.

Where we differ, I suppose, is on the question of cause.  I am not sure
that Ms. Barton is suggesting that Hamlet does not in fact have cause or
that he is not convinced that he does.  I shall treat each in order:

Cause in fact is irrelevant to Hamlet's motivation.  As I think I said
in my last post, it doesn't matter whether the ghost is real or not, all
that is needed for motive is for Hamlet to believe that he has a good
reason.  Take Othello, for example.  We can all agree that he had no
justification for killing Desdemona, but his belief that he did was
fatal.

As for the possibility that Hamlet does not think that he has sufficient
cause to kill Claudius because of the divinity that hedges a king:  (1)
This runs counter to the conventions of the soliloquy; if Hamlet says he
has cause, he must believe it.  (2) There is no textual support for the
notion that Hamlet thinks Claudius killed his father but regards that as
an insufficient justification for doing the same to Claudius.  (3) Ms.
Barton's point could have validity only for legitimate kings, and Hamlet
consistently refers to Claudius as a usurper.

Ms. Barton is a persuasive and charming writer.  I hope she comes up
with a closer question for us to wrestle over.

Larry Weiss
 

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