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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: June ::
Re: Various Hamlet Postings
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0545  Friday, 12 June 1998.

[1]     From:   Ed Taft <
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        Date:   Thursday, 11 Jun 1998 10:31:34 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Various Hamlet Postings

[2]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Thursday, 11 Jun 1998 20:38:29 -0400
        Subj:   Various Hamlet Postings


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Taft <
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Date:           Thursday, 11 Jun 1998 10:31:34 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Various Hamlet Postings

I write to say "right on" to Sean Lawrence and his view that Hamlet is a
man of action. "Wherefore this image of a wimpy Hamlet," Sean asks.
Well, unfortunately, a lot of it comes from Olivier's *Hamlet,* doesn't
it? -- which, in my view, set *Hamlet* studies back 50 years. But at an
even more fundamental level, the problem is in the way we read the play,
I think. It seems to me that we spend too much time on the soliloquies
and not enough time on the plot. The former showcases Hamlet as a man of
thought, while the latter shows that he is also a man of action.
Moreover, the soliloquies tend to stress Hamlet's doubts and fears and
his ruminations about theological/metaphysical questions. All of that is
OK, but the balance is lost if we don't notice that the plot shows us
that Hamlet can act and that he goes right after Claudius, but as a
thinking man would, establishing that he is guilty and then figuring out
a way to cooperate with providence to bring about revenge. I end by
suggesting that it is Mel Gibson, with his overwhelmingly masculine
Hamlet (but with a tender side as well) that deserves the prize for the
best Hamlet in recent years.

--Ed Taft

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Thursday, 11 Jun 1998 20:38:29 -0400
Subject:        Various Hamlet Postings

Since I'm working on my Shakespeare syllabus for next quarto, among
other things, like searching for Bevington's new Arden edition of
<italic>Troilus and Cressida</italic>, I will not throw my gauntlets at
my attackers, but I would like to qualify Sean's description of the
bloody prince:

>Hamlet, after all, exercises daily by bloodsport, is beloved by
>the people of Denmark, and leaves a trail of smoking corpses everywhere
>he goes.  He was the only one to attack the pirate ship, keep in mind,
>which would seem to indicate that he's first into the breach.  The man
>is nature's blitzkrieg commander.

(1) bloodsport:  As I recall, Hamlet claims to fence every day. There's
no indication that blood was daily drawn.

(2) beloved by the people, says Claudius, but being beloved does not
make a good military commander.

(3) smoking corpses: Polonius, Laertes, and the king.  R&G are killed by
England, suborned by Hamlet.  Not really very impressive for a Red
Prince, and it takes him quite a while to get himself ready to drink hot
blood. Polonius is killed by mistake.  Laertes and the king are killed,
but, let's face it, they successful ambush Hamlet in a rather simple
trap.  What would Hamlet have done on the battlefield.  Let speculation
thrive!

(4) boarding the pirate ship:  one wonders.  Where are the Red Prince's
troops during this military venture?  Why is he captured rather than
killed in battle?  Are the pirates actually there to rescue Hamlet?

I agree with Ed Taft that Hamlet pere would approve of Fortinbras, and I
think that's one of the ironies of the play.  Hamlet fils, I think,
should not really be drawn to Fortinbras; puzzlingly he is. But Hamlet
really can't get it together to be like Fortinbras, and he ends up a
kind of quietist: there's a divinity that shapes our ends; so all ya
have to do is wait. Watch the sparrows.

David Evett writes:

". . . I believe that F's words, like words of similar
tone in the same spot of a dozen other plays, are aimed even more
directly than usual at the theater audience, and that unless subverted
by elements of performance (the egregious violence of the Branagh *Ham*,
for instance) or, in reader response terms, by a habitual politicization
that is in its own way essentialist, they work primarily (I'm trying to
avoid intentionality here) to confirm that audience's sense of something
of value lost, not to remind it at this stage of the play that
politicians are conniving bastards primarily motivated by self-interest"

Well, I am not against essentialism per se, but I would observe that
what Dave sees as my essentialism is merely replaced by his in this
passage.  At the end of <italic>Titus</italic>, Lucius's decision to
bury Saturninus, Titus, and Lavinia, while casting Tamora's body out for
the birds and beasts, to say nothing of burying Aaron alive, seems to me
to be quite political.  Lucius is in Rome, wants to be the next emperor,
so he gives all honor to the former emperor who was indeed a bastard.
So there. The counter example calls your case in question, sir.

I like Clough because I'm sophomoric.  Nuff said.

Yours, Bill
 

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