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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: June ::
Re: Various Hamlet Postings
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0575  Tuesday, 23 June 1998.

[1]     From:   Harry Hill <
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        Date:   Thursday, 18 Jun 1998 12:21:17 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0571 Re: Various Hamlet Postings

[2]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Thursday, 18 Jun 1998 09:51:38 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0571  Re: Various Hamlet Postings

[3]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Thursday, 18 Jun 1998 15:02:56 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0571  Re: Various Hamlet Postings

[4]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Thursday, 18 Jun 1998 15:02:56 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0571  Re: Various Hamlet Postings

[5]     From:   Laura Fargas <
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        Date:   Thursday, 18 Jun 1998 20:01:37 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0571  Re: Various Hamlet Postings

[6]     From:   Lisa Hopkins <
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        Date:   Friday, 19 Jun 1998 16:21:00 +0100
        Subj:   Claudius

[7]     From:   Dale Lyles <
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        Date:   Saturday, 20 Jun 1998 14:01:11 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0571  Re: Various Hamlet Postings

[8]     From:   Jonathan Hope <
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        Date:   Monday, 22 Jun 1998 13:08:58 +0000 (GMT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0571  Re: Various Hamlet Postings


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Harry Hill <
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Date:           Thursday, 18 Jun 1998 12:21:17 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 9.0571 Re: Various Hamlet Postings
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0571 Re: Various Hamlet Postings

Dave Evett makes a tiny error when he says Claudius does not speak
militarily.

        Oh Gertrude, Gertrude.
        When sorrows come they come not single spies
        But in battalions.

springs immediately to mind, although I may have mislineated it.

Harry Hill

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Thursday, 18 Jun 1998 09:51:38 -0700
Subject: 9.0571  Re: Various Hamlet Postings
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0571  Re: Various Hamlet Postings

To Bill:

I take "historical situatedness" to refer to the historicity of Dasein
in Heidegger.  Our being is found historically, within time, where our
only retentions are those things available to us in our past, and they
are therefore the only potentials we can project into our future.

"Location in history" seems rather more general.  It doesn't claim that
our being is historical, only that we happen to be somewhere or other in
time.  The difference is between the claim that we have to have some
sort of location in time (which is obvious), and the claim that our
relationship to time itself defines us, in a way more radical and
general than our relationship to any particular epoch.

To Stephanie:

Your citation is flattering, but I'm afraid that I can't claim credit
for the passage you quote!
Terry:

Surely the "he" refers to the last person refered to by name or
indicated by gesture.  Otherwise, it's a pronoun without antecedent.
This happens all the time, of course, but it doesn't exactly make for
very good sense.  Not that good sense happens all the time, either, but
I don't see much of a reason for Shakespeare to go out of his way to be
confusing at this point.

The intuitive response, at least to me, is to say that all the
second-person masculine pronouns refer to Hamlet.  Otherwise, they could
also refer to Laertes (who, after all, nearly led a revolution), or
Horatio (who Fortinbras wants done away with so that he can't draw his
breath in pain to sing the praises of one member of the former royal
house) or a person unnamed, who the Norwegian soldiers have to grab from
the on-stage audience and murder on the spot.  Or even a surprised
member of the theatre audience, for that matter.

Now that I think about it, maybe that would make for a pretty
interesting conclusion!

Cheers,
Sean

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Thursday, 18 Jun 1998 15:02:56 -0400
Subject: 9.0571  Re: Various Hamlet Postings
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0571  Re: Various Hamlet Postings

I suggested that T. Hawkes reading could work,

>> but the actor playing Fortinbras would have to
>>indicate Claudius when he says "his."

T. Hawkes responds (affectionately referring to Eleanor, my first wife,
as Nellie):

>Not on your nellie. The actor has simply to stress the word rather more
>heavily. On the other hand, if he means to indicate Hamlet, he has to
>stress it rather more lightly. Since he has to stress the word one way
>or the other in order to say it, there is a choice. Either way makes
>perfect sense, without any strain, and there is absolutely no linguistic
>reason to prefer the second alternative to the first. Neither is more
>obviously 'right', 'natural' or 'appropriate' than the other. The
>relationship between the two 'mighty opposites' is of course at stake.

Hawkes' response, it seems to me, makes a hash of an interesting
alternative.  First, reference is not a function of stress.  The actor
playing Fortinbras can shout "his passage," and the auditor (at least
this auditor) would take "his" to refer to Hamlet, who has been the
subject of Fortinbras's concern (5.2.397-400, Riverside2).  Apparently
concepts like "right," "natural," and "appropriate" are "incorrect,"
"unnatural," and "inappropriate," but as Dave Evett points out, it
appears that Hawkes stands alone in reading "his passage" as a reference
to Claudius's departure from the stage. Most native speakers seem to
feel that a "his" following a couple of "he"s refers to the same dead
white guy.

Yours, Bill Godshalk

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Thursday, 18 Jun 1998 15:28:41 -0400
Subject: 9.0571  Re: Various Hamlet Postings
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0571  Re: Various Hamlet Postings

I'd like to modify my earlier absolute assertion that reference is not a
matter of stress. In the following passage from <italic>Troilus and
Cressida</italic>, it may and can be:

<<TLN=240> Th' other's not come too 't; you shall tell me ano{-}
<<TLN=241> ther tale when th' other's come too 't. Hector shall not
<<TLN=242> have his will this year.

Said one way, "his will" refers to Hector's will; said another, it
refers to "th' other's" will. But in this passage Pandarus has already
established that he's comparing Troilus and Hector.  At the end of
<italic>Hamlet</italic>, Fortinbras does not establish that he is
discussing both Hamlet and Claudius. And that makes all the difference.

Yours, Bill Godshalk

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Laura Fargas <
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Date:           Thursday, 18 Jun 1998 20:01:37 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 9.0571  Re: Various Hamlet Postings
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0571  Re: Various Hamlet Postings

 Sean Lawrence wrote:

> >In Hamlet's day, regicide was a crime at least as hideous as parricide,
> >perhaps even worse. However secular Hamlet (or Shakespeare) may appear,
> >he would be taking an awful risk. Hamlet was between a rock and a hard
> >place: if he didn't revenge his father he had failed by one set of
> >values, yet if he were to murder the Lord's anointed in cold blood he
> >would fail most dangerously by another set.

I agree these are the principles at work, but I don't think killing
Claudius would necessarily "count" as regicide.  Claudius' brother
Hamlet Sr. was the Lord's anointed, and having an heir male of his body,
Hamlet as the first son was next in the anointment line.  In Richard
III, Richard must destroy the little princes in order to have the
appearance of legitimacy or anointedness.  The same divine succession
applies here: Claudius would have had to kill Hamlet to be the "right"
kind.  (Was there anything in the secular law of Denmark that would have
given Claudius a legalistic, though unholy, claim to succession?  Would
Shakespeare's audience have known this law/acknowledged it as proper?)
And doesn't the play mention that Claudius has not yet had a formal
coronation, which would be the only ceremony that might supersede the
blemish of his own regicidal succession?

Everyone concerned with the play at the time it was first performed,
including the spectators, would be likely to know a fair amount about
succession, because Hamlet was written near the end of Elizabeth's life,
when it was rumored her intellect was failing (I read somewhere, but
perhaps spuriously, that she herself had poked into a bedchamber arras
one night).  The question of succession was a very anxious one;
Elizabeth could never bring herself to name James as her heir (or
considered it politically wiser not to render herself a lame duck,
depending who you read).  To draw a very, very broad analogy, US
citizens of a certain generation know at least a little bit more about
impeachment than the three generations before us, because it was part of
the common talk of the mid-1970's.

Whatever Hamlet's sticking point was, then, the risk of being a damned
regicide is not part of it.  Instead, he is a legitimate heir who would
be fully justified in slaughtering the usurper.  In my view, then, fact
that natural, secular, and divine law would all countenance, or even
reward, Hamlet's killing of Claudius.  This throws into high relief the
fact that it is some element in Hamlet's individual character, his
psyche, that cannot be brought to this murder.

Laura Fargas

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Lisa Hopkins <
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Date:           Friday, 19 Jun 1998 16:21:00 +0100
Subject:        Claudius

Actually, Claudius was a soldier - he tells Laertes 'I have seen myself,
and serv'd against, the French' (IV.VII.82 in the Arden edition).

Lisa Hopkins
Sheffield Hallam University

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[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dale Lyles <
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Date:           Saturday, 20 Jun 1998 14:01:11 EDT
Subject: 9.0571  Re: Various Hamlet Postings
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0571  Re: Various Hamlet Postings

This is definitely odd-Terence Hawkes takes the face value reading while
I prefer a cynical take on Fortinbras' commands to his soldiers?  I
always thought it likely that Fortinbras was cleaning up the place and
doing the Machiavellian PR thing with the "proper" disposal of his
predecessors' remains.  But then I've never seen *Hamlet* as a
particularly noble happening, just a chronicling of the crashing and
burning of this one society.  I've always been a closet Romantic.

Dale Lyles

[8]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jonathan Hope <
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Date:           Monday, 22 Jun 1998 13:08:58 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: 9.0571  Re: Various Hamlet Postings
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0571  Re: Various Hamlet Postings

> Bill Godshalk writes

> >This could work on stage, but the actor playing Fortinbras would have to
> >indicate Claudius when he says "his."
>
> Not on your nellie. The actor has simply to stress the word rather more
> heavily. On the other hand, if he means to indicate Hamlet, he has to
> stress it rather more lightly. Since he has to stress the word one way
> or the other in order to say it, there is a choice. Either way makes
> perfect sense, without any strain, and there is absolutely no linguistic
> reason to prefer the second alternative to the first. Neither is more
> obviously 'right', 'natural' or 'appropriate' than the other. The
> relationship between the two 'mighty opposites' is of course at stake.
>
> T. Hawkes

While I'm happy to admit that the 'he'=Hamlet; 'his'= Claudius reading
is a possible one, it certainly isn't as likely as the 'he'/'his'=
Hamlet one.  The default or unmarked position (linguistic terms for most
likely) is to assume that two pronouns like this have the same referrent
- a marked reading is possible, but requires an intonational shift.  So
there *is* a linguistic reason to prefer the first choice - though there
may be good theatrical ones to prefer the marked reading.

Jonathan Hope
Middlesex University
 

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