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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: June ::
Re: Various Hamlet Postings
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0588  Wednesday, 24 June 1998.

[1]     From:   Tom Clayton <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Jun 1998 11:58:45
        Subj:   RE 9.0559 . . . 0575 on Hamlet: Riv2 5.2.395 ff.

[2]     From:   Stephanie Hughes <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Jun 1998 09:45:09 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0575  Re: Various Hamlet Postings

[3]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Jun 1998 09:56:15 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0575  Re: Various Hamlet Postings

[4]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Jun 1998 18:20:55 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0575  Re: Various Hamlet Postings

[5]     From:   Steve Urkowitz <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 23 Jun 1998 21:55:55 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0559  Re: Various Hamlet Postings


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Clayton <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Jun 1998 11:58:45
Subject:        RE 9.0559 . . . 0575 on Hamlet: Riv2 5.2.395 ff.

Re: SHK 9.0559 . . . 0575 Various Hamlet Postings concerning "He was
likely, had he been put on, / To have proved most royal[ly F]; and for
his [whose?] passage, . . . / Take up the body [Q1, F; bodies Q2]"

[9.0559 Terence Hawkes suggests the following:

Fortinbras:     Let four captains
Bear Hamlet like a soldier to the stage,
For he [i.e., Hamlet] was likely, had he been put on,
To have prov'd most royal; and for his [i.e. Claudius's] passage,
The soldier's music and the rite of war
Speak loudly for him.
Take up the bodies [of Hamlet and Claudius]. . .
(V, 2, 400-406, Arden edition)]

Trying to catch up a little in a hurry, I caught the two groups of
postings referred to above and abbreviate so as to spare as much
redundancy as possible.

The importing of Claudius into the speech, suggested by Terence Hawkes,
seems grammatically, thematically, dramatically, and metrically
gratuitous, unless "his" is thought to be a pronoun desperately in
search of an unspecified antecedent. Even the lack of metrical stress on
"his" makes "Hamlet" the antecedent as "he" is otherwise (the line is
metrically irregular in Q2--and more extensively variant in Q1--in ways
that do not affect the lack of metrical stress on "his").

Only Q2 has "[Take vp the] bodies," where Q1 and F have "bodie/y." The
singular "body" continues the explicit emphasis on the prince at the
expense of sense: "the sight" that "becomes the field[s Q1]" must
include not only the prince's body but all the "bodies"-with "bodies"'
twice-practical emphasis as well as its logical relation to "such a
sight."

For what it is worth, Q1 seems to show corruption and authority by
turns, here, as well as in many other places; whereas the Folio seems
sophisticated, and Q2 original and authoritative. Those of alternative
persuasions will see special art in Q1 by originality and uniqueness,
and in F by afterthought and revision.

As for alternative referents in performance, a paraphrase of Wilde may
not come amiss: even things that are sound can be staged. In any case,
Occam's razor has to be chucked into the tall grass to make the
necessary alternative identifications.

Cheers,
Tom

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephanie Hughes <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Jun 1998 09:45:09 -0700
Subject: 9.0575  Re: Various Hamlet Postings
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0575  Re: Various Hamlet Postings

Sorry for confusing both Sean and Laura. The following apparent quote is
my own statement. I guess somehow I managed to send it with the ikons
for e-quotes. (Hey, now there's a way to lend oneself importance!)

> >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.

Laura wrote:
>I agree these are the principles at work, but I don't think killing
>Claudius would necessarily "count" as regicide.

Not to us perhaps, but to Shakespeare, with his conservative attitude
towards the sanctity of hierarchy (or at least, the attitude he gives
his most serious characters), killing the Lord's annointed would give
pause, at the very least (which was Hamlet's undoing; he paused). By
this standard, the Monarch was the Lord's annointed; whether he got his
crown by fair means or foul was beside the point. By this tradition, one
may have been engendered by the foulest villain, but to kill him would
still be parricide, and send one to one of the chillier levels of hell.

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.

Which is the shadow/substance dichotomy that Shakespeare plays with
throughout his entire oeuvre. We're not talking appearance, here, we're
talking reality. Hamlet is concerned with regicide, with killing the
king, the Lord's annointed. Considering the nasty morality of his
environment, it is, perhaps, a nice point, but that's why we love him.
Maybe the moral tracts he read at Wittenburg proved to be his undoing.

(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?

Does the play mention that there's been no coronation? I don't recall.
In any case, the history of the period is filled with patently illegal
usurpations of the throne that were later patched up with propaganda,
marriages and the rewriting of history; the Lancastrian  followed by the
Tudor, to name but the closest in time and location to Shakespeare's
audience. His audience would certainly be aware of such issues.

> 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.

And that element is his essential moral nature, his innate faith that
when the Bible states that it is a sin of the first degree to murder the
Lord's annointed, unlike the villains Claudius and Richard III, he can't
just shake it off. He is caught between a rock and a hard place, his
rightful role as monarch plus his duty to his father against the fact
that Claudius is now the King.

As for the attitutde of the time, we mustn't forget that the Court would
not have taken kindly to a staged presentation in which a charismatic
protagonist is proved to be justified in doing away with the Lord's
annointed, whatever the justification. Elizabeth's position was hedged
with many similar equivocations. Her position would have been that
Hamlet had better keep hands off Claudius, no matter what he did to get
the throne.

BTW, the discussion about who was the intended recipient of the fancy
military funeral at the end has been most interesting. I have always
accepted it as a given that it was Hamlet that got the funeral, but
since Claudius was, in fact, the king, it would certainly have been he
who would have been given the state funeral. We feel that Hamlet is the
one who should have it, both for theatrical effect and because we know
he deserves it.

Perhaps the author left it ambiguous on purpose. Unlike the film
audience of today, his audience would not have seen who it was that was
being given the cannonade that, no doubt, ended the play.

Stephanie H.

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Jun 1998 09:56:15 -0700
Subject: 9.0575  Re: Various Hamlet Postings
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0575  Re: Various Hamlet Postings

Hi,

I just wanted to note that Laura Fargas has wrongfully ascribed a
paragraph on Claudius to me.  I seem to be taking credit (or is it
blame?) for everyone's ideas around here.  It makes me feel like the
medieval Aristotle, taking credit for all sorts of things he hadn't
thought up himself, or the fictional P.D.Q.  Bach, depending on your
point of view.

Cheers,
Sean.

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Jun 1998 18:20:55 -0400
Subject: 9.0575  Re: Various Hamlet Postings
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0575  Re: Various Hamlet Postings

Sean Lawrence writes:

'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.'

May I pursue this a bit further?  Do you think that when Professors of
English use "situated" rather than "placed," they are consciously
referring to Heidegger's "historicity of Dasein"? I'd be glad to hear
that "situated" is a philosophical pointer, and that I have a good
philosophical reason for not liking the word.

Yours, Bill Godshalk

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Urkowitz <
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Date:           Tuesday, 23 Jun 1998 21:55:55 EDT
Subject: 9.0559  Re: Various Hamlet Postings
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0559  Re: Various Hamlet Postings

Terence Hawkes suggests that Claudius is "surely" the subject of the
latter end of Fortinbras' last speech.  I'm not sure what the rhetorical
figure is called, but I've noticed that often the words "certainly,"
"obviously," and "surely" are used when there is no evidence to support
a claim.  We might translate "surely" in this case to mean something
like "It may be that an actor could force an interpretation of the
speech in order to produce this meaning for an audience."  Professor
Hawkes offers a neat reading for the actor.  But the delight of the
acting game is that "perhaps" has more appeal than "surely."  Such
interpretation is art, not law.  (And I applaud it.)

Ever,
Steve Artlawitz
 

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