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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: April ::
Re: Polonius/Kate, Hamlet as Sociopath
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0612  Monday, 5 April 1999.

[1]     From:   Carol Barton <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 31 Mar 1999 13:18:59 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0599 Re: Polonius and Kate

[2]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 31 Mar 1999 12:18:13 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0599 Re: Polonius and Kate

[3]     From:   Andy White <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 31 Mar 1999 23:21:53 -0500
        Subj:   Polonius/Kate, Hamlet as Sociopath


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Barton <
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Date:           Wednesday, 31 Mar 1999 13:18:59 EST
Subject: 10.0599 Re: Polonius and Kate
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0599 Re: Polonius and Kate

Andy White writes:

>Actually, I tend to see these two scenes differently; Hamlet imposes on
>Polonius because court etiquette requires Polonius agree with anything
>his betters say-even if his betters are clearly nuts.

That's not entirely true, Andy: think of the Lear Fool, and Kent.
Polonius has been trying to "sound" Hamlet the same way Rosencrantz and
Guildenstern have-and I think Hamlet's response is more a contemptuous,
"what do you take me for-an idiot that an old fool like you can
entrap?!" than it is a powerplay.

>In the same vein, Petruchio's sun/moon bit with Kate seems to be his
>attempt to get her to treat him like royalty, to agree with everything
>he says, for no other reason than that he said it.

Here, I think it's exactly the opposite: Petruchio is insisting that
Kate capitulate to his superiority as her husband, accept the fact that,
whether she likes it or not, society says he is her better. I don't want
to reopen this thread of worms again, so I will try to say this as
non-controversially as possible: Kate doesn't agree with him to humor
him (at least I don't think so), but is ironic in her answers,
acknowledging his legal right to assert what the Wyf of Bath called the
"maisterie" over her, and utterly rejecting his actual ability to so
do.  As Satan in PL observes, "who overcomes by force hath overcome but
half his foe": Petruchio ultimately "tames" Kate, to the extent that he
does, by force of love, and categorically not by force of law.

>Kate finally agrees
>to this, but not before turning the tables on her hubby, as I recall...
>it seems to me that Polonius isn't the crazy one, he's sane but stuck in
>an absurd situation.  Ditto, even more so, for Kate.

Yes, for Kate, given her temperament, her capabilities, and the society
in which she lives.  Petruchio isn't crazy either: he's just making a
very obvious point, that the rules say he is the boss, and she has to do
what he tells her.  Polonius is sane, too; he's just an old windbag who
means well, but thinks he's a lot sharper and much more important to the
Danish court than he really is.  I do think the two exchanges reveal a
lot about one another in counterpoint, though . . .

Best (and Happy Easter/Passover to all),
Carol Barton

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Wednesday, 31 Mar 1999 12:18:13 -0800
Subject: 10.0599 Re: Polonius and Kate
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0599 Re: Polonius and Kate

Clifford Stetner writes:

>Polonius is subject to the same motivation as Kate: to please
>his lord as a faithful servant should.  But Hamlet, while wielding the
>power of life and death over those around them, holds them in contempt
>for declining to displease him by arguing trivial points.  He is
>Shakespeare's representation of an Elizabethan sociopath.

Hamlet only seems to wield power of life and death over anyone when he
himself does the killing.  As for whether a faithful servant should
agree with everything, take a look at Richard Strier's _Faithful
Servants: Shakespeare's Praise of Disobedience."  In The Historical
Renaissance.  Chicaco: 1988.

Cheers,
Se

 

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