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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: April ::
Re: Polonius/Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0638  Thursday, 8 April 1999.

[1]     From:   Stuart Manger <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 7 Apr 1999 18:34:33 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 10.0630 Re: Polonius/Kate/Hamlet

[2]     From:   Andy White <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 7 Apr 1999 14:29:40 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0630 Re: Polonius/Kate/Hamlet

[3]     From:   Judith Craig <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 7 Apr 1999 14:11:33 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0630 Re: Polonius/Kate/Hamlet

[4]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 07 Apr 1999 15:57:43 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0630 Re: Polonius/Kate/Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stuart Manger <
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Date:           Wednesday, 7 Apr 1999 18:34:33 +0100
Subject: Re: Polonius/Kate/Hamlet
Comment:        SHK 10.0630 Re: Polonius/Kate/Hamlet

The idea of Hamlet and sidekick verbally slagging Polonius is absolutely
echt adolescent / young bumptious student behaviour. Hamlet and Ros and
Guild play similar tricks on each other, and Hamlet / Hor do the same
with Osric. It's Tibault / Romeo / Mercutio, it's Hal / Poins
/Falstaff?  The notion of an older, more pompous man being teased and
trashed particularly by a verbally slicker and quicker-on-the-draw pair
of students is par for the course, and it surely matters not how old H
is?  I KNOW we've had this interminable stuff about how old Hamlet is,
but I think student is student is student. And anyway, surely at this
point, Hamlet is at his least willing to behave as heir to any throne?
he breaks out of these conventions at odd intervals throughout -
post-play scene? And in some productions, it is exactly this
effervescent, irreverent Hamlet who takes on the duel with Laertes in
Act 5 until he discovers the envenomed blade. THEN he is Hamlet the
Dane. But until then part of his self-disguise is this obnoxious
self-advertisement in terms of intellectual dexterity, posturing and
posing that any academic recognises in his/her students in universities
all over at any time?

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andy White <
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Date:           Wednesday, 7 Apr 1999 14:29:40 -0400
Subject: 10.0630 Re: Polonius/Kate/Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0630 Re: Polonius/Kate/Hamlet

Clinton Atchley  asks:

"Do we have evidence of adultery?"

Yes we do, by way of the Ghost's testimony, which is proved correct in
the most crucial point, that of the King's murder by his brother.  His
lament at his wife's infidelity is quite moving; and he would not have
used such strong language if she had simply been persuaded to marry
Claudius after King Hamlet's death.

Mr. Stetner also asks:

"Even if the student has no right to be harassing me before the end of
the term, wouldn't I be a ***** to take sadistic pleasure in the abuse
of my superior authority?"

Wrong analogy: Polonius is surely not comparable to an undergrad; for
the analogy to work, he'd more likely be a tenured prof (in a Dept. of
which you are Dean), whose machinations are always counter to your own -
and unlike you, he has the ear of the Dean of Arts & Humanities!!  In
such a situation, with an underling thwarting your every move, you'd be
more than justified in treating him with contempt and riddles from time
to time.

Andy White
Arlington, VA

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Judith Craig <
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Date:           Wednesday, 7 Apr 1999 14:11:33 -0500
Subject: 10.0630 Re: Polonius/Kate/Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0630 Re: Polonius/Kate/Hamlet

In reply to Clifford Stetner's post about the selfishness of Hamlet (re:
his treatment of Ophelia), I am going to sound off from a woman's point
of view about his justifiable right to hold everyone at court in
contempt-including Ophelia.  She is weak, easily manipulated by her
father to return Hamlet's love letters, and seems to have absolutely no
knowledge of herself or her feelings.  She will risk nothing for him,
unlike Imogen who risks her father's wrath and certain imprisonment, to
marry Posthumus.  Hamlet has to manipulate her into making any kind
comment to him, and I think he is so maddened by this habit that he
carries it on to other fools like Polonius.

Best,
Judith M. Craig

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Wednesday, 07 Apr 1999 15:57:43 +0000
Subject: 10.0630 Re: Polonius/Kate/Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0630 Re: Polonius/Kate/Hamlet

Clifford Stetner writes:

>I think this bears on the age question. Hamlet gives the impression of a
>rebellious youth, responding to figures of authority, when, as prince of
>the realm in his thirties, he should show more of the paternal demeanor
>of Claudius.  This terminal adolescence is not the result of
>Shakespeare's confusion over Hamlet's age, but a further symptom of his
>sociopathology.

I certainly think that the age question brings us to the central issue
in this discussion.  I would point out, though, that his supposed youth
is often referenced by others.  Even the gravedigger, who provides his
age as thirty, calls him "young" a few lines earlier.  Polonius, for
instance, says outright that

                        For Lord Hamlet,
        Believe so much in him, that he is young
        And with a larger tether may he walk
        Than may be given you.

A search ( http://www.cs.usyd.edu.au/~matty/Shakespeare/nsearch.cgi)
turned up 16 uses of "young" in the play, most of which refer to Hamlet,
though some also refer in despisal to Fortinbras, or in fear to
Laertes.  Once, Ophelia is referred to as young precisely when Polonius
is describing how he'll deploy her to manipulate Hamlet.  "Young", in
other words, is a not only applied to Hamlet by everyone around him, but
also seems to be a synonym for someone in need of adult control and, at
least potentially, an object for adults' manipulation.

Hamlet's youth is a construct meant to control and explain him.  He has
been robbed of the capacity to assume adulthood by Claudius, who "Popp'd
in between the election and my hopes," effectively bars any assumption
of his father's role or place, and declares Hamlet, once more, to be a
son and heir.

The question, in other words, isn't why Hamlet gives an impression of
rebellious youth, but why everyone around him keeps insisting on his
youth and forcing him to rebel against such a stiffling label, which he
does by insisting that his his love for Ophelia was more than brotherly,
for instance, or introducing himself as "Hamlet the Dane".  The apparent
subservience of state ministers and minor functionaries is only
apparent-Polonius is plotting like some resident KGB head, Rosencrantz
and Guildenstern are conspiring against Hamlet with Claudius, and Osric
is certainly trying to maneuver him into fighting the duel. Since Hamlet
has no proper r

 

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