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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: December ::
Re: Pyrrhus Speech
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.2245  Monday, 20 December 1999.

[1]     From:   Roy Flannagan <
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        Date:   Friday, 17 Dec 1999 10:03:05 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.2236 Re: Pyrrhus Speech

[2]     From:   Lucia Anna Setari <
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        Date:   Friday, 17 Dec 1999 07:53:19 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.2228 Re: Pyrrhus Speech

[3]     From:   John Velz <
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        Date:   Saturday, 18 Dec 1999 01:08:16 -0600
        Subj:   Pyrrhus speech

[4]     From:   Michael Ullyot <
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        Date:   Sunday, 19 Dec 1999 18:22:56 -0800
        Subj:   The Pyrrhus speech


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Roy Flannagan <
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Date:           Friday, 17 Dec 1999 10:03:05 -0500
Subject: 10.2236 Re: Pyrrhus Speech
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.2236 Re: Pyrrhus Speech

>The Pyrrhus speech is highly visual, suggesting that Shakespeare was
>describing some graphic image he had seen, of which there were plenty.
>I've been searching through Aeneid bookplates, engravings, tapestries,
>etc. to find a match, coming close but never perfect.  Any suggestions?

Aren't the images all in the Aeneid?

And isn't the emphasis in the speech on its old-fashioned style and
imagery-almost as if Shakespeare were imitating or mocking university
hexameters or imagery duplicated from re-translations of Latin texts?

And, in the useless-information department, has anyone speculated about
which thirty lines or so Hamlet is supposed to have written in the
Mousetrap play? of similar, high-falutin', old-fashioned fustion?

Roy Flannagan

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Lucia Anna Setari <
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Date:           Friday, 17 Dec 1999 07:53:19 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 10.2228 Re: Pyrrhus Speech
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.2228 Re: Pyrrhus Speech

"The rugged Pyrrhus", Achilles'son, as a revenger, was really "like
th'Hyrcanian beast"  - as Hamlet says:  he killed the "reverend" Priam
(whom Achilles had spared thinking of his own old father)  near Zeus'
sacred altar, and also smashed the little child of Hector,  Astyanax,
throwing him down from  Troy's walls, under his mother eyes. He is a
bestial killer  AND a revenger. As a killer, he evokes Claudius; as a
revenger Hamlet.

I find most interesting that Hamlet  (the revenger) and  his uncle (the
villain) merge in the figure of Pyrrhus, because the same thing happens
again in the play within the play: like Hamlet, Lucianus is the "nephew
to the King", but , like Claudius, he plays the regicidal villain.

Lucia Anna S.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Velz <
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Date:           Saturday, 18 Dec 1999 01:08:16 -0600
Subject:        Pyrrhus speech

Fran Barasch asks about pix of the Aeneid Bk. II description of the
murder of Priam in Ilium at the fall of Troy.  An alternative, though
not a possible source for Sh's descr. is to search among 18th c.
pictures based on Sh. plays.  The sword that sticks in the air above
Priam is the sort of subject that the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery might
include, or perhaps one might be lucky enough to find one in an
eighteenth c. edition of Ham.  I almost think I have seen such, but it
may be only a fantasy.  I can easily imagine what Fuseli would do with
this subject. . . .   But Sh. would not need an illustration, as Virgil
is vivid enough, one supposes.

Cheers,
John

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Ullyot <
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Date:           Sunday, 19 Dec 1999 18:22:56 -0800
Subject:        The Pyrrhus speech

Like Fran Barasch, I'd be interested to hear about the existence of
visual images of the Pyrrhus sequence in Hamlet-and, indeed, of any
study of the Troy myth in visual art. I suspect, though, she may be
slightly misdirected in her research: while the First Player's speech is
intensely visual, it is almost certainly derived from two textual
sources. Hamlet's oblique reference to the speech (in an unidentified
play) he chiefly loved (so much so that he has the first few lines
committed to memory) has been interpreted as an homage to Marlowe's
Dido, Queen of Carthage. Marlowe's Aeneas owes much of his passionate
speech, in turn, to Virgil-and while Marlowe (of Corpus Christi,
Cambridge) knew enough Latin to read his source in the original
language, the Earl of Surrey's translations of Aeneid II and IV (the
fall of Troy and the betrayal of Dido, respectively) are a visible
presence in Marlowe's play.

See Harold Jenkins' Longer Notes in the Arden (2nd series) Hamlet for a
more specific gloss on this passage. Also:

Bradbrook, M.C. 'Shakespeare's recollections of Marlowe' in
Shakespeare's Styles: Essays in honour of Kenneth Muir. ed. Philip
Edwards, Inga-Stina Ewbank, & G.K. Hunter. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1980. 191-204.

Levin, Harry. The Question of Hamlet. New York: Oxford University Press,
1959.

None of this negates Fran Barasch's impulse to look to visual analogues
for the Pyrrhus sequence; I only suggest that textual influences took
precedence in Shakespeare's crafting of a scene-within-a-scene that
contrasts well with the framing action. More thoughts on the role of
this sequence would be interesting to hear.

While I'm at it, what meaning do readers impute to Hamlet's memorisation
(partial & faltering as it may be) of this speech? Are there any
treatises or current theories pertaining to the idea of memorising
well-loved poetry?

Why, in other words, does Shakespeare put the opening lines of the
speech in Hamlet's mouth?

Michael Ullyot
University of Toronto
 

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