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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: November ::
Re: Gertrude
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1877  Wednesday, 3 November 1999.

[1]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 02 Nov 1999 00:15:12 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1864 Re: Gertrude

[2]     From:   Clifford Stetner" <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 2 Nov 1999 17:04:54 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1850 Re: Gertrude

[3]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 02 Nov 1999 22:45:31 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1864 Re: Gertrude


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Tuesday, 02 Nov 1999 00:15:12 -0500
Subject: 10.1864 Re: Gertrude
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1864 Re: Gertrude

T. Hawkes wrote

>Must say I never trusted Gertrude myself. Drinks, you know.

Fractiousness aside, there is good grounds to portray Gertrude as an
alcoholic.  Consider Hamlet's "to the manner born."  And this
interpretation adds poignancy to the exchange in V.ii: "Gertrude, do not
drink.... I will, my lord, I pray you pardon me."  It can be played as
if this was a common request by Claudius, and a typical response.  In
fact, I saw a production in the West End some years ago in which this
approach was adopted and it worked beautifully.  It also adds something
to G's detailed description of Ophelia's death, which she could not have
witnessed first hand.  In the West End production, G was repeatedly
refilling a goblet from a ewer she brought on stage with her.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner" <
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Date:           Tuesday, 2 Nov 1999 17:04:54 -0500
Subject: 10.1850 Re: Gertrude
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1850 Re: Gertrude

Gertrude/Geruthe and the harangue in her closet is one of the oldest
artifacts in the Hamlet myth.  I believe that this is merely a
particular culture's expression of the ubiquitous seasonal myth whose
archetype is Osiris/Isis/Horus, in which case Gertrude is a highly
evolved earth goddess whose role in the universal drama is to be
conquered by deities representing the passing seasons. As such, she is
passive by definition in order to be won by Hamlet Sr., Claudius, and
Hamlet Jr. in succession.  In my view, the difficulties and
contradictions in her character all emerge from the attempt to adapt a
mythological goddess to a naturalistic history.  Sometimes I think all
of English literature can be reduced to this process.

And why would a busy guy like Shakespeare take the time to familiarize
himself with ancient Danish electoral practices?

Clifford Stetner
CUNY
C.W. Post College

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Tuesday, 02 Nov 1999 22:45:31 -0800
Subject: 10.1864 Re: Gertrude
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1864 Re: Gertrude

Larry Weiss writes:

>We've been through this before.  The kings of Viking Denmark were
>elected by an assembly of chieftains or ur-nobles called the Witan.  WS
>evidently was aware of the practice as the play refer several times to
>an election in the sense of the choice of a body.  E.g., "popp'd in
>between the election and my hopes."  And, of course, at the end Hamlet
>confers his "dying voice" (i.e., vote) on Fortinbras.

Yes, we have been through this before, and suffice to say that I still
find the idea that Shakespeare was acquainted with the constitution of
Viking Denmark somewhat less than "evident".  The words "popp'd in
between the election and my hopes" wouldn't become incoherent if the
election was not by a body, and a "dying voice" need not be a vote.  I
can't get through to my department's online OED, but we certainly use
the expression "she should have a voice in that" without implying any
sort of formal voting structure in which, I might add, usually only the
living get to cast ballots.

But finally, I think that we should leave speculation as to the
constitution of the fictional Denmark up in the air.  What is clear is
that the eldest born didn't necessarily inherit the throne, but might
hope to.

Cheers,
Se

 

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