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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: November ::
Re: Gertrude
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1950  Thursday, 11 November 1999.

[1]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 10 Nov 1999 13:46:35 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1939 Re: Gertrude

[2]     From:   William Taylor <
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        Date:   10 Nov 99 22:48:51 PST
        Subj:   Re: [SHK 10.1939 Re: Gertrude]


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Wednesday, 10 Nov 1999 13:46:35 -0500
Subject: 10.1939 Re: Gertrude
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1939 Re: Gertrude

Terence Hawkes asks:

>Who is Hamlet's
>>REAL father?

T. Hawkes is a bit too young.  Otherwise we would have our answer.

Yours, Bill Godshalk

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Taylor <
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Date:           10 Nov 99 22:48:51 PST
Subject: 10.1939 Re: Gertrude]
Comment:        Re: [SHK 10.1939 Re: Gertrude]

Before Gertrude sinks back into oblivion (and the last couple of
postings suggest that she is going under), I'd like to raise a question
which was glanced at in an earlier posting in this thread, by Larry
Weiss, I believe, who mentioned Gertrude's description of Ophelia's
drowning, a scene which "she could not have witnessed first hand."  It
has always struck me that this is a scene which neither she nor anyone
else could have witnessed at all.  Who could possibly have watched this
poor soul, making garlands of four specifically identified species of
flowers, breaking a branch and falling into the stream, floating along
while chanting snatches of old lauds, till her garments finally soaked
up enough water to drag her down to muddy death, and have made no effort
to haul the poor girl out?

Gertrude is clearly making this up.  If she were to come in and announce
that Ophelia, in her grief and despair, had just committed suicide by
throwing herself into the river, which is far more likely than
Gertrude's pretty scenario, she could reasonably expect Laertes to fly
into a murderous passion again and attack Claudius.  In describing the
scene is such lyrical and lovely terms, isn't she simply trying to
soften his reaction, and thereby protect her husband again, as she did
in 4.5, where she attempted repeatedly to calm and restrain Laertes?  If
that is her concern, Claudius shares it; he points out how hard it was
to calm Laertes's rage, and now he's all fired up again.

I'm sure this cannot be a new observation, but I have never seen the
speech played that way.  Most Gertrudes, I think, delighted with their
one chance in the play to emote poetically, wring it for every drop of
sentiment it can yield, and give no indication that she is lying.

Bill Taylor
 

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