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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: October ::
Re: Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1825  Tuesday, 26 October 1999.

[1]     From:   Carol Barton <
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        Date:   Monday, 25 Oct 1999 15:13:07 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1821 Re: Hamlet

[2]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Monday, 25 Oct 1999 12:53:39 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1821 Re: Hamlet

[3]     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Monday, 25 Oct 1999 17:02:49 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1821 Re: Hamlet

[4]     From:   Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 26 Oct 1999 21:20:19 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1821 Re: Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Barton <
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Date:           Monday, 25 Oct 1999 15:13:07 EDT
Subject: 10.1821 Re: Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1821 Re: Hamlet

Perry Herzfeld writes:

>Just on the matter of Hamlet, although slightly unrelated, I have just
>been re-reading Bradley's descriptions of Gertrude.  I cannot help but
>be totally struck at the, well, 1950-ness of it all.  Gertrude "loved to
>be happy, like a sheep in the sun and ... it pleases her to see others
>happy, like more sheep in the sun."  Surely such a reading of Gertrude
>is totally unfair to her character.  We need not go as far as to say
>that she is a seductive temptress (i.e., the Olivier version), but I
>think that there is a much stronger case to be made for Gertrude as a
>period woman, fulfilling the supportive role that she is expected to
>play.  How can Bradley be so incisive at times, and yet support this
>"sheep-theory" which clearly does not square with moments such as where
>Gertrude defends Claudius from Laertes' fury?  Thank goodness we have
>moved on a little.

On the contrary, Perry, I see Gertrude (as compared, say, to
Clytaemnestra) as one of the flattest females in the Shakespearean
canon, conspicuous by her lack of anything approaching a personality,
and incapable of Lady Macbeth's mad zeal or Kate's spunk or Beatrice's
fire.  She is a non-entity, an ungrieving widow and an oblivious mother,
whose emotional repertoire seems to be bounded by lust (and a lukewarm
lust at that).  Her sole function in the play appears to be to serve as
a foil to her son, and to be the casual victim of Claudius' campaign to
annihilate the competition, much as the equally ineffectual Polonius is
the casual victim of Hamlet's momentary vengeance on what he thinks is
Claudius.

But at least Polonius lives and breathes, before we nose him under the
stairs.

I dislike Gertrude intensely as a human being more than as a woman for
her inertia, which is worse than her son's inaction, and for being more
kine than kith where he and his banishment are concerned.  Alas, poor
Hamlet-perhaps after all it was something in's blood?

Cheers,
Carol Barton

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Monday, 25 Oct 1999 12:53:39 -0700
Subject: 10.1821 Re: Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1821 Re: Hamlet

Perry Hezfeld writes:

>Just on the matter of Hamlet, although slightly unrelated, I have just
>been re-reading Bradley's descriptions of Gertrude.  I cannot help but
>be totally struck at the, well, 1950-ness of it all.  Gertrude "loved to
>be happy, like a sheep in the sun and ... it pleases her to see others
>happy, like more sheep in the sun."

I'm wondering, actually, what Bradley's turn of the century background
might add to the description.  A lot of people lived closer to the land
than in the 1950s, since urbanization has been ongoing for the last
century.  In fact, I sometimes wonder how ethereal sheep seemed in
pastoral imagery up to the recent past.  Farmers are certainly aware
that they mate, defecate and have young.

Could Bradley's description make Gertrude rather sensual, in an oddly
innocent and unself-conscious way?  This would actually place her
somewhere between a helpless waif and the "seductive temptress" you find
in the Olivier version.  I think this reading would be compatible both
with the folio and Q2 character, who is incapable of understanding that
her first husband was assassinated, and the Q1 character, who's
devastated to find out.

Cheers,
Se

 

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