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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: July ::
Re: Hamlet's Pirates
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1217  Friday, 2 July 1999.

[1]     From:   Jack Hettinger <
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        Date:   Thursday, 1 Jul 1999 12:39:43 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 10.1210 Hamlet's Pirates

[2]     From:   H. R. Greenberg <
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        Date:   Thursday, 1 Jul 1999 16:26:50 EDT
        Subj:   Pirates and Seachange

[3]     From:   Andy White <
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        Date:   Thursday, 1 Jul 1999 20:52:10 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.1210 Hamlet's Pirates


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Hettinger <
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Date:           Thursday, 1 Jul 1999 12:39:43 -0400
Subject: 10.1210 Hamlet's Pirates
Comment:        RE: SHK 10.1210 Hamlet's Pirates

Dr. Greenberg,

Re your query about "piracy in the Elizabethan Period," I can give you a
reading which I have found helpful: Karl P. Wentersdorf, "Hamlet's
Encounter With the Pirates," Shakespeare Quarterly 34 (Winter 1983):
434-40.

"It has been estimated that by the early years of the reign of Elizabeth
I," Wentersdorf writes, "there were some four hundred pirate ships
operating in the English Channel" (437-38).

My own interest in the question is whether Hamlet's encounter with the
pirates is lucky, providential, or even likely. In the fifth act Hamlet
premises his vengeance on providence: "Not a whit, we defy augury. There
is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis not
to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it
will come. The readiness is all" (5.2.217-20; Bevington edition). Would
the presence of so many pirates in the English Channel qualify or
support that agency of providence?

As to your second concern, "what has been said about Hamlet's brief
sojourn with the pirates who are responsible for aborting the English
voyage," I can't remember if the Wentersdorf article will be that
helpful (I don't have a copy at hand; the quote came from some of my
lecture notes). Are you possibly wondering about Hamlet's seeming
maturation during the time of his voyage to England and capture and
return by the pirates?

Jack Hettinger

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           H. R. Greenberg <
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Date:           Thursday, 1 Jul 1999 16:26:50 EDT
Subject:        Pirates and Seachange

As a followup to my post about articles on Elizabethan piracy, what
would be the benchmark papers  articles  commentary  on Hamlet's
"sea-change" after the aborted trip to England?  References appreciated,
but a general sense of the overall scholarly discourse on the subject
would be welcome as well.

Thanks in advance

Harvey Roy Greenberg md

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andy White <
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Date:           Thursday, 1 Jul 1999 20:52:10 -0400
Subject: 10.1210 Hamlet's Pirates
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1210 Hamlet's Pirates

Elsinore, where the Danish royals kept their castle, was a port town, at
a narrow strait which leads from the North Sea to the Baltic.

Our Danish list-members can correct me on this, but it is my
understanding that the Baltic was kept pirate-free by the Danish crown,
in return for a duty paid by all merchant ships passing through.
Elsinore was a very rich port-of-call, primarily because the Danes
collected such lucrative fees from everyone, for centuries.

That Hamlet is caught by pirates once he passes beyond the Baltic into
relatively lawless waters should come as no surprise; whether these were
pirates or privateers (political appointees, as it were) is anyone's
guess ...

By the way, the duty requirement in Elsinore is why it was the perfect
setting for this medieval tale; London seamen would have known the
place, would have known its cannon all too well, since they were used on
ships that tried to avoid paying the duty.

Andy White
Arlington, VA
 

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