The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1053 Thursday, 24 June 1999.
Date: Tuesday, 22 Jun 1999 11:23:28 +0000
Subject: Drooping Silence
I want to send a query out about a speech that occurs in Hamlet
5.1.269-73, just after Hamlet's (quasi-parodic?) shouting match with
Laertes over Ophelia's grave:
This is mere madness,
And thus a while the fit will work on him.
Anon, as patient as the female dove
When that her golden couplets are disclosed,
His silence will sit drooping.
In Q1 ("Bad"??) the speech is assigned to Claudius and reads: "Forbeare
Laertes, now is hee mad, as is the sea, / Anone as milde and gentle as a
Dove:/Therfore a while give his wilde humour scope." In Q2, the speech
as above is assigned to Gertrude; in F it is given to Claudius (and the
Norton adds the s.d. "to Laertes"). Different editions follow different
copy texts; some believe that the speech belongs to Claudius because it
echoes his earlier warning in 3.1.163-6 that "There's something in his
soul/O'er which his melancholy sits on brood/And I do doubt the hatch
and the disclose/Will be some danger". It seems to me that the impact of
the speech depends very much on who is speaking. I would be interested
in any comments on this speech-its sources, its textual variants, its
possible meanings. Further references to critical discussions of the
speech would also be appreciated.