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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: February ::
Re: Ur-Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0313  Tuesday, 15 February 2000.

[1]     From:   Theresa Anne Mategrano <
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        Date:   Monday, 14 Feb 2000 12:44:31 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0301 Re: Ur-Hamlet

[2]     From:   Martin Mueller <
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        Date:   Monday, 14 Feb 2000 12:00:29 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0301 Re: Ur-Hamlet

[3]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Monday, 14 Feb 2000 19:46:14 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0301 Re: Ur-Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Theresa Anne Mategrano <
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Date:           Monday, 14 Feb 2000 12:44:31 EST
Subject: 11.0301 Re: Ur-Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0301 Re: Ur-Hamlet

>The impetus behind the argument comes from the uniqueness of Hamlet.
>It's so vast and mysterious, so deeply concerned with identity, and
>springs so suddenly as if from the mind of Zeus, that I feel Shakespeare
>had been turning this story over in his mind for a long time. This
>personal interest, even obsession, may be connected with the fact that
>he named his son Hamnet.

Thank you, David. I couldn't agree with you more. Any supposed
connection between Kyd and the Ur-Hamlet disintegrates when compared to
the connections (that seem so obvious) between Shakespeare and Hamlet.
It is a play that is indeed "deeply concerned with identity."

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Mueller <
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Date:           Monday, 14 Feb 2000 12:00:29 -0600
Subject: 11.0301 Re: Ur-Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0301 Re: Ur-Hamlet

There is a fair amount of evidence that the old Leir play, the narrative
source for As You Like It, and an old Hamlet play sloshed together in
Shakespeare's memory during the early nineties. I wrote a paper about
this some years ago: From Leir to Lear. Philological Quarterly 73,
1994:195-217.

It's also possible to draw some inferences from the old Hamlet
narratives and from Shakespeare's use of Plutarch's Life of Brutus about
what dramaturgical additions to the Hamlet plot were almost certainly
Shakespeare's, and I've written about that as well: Hamlet and the world
of ancient tragedy. Arion 5, 1997 :22-45.

It's pretty clear from the odd traces left by the old Leir play over
more than a decade that Shakespeare thought about it before writing his
own play.  Something similar may have happened with Hamlet. This is an
easier process to imagine if the Ur-Hamlet, whatever it was, was not a
Shakespearean play.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Monday, 14 Feb 2000 19:46:14 -0500
Subject: 11.0301 Re: Ur-Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0301 Re: Ur-Hamlet

A model that I suggested takes into account the fact that Kyd was an
established playwright when Shakespeare was just starting out.  As
apprenticeship was common in all professions, what could be more natural
than that Shakespeare served as an apprentice to Kyd?  The character of
Horatio in Hamlet seems the strongest evidence of this or at least of
some form of intimate relationship between them.  The name Horatio, I
argue, would have resonated loudly owing to the unprecedented popularity
of Kyd's Spanish Tragedy, and I can't believe there is not some allusion
intended.  Horatio does not appear in any of the sources and an
analogous character is hard to find.  What's he doing in this play
unless he is the spirit of Kyd (who may have been as dead as old Hamlet
thanks to the holy Elizabethan state by the time it was staged) looking
on, the only one in Denmark truly capable of judging the effectiveness
of Hamlet's dramatic art?

The imitation of the Kyd in Aesop referred to by Francis Meres may only
be an imitation of the Spanish Tragedy's ghosts, and plays within plays,
in which case, the Hamlet that trod the boards in the eighties may
simply have been a primitive effort of Shakespeare's (perhaps under the
tutelage of Kyd).

I have no more evidence than Bloom, but, as far as I can see, no less.

Clifford Stetner
 

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