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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: May ::
Re: Fortinbras, Hamlet, Revenge
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0961  Thursday, 4 May 2000.

From:           Tony Burton <
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Date:           Wednesday, 3 May 2000 19:40:27 -0700
Subject: 11.0952 Re: Fortinbras, Hamlet, Revenge
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0952 Re: Fortinbras, Hamlet, Revenge

As David Bishop says, Hamlet's actions at the end are very complex.  And
revenge by him against Claudius for the death of Gertrude is certainly
not excluded or illogical simply because Claudius did not intend to kill
her.

Even if one rejects the broadest motivation for revenge (whether one
defines it as a personal matter or public justice), which is simply
killing the man who caused the death of his mother regardless of
intention; and even the somewhat tighter requirement of "divine" or
"poetic" justice, which might approve the turn of Claudius's device
against his own interests; it remains inescapable that Claudius is
culpable under the narrowest standard of all: the technical and formal
rules of 16th c. English homicide law.  The teachings at the Inns of
Court approvingly report the rule of law that if a person sets out
poison to kill a specific person and another takes that poison and dies,
the crime is murder, not death by misadventure.  Of, course, this gives
the complexity a different quality without simplifying anything, but it
also suggests forcefully that Shakespeare selected his factual detail
with great care and knowledge.

Tony B.
 

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