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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: May ::
Re: Revenge
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1063  Thursday, 18 May 2000.

[1]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 17 May 2000 09:09:34 -0700
        Subj:   SHK 11.1057 Re: Revenge

[2]     From:   David Bishop <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 17 May 2000 14:14:54 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1057 Re: Revenge

[3]     From:   Florence Amit <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 17 May 2000 21:09:26 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1057 Re: Revenge


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Wednesday, 17 May 2000 09:09:34 -0700
Subject: Re: Revenge
Comment:        SHK 11.1057 Re: Revenge

Ros King wrote:

> Surely what God might or might not do is ultimately unknowable and
> therefore, for the purposes of dramatic structure, irrelevant.

I can not believe this.  People have been assuming they know what God
thinks for millennia.  Ms. King's humility in realizing people actually
don't is commendable, but we must accept that many think they do even
today.  It is not a stretch for Shakespeare to create characters who
think they know how God's system works, and who act upon that system, or
defy it.

Ms. King then goes on to give an example that completely supports my
point, making me wonder if I have misunderstood her point.  Please feel
free to comment, Ms. King.

Mike Jensen

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Bishop <
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Date:           Wednesday, 17 May 2000 14:14:54 -0400
Subject: 11.1057 Re: Revenge
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1057 Re: Revenge

To Ros King: I don't see why the idea that God could forgive Claudius is
irrelevant to the structure of the play when that's the reason Hamlet
gives for sparing Claudius at prayer. What the characters believe, or
don't believe-or how much they believe it-seems to me part of the play.

David

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Florence Amit <
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Date:           Wednesday, 17 May 2000 21:09:26 +0000
Subject: 11.1057 Re: Revenge
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1057 Re: Revenge

What God may or may or not do is according to his prerogative. Yes. But
if a person is  religious, the belief is that He has given  directives
on how men and women are to behave. (Although any one may misread  them
as indeed Hamlet does.) An important order was to do justice upon a
willful murderer.  It says so in the scriptures- even if it is from  "My
altar" to take him.  Since upon the king there could be no one higher in
Denmark, to carry forward the execution than Hamlet, it really had to be
his task, after he was made sure by evidence that Claudius was guilty.
But he wanted  less, he says in soliloquy - to not be that person - and
then  more - to make sure that since he must do it, (as a 'revenging
son' and not the authority for law in place of the dead king)  he
thinks,  'therefore if I am doomed to go to hell, like my father, for
revenging my father, I want to make sure that this dirty, fratricidal
uncle will go there as well'.  He is very much wrapped up with his own
condition and so he fails to notice that he is not entitled to place a
man in hell. (and, ironically, he misses his one good chance of getting
past the execution with little harm to everyone else.) Hamlet's task was
to render human justice and not God's.

However in the last scene when finally the act is being accomplished.
Hamlet calls Claudius "damned". This seems to be a paradox: almost as if
Hamlet had still been waiting to trick him up in sin. But that is
another irony. He now feels sure of the king's damnation because
temporal justice cannot be a matter of indifference to heaven.

I was asked how does this make Hamlet king- like?  The truth of the
villainies of Claudius, or in another perspective, the truth of his
potential for intrigue, would not have been exposed had Claudius
prevailed, like a Sadam Hussein. Horatio would have died the "ancient
Roman" or the Danish martyr and could not have said a word. Then the
rottenness in Denmark would have become a deep decay (without
considering Fortinbras). Hamlet stops the source of the badness even
while he is dying, and so a better future for Denmark is possible.
Hamlet's attack on Claudius seems so obvious, because of theatrical
tradition. But I do not think it is. Many of the king's people
surrounded him.

Ros mentions Pyrrhus. I believe that the reference is indicative of
Hamlet's psychological condition at least as much as it is a reference
of Pagan directness in letting blood. In the late 16th and the 17th
century 'pyrrhonism', based on classical models, meant an acid
skepticism. The believing Hamlet is beset by doubts that make him cry
with the name of Pyrrhus .

Florence Amit
 

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