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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: September ::
Re: What's It All About, Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1825  Wednesday, 27 September 2000.

[1]     From:   Mary Jane Miller <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 26 Sep 2000 14:19:24 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1811 Re: What's It All About, Hamlet

[2]     From:   Sam Small <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 27 Sep 2000 01:23:11 +0100
        Subj:   What's It All About, Hamlet?

[3]     From:   Paul E. Doniger <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 26 Sep 2000 18:31:37 -0700
        Subj:   Fw: SHK 11.1811 Re: What's It All About, Hamlet

[4]     From:   Florence Amit <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 26 Sep 2000 22:36:49 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1811 Re: What's It All About, Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mary Jane Miller <
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Date:           Tuesday, 26 Sep 2000 14:19:24 -0400
Subject: 11.1811 Re: What's It All About, Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1811 Re: What's It All About, Hamlet

I think Margaret Atwood in "Good Bones" got it right. (Being at work I
paraphrase)

Gertrude:  Not Claudius, you fool. I did it.

By the way - I'm enjoying the one-liners in the spirit they are offered
-lightly and requiring no learned defences.

Mary Jane Miller,
Professor of Dramatic Literature
Dept. of Fine Arts,
Brock University,

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sam Small <
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Date:           Wednesday, 27 Sep 2000 01:23:11 +0100
Subject:        What's It All About, Hamlet?

Adding to my previous viewings, I have just seen Mark Ryland's Hamlet at
the London Globe.  It was a spirited, if idiosyncratic performance and
cast a little extra light on the mad Dane - for me at least.

Anthony Holden seems to be convinced - with "late evidence" apparently -
that young Will was brought up by the Catholic family, the de Hoghtons
of Hoghton Tower, near Preston, as a tutor and part-time actor.  Then
ten years of London life capped with the death of his only son - and all
the guilt that that must have created - might have given Will a crisis
of faith - if indeed he started his youth as a good Catholic boy.  In
many of the previous plays chaos caused by revenge - Titus Andronicus,
R&J and others, were clear in their condemnation of the revenge
dynamic.  In Hamlet something changes - something has gone rotten in
Will's mind - and he begins to embrace revenge; he questions everything;
the whole world means nothing; his own world becomes promiscuous and
worthless.  Although his brain tells him that he must kill Claudius his
conscience cannot let him do it.  That Claudius is at prayer is an
excuse for which he breathes an inner sigh of relief.  In truth he
cannot kill for vengeance.  It is not from indecision but his inability
to commit the worst of crimes - even though tempted.   Hamlet looks upon
his world and is appalled by its vileness.  But the mere act of
socializing with many of its people he becomes involved with many of its
crimes and aberrations.  He is partly responsible for Ophelia's and the
King's death in the end which results in Fortinbras taking over.  In his
last moment he perhaps realizes that the world is a wicked place indeed,
but to intervene in an idealistic fashion the results could actually be
worse.

Sadly,
SAM

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul E. Doniger <
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Date:           Tuesday, 26 Sep 2000 18:31:37 -0700
Subject: 11.1811 Re: What's It All About, Hamlet
Comment:        Fw: SHK 11.1811 Re: What's It All About, Hamlet

Just a few comments on the "All About, Hamlet" question and a small
correction for Philip Tomposki. I agree that Goethe's aphorism and the
whole idea of reducing Hamlet to a postage stamp are near
impossibilities. In fact, Goethe is quite wrong, I think. Many of us
seem to recognize that the "soul too week" idea is a poor description of
the Prince of Denmark. The "deed too harsh" comment is inaccurate as
well; it isn't so much that the deed is harsh, but that it is nearly
impossible to perform in the manner the Ghost requests. In my thesis, I
write much about the external conditions that the Ghost puts on Hamlet
in his performance of the deed (e.g., "Taint not thy mind"), undermining
his call for vengeance. No wonder Hamlet has such a hard time getting
the job done. A careful viewing of Elizabethan attitudes towards revenge
and the many models of avengers in other tragedies (before and after
_Hamlet_) suggest that the avenger can almost never avoid descending
into villainy in the performance of his revenge. Hamlet's dilemma is
huge!

So much for Goethe's easy-breezy Hamlet.

One correction:

Philip Tomposki wrote,

> Fortibras, I think, represents the key to the play.  He is introduced to
> us before Hamlet, and although he does not appear on stage until the end
> of the last scene...

Fortinbras actually appears at the end of Act 4 (4.4), shortly before
the "How all occasions" soliloquy.

Paul E. Doniger

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Florence Amit <
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Date:           Tuesday, 26 Sep 2000 22:36:49 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 11.1811 Re: What's It All About, Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1811 Re: What's It All About, Hamlet

The point is that Hamlet is absolutely the right person to put down the
anointed king. Who else but he? It just takes him time and some agony to
accustom himself to the fact. Moreover his inaction is only for a
period. As we have discussed before. There is a change, an epiphany in
his mother's closet and though he does not have the same means, as he
did during the prayer scene, yet with what means he has, his father's
signature, he wards off the danger of the king' envoys and has them
executed. Later, of course he does kill the king - with his last
strength. Further, if one does like - as I do, to find structural
transfigurations of historical characters in the works, the Messianic
figures who are the basis for the character - had to have a period of
learning the components of their task. As Jesus says "If they hear not
Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose
from the dead." Luke 16, 31

Florence Amit
 

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