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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: February ::
Re: The Ambitious Norway
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0314  Friday, 9 February 2001

[1]     From:   Tom Bishop <
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        Date:   Thursday, 8 Feb 2001 10:52:34 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0301 The Ambitious Norway

[2]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Thursday, 08 Feb 2001 11:20:58 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0301 The Ambitious Norway

[3]     From:   Carol Morley <
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        Date:   Thursday, 8 Feb 2001 16:34:18 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0301 The Ambitious Norway

[4]     From:   John Robinson <
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        Date:   Thursday, 8 Feb 2001 12:15:09 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0301 The Ambitious Norway

[5]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Thursday, 08 Feb 2001 12:27:10 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0301 The Ambitious Norway

[6]     From:   Geralyn Horton <
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        Date:   Thursday, 08 Feb 2001 12:37:25 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0301 The Ambitious Norway

[7]     From:   David Bishop <
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        Date:   Thursday, 8 Feb 2001 14:23:50 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0301 The Ambitious Norway

[8]     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Thursday, 08 Feb 2001 22:58:22 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0301 The Ambitious Norway

[9]     From:   Annalisa Castaldo <
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        Date:   Friday, 9 Feb 2001 09:08:18 -0500
        Subj:   RE: The Ambitious Norway


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Bishop <
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Date:           Thursday, 8 Feb 2001 10:52:34 -0500
Subject: 12.0301 The Ambitious Norway
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0301 The Ambitious Norway

Dear Hardy,

The famous armor in which King Hamlet defeated Fortinbras I was kept on
display in the throne room of Elsinore for many years after the King's
great victory, still covered with the dried blood of the vanquished
King. Fortinbras' younger brother, Punybras, complained bitterly several
times about this, but since Norway itself had been reduced to a mere
rump state (Fortinbras having forfeited "all those his lands /Which he
stood seiz'd of" i.e. most of Norway, leaving his brother,
embarrassingly, only "skirts" to wear) his complaints were ignored. So
Horatio was very familiar with this armor, having seen it on numerous
vacation visits. Claudius, however, had recently had it removed into
storage (whence the Ghost himself retrieved it without anyone else
noticing). Incidentally, the famous "sledded poleaxe" was kept in a
glass case next door. King Hamlet did like his trophies.

Tom

[Editor's Note: Dear Tom, thanks for the info about the armor and
Punybras. I did, however, know about the "sledded poleaxe"; but I bet
you didn't know it was called "Rosebud." -Hardy]

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Thursday, 08 Feb 2001 11:20:58 -0500
Subject: 12.0301 The Ambitious Norway
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0301 The Ambitious Norway

Hardy asks (and I answer):

>1. how would Horatio know what armor Old King Hamlet wore at the time,
>assuming that Horatio, Hamlet's school chum, are roughly the same age?
>
>and
>
>2. has Fortinbras been holding a grudge against Denmark for at least
>thirty years of his undetermined life span?

(1) The armor on the ghost is insubstantial, ghostly armor.  The
original armor was hung up in a local church as a thank you offering to
god for a victorious fight, etc.  See the beginning of R3 (1.1.6: "Our
bruised arms hung up for monuments.")  Horatio has seen the armor on
display.

(2) Actually, Fortinbras is a posthumous son, born about 29 years ago.
He's now ready to do something about his father's defeat.  Talk about
the delay of the revenger!  Of course, Vindice delays nine years and
walks around with his lover's skull in hand (with a nod to Yorick).

Hamlet (the play) is, in large part, about what happened in the past,
and the consequences of historical actions on the present, thus the
emphasis on ghosts and skulls and ancient grudges.

Yours, Bill Godshalk

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Morley <
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Date:           Thursday, 8 Feb 2001 16:34:18 -0000
Subject: 12.0301 The Ambitious Norway
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0301 The Ambitious Norway

Dear Hardy- some answers off the cuff:

1       a Hamlet told him some time at Wittenberg
         b Denmark struck a commemorative medal, Horatio got one for
Christmas
         c down town Elsinore has an equestrian statue of the armed king
at the moment of victory
        d The very suit of armour (now an heirloom) now preserved in the
corridor outside the guestroom Horatio has been given, and is labelled.
2       Yes.

Best wishes, Carol.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Robinson <
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Date:           Thursday, 8 Feb 2001 12:15:09 EST
Subject: 12.0301 The Ambitious Norway
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0301 The Ambitious Norway

> 1. how would Horatio know what armor Old King Hamlet wore at the time,
>  assuming that Horatio, Hamlet's school chum, are roughly the same age?

Perhaps the king, old Hamlet, had only one set of battle armor, and
defeating old Fortinbra was his greatest achievement. So the two would
be associated in people's (even the young) minds.

Reagrds,
John Robinson

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Thursday, 08 Feb 2001 12:27:10 -0500
Subject: 12.0301 The Ambitious Norway
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0301 The Ambitious Norway

>1. how would Horatio know what armor Old King Hamlet wore at the time,
>assuming that Horatio, Hamlet's school chum, are roughly the same age?
>
>and
>
>2. has Fortinbras been holding a grudge against Denmark for at least
>thirty years of his undetermined life span?

1.  It was on display at the Elsinore Museum of Arms.

2.  This does not seem unusual.  Besides, is a grudge necessary to
explain a desire to recover national territory?

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Geralyn Horton <
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Date:           Thursday, 08 Feb 2001 12:37:25 -0500
Subject: 12.0301 The Ambitious Norway
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0301 The Ambitious Norway

Are unscholarly unsupported opinions ok?

> 1. how would Horatio know what armor Old King Hamlet wore at the time,

Fame. Statues, engravings, poems, the old armor hung in a place of honor
and strapped on for parade occasions until the belly no longer fit in
it.  Think of all the W.W.I & W.W.II images we recognize that we were
too young to have seen.

> 2. has Fortinbras been holding a grudge against Denmark for at least
> thirty years of his undetermined life span?

Yup. Even if he'd been in the womb at the time.

Geralyn Horton, Playwright
Newton, Mass. 02460
<http://www.tiac.net/users/ghorton>

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Bishop <
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Date:           Thursday, 8 Feb 2001 14:23:50 -0500
Subject: 12.0301 The Ambitious Norway
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0301 The Ambitious Norway

One thing that makes literature such a slippery proposition is that some
questions you're supposed to ask and some you're not--and how do you
tell which is which?

We can try to answer these questions as if they're supposed to have
answers.  For example, the gravedigger's "thirty years" could be a
generic number, meaning "a long time", or the time it takes to transform
a boy into a man, a meaning that may be emphasized by "thirty years, man
and boy". How carefully did gravediggers count the years in those days?
We might make Horatio older than Hamlet, or assume he's a student of
Danish history familiar with descriptions of the combat. Fortinbras
might have developed his resentment and desire for revenge as he learned
the history himself and became an older and angrier young man. Or we
might say that these points are incidental enough, and far enough
removed from the later "contradictory" points, for the contradiction to
go unremarked by all but the lamp-burners. In this case I tend toward
the latter option, until a better argument comes along.

David

[8]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Thursday, 08 Feb 2001 22:58:22 -0500
Subject: 12.0301 The Ambitious Norway
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0301 The Ambitious Norway

To Hardy's questions about Old Hamlet:

(1) Notable armors were often kept around the place as memorials of
great occasions, so Horatio might have seen it on display in hall or
long gallery-especially if, as seems likely, the king could no longer
squeeze himself into something made for him in his lean youth.  If
slaying Fortinbras I of Norway were the high point of the old king's
life and reign it would be appropriate that his ghost appear in this
guise.

(2)  Young Fortinbras, who is usually played as about Hamlet's age,
would presumably have grown up hearing about the battle, and regretting
both the loss of lands and the loss of Norwegian honor.  When he's
mature enough to hope for success, he tries to force a return bout to
rec over both the losses.

Dave Evett

[9]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Annalisa Castaldo <
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Date:           Friday, 9 Feb 2001 09:08:18 -0500
Subject:        RE: The Ambitious Norway

You know, I have been over and over the "how old is Hamlet?" question,
and never thought of those lines. However, they make even more clear to
me that the very specific reference to Hamlet's age is also very
specific to Act 5. I have always felt that the Hamlet of the last act is
a different person than the earlier acts, still a thinker, but not in
the obsessive, meditative way that leads to soliloquy after soliloquy.
He is more active - leaping into the grave, fencing, even describing his
fight with the pirates. He is also, suddenly, concerned with questions
of ruling - for the first time he mentions Claudius as an usurper as
well as an adulterer and murderer and his final words are about the
state, when he nominates Fortinbras.

All of this makes me believe that Shakespeare inserted the reference to
Hamlet's age so that his audience would suddenly see Hamlet as mature
and capable of rule. If they knew the Danish source, the audience would
think of Hamlet as quite young (whatever the actor's age), and perhaps
even the Ur-Hamlet had a Hamlet who was, perhaps, too young to take over
the throne or plan a revenge. So it would have been a shock to suddenly
be told that Hamlet was 30, mature, adult, especially after his behavior
and early clues such as the speech Hardy quoted. But, and this is
important, the shock would not have been retroactive. Only readers (or
those knowing the play going in) would have spent the first 4 acts
wondering how all the pieces fit together. Instead, I think Hamlet's
true age is meant to come as a revelation, not answering anything, but
fitting this new version of the prince.

Annalisa Castaldo
 

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