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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: February ::
Re: Hamlet and Oedipus
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0386  Friday, 16 February 2001

[1]     From:   Don Bloom <
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        Date:   Thursday, 15 Feb 2001 10:31:27 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0358 Re: Hamlet and Oedipus

[2]     From:   John Robinson <
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        Date:   Thursday, 15 Feb 2001 11:56:58 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0376 Re: Hamlet and Oedipus

[3]     From:   Graham Bradshaw <
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        Date:   Friday, 16 Feb 2001 04:38:52 +0900
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0376 Re: Hamlet and Oedipus


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <
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Date:           Thursday, 15 Feb 2001 10:31:27 -0600
Subject: 12.0358 Re: Hamlet and Oedipus
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0358 Re: Hamlet and Oedipus

Dana Shilling  writes:

>BTW, if you read Leviticus it is not incestuous to marry a deceased
>husband's brother--it is obligatory unless you have a dispensation.

For the record, Leviticus is very clear about this but in the other
direction: "You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother's wife;
it is your brother's nakedness." (18:16; repeated 20:21) It is in
Deuteronomy (25: 5-10) that you find the passage about a widow marrying
her brother-in-law -- if they reside together and she is sonless -- and
even pressuring him to do so, in the event he is reluctant. But the
conditionals ("if . . . if") make Deuteronomy ambiguous, as Henry points
out to Thomas in "A Man for All Seasons." This is the "levirate law,"
which, as I recall, derives from the Latin word for husband's brother
and has no etymological connection to Leviticus.

If you cross-check Matthew 14, 1-12, the evangelist offers that as the
explanation for Herod having John the Baptist arrested: Herod had
married Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, and John was criticizing
him for it.

On the other hand, eight chapters farther on, some Sadducees put the
question to Jesus about the woman who married seven brothers in
succession because "Moses said, 'If a man dies childless, his brother
shall marry the widow, and raise up children for his brother.:" (22:
24). They were, of course, attacking the idea of resurrection, which
Jesus shared with the Pharisees, but they clearly assume that everyone
knows the Deutoronomy passage as the Law of Moses.

A rabbinical scholar might clarify this for us, but as to Hamlet and
Shakespeare, his entire audience would know that, according to the
Catholics, Henry VIII's divorce from Catherine of Aragon was completely
illegal, Elizabeth was illegitimate, and Mary of Scotland was the
rightful monarch of England. Loyal Anglicans believed exactly the
opposite.

Hoping this helps,
Don

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Robinson <
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Date:           Thursday, 15 Feb 2001 11:56:58 EST
Subject: 12.0376 Re: Hamlet and Oedipus
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0376 Re: Hamlet and Oedipus

>It doesn't take Freud or Jones to realize that step-parents are rarely
>>welcome.  And if the new dad happens to be a drunken bastard of an
>>uncle, making the marriage not only ill-advised but _incestuous_ in the
>>eyes of any Church in Hamlet's day, I fail to see any reason for Oedipus
>>to intrude on the discussion

Actually there is reason to bring Oedipus into it. There is one scene
3.2, seldom commented on (I don't think Jones commented on it)  while
watching the mousetrap play Hamlet tells Claudius that the characters
are the Duke and his wife (ostensibly Claudius and Gertrude by Hamlet's
earlier claims) then when Lucianus (the murderer) comes on the stage
Hamlet doesn't say he's the "dukes brother" as we would expect, Hamlet
says  that's "Lucianus, nephew to the king [not the duke]" (l.239). The
mousetrap play becomes about himself, as the murder, who kills the king
(his uncle) and woes the queen (his mother.)

I think there's an Oedipus thing in there somewhere.

Regards,
John Robinson

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Graham Bradshaw <
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Date:           Friday, 16 Feb 2001 04:38:52 +0900
Subject: 12.0376 Re: Hamlet and Oedipus
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0376 Re: Hamlet and Oedipus

I'm still catching up with all this interesting stuff after the most
hellish period of the Japanese academic year, when the mind turns into
alphabet soup.

But is Freud's absurdly sensational, dated and neurotically driven
account of the "Oedipus complex", which is at best an account of an
Orestes-"complex", more or less unfair to Oedipus and Hamlet than all
the accounts, which still appear in psychological journals and leave out
anything that corresponds with Iago, of the so-called "Othello
syndrome"?

And isn't Freud's own account of jealousy rock-bottom fictional, even by
Freudian (=scientically pretentious but indefensible) standards? What is
presented as though it were clinical research or evidence is nothing
other than a series of resentful fantasies about a woman who had the
good sense to walk out and never return, after her first meeting with
the Jewish/Viennese/patriarchal master.

For all too many years, Freud used to be one of my cultural heroes. I
now think that was very, very stupid.Civilization and its Discontents,
The Future of an Illusion but I now think I was very, very stupid. In
the end--and I can scarcely imagine any more bitter or humiliating
end--Freud will survive, like Jung, in Western, and especially American,
English departments. As usual, Joyce was prescient, in his Finnegan joke
about being "jung, and easily freudened".

Graham Bradshaw
 

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