The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0119 Friday, 19 January 2001
Date: Thursday, 18 Jan 2001 15:11:52 -0500
Subject: Hamlet's Family
I am reading Professor Stone's book Family, Sex and Marriage, as a
reference for my thesis. After reflecting on his discussion of the
family structure, Hamlet's family seems very unusual for Shakespeare's
England. Stone discusses the necessity to produce several males to
insure that a male heir would reach an age where he was able to beget
his own heirs. However, Hamlet has no brothers. Yet, Gertrude's
political marriage and the other families of court seem to follow the
traditional family structure that Stone outlines.
It has always seemed strange to me that Claudius would have Hamlet
killed by the English king. How would he explain this death? We see a
messenger arrive at the end of the play, only to announce the death of
the wrong persons. Still, how would he explain this to Gertrude?
Moreover, while he is eliminating a political rival, he is also
eliminating his own family line, essentially creating a power vacuum.
This does not seem prudent for such a crafty king.