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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: January ::
Re: Hamlet's Family
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0170  Thursday, 25 January 2001

[1]     From:   W.  L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 24 Jan 2001 13:34:31 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0161 Re: Hamlet's Family

[2]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 24 Jan 2001 17:47:24 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0161 Re: Hamlet's Family


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W.  L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Wednesday, 24 Jan 2001 13:34:31 -0500
Subject: 12.0161 Re: Hamlet's Family
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0161 Re: Hamlet's Family

Don Bloom notes:

>Claudius . . . was impelled to the murder of his brother by two
>apparently equal desires -- one for his brother's throne, the other for
>his brother's wife -- which could be obtained by the same crime. Very
>handy for him, I must say.

Is his double motive for killing his brother linked to his dying by both
the sword (the throne) and the cup (Gertrude) in the final scene?
Hamlet thus punishes him for both of his desires?

Yours, Bill Godshalk

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Wednesday, 24 Jan 2001 17:47:24 -0500
Subject: 12.0161 Re: Hamlet's Family
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0161 Re: Hamlet's Family

I would like to make a comment similar to Don Bloom's who is "not
certain it makes any difference how Hamlet's family relates to
Elizabethan England, since he is supposed to be living in early medieval
Denmark."

Although I don't think it's clear in what period Shakespeare's Hamlet is
supposed to be set, it is based on a myth which, outside of some
analogues like Orestes, involves an only child.  While departing from
sources might require some justification, adhering to them does not,
especially in the genre of mythology.  One would not expect an
Elizabethan adaptation of Oedipus Rex to bestow siblings upon the hero.
Shakespeare does depart from the sources in significant ways (the name
of Hamlet's father for instance), but I think that kinship relations are
too fundamentally structural if the author is claiming to offer merely a
treatment of a well-known myth.

As a myth, Hamlet is in the tradition of seasonal myths involving the
overthrow of an evil usurper (winter) by a good and rightful heir
(summer) and the reclamation of the mother (earth).  The archetype for
this tradition is Osiris-Isis-Horus-Set. Whatever Shakespeare's
intention in updating the myth to fit his own cultural context, it would
be far stranger had he disrupted this essential structure than that his
Hamlet's family should not fit contemporary kinship or royal practices.

Clifford Stetner
 

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