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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: May ::
Re: Time in Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1128  Tuesday, 15 May 2001

[1]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Monday, 14 May 2001 09:22:31 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1115 Re: Time in Hamlet

[2]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Monday, 14 May 2001 13:36:14 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1115 Re: Time in Hamlet

[3]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Monday, 14 May 2001 12:00:22 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1115 Re: Time in Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Monday, 14 May 2001 09:22:31 -0700
Subject: 12.1115 Re: Time in Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1115 Re: Time in Hamlet

>What I suspect is
>that Hamlet from the lost version alluded to by Greene to the F1 version
>is a single play undergoing a process of development across almost forty
>years of performances. At every performance, the dramatist may arrive
>at new insights which he can pen into the next performance. At some
>point the question of the ambiguity of Hamlet's age occurred to him, and
>he realized a greater value in its ambiguity than in erasing it.

Clifford, I'm stunned.  Are you really supporting authorial intent?

Mike Jensen

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Monday, 14 May 2001 13:36:14 -0400
Subject: 12.1115 Re: Time in Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1115 Re: Time in Hamlet

Cliff Stetner writes, "it seems that Hamlet occupies two different ages
simultaneously" -- precisely so -- both in terms of chronology and
psychology.  On the one hand, Burbage could NOT have convincingly played
a 16-year old, but he surely could have impersonated a 30-year-old man
who sometimes acts like a 16-year old.

It's not hard to spot the points in the play where Hamlet seems to act
and think like an adolescent. One place is in 1.2, where he comes across
as a spoiled brat. Both his first and second confrontation with the
Ghost show Hamlet regressing back to childhood, like a young boy in awe
and fear of his father. Now, I grant you that most of us would be
frightened out of our wits by the sight of a ghost. But you know, if I
saw the ghost of my father (who is now dead), I'm pretty sure that after
the initial shock, what would take over would be intimate conversation
between both of us. In fact, I'm sure of it.

That this kind of conversation does NOT go on tells us a lot about the
Ghost: even if he is Hamlet's father (and I think he is), the bond
between father and son was/is a formal one, as between commander and
soldier, just the wrong kind of parental relationship for a sensitive
child/man such as Hamlet, Jr.  Even before he sees the Ghost, Hamlet
seems to me to suffer from a split between his emotions and his
intellect.  He has the mind of an adult and the emotions of an
adolescent boy.  The Ghost simply magnifies the problem a thousand fold.
It's worth remembering that Hamlet's first soliloquy, with all of its
attendant problems, occurs BEFORE he meets the Ghost.

In fact, Ophelia's situation in many ways mirrors Hamlet's own. She too
is cursed with a father who wants complete obedience, and who uses her
for his own ends.  In that respect, Polonius is Old Hamlet's double in
the play, and just as Ophelia's obedience to her father is suspect, so,
in the end, is Hamlet's.  That in life Hamlet Sr. might have been more
like Polonius than the idealized figure of young Hamlet's memory is
worth contemplating. His single-handed combat with Old Norway, after
all, is foolish, isn't it?  Hamlet finds Ophelia lacking because she
allows herself to be used by her father, but what in heaven's name is
young Hamlet doing but the exact same thing?

So, I end this too-long post by suggesting that the "double age" of
Hamlet is psychologically appropriate, and by noting that, among all of
things that this brilliant play is about, it may also be about the harm
that distant, inadequate fathers do to their children.  Hamlet, Ophelia,
and Fortinbras -- all three act like children at times, and all three
can be said to be cases of arrested development. When Fortinbras takes
over at the end, he guarantees that the same cycle of inadequate fathers
will continue.

At the very core of Hamlet (and of other plays during Shakespeare's
great tragic period) may be Shakespeare's own guilt for having not been
a good enough parent to Hamnet and Susanna and Judith. After all, like
Hamlet, Sr., Shakespeare basically left town for another realm of
existence and then suddenly (but infrequently) appeared to them,
seemingly out of nowhere.

--Ed Taft

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Monday, 14 May 2001 12:00:22 -0700
Subject: 12.1115 Re: Time in Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1115 Re: Time in Hamlet

Clifford Stetner notes that

>The question then is not what is the true age of Hamlet, but which of
>the possible readings supported by the texts can be safely disqualified,
>and my psychobabble, as far as I can see, can not.

Two points:

1. Theories don't always have to be exclusive.  I'm not sure if a
Freudian reading would be particularly destroyed by showing that all the
hints towards Hamlet's age are consistent, nor would such a reading of
the play as temporally consistent necessarily destroy a Freudian
reading.  We would have to change to asking about why characters (or the
author, or whatever) choose particular bits of imagery, instead of why
Hamlet has two ages.

2. Maybe the 'psychobabble', as you rather term put your Freudian
reading, can't be disqualified because Freudian readings never can.
This would indicate something wrong with Freudianism itself.  I believe
that someone a few months ago quoted Popper on this question.

Cheers,
Se

 

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