Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: May ::
Re: Time in Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1168  Tuesday, 22 May 2001

[1]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 18 May 2001 11:19:25 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1158 Re: Time in Hamlet

[2]     From:   Larry Weiss <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 18 May 2001 13:05:44 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1158 Re: Time in Hamlet

[3]     From:   Edmund Taft <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 18 May 2001 13:41:42 -0400
        Subj:   Re: Time in Hamlet

[4]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 21 May 2001 01:31:12 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1128 Re: Time in Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 18 May 2001 11:19:25 -0400
Subject: 12.1158 Re: Time in Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1158 Re: Time in Hamlet

>'Who is Hamlet's REAL father?' has always been one of the crucial
>Shakespearean questions. The dawning realisation that it's Claudius
>gives the final gathering up of the bodies  -particularly when
>Fortinbras's words are spoken properly- its most disturbing dimension.

writes Terence Hawkes.

When Terence is willing to countenance "reality" within a fiction, I
become quite alarmed.  Obviously, fictional characters do not have real
fathers; they have fictional fathers. And who precisely is Hamlet's
fictional father? And how can you tell for sure since fictional
characters are begotten without recourse to intercourse?

And -- most important -- how should Fortinbras's words be spoken -- and
which words are we to speak properly? I prepare myself for an attack of
levity.

Yours, Bill Godshalk

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 18 May 2001 13:05:44 -0400
Subject: 12.1158 Re: Time in Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1158 Re: Time in Hamlet

>If I understand this correctly, you're saying that an attempt to fix
>Hamlet's age is essentially tautological? If that's correct, I would
>like to disagree.

It's not exactly correct.   A director needs to fix Hamlet's age in
advance in order to cast an appropriate actor (unless the job has been
done pro tanto in a star driven production) as well as to make other
dramaturgical choices.  But, for the audience Hamlet's age has already
been fixed as the age the actor appears to be.  To be sure, there is a
history of idiosyncratic casting against type, and my point does not
work when non-traditional choices are made; but when the production is
intended to present the story as written, Hamlet will be perceived by
the audience to be about as old as the actor is or is made up to appear.

This threatens to segue into the thread about color-blind casting.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 18 May 2001 13:41:42 -0400
Subject:        Re: Time in Hamlet

Steve Roth writes:

"I believe [my] theory is both supported by and demonstrative of
(Clifford will like this, I think) the creative release that men feel
upon their father's deaths. So I find the play's dual "coming of age"
themes (Hamlet's and the modern world's) echoed in the coming of age
that men experience when their fathers are no longer looking over their
shoulders. This paragraph is perhaps psychobabble, but I find it
compelling."

So do I.  Park Honan argues that Shakespeare only felt free to pursue
some of his investments after his father's death.  That's a practical
example, of course, but it follows the same psychological dynamic. I
might add that those of us who have lost fathers also often notice that
there is a "double reaction" that soon sets in: on the one hand, the
sense of freedom that Roth and Honan note; and, on the other hand, the
subsequent realization that this "freedom" leads, ineluctably, to our
acting more and more like the father we thought we had freed ourselves
of!  Hamlet's oft-noted "coarseness" as the play draws to its end seems
to merge him with his dead father. In fact, after Hamlet has been
poisoned, he is a walking, talking dead man, much like the Ghost that he
met in 1.5.

On the matter of Hamlet's age, the iconoclastic Leah Marcus notes in
_Unediting the Renaissance_ (New York & London: Routledge, 1996), pp.
147, that in Q1 "[Hamlet] is a young man of about twenty. . . ."  She
theorizes that Burbage, as he aged, may have found it harder and harder
to play the role, so, around 1601-03, Shakespeare wrote Q2, in which the
prince is 30 years old.  On the other hand, Q1 might be later than Q2
and an acting version of the play meant for one of the fine, young
apprentice actors -- say, the boy who plays Rosalind in _As You Like
It_.  However you slice it, Hamlet's age continues to be a problem --
and the real answer to the question may be gone forever in the lost
interstices hidden in the dark backward and abysm of time.

--Ed Taft

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 21 May 2001 01:31:12 -0400
Subject: 12.1128 Re: Time in Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1128 Re: Time in Hamlet

First I would like apologize for leaving posts on and off list
unanswered and to inform the handful of list members who knew my father
from Brooklyn College, Columbia and C.W. Post that he passed away early
Monday morning from cancer. He was cremated, and his immediate family
will be scattering his ashes around the Columbia library as per his
wishes next week. I nevertheless could not postpone my oral exam on
Wednesday (passed) which I have been studying for the past year, so it
has been an emotionally difficult week.

For what it's worth, having been raised atheist, the son of a
Shakespearean scholar, I find that my recourse in times of personal
tragedy is to Shakespearean texts.  When my father finally slipped into
coma and died the next day, I thought immediately of Brutus learning of
the death of Portia and the stoic philosophy his reaction seems to
illustrate.  And his cremation puts me in mind of the Phoenix and the
Turtle at whose urn I can only sigh a prayer and go on.

Mike Jensen writes:

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

I think it's impossible not to speculate about what an author was
thinking when he chose one set of words over another.  The question is
whether we can ever get beyond speculation, and whether the internal
ruminations of the sole author are positioned in our analyses of textual
relics as the be-all and end-all of textual meaning.

Ed Taft writes that Hamlet:

>...has the mind of an adult and the emotions of an
> adolescent boy.

It's also interesting to note that this was a somewhat cliche form of
compliment for an adolescent, while we would take it as a character flaw
in an adult, so even if we agree as to the disjunction, its significance
still depends on Hamlet's "true" age.

>Hamlet's first soliloquy, with all of its
>attendant problems, occurs BEFORE he meets the Ghost.

And it could have been just as easily rendered the other way round.  In
this order, it supports the ambiguity as to Hamlet's sanity.  Had he
been a happy go lucky amorous prince until the interview with the ghost,
we would be much more secure in seeing his antic behavior as the pure
dramatics he claims, but we know that his prophetic soul and so
particular depression has been working on his imagination at least since
the also ambiguously dated death .  Furthermore, the order of events is
not something we would easily mark as auditors of the play.  It would
take at least two viewings to notice it at all, and would probably only
be clear to readers.

Se

 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.