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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: May ::
Re: Time in Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1240  Monday, 28 May 2001

[1]     From:   Don Bloom <
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        Date:   Friday, 25 May 2001 11:04:14 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1206 Re: Time in Hamlet

[2]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Friday, 25 May 2001 14:06:51 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1206 Re: Time in Hamlet

[3]     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Saturday, 26 May 2001 22:01:53 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1230 Re: Time in Hamlet

[4]     From:   Steve Roth <
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        Date:   Sunday, 27 May 2001 10:20:30 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1230 Re: Time in Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <
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Date:           Friday, 25 May 2001 11:04:14 -0500
Subject: 12.1206 Re: Time in Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1206 Re: Time in Hamlet

Maybe I'm as obdurate as Bill Godshalk (with or without either antiques
or charms) but I would like to know how, save by ouija board, T. Hawkes
can be so positive that in

>               Let four captains
>Bear Hamlet like a soldier to the stage,
>For he was likely, had he been put on,
>To have prov'd most royal; and for his passage,
>The soldier's music and the rite of war
>Speak loudly for him.
>Take up the bodies . . .
>(V, 2, 400-406, Arden edition)
>
-- 'he' in line 402 refers to Hamlet, 'his' in line 403 refers to
>Claudius?

When I have a sequence of similar pronouns I assume that they all have
the same referent, especially when the same concept -- soldierliness --
is indicated in both sentences.

Are we inserting a stage direction [points to King] here that got left
out of the printed text?

Just interested (and obdurate, I)
don

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Friday, 25 May 2001 14:06:51 -0400
Subject: 12.1206 Re: Time in Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1206 Re: Time in Hamlet

Terry Hawkes writes:

>Bill Godshalk's obduracy is acquiring an antique charm.

And I respond: I should hope so!

Terry goes on:

>Where 'he' in line 402 refers to Hamlet, 'his' in line 403 refers to
>Claudius.

Unfortunately, this reading violates the Laws of Reference, and we
should certainly arrest any proclivity we may have to accept Terry's
reading which, he says, "offers itself irresistibly to the actor and
falls readily from his lips." (I always like to see a reading falling
readily from the lips of an actor -- no kidding! If you keep writing
like that, Terry, we shall have to take your Golden Quill away.)

Claudius is not mentioned in Fortinbras's final speech, and "his" must,
by convention, refer to Hamlet -- unless, of course, Terry can produce a
stage direction in Shakespeare's undoubted hand that reads: Fortinbras
here points at Claudius -- or kicks him with the toe of his boot as is
the wont of conquering princes.

Yours, Bill Godshalk

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Saturday, 26 May 2001 22:01:53 -0400
Subject: 12.1230 Re: Time in Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1230 Re: Time in Hamlet

T. Hawkes' proposal that Fortinbras' elegiac tribute is paid to
Claudius, not Hamlet, may or may not be brilliant.  It perforce depends
on some elaborate theatrical subversion of a basic rule of English
grammar, as powerful at the turn of C17 as now, that a pronoun refers to
the nearest preceding noun of the appropriate gender and number.  In the
text (Q1, Q2, F) that's "Hamlet" (Arden 5.2.401), the nearest preceding
explicit reference to Claudius coming 27 lines earlier in the First
Ambassador's speech reporting the deaths of Rosencrantz and
Guildenstern, and even that doesn't actually name him: "The ears are
senseless that should give us hearing. . .  ." (Arden 5.2.374).  Nor do
"the soldier's music and the rite of war" seem to me appropriate to
Claudius, whose first official act in the play is to use diplomacy
rather than war to deflect the warlike Fortibras, who deals with the
rebellious Laertes in much the same way, and who attacks Hamlet by hired
assassin (Laertes) and poison rather than by frontal assault.

David Evett

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Roth <
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Date:           Sunday, 27 May 2001 10:20:30 -0700
Subject: 12.1230 Re: Time in Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1230 Re: Time in Hamlet

Re: Clifford's comments:

>I meant that the text intentionally is constructed to prevent an answer
>to the question it pointedly raises of Hamlet's age.

Ah! I guess I missed that because the suggestion of intentionality was
so unexpected. <g>

>the obscurity of its transmission dooms us permanently to
>undemonstrable conjecture.

True indeed. But some conjectures bear more force than others.

>As I replied above to Sean, the assertion
>that Hamlet must and does have a true age disqualifies the assertion
>that he need not and does not.

I would phrase it somewhat differently: "The assertion that Hamlet as
presented at X date was unequivocally a youth makes it even more
interesting that it's so contradictory and ambiguous elsewhere." The
explanation may be an intentional adjustment for performance, or an
intentional creation of ambiguity. Or both, or something else. So I
guess we agree.

>What I was able to read of your paper seemed to me to imply that we can
>separate a sixteen year old Hamlet created by Shakespeare from the
>confusion of ages in F1 created by imperfect non Shakespearean
>redaction. If I read wrong, please correct me.

I would (though with little solid evidence) tend to give Will credit for
both the ambiguous and non-ambiguous versions. I would not give
authority to either one. (As I mentioned in a previous post, this is
easy for me to say because I don't have to deliver a single text with
one reading or another.)

We don't (I think...) have evidence of any other company script doctor
operating at the Globe, though others were writers at about this time,
notably Armin. Is there solid external evidence out there of prompt-book
holders at the Globe making substantive revisions?

>ambiguities in versions of the
>text must be inadvertent confusions of what was originally definite in
>the intention of the author

No, it's obvious to me that the four obtrusive items were put there for
a reason that involved depicting Hamlet as a 30-year-old.

> I admit I pushed the issue a little far by implying
>that both quartos and the folio were specifically designed and planted
>to mirror an emerging recognition that the source of problems confronted
>in the mature ego (i.e. the Folio) lies in its immature developmental
>stages.

Yeah, but it's a great conceit.

>I've seen enough evidence of premeditated
>ambiguities to make me a very insecure reader.

Something we should all aspire to. Justified insecurity is, I think, a
healthy psychological state. I believe they used to call it humility,
and cited it as a virtue. <g>

Takashi Kozuka wrote:

>we
>must consider not just the age and/or appearance of the actor who plays
>Hamlet (or whatever the role is) and its impact upon the audience, but
>also the cause(s) of such impact/reaction which could be originated in
>the audience as well as in the actor or actress.

Thanks for the clarification. I think it's especially interesting to
look at the Elizabethan audience, as the historical setting--the matter
that those audiences brought to the play--would constitute a large part
of the cause(s) of the impact/reaction. The author's proleptic
anticipation of that reaction would also of course be a major driving
force in the creative process. Even more so if the play is being revised
after being performed.

So that raises a question that I, at least, have not answered
satisfactorily: What reaction might Shakespeare have anticipated in his
audience to a young hamlet, an older hamlet, or a hamlet presented
ambiguously? What effect would these have achieved in an Elizabethan
audience? (McGee's Elizabethan Hamlet does address this, and others have
as well.)

I have looked some at how these different Hamlets put the punchline to
various jokes, which is certainly one of Will's ongoing goals for
audience reaction. A fertile ground for further study.

Thanks,
Steve
http://princehamlet.com

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