The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1269 Wednesday, 30 May 2001
Date: Monday, 28 May 2001 08:40:51 -0700
Subject: Retitled: Rites of War for Hamlet or Claudius?
>"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.
I agree that the rites of war are for Hamlet, not Claudius. I think it
worth pointing out, though, that Claudius has better credentials as a
soldier than Hamlet, who has only been in battle with the pirates, and
that only briefly. Claudius says (iv.vii), "I've seen myself, and serv'd
against, the French."
And Fortinbras doesn't even know about Hamlet and the pirates. This
unless you adopt the pretty tenuous idea of Derek Savage, in "Hamlet and
the Pirates" (1951). He suggests that Hamlet was actually in league with
Fortinbras, cutting a deal to get his army's support in taking the
throne, in return for giving back the lands surrendered in the single
As I say, damned tenuous, but alluring. Despite some serious missteps,
Savage does a pretty good job of marshalling evidence in support. (i.e.,
What in the hell is Fortinbras doing at Elsinore at that moment? Can
always argue dramatic necessity, of course.... <g>)
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