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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: December ::
Re: Succession
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2711  Monday, 3 December 2001

[1]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Friday, 30 Nov 2001 16:43:43 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2698 Re: Succession

[2]     From:   Virginia Byrne <
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        Date:   Friday, 30 Nov 2001 11:54:54 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2690 Succession

[3]     From:   Graham Hall <
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        Date:   Friday, 30 Nov 2001 18:14:26 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2698 Re: Succession

[4]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Friday, 30 Nov 2001 12:44:49 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2690 Succession

[5]     From:   Judy Lewis <
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        Date:   Monday, 3 Dec 2001 13:47:14 +1200
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2698 Re: Succession


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Friday, 30 Nov 2001 16:43:43 -0000
Subject: 12.2698 Re: Succession
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2698 Re: Succession

I was somewhat surprised to read the rather Romantic characterizations
of pre-Conquest, "Germanic" systems of proto-democratic "election", and
all the guff about them being preserved in modern "acclamation
ceremonies". Dear oh dear. This was all invented out of thin air by
troublemaking 17th-century common lawyers intent on refiguring Magna
Carta as some kind of bill of rights for the well-to-do professional
bourgeoisie, and is at least 120 years out of date. A better idea of all
this can be gleaned from two classic books - The Divine Right of Kings
by Figgis and The Ancient Constitution and the Feudal Law by Pocock -
supplemented by a good text book such as A History of Medieval Political
Philosophy 300-1450 by Canning. By the way, the Alfred the Great case is
not such a good one to pick out as an illustration of some kind of
eminently sensible and settled Anglo-Saxon political system - the break
in traditional primogeniture resulted in protracted internecine war, and
allowed the Danes whose descendants would turn up again in Hamlet to
sneak into Yorkshire. Still, I suppose Alfred made up for it in the end,
which just goes to show that the law is an ass when it comes to picking
Kings and Queens.

On Denmark and its "elective" monarchy - another misnomer, surely... -
this is not Shakespeare giving us a lesson in Danish culture, but
drawing our attention to the fact that very soon Englishmen might have
to sort out some kind of election themselves, as Elizabeth had no
progeny of either or any sex. And this, of course, was just another
chapter in the awkward book of Tudor reproductive inadequacy... out of
which WS made a pretty penny... As it turned out, there was an
"election", but the choice was based on sound genealogical criteria.

martin

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Virginia Byrne <
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Date:           Friday, 30 Nov 2001 11:54:54 EST
Subject: 12.2690 Succession
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2690 Succession

It is my understanding (and if wrong would also like a clarification)
that primogeniture is a fairly 'new' law (or was since it is no longer
applicable effective the current William's coronation)...and that
kingship i.e. in Macbeth, was based on recommendation of the current
crown (Duncan recommended Malcolm) and then election by the thanes
(hence Macbeth won the throne as a war hero after Malcolm's flight and
suspect).Was this also possibly the case in Denmark?

Curious,
Virginia Byrne

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Graham Hall <
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Date:           Friday, 30 Nov 2001 18:14:26 +0000
Subject: 12.2698 Re: Succession
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2698 Re: Succession

> [...]It is my understanding that, traditionally, the king in Denmark was
>elected by the nobles. They did not follow primogeniture like the rest of
>Europe[...].

Not an absolute mechanism in the rest of Europe but often subject to era
and state. Hence, for example, the dramatic Macbeth having some
ambiguity in the circumstances and the real Macbeth even more so.
Shakespeare, with an eye to Jimmy Six, managed his usual obsidian
coverage of the subject then got round it by the use of smoke and
mirrors.

Best wishes,
Graham Hall

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Friday, 30 Nov 2001 12:44:49 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 12.2690 Succession
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2690 Succession

> As I understand it, the principle of succession is
> How is it then, that upon Hamlet's (father) death,
> Claudius, and not the
> prince, becomes king? Is it by virtue of his
> marrying Gertrude? Isn't he
> king before his marriage?

Denmark is an elected monarchy. Hence, Hamlet's dying voice lights upon
Fortinbras. Also, it could explain the curious line when Hamlet
complains that he lacks "advancement".

It also enlightens Claudius's incriminating remark in I. ii. lines
14-16:

Nor have we herein barred
Your better wisdoms, which have freely gone
With this affair along, For all, our thanks.

I can see how it is confusing. But I believe that this line is
Shakespeare's way of informing his audience that Denmark is a slightly
different monarchy than their own England.

Brian Willis

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Judy Lewis <
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Date:           Monday, 3 Dec 2001 13:47:14 +1200
Subject: 12.2698 Re: Succession
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2698 Re: Succession

>Richard III had the children killed out
>of pure paranoia - they were no real threat.

>SAM SMALL

>> If
>> the latter, then this is why Richard III needs to eliminate not only
>> Clarence (George) but also the sons of Edward IV.

I know the thread is about Hamlet but I can't let this go by.  Too many
inaccurate history books and Shakespeare, notwithstanding, Richard III
did not kill his nephews.  This has been proven satisfactorily, "beyond
reasonable doubt", many times.

Nor did he kill Clarence.  King Edward IV had Clarence murdered and
almost certainly the princes were killed at the instigation of the Duke
of Buckingham.

Judy Lewis

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