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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: November ::
Re: Laertes
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2619  Monday, 19 November 2001

[1]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Friday, 16 Nov 2001 21:03:42 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2615 Re: Laertes

[2]     From:   John Michael Senczuk <
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        Date:   Sunday, 18 Nov 2001 10:30:35 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2615 Re: Laertes

[3]     From:   Stephen Dobbin <
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        Date:   Monday, 19 Nov 2001 09:44:06 +0000 (GMT)
        Subj:   Laertes


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Friday, 16 Nov 2001 21:03:42 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 12.2615 Re: Laertes
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2615 Re: Laertes

> It (Laertes) says, "My thoughts and wishes bend
> again toward France"
>
> And Polonius says, "H'ath, my lord, wrung from me my
> slow leave/By
> laborsome petition, and at last/Upon his will I
> seal'd my hard consent."

What I find interesting is that Laertes must beg Polonius. Does Polonius
have proof that Laertes will engage in the activities he asks Reynaldo
to watch for? Or does he merely fear to allow Laertes to make his way on
his own free will, much like he restricts Ophelia? (Or in many
intriguing ways, how Hamlet is restricted from living his life by his
father's imperative to revenge his foul murder and by his surrogate
father Claudius's desire to stay in Denmark away from Wittenberg?) What
is wrong with traveling abroad? Why must death for Hamlet come in
England? Why does Denmark's demise come because of outside invasion?
Many issues...many wills imposing themselves. All except Hamlet's of
course. :) Unless you think that his own will interrupts and impedes his
sense of duty.

Brian Willis

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Michael Senczuk <
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Date:           Sunday, 18 Nov 2001 10:30:35 +1000
Subject: 12.2615 Re: Laertes
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2615 Re: Laertes

It seems to me that Laertes, the scholar, is uncomfortable at Court; he
returns home for the funeral/wedding presumably at the request of his
father (protocol?). His awkward reticence when spoken to publically by
the new king testifies to his displacement. Fortinbras, the soldier, is
also remote from Court and must be recalled by his 'impotent' uncle.
Hamlet, 'our courtier cousin' is home! Which of the three 'act'?
Fortinbras is determined in his Polish expedition and his attempt to
reclaim the land his father lost; Laertes is provoked to action on
learning of the death of his father ... and both he and Fortinbras
somehow become entwined as an entity with the former's return to Elsinor
with the rabble 'Danish dogs'. What an extraordinary adjustment the
actor playing Laertes must make between his two appearances at the
Danish Court! Laerte's brotherly concern for his sister (her virginity
and her reputation) on his departure for Paris is perfunctory (much of
the reasoning is provided implicitly by Polonius elsewhere over the
course of the narrative)and sits strategically to provide us with an
insight into Ophelia's character not his own.

John Senczuk

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephen Dobbin <
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Date:           Monday, 19 Nov 2001 09:44:06 +0000 (GMT)
Subject:        Laertes

My Shakespeare tutor at university, the late J M Nosworthy, argued that
the text of Hamlet betrays evidence of being specifically revised for a
tour which the company knew would include the university towns of Oxford
and Cambridge. In consequence the play adopts a positive, sometimes
flattering image of students and student life.

Among the many arguments he puts forward is (and I grossly over
simplify) the fact that all the good guys have been to university and
Claudius hasn't. (The parallel being akin to Hollywood movies set in
ancient Rome where all the villains have English accents!)

Unfortunately, the Elizabethan/Jacobean mindset requires that a young
tragic hero may only be killed 'unfairly' e.g. by treachery (Hamlet) or
overwhelming numbers ('Tis Pity). Laertes, therefore, could not be
allowed to kill Hamlet in a 'fair' fight, but neither - for the campus
tour - could a university student kill by treachery.

So there is a possibility that , in the original Globe text of the play,
Laertes may have been specifically identified as a student but that
these references were deleted or made ambiguous in order that the person
who kills Hamlet cannot be identified as a university graduate.

Personally I see Laertes as a struggling writer. He lives in a Parisian
garret with a painter called Marcello. One day the poor flower-girl
called Mimi.....

Stephen Dobbin.

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