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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: August ::
Re: The Tragedy of Claudius
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1969  Thursday, 9 August 2001

[1]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 8 Aug 2001 10:28:20 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 12.1954 Re: The Tragedy of Claudius

[2]     From:   Don Bloom <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 08 Aug 2001 10:29:06 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1950 Re: The Tragedy of Claudius


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Wednesday, 8 Aug 2001 10:28:20 -0400
Subject: Re: The Tragedy of Claudius
Comment:        SHK 12.1954 Re: The Tragedy of Claudius

Dear Alan Pierpoint,

'The "thesis" of the Anglo-Saxon warrior society, and its antithesis,
Christian humanism, were locked in conflict in Shakespeare's England.'

Is this really what you teach to your high school seniors? More! More!

T. Hawkes

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <
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Date:           Wednesday, 08 Aug 2001 10:29:06 -0500
Subject: 12.1950 Re: The Tragedy of Claudius
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1950 Re: The Tragedy of Claudius

Brian Haylett writes, commenting on the apparent (or imminent) election
of Young Fortinbras as Danish king at the end of Hamlet:

>Yes, it is surprising - unless Shakespeare is making it obvious, as I
>believe, that Hamlet is responsible for the loss of Denmark to his
>father's enemies . . .

I don't see that Young Fortinbras is necessarily an enemy, nor that
Denmark is somehow lost. It is evident both from Hamlet's dying remark,
and YF's response to Horatio, that they must be cousins, and that with
the end of Hamlet's line the crown would naturally go to some member of
a collateral branch -- and to whom more logically than YF?

No one would consider him an enemy just because he has sharked up a list
of lawless resolutes in an effort to reclaim his inheritance, just an
annoyance that must be dealt with. The best thing to do, in fact, is to
let this young hothead work out his war-fever on some real enemy, such
as the sledded Polack (who is presently occupying some territory that
ought to belong to the Danish (or Danish-Norwegian) crown).

On the same subject, Alan Pierpoint  writes:

"and The 'thesis" of the Anglo-Saxon warrior society, and its
antithesis, Christian humanism, were locked in conflict in Shakespeare's
England.  By projecting that conflict onto medieval Denmark and giving
us a prince with humanistic leanings, and then burdening that same
prince with a father's command for revenge, Shakespeare deconstructs the
major contradiction of his time.  Although he was enough a prisoner of
his place in history not to be able to visualize the "synthesis" of
modern liberal democracy, it seems clear to me that the moral position
of this violent play is not to extol violence, but to expose its
destructiveness, both to life and to "ethics."

If I didn't believe this, I could not in conscience teach this play to
my high school seniors. "

Frankly, I don't buy it. But I'm not altogether sure I understand it
because of the number of rather loaded terms that Alan uses.

In sentence one, for instance, I am unsure about the precise meaning of
either of the two main noun phrases which are alleged to be locked in
combat. Of course, I have my own somewhat squashy sense of the meanings,
but never having thought of them as locked in combat before, their
squashiness betrays me and I remain puzzled. Do you have some examples
of this combat being fought out? Or did you derive the idea from
important theorist that I should have read, but haven't?

Later, he refers to deconstructing a contradiction, but I'm not sure how
that is done. I thought statements were deconstructed, but I may be
quite wrong here. (That is, I think of contradiction as a noun formed
out of a verb that depicts a particular activity of a statement. I could
see contradiction as part of a deconstructive process but not as the
thing deconstructed.)

Still later he calls Shakespeare a prisoner of his time -- but so are we
all. And I think it probably unwise to assume that either Shakespeare's
intention was to attempt -- or his greatest merit to succeed at -- the
creation of liberal democratic moral treatises.

Pardon me for quibbling, but I do think it important not to get too far
into this sort of point without checking to make sure everybody is
meaning the same thing with the words they choose.

Cheers,
don

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