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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: August ::
Re: The Tragedy of Claudius
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2009  Saturday, 18 August 2001

[1]     From:   Brian Haylett <
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        Date:   Thursday, 16 Aug 2001 15:27:28 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1996 Re: The Tragedy of Claudius

[2]     From:   Brian Haylett <
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        Date:   Thursday, 16 Aug 2001 17:21:40 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1995 Re: The Tragedy of Claudius

[3]     From:   Don Bloom <
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        Date:   Friday, 17 Aug 2001 15:13:15 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1995 Re: The Tragedy of Claudius


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Haylett <
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Date:           Thursday, 16 Aug 2001 15:27:28 +0100
Subject: 12.1996 Re: The Tragedy of Claudius
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1996 Re: The Tragedy of Claudius

>Shakespeare's assumptions (assuming that he held any) of what his
>audience understood in the case of "cousin" may surely satisfy the
>honour of Don Bloom and Brian Haylett both. It's all relative.
>
>Best Wishes,
>Graham Hall

Well, yes, it would. But it really is necessary to mention the word
'cousin', or 'coz' or whatever. I mean the Elizabethan audience might
think Fortinbras is a camelopard on this basis of
guess-what-I'm-thinking-of.

Is this perhaps an example of literary theory?

Brian Haylett

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Haylett <
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Date:           Thursday, 16 Aug 2001 17:21:40 +0100
Subject: 12.1995 Re: The Tragedy of Claudius
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1995 Re: The Tragedy of Claudius

Edmund Taft writes:

>I sometimes think that Fortinbras is Hamlet's "secret sharer,"

Yes, I know the feeling. Sometimes I feel like including Laertes - and,
at very daring moments, Claudius. It is perhaps the fear of foisting
allegory upon Shakespeare that stops us. But can one distinguish
whatever it is from the dramatic necessities of the play? A character
who behaves differently from the hero in similar circumstances is going
to turn up in various forms of literature. That said, there remains a
gut feeling that Shakespeare is sometimes not all that far from John
Fowles in 'The Magus' and similar examples.

Brian Haylett

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <
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Date:           Friday, 17 Aug 2001 15:13:15 -0500
Subject: 12.1995 Re: The Tragedy of Claudius
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1995 Re: The Tragedy of Claudius

Brian Haylett writes:

>It is only a couple of
>scenes since the mob were crying 'Choose we: Laertes shall be king'.
>Assuming, as I do, that Laertes was not another concealed cousin, then
>we are dealing with an elective monarchy (as I think Don agrees).

I certainly agree with the statement that "we are dealing with an
elective monarchy." It was apparently well-known to Shakespeare that the
typical Germanic monarchy of that time was elective within a royal
family, and Hamlet mentions that fact twice (see ". . . popped in
between th' election and my hopes" earlier in 5,2). However, I don't
think the mob has a vote, so that bit of business is just another
example of Shakespeare's anti-proletarianism. Laertes never makes a
claim to the throne, and his connection is slight at best (which his
father mentions in 2, 2).

I think this is all much less complicated than people like to make it.
While Hamlet was out of town (and his father, perhaps, in the field),
Uncle Claudius played up to his sister-in-law and built a solid party
within the Danish nobility. When King Hamlet (perhaps returning from the
field) fortuitously dies, Claudius is ready to claim the kingship by
legal vote (young Hamlet having no party built up), and take a new bride
at the same time. Hamlet returns to a fait accompli, not only denied the
crown but faced with the sickening fact of his mother's flagrant,
cheerful, and voluptuous disrespect to his father's memory. He is, as
anyone would be, furiously angry, nauseated, and depressed.

Works for me.

Cheers,
don

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