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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: July ::
Re: Hamlet's Clashing Ideals
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1712  Sunday, 8 July 2001

[1]     From:   Paul E. Doniger <
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        Date:   Friday, 6 Jul 2001 13:09:40 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 12.1704 Re: Hamlet's Clashing Ideals

[2]     From:   Paul E. Doniger <
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        Date:   Friday, 6 Jul 2001 13:20:18 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 12.1708 Re: Hamlet's Clashing Ideals


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul E. Doniger <
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Date:           Friday, 6 Jul 2001 13:09:40 -0400
Subject: Re: Hamlet's Clashing Ideals
Comment:        SHK 12.1704 Re: Hamlet's Clashing Ideals

Perhaps I was hasty in referring to the deaths of Laertes and Gertrude
as 'murder' (one could even argue that Gertrude's death is a suicide).
Would you not agree, at least, that Claudius is exposed as being
partially responsible for these deaths? Perhaps in modern terms he might
be found guilty in a case of wrongful death, had anyone survived to
bring charges against him. At the very least, he is an accessory in the
case.

It seems to me, incidentally, that when Laertes claims: "The King's to
blame," he is referring to more than the death of Hamlet (note: he makes
no mention of the murder of Old Hamlet, of which he apparently knows
nothing); he has just made reference to his own imminent and Gertrude's
recent deaths.

I must disagree, moreover, that the Ghost has initiated the situation.
Had he not been the victim of his brother's crime, the situation would
never have come into existence.

Paul E. Doniger

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul E. Doniger <
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Date:           Friday, 6 Jul 2001 13:20:18 -0400
Subject: Re: Hamlet's Clashing Ideals
Comment:        SHK 12.1708 Re: Hamlet's Clashing Ideals

David Bishop writes:

> Paul Doniger takes "taint not thy mind" and "don't hurt your mother" as
> separate imperatives. I think they're the same. Rhetorically, at least,
> the ghost's anger seems directed as much at "luxury and damned incest"
> as at murder. But both Claudius and Gertrude could be accused of incest,
> in the ghost's view. Therefore why shouldn't Hamlet kill them both? A
> partial answer is that killing his own mother would taint his mind, in a
> way that killing his uncle would not.

This is an interesting reading, and I would agree but for one word: In
his comments to his son, the Ghost says, "Taint not thy mind, NOR let
thy soul contrive / Against thy mother aught" (emphasis mine). That
little word, 'nor', suggests a shift in thought from one idea to a
different (almost opposite) idea. I think, therefore, they are two
separate commands; certainly, killing his mother would taint Hamlet's
mind, but so would an act of revenge -- as it does to the protagonists
of most other revenge plays: Titus is a very tainted avenger, as is
Hieronimo, as is Vindice, etc., etc., etc. It seems to me that the Ghost
is warning Hamlet against the dangers of vengeance taking.

Paul E. Doniger

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