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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: July ::
Re: To be or not to be
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1754  Friday, 13 July 2001

[1]     From:   Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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        Date:   Thursday, 12 Jul 2001 09:17:08 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1742 Re: To be or not to be

[2]     From:   Hugh Grady <
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        Date:   Thursday, 12 Jul 2001 13:47:25 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 12.1733 Re: To be or not to be

[3]     From:   Vick Bennison <
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        Date:   Thursday, 12 Jul 2001 15:09:37 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1742 Re: To be or not to be

[4]     From:   Graham Bradshaw <
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        Date:   Friday, 13 Jul 2001 11:24:23 +0900
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1742 Re: To be or not to be


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karen Peterson-Kranz <
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Date:           Thursday, 12 Jul 2001 09:17:08 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 12.1742 Re: To be or not to be
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1742 Re: To be or not to be

Bruce Young's reading of the III.i speech seems reasonable and quite
convincing to me.

> What if he's thinking of Claudius and
> what Claudius has
> done (killed his father and married his mother) when
> he lists the
> various things he's suffering

He notes that

> (I've had to leave out "The pangs of despised love,
> the law's delay,"
> because they don't fit as well ... but with a little
> ingenuity, who
> knows?)

Not even all that much ingenuity.  If, as Bruce suggests, one way (among
many) of reading the speech is to concentrate on the particular
injustices done by Claudius, "despised love" could easily be seen as a
reference to "love" in the courtier's sense of political favor and/or
loyalty, rather than in an erotic or familial sense.  As Bruce goes on
to mention, this interpretation of "despised love" would fit rather well
with Hamlet's later statement on how Claudius has "popp'd in between th'
election and my hopes."  And "the law's delay," similarly, could be seen
as referring to the delay or absence of a judgement on the correctness
of Claudius's claims to the throne, against those of the younger Hamlet.

> Of course, Hamlet is generalizing: he's not just
> talking about Claudius.

Of course.  But as a courtier (albeit an occasionally reluctant one)
Hamlet would have long been accustomed to employing the art of courtly
double-speak: making the language of the more general, personal realm
apply to a particular political situation.

So it seems to me, at least.  Thank you for an intriguing post, Bruce.

Cheers,
Karen Peterson

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Hugh Grady <
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Date:           Thursday, 12 Jul 2001 13:47:25 -0400
Subject: 12.1733 Re: To be or not to be
Comment:        RE: SHK 12.1733 Re: To be or not to be

The problems of brotherly relationships and their sexual undertones is a
topic in Louis Montrose's article, "The Place of a Brother in AYL:
Social Process and Comic Form, SQ 32 (Spring 1981). There are also
several articles discussing parallels between the comic AYL and the
tragic "King Lear."

Best,
Hugh Grady

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Vick Bennison <
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Date:           Thursday, 12 Jul 2001 15:09:37 EDT
Subject: 12.1742 Re: To be or not to be
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1742 Re: To be or not to be

[I don't feel like copying all the relevant text from the previous post
of John Ramsay, Bruce Young, and Andrew White.  I'll just speak to
each.]

Quietus:  Latin word meaning "resting, sleeping, at peace".

Quietus est:  apparently a legal term meaning "payment received" or more
literally "it is put to  rest".

John Ramsay.  I don't believe Hamlet would have been carrying around a
long sword (or more likely rapier) when he happens upon Claudius at
prayer.  When he thinks of killing him there, he is probably carrying
and thinking dagger.  Besides, after five or six inches of length, a
dagger is as good at killing as a rapier, and actually better at close
quarters.  So while we are arguing the same side of the question, I
don't agree with the dagger vs. rapier argument.  The bodkin would be
quite useful for killing either oneself or someone else.

Bruce Young:  Well, if you require me to leave out "The pangs of
despised love, the law's delay," then you weaken my case decidedly in
your favor.  Leaving them in the list makes the list seem an enumeration
of common woes of everyman, which is exactly what I think it is meant to
be.  The fact that he throws in a lot of items that are currently on his
mind, does not mean that he intends it only to be a list of his own
grievances against Claudius.  And I still maintain whatever is meant by
"quietus", it will be attained by doing something that causes his
death.  A suicidal act, whether direct or indirect.  He is talking plain
(or unspecified) suicide for everyman, and is either talking plain
suicide for himself or the suicidal act of revenge.  The "quietus" has
to encompass plain suicide.  The particular kind of suicide that Hamlet
is considering seems only mildly relevant.   "quietus" in Latin means
"resting, sleeping, at peace."  The only reason I can think of not to
accept that meaning is that Shakespeare uses the word as a noun rather
than an adjective.  Not too sound reasoning, given how Shakespeare, even
in English, is always changing nouns to adjectives and vice versa.
"quietus est" may have meant  "payment received" and perhaps he
shortened it to "quietus" for the sake of the meter, but I believe that
at the very least he had in mind a double meaning with half of it
meaning suicide.  Furthermore, I don't see why "quietus est", if that's
what he intended, would necessarily mean revenge.  After all, "the wages
of sin, is death", so if god paid Hamlet the wages for his sins, Hamlet
would give god a "quietus est" in return.

Andrew White:  Read the above.  I've expended all the energy I have for
this subject, for the time being, on that explanation.  So I'm simply
declaring your reasoning more convoluted that my own and claiming
victory.  (Wait, he can't do that can he?  Can he do that?)  ;^)

I have to go get a little quietus,
Vick Bennison

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Graham Bradshaw <
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Date:           Friday, 13 Jul 2001 11:24:23 +0900
Subject: 12.1742 Re: To be or not to be
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1742 Re: To be or not to be

> Besides, stab Claudius, and you don't have any more drunken orgies...

This is a good example of what I take to be the basic problem in the
history of Hamlet criticism: seeing the play Hamlet--and in this case
Claudius--through Prince Hamlet's eyes.

Claudius has tottered with his goblet through countless productions, but
where's the evidence that he's a drunk? Hamlet says so, in a speech
where he also says that the heavy drinking in the Danish court has led
other countries to despise Denmark. Since Claudius has only just become
King, that can't be true. Or rather, if it is true, it explains why
Hamlet's father needed his afternoon naps.

Best wishes,
Graham Bradshaw

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