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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: July ::
Re: Hamlet's Clashing Ideals
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1815  Friday, 20 July 2001

[1]     From:   Robin Hamilton <
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        Date:   Thursday, 19 Jul 2001 13:58:58 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1807 Re: Hamlet's Clashing Ideals

[2]     From:   Andrew W. White <
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        Date:   Thursday, 19 Jul 2001 09:39:35 -0400
        Subj:   Re: Hamlet's Clashing Ideals


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robin Hamilton <
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Date:           Thursday, 19 Jul 2001 13:58:58 +0100
Subject: 12.1807 Re: Hamlet's Clashing Ideals
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1807 Re: Hamlet's Clashing Ideals

Mike Jensen quotes:

>   ...as Naomi Liebler observes, "the 'Mousetrap' seems to
>   operate effectively only for Claudius and Hamlet; the
>   rest of the courtly audience, arguably ignorant of
>   Claudius's crime, see a performance they take to be
>   entirely fictional."

Dramatically, this is the absolutely +necessary+ effect of the scene --
if Claudius had revealed his crime to the whole court, then the
necessity for a wild private justice would collapse, as public justice
would come into play.  If Claudius had failed to reveal his guilt to
Hamlet, then Hamlet would be left in the same state of doubt as to the
validity of the Ghost as he was before.

The Mousetrap in 3.2 is followed by Claudius' admission of guilt in 3.3
-- forensically, this says nothing about The Mousetrap:  dramatically,
it provides, in the juxtaposition, a confirmation of Hamlet's test of
the king's guilt.

The court is not a Court, the play's the thing ...

Robin Hamilton

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew W. White <
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Date:           Thursday, 19 Jul 2001 09:39:35 -0400
Subject:        Re: Hamlet's Clashing Ideals

Excuse me, all, but I am astonished:  both Dr.'s Hawkes and Bradshaw
insist that Claudius, at no time before the "Mousetrap," ever reveals
his guilt to the audience.

Interpret for me, please, this line, which occurs immediately prior to
the "nunnery" scene, which in any edition I can think of _precedes_ that
of the "Mousetrap:"

"How smart a lash that speech doth give my conscience,
The harlots cheeke beautied with plastring art,
Is not more ougly to the thing that helps it,
Then is my deede to my most painted word:
O heavy burthen."

I hope I don't need to remind anyone the context for this speech.  Now,
although modern directors deliberately remove this speech, time and
again, on the grounds that it is 'too explicit', the fact is that
Shakespeare puts it in the play for a specific reason:  Claudius _is_
guilty, and the audience needs to know it in order for the following
scenes to have any real dramatic effect.  Knowing he is guilty actually
_enhances_ the audience's experience of what follows.  The irony that
comes from knowing Claudius' guilt, before anyone else, is not to be
overlooked:  Aristotle prizes this quality in a play, on the level of
the characters as well as the audience.

I will grant that without this pivotal speech all of Claudius' rising
and calling for "lights," all of Hamlet's triumphalism, Horatio's
understatement, let alone Gertrude's "thou hast thy father (i.e.,
step-father, Claudius) much offended" serves to show what a useless,
stupid git the Prince is.  But include that speech in your memories,
sirs, and guess what?  All the cheap theatrics suddenly have meaning,
and actually steer the audience's sympathies _towards_ Hamlet, not away
from him.

Anything that happens during the "Mousetrap" ought to be read in the
light of Claudius' prior confession of his "heavy burthen" -- which I
would arrogantly propose involves something more than cheating on his
taxes.

Andy White
Arlington, VA

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