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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: July ::
Re: The Tragedy of Claudius
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1901  Monday, 30 July 2001

From:           John Drakakis <
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Date:           Saturday, 28 Jul 2001 11:36:40 +0100
Subject: 12.1835 Re: The Tragedy of Claudius
Comment:        RE: SHK 12.1835 Re: The Tragedy of Claudius

I'm sorry Brian,

But I'm afraid it IS sentimental of you to prefer Claudius to Macbeth.
You seem to be saying that you don't mind 'white collar' crime (if I can
use n anachronism) but you don't like to see the blood.

Also I'm a little baffled by your desire to identify (or not as the case
may be) with Shakespearean characters. A question worth asking, I think,
is whether Claudius is fully aware in 4.5 of the contradiction in which
he catches himself when he evokes the divine right of kings.  It wasn't
necessarily Shakespeare who as skeptical..Marlowe was too (vid Edward
II: 'But what are kings when regiment is gone / But perfect shadows in a
sunshine day').  You might find Claudius's refusal to get directly
involved in violence in the play a plus for him, but the play extols
violence.  Look at Horatio's description of Old Hamlet's conflict with
Old Fortinbrass, and look at ho Hamlet nominates as ruler of Denmark. Of
course, neither you or I would regard this kind of violence as
acceptable, but the difference between us is hat you want to project
your own sensitivities onto the play.  I submit that what that does is
to distort the action.

As for Sean's 'ethics' versus politics.  Let me say it yet again...his
ethics IS a politics.  There is no such thing as 'found' knowledge, nor
is 'ethics' a first (i.e. uncontaminated) knowledge.  Eve found out the
hard way when she was persuaded to eat apples.  But one for Sean to
ponder.  On what basis does he claim that Claudius is a 'hypocrite'?  Is
he suggesting that Claudius is always aware of what he has done.
Remember, the play is about memory and forgetfulness?  Claudius is, in
this sense a post-modernist avant la lettre...he forgets history and is
only interested in the future.  Hamlet strives for memory in a world
where to forget is de rigeur (vid.  Polonius who at 2.1. 'forgets' what
he was about to say).  It's only by thinking of Claudius as a rounded
'characher' with whom it is possible to identify that some of these
issues get elided.

I think what Brian and Sean need is a good dose of Brecht.

Cheers,
John D

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