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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: June ::
Re: Time in Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1327  Sunday, 3 June 2001

[1]     From:   Debra  Murphy <
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        Date:   Friday, 1 Jun 2001 11:27:43 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1309 Re: Time in Hamlet

[2]     From:   Robin Hamilton <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 30 May 2001 19:12:21 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1270 Re: Time in Hamlet

[3]     From:   Robin Hamilton <
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        Date:   Saturday, 2 Jun 2001 05:33:16 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1309 Re: Time in Hamlet

[4]     From:   David Bishop <
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        Date:   Saturday, 2 Jun 2001 14:48:06 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1309 Re: Time in Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Debra  Murphy <
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Date:           Friday, 1 Jun 2001 11:27:43 EDT
Subject: 12.1309 Re: Time in Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1309 Re: Time in Hamlet

     Pronouns aside, it may be worth noting that Fortinbras seems to
     embody
     the values and attitudes of Old Hamlet, while Hamlet, Jr.'s
     sensitivity
     and intelligence are both characteristics of Claudius. It's true
     that
     Claudius is a murderer, but so, in the end, is Hamlet. Claudius
     also
     beds Gertrude, but Hamlet may want to do the same thing. And
     Claudius,
     of course, is king: a position Hamlet expected; at least he
     implies so
     in Act 5.

     I think we need to interview Gertrude about all this.

     --Ed Taft

I have always thought Branagh's film was putting this forward as a
possibility.  He clearly has Gertrude and Claudius canoodling well
before King Hamlet's death (by way of flashbacks), and seems to make a
point of showing Claudius and Hamlet nose to nose with their
identically-colored platinum blonde hair, whereas King Hamlet's was the
usual "sable silvered". Certainly adds to the mix!

Debra  Murphy

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[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robin Hamilton <
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Date:           Wednesday, 30 May 2001 19:12:21 +0100
Subject: 12.1270 Re: Time in Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1270 Re: Time in Hamlet

> From:           Terence Hawkes <
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>The same is true of Hamlet.

I wonder just a little whether this is so.  One way of looking at
_Hamlet_ is that it's a play with ALL the stage-directions ripped out.
This occasionally occurs elsewhere (which poor fool is hanged in
_Lear_?) but it's pervasive in _Hamlet_.

Professor Hawkes' reading of Fortinbras' concluding eulogy turns on just
this point.

Normally I'm not much in favour of jumping into time machines, but for
once I'd buy a ticket to the Globe in 1601.

Depending on which direction the actor playing Fortinbras was looking
would neatly resolve this point.

Robin Hamilton

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robin Hamilton <
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Date:           Saturday, 2 Jun 2001 05:33:16 +0100
Subject: 12.1309 Re: Time in Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1309 Re: Time in Hamlet

>David Bishop is absolutely right. If only there were some TEXTUAL
>evidence -- say if  Claudius actually referred to Hamlet as his son.
>Crazy, I agree.
>
>Back to sleep.
>
>T. Hawkes

It's just as well we have Claudius' soliloquy in 3.2 proclaiming his
guilt, as otherwise we'd have no evidence, textual (albeit manifested as
verbal and physical activity on stage) or otherwise, demonstrating
conclusively that he did kill Old Hamlet.  Certainly this scene could be
cut from production, but then we'd have a different play, even more
ambiguous than the currently received text(s).

But there +is+ fairly clear textual evidence to support Professor
Hawkes' point:

IV, 5, 113ff...

QUEEN GERTRUDE                           Camly, good Laertes.

LAERTES   That drop of blood that's calm proclaims me bastard,
   Cries cuckold to my father, brands the harlot
   Even here between the chaste unsmirched brow
   Of my true mother.

As Hamlet is, if not calm, at least disitinctly calmer than Laertes, it
would seem to follow that Hamlet is indeed a bastard.  And while
Laertes'
speech does not prove quite conclusively who the father of this
illegitimate
Hamlet is, Claudius is the most likely candidate to have cuckolded the
queen
...

What must Gertrude have felt, how did the actress playing her react, to
having her guilt so clearly portrayed?

Robin Hamilton

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Bishop <
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Date:           Saturday, 2 Jun 2001 14:48:06 -0400
Subject: 12.1309 Re: Time in Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1309 Re: Time in Hamlet

Claudius wants to smooth things over, and induce the aggressively
mourning Hamlet to think of him as of a father, since his own father has
died, as fathers do; Claudius already can call himself Hamlet's
stepfather, as he can call Hamlet a cousin, a little more than kin and
less than kind.

An audience member roused from slumber at the moment Claudius says "our
son" could be forgiven for thinking he was announcing his paternity to
the court, but it's difficult to see how a quintessentially reasonable
person, with head and heart awake, could come to this conclusion. Nor do
I seriously think T. Hawkes has done so. I'd rather believe, until he
disabuses me, that he means the idea of Claudius as a father to Hamlet
was designed, and can be felt, as a "structural possibility" tugging the
audience's minds in the direction of uncertainty, as so much else in
this play so designedly does.  In that case Hamlet's suspicion that
Claudius might be his father, at whatever level of his consciousness
that suspicion might play, could delay him in something like the way
Ernest Jones's Hamlet was delayed.

I doubt it, though I do see Hamlet's sense of unlikeness to his father,
which implicitly associates him with the also unlike Claudius. The
unHerculean Hamlet, bemoaning his mysteriously becalmed blood, feels
somehow, I would say, that his mother's "broken faith", a failing kin to
his own slowness to revenge, among other "sins", helps put him, morally
speaking, in bed with his father's successor. But let's not go crazy.
Claudius never "actually refers" to Hamlet as his literal son.

Best wishes,
David Bishop

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