Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: February ::
Re: Hamlet (Once More)
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0488  Wednesday, 20 February 2002

[1]     From:   Mike Jensen <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Feb 2002 09:12:49 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0472 Re: Hamlet (Once More)

[2]     From:   Bill Arnold <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Feb 2002 12:13:46 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0472 Re: Hamlet (Once More)

[3]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Feb 2002 14:26:12 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0472 Re: Hamlet (Once More)


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 19 Feb 2002 09:12:49 -0800
Subject: 13.0472 Re: Hamlet (Once More)
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0472 Re: Hamlet (Once More)

I made a typo when quoting Virgil Whittaker.  That bit should have read:

*there is no evidence that knowledge of Machiavelli, as opposed to the
popular caricature, was widespread... Simon Patrick's version of
Gentillet, although it's dedication is dated 1577, was not printed until
1602.*

That mistake was mine, not Dr. Whittaker's or his copy editor's.

Mike (Whittaker once lived in my neighborhood) Jensen

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 19 Feb 2002 12:13:46 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 13.0472 Re: Hamlet (Once More)
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0472 Re: Hamlet (Once More)

Mike Jensen writes, "'tis common for people to write as if Shakespeare
knew Machiavelli's *The Prince* directly.  Hard to find anybody who
questions that these days.  Virgil Whittaker wrote, *Shakespeare's most
interesting reflection of contemporary political thought is, however,
his apparent identification of Richard III with the machiavel of
contemporary drama.  The stage Machiavelli derived, of course, not from
Machiavelli's *The Prince* but from Gentillet's *Discours...Contre
Nicholas Machiavel Florentin.*  This work excerpted Machiavelli's more
sensational principles quite unfairly and blamed upon him all possible
sins... It is very unlikely Shakespeare knew Machiavelli or even
Gentillet directly... there is no evidence that knowledge of
Machiavelli, as opposed to the popular caricature, was widespread...
Simon Patrick's version of Gentillet, although its dedication is dated
1577, was not printed until 1602.  Actually, there is nothing in
Shakespeare's portrait of Richard that cannot be paralleled in earlier
stage machiavels, especially Barabas in *The Jew of Malta,* and there is
very little that does not appear in the source.* ...Has Whittaker been
proven wrong, or are we, including some recent posts, over emphasizing
Machiavelli?"

Don't you mean, has Whittaker been proven right?  In the _Remembrances_
of 1593, a government report of the Queen's Privy Council, as I
understand it, just spouting rhetoric of the literature of Machiavelli
was damning evidence of acts of treason and sent many found guilty, by
association with it and atheism, to early deaths.  Richard Cholmeley in
the report was characterized thusly, "he speaketh in general all evil of
the Council, saying that they are all atheists & Machiavellians,
especially my Lord Admiral [Howard]." Supposedly, Cholmeley was a
servant of Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex, and a co-conspirator with
Shakespeare's contemporary playwright, Christopher Marlowe.  In _The
Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe_, in 1992, Charles Nicholl
wrote, "Robert Greene, with this sort of line in mind, attributed
Marlowe's 'diabolical atheism' to the 'pestilent Machiavellian policy
that thou hast studied'."  Cholmeley was arrested June 28, 1593, and
never heard from again.  Not a _good_ thing, that Machiavellianism, in
Elizabethan England of 1593!  This had all come about because of the
"Dutch Church libel," a fifty-three line poem, posted May 5, 1593, on
the churchyard wall, signed "Tamburlaine."  It was a pseudonym of a
character from Marlowe's _Tamburlaine the Great_ of 1587.  Nicholls
quoted parts of it, thusly,

          Your Machiavellian Merchant spoils the state,
          Your usury doth leave us all for dead,
          Your artifex & craftsman works our fate,
          And like the Jews you eat us up as bread.

Nicholls then wrote, "This is suggestive of Marlowe's _Jew of Malta_,
which had played at the Rose theatre the previous year.  The political
theories of Machiavelli were controversial at this time, and Marlowe's
_Jew_ was explicitly a study of Machiavellianism in action.  It opens
with a prologue spoken by the ghost of 'Machevill' himself...."

Two quick points: as I understand it, and I am _no_ Shakespearean
scholar, only a student of the bard, his play _The Merchant of Venice_
was written between 1596-98.  So, clearly, the doggerel poem of 1593 was
not likely to be associated with Shakespeare but with Marlowe.
Secondly, the ghost of 'Machevill' must ring bells with _Hamlet_ fans
who obviously will associate the ghost of Hamlet's father, which opens
Shakespeare's play, in a new light given this knowledge of the currency
of Machiavelli present in the land of England years before _Hamlet_'s
debut in 1600.  I close with Nicholl's final point: "Marlowe's
tragi-comic villain, a 'stranger' himself in Malta, was certainly in the
libeller's mind when he penned those lines about Machiavellian
merchants...."   In my opinion, Shakespeare had Machiavelli in mind when
he wrote about the Good Prince Hamlet in _Hamlet_, just as he must have
also had the same Italian master's work in mind when he wrote _The
Merchant of Venice_.  Perhaps, others would shed light on other plays so
affected?

Bill Arnold

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 19 Feb 2002 14:26:12 -0800
Subject: 13.0472 Re: Hamlet (Once More)
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0472 Re: Hamlet (Once More)

Ed Taft writes,

>The Medieval sin of "presumption" substitutes the sinner's will for
>God's: that's why it's a sin. At the end of _Hamlet_, I think that
>testing Providence is an attempt by Hamlet to find out God's Will -- the
>opposite of the sin in question.

He's assuming that God can be made to answer his questions on demand, if
he really is doing this.  The whole effort, as you describe it, rather
reminds me of what Christ was tempted to do by Satan, throwing himself
off the temple in order to show that God would save him.  And that's
certainly a sin of some kind, even if it isn't presumption, which I
merely suggested.  The relevant passage from the Geneva Bible is as
follows:

9: And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the
temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down
from hence:

10: For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to
keep thee:

11: And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou
dash thy foot against a stone.

12: And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt
the Lord thy God.

>Moreover, what is Hamlet to do? If
>he's not sure of God's Will in the matter of revenge (and that's what I
>think is the case), then he's got to try and find out what it is, right?

He could pray about it.  He could wait.  He could consult learned
divines.  Courting danger is perhaps the strangest possible response.

Cheers,
Se

 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.