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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: February ::
Re: Machiavelli
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0537  Monday, 25 February 2002

[1]     From:   Peter Donaldson <
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        Date:   Friday, 22 Feb 2002 12:39:19 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0524 Re: Machiavelli

[2]     From:   Steve Roth <
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        Date:   Friday, 22 Feb 2002 09:55:19 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0488 Re: Hamlet (Once More)

[3]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Saturday, 23 Feb 2002 02:28:24 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0501 Re: Machiavelli

[4]     From:   Sam Small <
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        Date:   Sunday, 24 Feb 2002 13:27:03 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0524 Re: Machiavelli


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Donaldson <
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Date:           Friday, 22 Feb 2002 12:39:19 -0500
Subject: 13.0524 Re: Machiavelli
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0524 Re: Machiavelli

It has been interesting to follow this discussion.  My book Machiavelli
and Mystery of State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988) deal
with aspects of the question of Machiavelli's influence in England.
There are chapters on Reginald Pole's Apologia, Stephen Gardiner, and
the printer John Wolfe.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Roth <
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Date:           Friday, 22 Feb 2002 09:55:19 -0800
Subject: 13.0488 Re: Hamlet (Once More)
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0488 Re: Hamlet (Once More)

Bill Arnold wrote:

>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.

Associate, yes. But stage ghosts and their association with evil were
widespread at the time, as demonstrated by Prosser, Greenblatt, and
McGee. Marlowe's Machiavellian ghost is certainly in (or strongly
influenced by) that class of morality-inspired "vices." But it's only
one of many stage ghosts to influence Hamlet. I think you'd be
hard-pressed to demonstrate that King Hamlet's ghost is "Machiavellian."

Likewise, I wouldn't want to defend the position that "Shakespeare had
Machiavelli in mind when
he wrote about the Good Prince Hamlet in _Hamlet_" Part of the
intellectual climate? Certainly. Direct and significant influence? I
don't think so.

Thanks for the great Machiavelli/Marlowe stuff from Nicholls. He
informed us at the recent Biographies conference in Stratford that he
has a new edition of The Reckoning in the works. So I guess now I have
to read it for a *third* time. (He told me I'd get a kewpie doll if I
did. <g>)

Thanks,
Steve
http://princehamlet.com

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Saturday, 23 Feb 2002 02:28:24 -0500
Subject: 13.0501 Re: Machiavelli
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0501 Re: Machiavelli

Sam Small again:

> All successful
> governments including Japan, USA, Britain and Europe conduct their
> affairs in this manner to keep us all in the lifestyle we know as free
> democratic consumerism.

Once more: All?  Do you include China, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Iraq,
and the late lamented Soviet Union?  Or do those governments employ
commendable openness because they are less concerned with free
democratic consumerism?

>  the truth is that his
> uncle Claudius' reign is successful, whilst his father was a poor
> leader.

What evidence is there that Hamlet pere's reign was unsuccessful?  They
only indications in the play are that he was a successful warrior,
having conquered Poland and Norway and absorbed some of their territory,
and he was probably loved by his subjects.  As for Claudius, I agree
that he had a successful reign, but not because of his villainy (which
was confined to getting and keeping the throne).  Claudius prudently
prepares for unprovoked aggression at a time when his kingdom is
ill-equipped to meet it and successfully (and profitably) avoids the
conflict by effective diplomacy.  At no point does Claudius  employ
underhanded or deceptive practices in his government, as opposed to his
assumption and retention of sovereignty.  On the contrary, as he
indicates in I.ii, he seems to have adopted a consultative style.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sam Small <
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Date:           Sunday, 24 Feb 2002 13:27:03 -0000
Subject: 13.0524 Re: Machiavelli
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0524 Re: Machiavelli

We look forward to Hugh Grady's book "Shakespeare, Machiavelli, and
Montaigne: Power and Subjectivity from 'Richard II' to 'Hamlet.' - I for
one will be intrigued.

Sean Lawrence seems to think there was some contradiction in my earlier
post.  Most people who use the adjective "Machiavellian" have never read
Machiavelli.  They describe someone as Machiavellian as being willfully
devious and evil; someone who actually knows they are doing wrong yet do
it anyway for their own gain perhaps with some flimsy justification to
assuage their conscience.  There is a widespread assumption that Richard
III, for instance, is a pure Machiavellian character.  Not so.  Richard
uses some Machiavellian methods but in the end is overwhelmed with his
own ego, avarice and self importance.  This sort of grossly selfish
behaviour has nothing to do with Machiavelli's treatise.  And this is
where Sean Lawrence may have misinterpreted what I said.  Machiavelli
reported the diplomatic behaviour of successful states and recommended
that mode of behaviour to the less successful.  That is simple to
understand.  The trouble is that the recommended behaviour promoted by
Machiavelli runs contrary to all our notions of fundamental morality.
But the irony goes deeper.  People who enjoy the environment of the
successful state are free to develop clear notions of conventional
morality but this opportunity is made possible by the perceived
immorality of the diplomatic behaviour.  As I have said before it is a
dilemma that drove Hamlet mad.

SAM SMALL

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