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 13.0579  Tuesday, 27 February 2002

[1]     From:   Brian Willis <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 26 Feb 2002 10:36:09 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0562 Re: Hamlet (Once More)

[2]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 26 Feb 2002 14:27:19 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0562 Re: Hamlet (Once More)

[3]     From:   Brandon Toropov <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 26 Feb 2002 12:19:57 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0562 Re: Hamlet (Once More)

[4]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 26 Feb 2002 20:06:09 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0455 Re: Hamlet (Once More)


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 26 Feb 2002 10:36:09 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 13.0562 Re: Hamlet (Once More)
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0562 Re: Hamlet (Once More)

> Isn't the action of revenge under his control? I can
> imagine a Hamlet
> who waits for means, motive, and opportunity (as I
> think Hamlet does),
> but once they are all furnished, Hamlet himself
> must, finally, act.
>
> He does, of course, killing Claudius at play's end.
> Does he do so
> because he is finally convinced that it is God's
> Will?  If so, what
> convinces him?

I always thought that Hamlet, seeing falling bodies all around him, and
realizing that he will soon be joining their desperate gasping for life,
acknowledges that Claudius is indeed in the heat of his full-blown sin
and ripe for a passage to Hell. However, he is ready to do so even
before this scene, when he tells Horatio that it would be "perfect
conscience/ To quit him with this arm".

Brian Willis

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 26 Feb 2002 14:27:19 -0500
Subject: 13.0562 Re: Hamlet (Once More)
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0562 Re: Hamlet (Once More)

Paul Doniger correctly claims that he is not me, and then quotes me:

>>>"To my ear, this sounds as if Hamlet has given up plotting and is waiting
>>> for a divinity to shape the outcome or his death. God will provide. The
>> >way you find out what God wants is by waiting."

He then asks some good questions.

> Wait for what?  What sign or event tells Hamlet that it is time to
>act and that he is acting according to God's Will?
>What happens that convinces Hamlet at the end of the play that he can
>effect revenge?  Or [leading question] is his killing of Claudius
>justified on other grounds by play's end?

I assume that Hamlet is dead wrong to assume that a divinity shapes our
ends, but he appears to think so or, at least, says that he does. He
doesn't tell us how he will know his cue to act. But he may assume that
he will be forced to act, and if he is forced to act, then he will
assume that a divinity is shaping the outcome. And so possibly he will
assume that his revenge is divinely sanctioned. Note all the assumptions
here.

Of course, maybe Hamlet just gets angry after Laertes cuts him and
confesses. Hamlet is, however, careful to kill Claudius with both the
sword and the cup. The symbolism has not gone unnoticed.

Yours, Bill Godshalk

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brandon Toropov <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 26 Feb 2002 12:19:57 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 13.0562 Re: Hamlet (Once More)
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0562 Re: Hamlet (Once More)

Edmunt Taft writes,

> Brandon Toropov defines Hamlet's state of mind > at
> the end of the play as
> embracing the following sentiment:
>
> "The point being, as I understand it: "God is, by
> definition, fully
> present in *every* action and *every*
> phenomenon --
> now what, precisely,
> do you imagine is under your narrow personal
> control?"
>
> Isn't the action of revenge under his control? I
> can
> imagine a Hamlet
> who waits for means, motive, and opportunity (as I
> think Hamlet does),
> but once they are all furnished, Hamlet himself
> must, finally, act.
>
> He does, of course, killing Claudius at play's end.
> Does he do so
> because he is finally convinced that it is God's
> Will?

Yes, I think so.

>  If so, what
> convinces him?

The clear (but completely unanticipated) evidence that the King is
responsible for both Gertrude's poisoning and the intrigue of the foils.

Here's the transition I'm talking about (pardon the CAPS I use to sneak
my own two cents in):

Osric: Look to the Queen there ho!
Horatio: They bleed on both sides. How is it my lord?

(NOTE THAT HAMLET DOES NOT ANSWER -- INSTEAD, HE WATCHES THE SITUATION
CAREFULLY.)

Osric: How is't, Laertes?
Laertes: Why, as a woodcock to my own springe, Osric:
I am justly kill'd with my own treachery.

(HERE THE AUDIENCE IS SUBTLY REMINDED OF POLONIUS, WHO USED PRECISELY
THE SAME "SPRINGE" FIGURE OF SPEECH TO DISMISS HAMLET'S DESIGNS ON
OPHELIA; THE AUDIENCE IS ALSO REMINDED OF THE PLAY'S MANY "SPRINGE"-LIKE
INTRIGUES, INCLUDING A) POLONIUS'S FINAL BIT OF EAVESDROPPING AND B) THE
DEADLY INTRIGUE COLLAPSING BEFORE HAMLET RIGHT NOW)

Hamlet: How does the Queen?

(HE'S GOT A FEEING ABOUT THIS... WANTS TO TEST IT. HENCE THE QUESTION.)

King: She sounds (swoons) to see them bleed.

(HAMLET MAKES NO RESPONSE)

Queen: No, No -- the drink, the drink -- O my dear
Hamlet --

(IS SHE TALKING TO HER SON? HER HUSBAND? BOTH AT THE SAME TIME? LOTS OF
OEDIPAL STUFF IN THIS FINAL EXCHANGE...)

The drink, the drink! I am poison'd!

(HER DYING WORDS OPENLY AND PUBLICLY CONTRADICT THE KING'S. [THERE'S A
FIRST.] HAMLET NOW KNOWS SOMETHING IS DEFINITELY UP.)

Hamlet: O villainy! Ho, let the door be locked!

(FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE MEMBERS OF THE COURT, WHO MAY NOT BE QUITE AS
SHARP AS HE IS:)

Treachery! Seek it out!

(I ALWAYS PICTURE HIM STARING DEAD-ON AT THE KING ON THAT LINE)

Laertes: It is here, Hamlet. [Hamlet], thou art slain;
No med'cine in the world can do thee good;
In thee there is not half an hour's life.
The treacherous instrument is in thy had,
Unbated and envenom'd. The foul practice
Hath turn'd itself on me. Lo here I lie,
Never to rise again. Thy mother's pois'ned.
I can no more -- the King, the King's to blame.

(HAMLET IS NOW QUITE CERTAIN OF HIS OWN MORTALITY .. BUT THEN, HE WAS
CERTAIN OF THAT AT V, II 219 FF.)

(EVERYTHING IS NOW IN PLACE -- THE MEMBERS OF THE COURT CANNOT DISPUTE
THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF H'S CAUSE OR HIS MOTIVE -- THE KING'S TREACHERY IS
CLEAR TO EVEN THE DULLEST OBSERVER -- AND MORE IMPORTANT THAN SUCH
CONCERNS, THE TIME AND PLACE HAVE COHERED FOR HIM, AS A LATER
SHAKESPEAREAN CHARACTER MIGHT PUT IT. THE GUILTY KING IS BEFORE HIM
--AND HAMLET HOLDS THE PROOF OF THE KING'S LATEST CRIME IN HIS HANDS. IT
JUST HAPPENS TO BE A FOIL.)

(IN OTHER WORDS: HEAVEN IS ORDINANT. GOD HAS DELIVERED TO HAMLET THE
*PERFECT* MOMENT -- AND HAMLET HAD LITTLE OR NO ROLE IN  INSTIGATING
THAT PERFECT MOMENT'S ARRIVAL. IT IS NOT TO COME; IT IS NOW. HE IS
READY. HE ACTS.)

Hamlet: The point envenom'd too! Then venom, to thy work!

(etc.)

*****

On the whole "providence" question, consider A.C.  Bradley's dead-on
analysis, which is the best I've ever come across. (Apologies if I'm a)
quoting Bradley too often lately or b) going over ground you've already
covered.)

<begin quote from page 120 of SHAKESPEAREAN TRAGEDY>

... there is a trait about which doubt is impossible -- a sense in
Hamlet that he is in the hands of Providence. This had, indeed, already
shown itself at the death of Polonius --

For this same lord,
I do repent: but heaven hath pleased it so,
To punish me with this and this with me
That I must be their scourge and minister:

(i.e., the scourge and minister of 

 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.