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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: February ::
Re: Hamlet (Once More)
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0595  Thursday, 28 February 2002

[1]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 27 Feb 2002 15:03:36 -0500
        Subj:   Hamlet (Once More)

[2]     From:   Paul E. Doniger <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 27 Feb 2002 19:33:38 -0500
        Subj:   Hamlet - a correction (Once More)


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Wednesday, 27 Feb 2002 15:03:36 -0500
Subject:        Hamlet (Once More)

In response to my query about how Hamlet knows when it is time to kill
the king, Brandon Toropov responds,

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

Yes, but I'm not sure if this solves or complicates the main question --
which pivots around revenge.  What I mean is, if Hamlet is motivated to
kill Claudius because of the evidence at the end of Act 5 -- the Queen's
poisoning and Laertes' testimony about the foil plot -- then couldn't it
be argued that THESE ALONE justify a public death for the King, and that
Hamlet's final act is not -- or may not be -- revenge but a prince in
his last moments administering public justice to a publicly guilty king?
I write this out of my own (admittedly contested by others) view that
Hamlet never does get an unequivocal sign from God that revenge is His
Will. In fact, I think that one of the points of the play is that such a
sign is impossible to receive.
It can't be done!

But whether I am right or wrong about this last point, there is another
perspective to be considered. From the end of 3.4 on, it can be shown
that, in one way or another, Hamlet is baiting Claudius, letting him
know that the prince is "on" to him.  Thus, in a way, Hamlet "causes"
Claudius's increasingly villainous schemes to get rid of the prince.
Now, this fact does not negate Claudius's guilt for trying to carry out
his evil plans, but it does make one wonder if Hamlet outduels his
adversary to the point that the prince himself helps manufacture the
evidence he needs to finally dispatch the king. If so, if that was
Hamlet's plan, then it is a brilliant one that allows him to kill
Claudius for present crimes, even if God's Will concerning an earlier
crime remains unknown.

--Ed Taft

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul E. Doniger <
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Date:           Wednesday, 27 Feb 2002 19:33:38 -0500
Subject:        Hamlet - a correction (Once More)

Is someone sending postings in my name?

W. L. Godshalk writes:

> 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?

These ARE good questions, I agree, but I did not ask them; someone else
did.

Who did? Come on ... confess yourself to heaven; repent what's past;
avoid what is to come. ... Wait a minute ... I didn't write that,
either!

Paul E. Doniger

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