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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: January ::
Re: Hamlet (Once More)
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0198  Sunday, 27 January 2002

[1]     From:   Andrew Walker White <
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        Date:   Friday, 25 Jan 2002 12:40:57 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0174 Re: Hamlet (Once More)

[2]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Friday, 25 Jan 2002 17:20:47 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0159 Re: Hamlet (Once More)


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew Walker White <
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Date:           Friday, 25 Jan 2002 12:40:57 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 13.0174 Re: Hamlet (Once More)
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0174 Re: Hamlet (Once More)

Some good questions here, particularly about how I interpret Hamlet's
line, "to be or not to be"  -- let me try this one for size:

I take this to be the first line of a gloss -- a cryptic quote in need
of more elaboration via poetry.  If you take away this first line, it's
clear to me at least that Hamlet is talking about revenge, about death
and the likelihood of suffering in the afterlife for one's sins.

A quiet death, "to die to sleep" is seen as a blessing (Socrates was the
first to point this out).  But the likelihood of an afterlife fit to
one's spiritual status gives him pause, as it would anyone of
conscience.  Consider the soul-searching around the fire in H-V, and the
debate about responsibility for the sins committed in war-time.  The
"enterprise of great pith and moment" has never, to my mind, indicated
suicide; rather, it has indicated projects like the one Hamlet is
currently engaged in.

As for Dr. Taft's insistence on bringing "God's will" into the mix, I
think he's overemphasizing.  Once Hamlet has caught Claudius' reactions
to the play, he knows the Ghost is trustworthy.  After that point, he
does not question his role as God's "scourge and minister," his only
problems have to do with how best to carry out God's will.  THere is
collateral damage, to be sure, but Hamlet recognizes the death of
Polonius as necessary and a part of his now-divinely-sanctioned task.
What he questioned before he no longer questions.  All that remains for
Hamlet is to do, and to watch for the state of his own soul as much as
he can.

Andy White

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Friday, 25 Jan 2002 17:20:47 -0500
Subject: 13.0159 Re: Hamlet (Once More)
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0159 Re: Hamlet (Once More)

>Ed Taft seems to think that once the Ghost's witness is proven, "Hamlet
>should immediately effect revenge and the play should be over."

I'd like to make two points:

(1) The Mousetrap does not catch the mouse. Claudius admits no guilt by
leaving the play, because Hamlet turns the trap into a threat, wherein
the nephew threatens to murder the uncle. Note Horatio's reluctance to
confirm Claudius's guilt. And in the BBC version of the show, Hamlet,
not Claudius, reveals himself by the Mousetrap. You may not agree with
the director's choice, but the underlying point is valid, I think.

(2) We auditors know that Claudius has admitted his guilt, but Hamlet
hasn't heard him do so.

Yours, Bill Godshalk

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