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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: February ::
Re: I must to England
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0259  Wednesday, 12 February 2003

[1]     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 11 Feb 2003 12:09:36 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0235 Re: I must to England

[2]     From:   Don Bloom <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 11 Feb 2003 11:54:55 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0235 Re: I must to England

[3]     From:   Jay Feldman <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 11 Feb 2003 15:52:28 EST
        Subj:   I must to England?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Tuesday, 11 Feb 2003 12:09:36 -0500
Subject: 14.0235 Re: I must to England
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0235 Re: I must to England

Back in the days when I was teaching, the canon every couple of years,
and hence rereading most of the plays regularly, I used occasionally to
think I should make a list of all the places like the one under
consideration, Hamlet's stating to Gertrude toward the end of the closet
scene that he "must to England," where a dramatic personage reveals
knowledge of some feature of the plot that we have not observed him or
her acquire.  I have a feeling that there must be half-a-dozen of them.
I used to use the fact as a way to remind my students that the real
audience for every dramatic speech is the folks in the seats.  In this
instance, we know Claudius means to send Hamlet to England because we've
heard him say so, twice; it would be a very astute spectator indeed who
noticed during a first or even a repeated viewing of the play on the
stage that Shakespeare has not troubled to stage the communication of
the information to Hamlet himself.

Dave Evett

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <
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Date:           Tuesday, 11 Feb 2003 11:54:55 -0600
Subject: 14.0235 Re: I must to England
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0235 Re: I must to England

I have always regarded this (Hamlet's knowledge of the trip to England)
as a given that Shakespeare didn't bother to write (there's a great deal
of this). Claudius tells Polonius that he's going to clear mad Hamlet
out of his proximity by sending H on a diplomatic mission to England. It
is easy to assume (and WS may have assumed it) that Polonius would
immediately send a formal note to the Prince to this effect. Of course,
Hamlet is no Voltemand or Cornelius that can simply be dispatched (and
that would leap at such an opportunity) so it would have to be handled
with great discretion. But I can't see any reason to assume that he
*wouldn't* have been notified that way.

The implicit time-line: Claudius thinks about possible solutions to the
mad Hamlet question, one of which is sending him to England for a while;
after eavesdropping on the "nunnery" scene he tells Polonius he's
decided on the England trip; Polonius arranges for R&G as attendants and
notifies Hamlet of the king's desire; Hamlet smells a rat but goes ahead
with the Mousetrap; having the gotten the desired response from the
king, he goes to berate his mother, unfortunately murdering Polonius by
mistake during the interview; Claudius, hearing of P's death, decides he
can't be satisfied with merely exiling H for a while, writes secret
orders for his immediate execution and gives them to R&G.

I realize that this has a very subjunctive quality, but I don't think
that the matter quite constitutes a serious crux when it is quite
possible to imagine an easy (but unwritten) solution.

Cheers,
don

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jay Feldman <
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Date:           Tuesday, 11 Feb 2003 15:52:28 EST
Subject:        I must to England?

"Brian Willis asks: . . . Towards the end of the scene, he tells
Gertrude: "I must to England; you know that?" and she replies, "Alack, I
had forgot: tis so concluded on." How does Hamlet know he is being sent
to England with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as his adders fanged?"

These inappropriate declarations from Hamlet support the belief that he
is either psychic, made clear in his retort to Claudius: "I see a cherub
that sees them", or a less than accomplished time traveler, evidenced by
his inelegant return to Act V as a 30 year old. Perhaps Shakespeare, the
busy playwright/actor neglected or occasionally forgot to closely
proofread his work, or made frequent, hasty changes to meet the needs of
time, audience, and critics.

I guess when producing Hamlet, one must consider the audience (unless
composed of Bardolators) is not likely to notice inconsistencies in time
or comment such as the misplaced "I must to England...". Further, I
doubt the typical playgoer caught in the emotions of mother and son,
would notice the compounding anomalous words from Q2: "There's letters
seal's, and my two schoolfellows...must...marshal me to knavery...." To
omit them would be to deprive an actor of lines to sink his teeth into
and the audience of an opportunity to image a hoisted petard. Hamlet's
depiction of R&G's perhaps undeserved end, is delightful reading; and
his resourceful attachment to his father's signet, further proof of that
cherub.

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