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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: April ::
Re: Hamlet and Belleforest's Histoires Tragiques
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0821  Wednesday, 30 April 2003

[1]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 29 Apr 2003 09:49:22 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0811 Re: Hamlet and Belleforest's Histoires Tragiques
(1576)

[2]     From:   Jay Feldman <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 29 Apr 2003 21:33:09 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0811 Re: Hamlet and Belleforest's Histoires Tragiques
(1576)


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Tuesday, 29 Apr 2003 09:49:22 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 14.0811 Re: Hamlet and Belleforest's Histoires
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0811 Re: Hamlet and Belleforest's Histoires
Tragiques (1576)

On Hamlet's antic disposition and feigned madness:

   III. iv.

   Not this by no means that I bid you do...
   Nor make you to ravel all this matter out:
   That I essentially am not in madness
   But mad in craft.

This comes after many things which seem to convince Gertrude that he is
mad: the killing of Polonius, the talking to the ghost. But from the
moment she suggests it is ecstasy, Hamlet does a convincing job of
proving his sanity. If one can read through that latter half of the
scene and still doubt his sanity, I would have to suggest they are
missing something. If it's good enough for Gertrude, it's good enough
for me. And wasn't a convention of the revenge tragedy this feigning of
madness in order to go undercover as it were?

Brian Willis

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jay Feldman <
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Date:           Tuesday, 29 Apr 2003 21:33:09 EDT
Subject: 14.0811 Re: Hamlet and Belleforest's Histoires
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0811 Re: Hamlet and Belleforest's Histoires
Tragiques (1576)

Michael Shurgot comments: "I would argue that everyone whom Jay Feldman
mentions in his list of characters who he suggests believes or comments
on Hamlet's "madness" may be themselves deceived ... And do we not
assume that considerable time has elapsed between the end of act 1 and
the beginning of act 2..."

In response to Bill Arnold's original comment concerning Grebanier's
denial of Hamlet's delay, I would like to append the following: Hamlet
tells us he is a John-a-dreams unpregnant of his cause, that the name of
action has been lost, that he is a tardy son, and that he needs a spur
for his dull revenge. That he delays his revenge, to my mind is a given,
and he seems to do so for the two months prior to formulating his plan
to capture the conscience of the king.

That this much time has passed between acts 1 and 2 seems inarguable
given Hamlet's dating of his father's death the day before the end of
act 1 with "But two months dead...", and Ophelia's "Nay, 'tis twice two
months..." on the second day after the start of act 2. A delay that
provides more than enough time "to put an antic disposition on" as he
foretold at the end of act 1. Again, I agree all his comments,
regardless of subject or recipient can be viewed as sarcastic, clever,
barbed, or obfuscating. They are used as a means for dealing with
slippery acquaintances or tedious fools, not necessarily to prove
madness. Again, it is only from the comments of the surrounding
characters that the aura of Hamlet's madness is portrayed.

Finally, Hamlet's nature and/or emotional turmoil (or is that tur-mole)
seem much more complex and do perhaps border on madness. His comments to
Gertrude in 1.2 that his sadness "passeth show" seem to reflect a
sincere and extended bereavement. However, since his arrival from
Wittenberg, though he claims to have sincerely mourned the loss of his
father, he also seems to have concurrently maintained an amorous verbal,
written, and perhaps physical relationship with Ophelia. This while
somewhat transparent to the play's viewer, is apparent to the student of
the play and provides an insight to the prince's character that is
perhaps better overlooked.

Sincerely,
Jay Feldman

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