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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: May ::
Re: Hamlet and Belleforest
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0969  Monday, 19 May 2003

[1]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Friday, 16 May 2003 08:30:38 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0946 Re: Hamlet and Belleforest

[2]     From:   Edward Brown <
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        Date:   Friday, 16 May 2003 09:27:55 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0959 Re: Hamlet and Belleforest [Grebanier]


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Friday, 16 May 2003 08:30:38 -0400
Subject: 14.0946 Re: Hamlet and Belleforest
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0946 Re: Hamlet and Belleforest

>the first act of Hamlet, in the
>good revenge play tradition, sets up Hamlet's need for revenge, both for
>himself and for the audience.  After his confrontation with the Ghost,
>Hamlet vows to Heaven -- "and shall I couple Hell" -- to "sweep" to his
>revenge "on wings as swift as meditation."   This is an expectation that
>Act I clearly establishes for any audience that is paying attention..
>That is why the Act II delay, which is only gradually revealed to the
>audience in ways that we have to infer from the evidence, seems to me
>designed to make the audience wonder what's going on with Hamlet's
>intention.

What? Gradually revealed?

It seems to me that the only dramatic purpose of the oft-cut dialogue
between Polonius and Reynaldo at the beginning of Act II is to reveal,
suddenly, that a substantial time has elapsed since Hamlet said he would
"swoop to [his] revenge."

In fact, it now occurs to me that the principal purpose of the "Laertes
goes to Paris" episode may have been to lay the foundation for this
revelation of the passage of time.  But, while he was at it, Shakespeare
also gave us Polonius's advice to Laertes to set up Ophelia's
inadvertent revelation at II..i.99-100 that she has been coached by the
old man.

Never underestimate Shakespeare's ability to unspool a story.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edward Brown <
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Date:           Friday, 16 May 2003 09:27:55 EDT
Subject: 14.0959 Re: Hamlet and Belleforest [Grebanier]
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0959 Re: Hamlet and Belleforest [Grebanier]

With respect to Ms. Castaldo's last post, I recall an argument that Old
Hamlet is actually in Purgatory because Claudius has murdered him before
Old Hamlet has had an opportunity to repent and be absolved his most
recent sins. In I. 5, The Ghost says:

"I am thy father's spirit
Doom'd for a certain term to walk the night,
And for the day confined to fast in fires,
Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature
Are burnt and purged away. But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison-house,
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
etc.

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