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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: October ::
Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1982  Friday, 10 October 2003

[1]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Thursday, 09 Oct 2003 09:57:26 -0400
        Subj:   Hamlet

[2]     From:   John Ramsay <
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        Date:   Thursday, 09 Oct 2003 16:53:32 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1972 Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Thursday, 09 Oct 2003 09:57:26 -0400
Subject:        Hamlet

Don Bloom writes:

"I realize, of course, that Fortinbras is on the scene with an army to
back up his claim, but that does not explain "rights of memory." He
wouldn't bother saying that unless the two royal houses were intertwined
- which would certainly not be unexpected."

Don, there's no mention in the play of any kinship ties between
Fortinbras and Hamlet. They are alter egos, but not related.

Second, the phrase "rights of memory" suggests that Fortinbras is
thinking of a memory, and we are privy only to one such memory --
detailed for us earlier in the play by Horatio: the confrontation
between old Hamlet and old Fortinbras.

Third, it's clear that Fortinbras wanted (still wants?) revenge for what
old Hamlet did to Fortinbras's father.

Given all of this, there can little doubt that Fortinbras is alluding to
what happened to his father, and his (newly rekindled?) desire for
revenge. Memory is what insures Hamlet's revenge; so it is for
Fortinbras.

The parallelism is clear and unmistakable. It doesn't matter that the
original story is told as a "fair fight." Fortinbras's motivations are
emotional, not logical. Again, much like Hamlet's.

--Ed

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Ramsay <
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Date:           Thursday, 09 Oct 2003 16:53:32 -0400
Subject: 14.1972 Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1972 Hamlet

>Edmund Taft responds to the question --"What were Fortinbras's 'rights
>of memory' of 5.2?" -- with this:
>
>"He's rather indirect isn't he?  There is no mention of kinship ties, so
>that seems unlikely. Most likely, Fortinbras means that he sees the
>opportunity for bloodless revenge. He remembers what old Hamlet did to
>his father, and now he can avenge his father and gain all the land his
>father lost ? and more.
>
>"In effect, Fortinbras succeeds where Hamlet fails. And the fact that
>Hamlet names him as his successor suggests that Hamlet, in the end,
>realizes exactly this fact."
>
>With all due respect, this doesn't seem to me to cover the idea
>expressed in either that phrase, or in Hamlet's "dying voice" towards
>the election of Fortinbras. It seems evident on the face of it that the
>nobility of Denmark will make the decision and that they will make it,
>in accordance with Germanic tradition, by electing some male from the
>royal family.
>
>I realize, of course, that Fortinbras is on the scene with an army to
>back up his claim, but that does not explain "rights of memory." He
>wouldn't bother saying that unless the two royal houses were intertwined
>-- which would certainly not be unexpected.
>
>Old Hamlet didn't do anything in particular to Old Fortinbras except
>fight him in a fair trial by combat. They had rival claims to suzerainty
>over Norway (again an indication of a close connection of the two
>families), and they set up a wager to settle the matter -- all of Norway
>against a chunk of Denmark -- with the winner to take all, including the
>life of the loser.

It wasn't all of Norway. Norway was ruled by Fortinbras' uncle, not by
Claudius.

Claudius sends ambassadors Voltimand and Cornelius to the ruler of
Norway in I-2 and hears their report that Fortinbras has been diverted
by his uncle to attacking Poland rather than Denmark, in II-2.

John Ramsay

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