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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: September ::
"My crown ... and my queen" - Gertrude's Adultery
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1759  Tuesday, 9 September 2003

[1]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Monday, 8 Sep 2003 05:49:16 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1748 "My crown ... and my queen" - Gertrude's
Adultery

[2]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Monday, 8 Sep 2003 06:25:06 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1748 "My crown ... and my queen" - Gertrude's
Adultery

[3]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Monday, 8 Sep 2003 06:40:49 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1748 "My crown ... and my queen" - Gertrude's
Adultery

[4]     From:   Marcia Eppich-Harris <
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        Date:   Monday, 8 Sep 2003 10:22:44 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1748 "My crown ... and my queen" - Gertrude's
Adultery

[5]     From:   David Friedberg <
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        Date:   Monday, 8 Sep 2003 12:32:05 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1748 "My crown ... and my queen" - Gertrude's
Adultery

[6]     From:   David Friedberg <
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        Date:   Monday, 8 Sep 2003 12:32:05 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1748 "My crown ... and my queen" - Gertrude's
Adultery


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Monday, 8 Sep 2003 05:49:16 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 14.1748 "My crown ... and my queen" - Gertrude's
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1748 "My crown ... and my queen" - Gertrude's
Adultery

 Martin Steward quotes Emma Cooper, "in the prayer scene, Claudius says
that he killed his brother for two reasons: the crown and the queen."

Then Martin Stewart writes, "Given this perspective on the play, it
would be difficult to imagine how the character of Claudius could
conceive of having the crown without also having its queen."

My problem with this thread is that the dialogue of the play Hamlet is
ignored while commentators try to get inside the heads of the characters
of the play.  What does the dialogue really say?  Yes, that is the rub,
plays are made up of dialogue, and Will S's words which his characters
speak are the only elements we as readers and viewers have, other than
stage directions and actions of actors; but in this case, we are
ignoring actions, and rightly so, and limiting ourselves to the words of
the play.  I think I am correct on this point: we are not interested in
a particular actor's portrayal but the text of the play Hamlet in
general, are we not?

So, I ask again, what really does Claudius say about his motives for
murder?  I believe we must keep such discussions contextual, as that is
the basis of the argument.

Bill Arnold
http://www.cwru.edu/affil/edis/scholars/arnold.htm

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Monday, 8 Sep 2003 06:25:06 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 14.1748 "My crown ... and my queen" - Gertrude's
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1748 "My crown ... and my queen" - Gertrude's
Adultery

Abigail Quart writes, "I agree that Gertrude never committed adultery.
She was consumed with guilt for merely violating custom by her
'o'erhasty marriage.' And the ghost never had the guts to outright
accuse her, vindictive ass that he was.  My opinion is that if he
coulda, he woulda."

Excuse me?

OK: so this is opinion, hardly supported by the text of the play.  It
sounds like "feminist spin" to me; more reactionary to discussions of
the play than to the play Will S left us.  Sheesh.

Then Abigail Quart writes, So the answer is that Claudius couldn't be
sure of the kingship OR the queen. He took a risk because the moment had
come when he must act or lose any hope at all."

OK: are we forgetting something here?  Claudius did not take some
calculated "risk" to become king.  He MURDERED a king to become king;
and possibly to bed the ex-king's wife, and set aside the rightful heir,
Hamlet.

Having said this: we note Will S wrote another play with a similar
theme, six years later, and more crystal clear about this theme:
Macbeth.  Does anyone doubt the treachery and murderous acts of Macbeth
and Lady Macbeth?  No, of course not.  But in the well-crafted Hamlet,
the theme is much more subtle and woven into the fabric of a secret
murder off-stage, before the play begins.  Read Grebanier, folks!  In
Hamlet we have doubt and in Macbeth we have no doubt; but in both cases,
Will S made himself out to be on the side of right, and murder was a
wrong, in both cases.  And in both cases, the play hinged on things
being set right.  Need I explain "right," and the canonical commandment,
from the bibles of the times, Exodus 20, Verse 13: "Thou shalt not
kill"?

I cannot see the Ghost of the murdered father of Hamlet as a "vindictive
ass."  Excuse me, again?

Bill Arnold
http://www.cwru.edu/affil/edis/scholars/arnold.htm

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Monday, 8 Sep 2003 06:40:49 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 14.1748 "My crown ... and my queen" - Gertrude's
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1748 "My crown ... and my queen" - Gertrude's
Adultery

Steve Sohmer writes, "Indeed, [Gertrude] had sexual relations with Old
Hamlet before she married him. Which is why Hamlet is illegitimate and
did not succeed to the crown at the moment of Old Hamlet's death;
illegitimates could not inherit or succeed."

Fascinating stuff.

I must have missed something in my reading of Hamlet, which I admit,
could have happened; so I wonder, where in the text of Hamlet is the
fact that Hamlet was "illegitimate and did not succeed to the crown at
the moment of Old Hamlet's death; illegitimates could not inherit or
succeed"?

Bill Arnold
http://www.cwru.edu/affil/edis/scholars/arnold.htm

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marcia Eppich-Harris <
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Date:           Monday, 8 Sep 2003 10:22:44 -0500
Subject: 14.1748 "My crown ... and my queen" - Gertrude's
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1748 "My crown ... and my queen" - Gertrude's
Adultery

Steve writes:

>Indeed, she had sexual relations with Old Hamlet before
>she married him. Which is why Hamlet is illegitimate and did not succeed
>to the crown at the moment of Old Hamlet's death; illegitimates could
>not inherit or succeed.

What!? Is this a joke? I have never read anything about Hamlet being
illegitimate. Can you point to some evidence and some sources that might
discuss this further? It is my understanding that Denmark did not have
the same sort of succession rules as Elizabethan England and that
accounts for Hamlet not being made king immediately after his father's
death. As much as my first reaction is to say that Hamlet being
illegitimate is ridiculous, I'd be interested in hearing evidence to the
contrary.

Sincerely,
Marcia Eppich-Harris

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Friedberg <
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Date:           Monday, 8 Sep 2003 12:32:05 -0400
Subject: 14.1748 "My crown ... and my queen" - Gertrude's
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1748 "My crown ... and my queen" - Gertrude's
Adultery

Tom Pendleton states,

>Presumably, Claudius would have been a natural
>candidate, and beyond this, we hear nothing about why he, not his
>nephew, succeeded.

O but there is a clue, and in the beginning of the play at that  1.2.42
- 44

The head is not more native to the heart,
The hand more instrumental to the mouth,
Than is the throne of Denmark to thy father.

So said Claudius of Polonius, leading me, and others, to suspect that
Polonius was to say the least complicit in the murder, at most an
accessory.

This may also explain Hamlet's bitter almost compulsive teasing of the
old man, who after all is the original straight man in literature. And
why the King tolerates the Chancellor who always gives wrong headed
advice

Furthermore on John Updike's novel Gertrude and Claudius he makes a good
case that Polonius was complicit in the adultery too.

Best,
David Friedberg

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Friedberg
 <
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Date:           Monday, 8 Sep 2003 15:02:27 -0400
Subject: 14.1748 "My crown ... and my queen" - Gertrude's
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1748 "My crown ... and my queen" - Gertrude's
Adultery

I usually don't like eplaining dirty jokes in mixed company, but surely
she who laughs last didn't see the joke

The words the Ghost uses in 1. 5. 90 - 96, which are the words that
Shakespeare gave him, have their other meanings They leave no doubt as
to Shakespeare's real meaning viz.

Let not the royal bed of Denmark be
A couch for luxury and damned incest.
But, howsoever thou pursu'st this act, 92
Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive
Against thy mother aught; leave her to heaven,
And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge,
To prick and sting her.

Luxury is sexual excess. The bosom is the breast, but also the
genitalia.  Thorns are pricks and both are penises. A lodge is a hunting
house, but also a whorehouse, and as a verb means what we mean by
screw.  And finally a sting is both a penis and a strong sexual urge.

Old Hamlet loved Gertrude but was appalled by what she has done. She may
have bedded him without benefit of clergy as Steve Sohmer suggests, but
this is much much worse.

The phrases are famous now, but were not when they were written.  The
double entendres as Frankie Rubinstein has shown illuminate and
elucidate the play and the plot.

David Friedberg

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