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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: September ::
"My crown ... and my queen" - Gertrude's Adultery
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1833  Monday, 22 September 2003

[1]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Friday, 19 Sep 2003 20:32:16 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 14.1822 "My crown ... and my queen" - Gertrude's Adultery

[2]     From:   Carol Barton <
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        Date:   Friday, 19 Sep 2003 19:06:15 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1822 "My crown ... and my queen" - Gertrude's
Adultery


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Friday, 19 Sep 2003 20:32:16 +0100
Subject: "My crown ... and my queen" - Gertrude's Adultery
Comment:        SHK 14.1822 "My crown ... and my queen" - Gertrude's Adultery

'Where I went quite stunningly wrong was to pick the term "civil law"
(which Larry and John both correctly gloss) as an encompassing term to
refer to "secular" as opposed to "religious" (ecclesiastical) law.'

Especially as, by Shakespeare's time, ecclesiastical law was
administered almost exclusively by civilians.

As is perhaps hinted at in Graham Hall's post.

m

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Barton <
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Date:           Friday, 19 Sep 2003 19:06:15 -0400
Subject: 14.1822 "My crown ... and my queen" - Gertrude's
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1822 "My crown ... and my queen" - Gertrude's
Adultery

As I've suggested to Robin Hamilton in a private e-mail, I think the
issues of issue (and the side-issue of Gertrude's o'erhasty marriage to
Claudius being a de facto disinheritance of her issue, as Tony Burton
long ago pointed out) are critical here, especially with Elizabeth in
the audience.

Edward VI's legitimacy having gone unchallenged (though he was the son
of Jane Seymour, several wives removed from Henry's only spouse in the
eyes of the Roman Catholic church), he is now dead. Who is next,
absenting the Act of Succession which Daddy had wisely seen to before he
died:

Mary? who is the product of incestuous sheets in a marriage denied by
her father to be legitimate? If she asserts her legitimacy, she must
needs declare Elizabeth a bastard---for if Elizabeth is legitimate, Mary
by her own acceptance of that fact declares herself the opposite.

Elizabeth? who is the daughter of their father's executed whore, in
Mary's eyes, and who by her assertion of legitimacy declares Mary a
bastard (and the product of incest); she must also dearly love her elder
half-sister for having imprisoned her in the Tower.

Lady Jane? who . . . well, never mind.

Mary, Queen of Scots? who is only eleven, but then,  Edward was only
nine . . .

And so on.

Henry, via the Act of Settlement, precludes such considerations. Hamlet,
Sr.  has no such worries (he thinks), having only one heir, a male child
on whom his wife obviously dotes (since Claudius says she does so, too).
But then: leaving Gertrude entirely blameless (which I don't think she
is: ghosts know things), let's say that Claudius takes advantage of the
fact that she's distraught to seduce her to his design (anyone who saw
"Ghost" may recall a similar ploy by that movie's villain) and succeeds.

Like Fortinbras, Hamlet is deprived of his inheritance (but Fortinbras
is the better man---or better king material, at any rate---since he
responds decisively).

Like Laertes, Hamlet is also deprived of a father (but he proves the
better man, since he does not act as rashly in revenge as he did in
manslaughter;
Laertes does).

Hamlet, Jr. settles the succession on Fortinbras (the "enemy," but a
fitter king than Horatio, another penseroso, would be).

Could Shakespeare be suggesting to the Virgin Queen (in view of all of
the above) that it's critical that she settle the succession on whomever
she considers to be the best potential leader of the English
people---even if her choice's mother is Elizabeth's enemy?

I don't pretend to know what Shakespeare thought of James . . . but I
think I do have an inkling, at least, of what he thought about unsettled
succession, and the prudence of Henry's declaration,  judging from the
above. I suspect that Gloriana would have seen it that way, too.

Best to all,
Carol Barton

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