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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: June ::
Re: Hamlet's Antic Disposition
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1122  Monday, 9 June 2003

[1]     From:   Himadri Chatterjee <
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        Date:   Friday, 6 Jun 2003 15:37:07 +0100 (BST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1116 Hamlet's Antic Disposition

[2]     From:   Colin Cox <
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        Date:   Friday, 06 Jun 2003 08:15:52 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1116 Hamlet's Antic Disposition

[3]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Saturday, 7 Jun 2003 13:06:12 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 14.1116 Hamlet's Antic Disposition


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Himadri Chatterjee <
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Date:           Friday, 6 Jun 2003 15:37:07 +0100 (BST)
Subject: 14.1116 Hamlet's Antic Disposition
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1116 Hamlet's Antic Disposition

It's a fascinating question.

Hamlet is, I think, the most self-aware of Shakespeare's characters. He
is constantly questioning himself, analysing himself. Given that he does
this, and given further that he is a very intelligent person, it is
reasonable, I think, to assume that he is aware that at moments of great
emotional stress, he tends to lose self-control. There is a most
convincing indication of this self-awareness towards the end of III.ii:
as Hamlet goes off to meet with his mother, he must seriously remind
himself not to kill her. And he is right to remind himself: I think it
very likely that had Polonius not cried out from behind the arras,
Hamlet may well have killed Gertrude at that point.  Gertrude certainly
thinks he is about to do so.

My own guess is that immediately after meeting with the ghost, Hamlet's
quicksilver mind works out that, given his emotional state, he will not
be able to act at all times in a reasonable manner. His putting on an
"antic disposition" is a cover for the real madness that he knows lurks
there not too far below the surface.

Regards,
Himadri

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Colin Cox <
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Date:           Friday, 06 Jun 2003 08:15:52 -0700
Subject: 14.1116 Hamlet's Antic Disposition
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1116 Hamlet's Antic Disposition

Why does Shakespeare have Hamlet announce in 1.5 that he will put on an
"antic disposition"?

Hamlet by putting on the disposition knows that he will be left alone
and much of his behaviour will be pardoned. Elizabethans firmly believed
that the insane were touched by God and, in a sense, were revered and
left to their own devices. If he acts like a Prince he has no cover for
his investigation, if he acts like a Fool the behaviour becomes expected
by the observers. Shakespeare needs us to know what's going on so he has
Hamlet tell Horatio that's what he's going to do; we all share the
secret. And, yes much of this comes from Saxo Grammaticus, where Hamlet
covers himself in mud!

Claudius, smart fellow that he is, clearly sees right through Hamlet in
his "Love! his affections do not that way tend: . . ." speech and ships
his bothersome step-son and nephew off to England. The ultimate asylum
for all Danes?

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Saturday, 7 Jun 2003 13:06:12 +0100
Subject: Hamlet's Antic Disposition
Comment:        SHK 14.1116 Hamlet's Antic Disposition

Hamlet's feigned madness is surely significant in terms of the ways in
which it interrogates the role of the court fool and the political
potential of holiday and carnival pastimes.

m

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