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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: January ::
Psychology of Gertrude
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.2473  Monday, 5 January 2004

[1]     From:   Stephen C. Rose <
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        Date:   Friday, 2 Jan 2004 07:34:42 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.2466 Psychology of Gertrude

[2]     From:   Dana Wilson <
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        Date:   Friday, 2 Jan 2004 07:38:12 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.2461 Psychology of Gertrude

[3]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Friday, 02 Jan 2004 12:07:59 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.2466 Psychology of Gertrude

[4]     From:   Susan St. John <
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        Date:   Friday, 02 Jan 2004 15:13:19 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.2466 Psychology of Gertrude

[5]     From:   Tom Pendleton <
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        Date:   Friday, 2 Jan 2004 17:15:29 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.2461 Psychology of Gertrude

[6]     From:   Frank Whigham <
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        Date:   Friday, 02 Jan 2004 17:33:35 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.2466 Psychology of Gertrude


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephen C. Rose <
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Date:           Friday, 2 Jan 2004 07:34:42 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 14.2466 Psychology of Gertrude
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.2466 Psychology of Gertrude

Just want to say that reading the intelligent if varied responses to
this thread confirms my sense that this is a great list with an
excellent constituency! Good conversations begin one place and end in
another. That is what seems to me to happen here.

Happy New Year to all.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dana Wilson <
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Date:           Friday, 2 Jan 2004 07:38:12 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 14.2461 Psychology of Gertrude
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.2461 Psychology of Gertrude

Greg wrote:

 >>Gertrude...exists so that the closet scene can exist

This is the Shakespeare I know, Robertson's Shakespeare.  A kind of
ring-master cracking the whip to keep the actors in temper.  Obviously,
actors become actors because they have gigantic egos and they always
want the best lines and the most lines, and they go out and get their
parts by any means necessary(some of which I hinted at in my post
entitled Noumenal Composition Structures); then enters the Bard to put
the parts into Dramatic proportion.   So tell me, who is the author he
brings the scraps of motif and theme or he who arranges them into a
cohesive composition.   I think if the crits faced this question, we
could get traction on the "authorship question".

Best,
DEW

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Friday, 02 Jan 2004 12:07:59 -0500
Subject: 14.2466 Psychology of Gertrude
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.2466 Psychology of Gertrude

 >A wife's marriage to her husband does not end until the
 >husband is buried (whereas the husband's marriage to the wife ends at
 >the moment of her death).

Authority?

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Susan St. John <
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Date:           Friday, 02 Jan 2004 15:13:19 -0700
Subject: 14.2466 Psychology of Gertrude
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.2466 Psychology of Gertrude

Steve Sohmer writes,

 >The Ghost describes Claudius as "that incestuous, that adulterate beast"

Just because King Hamlet says Claudius was "adulterate" doesn't
necessarily make it true...or perhaps, KH knew his brother to have been
adulterate in a previous relationship...and is KH omniscient now that
he's dead? or are we to assume that he knew his wife was sleeping with
his brother while he was alive and did nothing about it?  And, if the
ghost is still walking around and not yet at rest, mightn't he consider
his widow to still be his wife?

 >A wife's marriage to her husband does not end until the
 >husband is buried (whereas the husband's marriage to the wife ends at
 >the moment of her death).

Where does this fact come from?  What possible reason could there be for
this distinction?  I'm not questioning Steve's accuracy here, I just
find the notion so totally absurd.  Was someone worried that a husband
might not be truly dead??  And shouldn't Anne have considered herself
still married when Richard III was wooing her over her husband's corpse

D Bloom writes that there is evidence from Chaucer suggesting "women are
extremely vulnerable to seduction right after a crisis, including
(perhaps especially) the death of a husband. "

I can easily imagine Claudius and Gertrude in a similar sort of scene as
that between RIII and Anne, perhaps without quite so much hatred on
Gertrude's part.

Susan.

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Pendleton <
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Date:           Friday, 2 Jan 2004 17:15:29 -0500
Subject: 14.2461 Psychology of Gertrude
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.2461 Psychology of Gertrude

In response to David Cohen's comment, Richard of Gloucester demonstrates
a good deal of loving respect and grief for his father, Richard Duke of
York--perhaps sufficient to qualify as idealization.  Note 3 Henry VI,
2.1.10-20 (ending "Methinks 'tis prize enough to be his son"). In the
same scene, see Richard's speeches at 79-88 and 91-94; in 3.2, his lines
at 114-16; in 2.4, lines 1-4; in 2.6, lines 46-51.  Even in Richard III,
he speaks in the same tonalities in 1.3, 173-180, and even for a moment
during the wooing of Lady Anne--1.2.151-66.  On the other hand, he
doesn't get along that well with his mother.

Tom Pendleton

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Frank Whigham <
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Date:           Friday, 02 Jan 2004 17:33:35 -0600
Subject: 14.2466 Psychology of Gertrude
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.2466 Psychology of Gertrude

 >Though some have tried hard to defend Gertrude's virtues, it's perfectly
 >clear from the text that she had intercourse with Claudius while she was
 >married to Old Hamlet.

 >The Ghost describes Claudius as "that incestuous, that adulterate beast"
 >(1.5.42). Now, one may commit incest with a dead brother's wife (viz.
 >Henry VIII's troubled conscience) ... but one cannot commit adultery
 >with a brother's wife unless the brother is still alive (or at least
 >unburied). A wife's marriage to her husband does not end until the
 >husband is buried (whereas the husband's marriage to the wife ends at
 >the moment of her death). Not quite perfectly clear, it seems to me.

(1) What we would regard as fetishistic husbandly possessiveness was
pretty common at the time. I see no reason to think that the sometimes
weirdly narcissistic ghost might not regard Gertrude's remarriage to
anyone as betrayal of her obligation to him, never mind to his brother.
To see their marriage as betraying him may be technically illogical
(since he is dead), but it fits easily with the cuckoldry fetish then so
common (and so present in the younger Hamlet's makeup).

(2) To deflect the blame for sexual betrayal onto the third party, and
away from the (here, nominally) betraying spouse, is an emotional
commonplace. One's own choice of the betraying spouse is thus not
brought into question.

(3) I've always wondered about the idea that "adulterate" might intermix
with some of the meanings we attach to "promiscuous": i.e., mixings. OED
has ("of things") "corrupted by base intermixture."

(4) Had Shakespeare wanted to be clear about the adultery, he could
easily have been so; he chose not to (witness the long-standing
debates). The epistemological obscurities are surely part of his aims,
whatever those might be.

(5) On the other hand, how this issue relates to Gertrude's sense of her
own "black and grained spots" is a very interesting matter. What exactly
might she mean by the phrase?

Frank Whigham

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