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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: March ::
Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0696  Tuesday, 16 March 2004

From:           D Bloom <
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 >
Date:           Monday, 15 Mar 2004 11:41:16 -0600
Subject: 15.0687 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.0687 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?

Dan Smith writes,

 > . . . I think that a key part of asking forgiveness is confronting
 >what you have done without evasion and 'I didn't mean to' and 'I'm not
 >responsible, it was the madness not me' and 'Hamlet is of the faction
 >that is wrong'd' does not suggest moral heroism.

I'm not sure we have any right to expect moral heroism out of Hamlet at
this stage. The whole fencing match is an obvious fake, and the reader /
watcher, Horatio and Hamlet himself would have to be fairly stupid to
miss the fact that it was set-up precisely to murder him legally --
which they aren't, of course. However, to maintain the sham of a
friendly fencing match Hamlet must apologize for his having killed
Laertes' father in some fashion. This is manifestly hokey but it does
allow the three principals to move toward the crisis with some degree of
plausibility.

Hamlet's phony apology is, thus, not designed to show true contrition
(though he may, in fact, be contrite (as "But I am very sorry, good
Horatio, / That to Laertes I forgot myself / For by the image of his
cause I see / The portraiture of mine" indicates)) but is simply another
part of the whole charade. The king and Laertes know that it is trap;
Hamlet and Horatio strongly suspect so. But for form's sake they go
through with this apology, because the king is afraid, Laertes bitter,
and Hamlet so weary of game-playing that he wants to have it out even on
these treacherous terms.

"If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now;
if it be not now, yet it will come."

Cheers,
don

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