The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0695 Tuesday, 16 March 2004
Date: Monday, 15 Mar 2004 11:48:53 -0500
Subject: The Three Sons in Hamlet
Of Rolland Banker's thesis that the original sin in *Hamlet* is
committed by Hamlet, Sr., J. Feldman asks:
"My question is: does not this conjecture miss the observation made by
Horatio that King Fortinbras was the instigator of the duel?"
No. Banker is right. This is a revenge play, and the overpowering
emotion of revenge does not proceed by logical rules. That Old Hamlet
defeated Old Fortinbras "fair and square" and also captured land the
same way means nothing to a young hothead like Fortinbras Jr. Revenge
proceeds from the overwhelming feeling of having been humiliated,
violated, disrespected, etc. Whether it was a fair fight means little to
those who feel this emotion.
Banker's observation is important because it allows us to see that in
important ways *Hamlet* is about the older vs. the younger generation.
The Ghost manipulates Hamlet; Polonius manipulates Laertes and Ophelia;
Old Norway blocks young Fortinbras; Claudius manipulates Laertes; and so
on. In many ways, the young are sacrificed by their elders, who wish to
control them, even from beyond the grave.
For me, the proof that Old Hamlet is evil resides in his willingness to
seek revenge by using his son. What good, loving father would sacrifice
his son's life and happiness to even an old score from beyond the grave?
Fathers and father figures are the source of tragedy in *Hamlet.*
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