The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0721 Thursday, 18 March 2004
Date: Wednesday, 17 Mar 2004 11:18:04 -0500
Subject: The Three Sons in Hamlet
I agree with Jay that control is a central issue in *Hamlet,* and I also
think that Jay is right about Laertes's frame of mind when he first
returns to Elsinore. About Fortinbras and Old Hamlet:
1. Fortinbras is a shadow figure whose motives can be seen as like or
different from Hamlet's in much of the play.
But there's one bit of evidence that suggests Fortinbras is also
motivated by revenge: the opening scene of the play, in which Elsinore
and all of Denmark fears an attack from Fortinbras. If all he wanted was
his father's land, then he could recapture it without threatening the
entire kingdom. He wants more than the land his father lost: he wants it
all! Revenge is a dish which can taste best cold. In the end, he gets
2. Old Hamlet's call for revenge is more problematic than Jay allows.
Why not leave Claudius "to the will of heaven"?
The Ghost does not seem to be able to foresee the future, but everybody
in the audience knew that "revenge recoils on the revenger." The Ghost
must know that too. He sacrifices his own son to get what he wants.
I'd suggest that the older generation sees its children as property to
do with what they want - and that includes Old Hamlet. As the play
progresses, young Hamlet becomes more and more the instrument of Old
Hamlet's will to effect revenge. The ethos of "people as property"
finally wins out: Fortinbras gets it all.
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