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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: March ::
The Three Sons in Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0773  Monday, 29 March 2004

[1]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Mar 2004 11:34:23 -0500
        Subj:   The Three Sons in Hamlet

[2]     From:   Thomas Pendleton <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Mar 2004 14:41:39 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.0755 The Three Sons in Hamlet

[3]     From:   Jay Feldman <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Mar 2004 14:47:15 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0760 The Three Sons in Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Mar 2004 11:34:23 -0500
Subject:        The Three Sons in Hamlet

Sean Lawrence writes: "There is, therefore, no reason to think that
Fortinbras's objective is greater than the capture of the territories
lost by his father, or that this limited goal does not necessitate an
attack on Denmark in general."

No general would agree with Sean, even the most inept. Having sharked up
a band of ruffians, Fortinbras would be idiotic to attack all of
Denmark, including Elsinore. Yet that is exactly what Claudius seems to
fear, given the opening scene and its implications. Sean will recall
that in the final scene, Fortinbras takes over all of Denmark the first
opportunity he gets.  Moreover, it's clear he doesn't think much of
Claudius.

So the case is no where near as simple as Sean paints it to be.
Shakespeare seems to want us to think about what Fortinbras is really up
to. I don't think there is a definitive answer in the text - at least, I
can't find it. So Jack Heller may be right that Fortinbras is angling
for all of Denmark and that allowing him safe passage is politically
foolish. One thing is for sure: in the final scene, Fortinbras does not
impress us as the hotheaded young upstart that, earlier in the play, we
may have thought he was.

For what it's worth, I think Fortinbras puts on the pressure and then
waits for Claudius's Denmark to fall of its own weight, now that old
Hamlet is dead. It's a pretty clever device, potentially a kind of
revenge, and it is based on the old idea that patience can be the best
way to get even. In other words, he out-Hamlets Hamlet.

Ed Taft

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Pendleton <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Mar 2004 14:41:39 -0500
Subject: 15.0755 The Three Sons in Hamlet
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.0755 The Three Sons in Hamlet

I think Fortinbras doesn't use his army to capture Denmark because
Shakespeare didn't tell us he did, whatever Branagh might have thought.

Tom Pendleton

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jay Feldman <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Mar 2004 14:47:15 EST
Subject: 15.0760 The Three Sons in Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0760 The Three Sons in Hamlet

Jack Heller suggests that: "...Fortinbras's strongest case is against
the Danish court itself, something Uncle Norway (reportedly) thinks he
has persuaded Fortinbras to forget about. I'm not convinced that we must
agree with that report, and the permission given to Fortinbras to
traverse Denmark on the route to Poland strikes me as politically
stupid. Among his other faults, Claudius is a bad politician."

Claudius appears to have backing from his immediate court but lacks
support from the rabble. Unlike Laertes, Hamlet never seems aware nor
takes advantage of this potential support that even Claudius
acknowledges:  "the great love the general gender bear him", perhaps
proving Hamlet is also a bad politician.

To suggest that Fortinbras and/or his uncle have planned a covert
invasion of Denmark wanders far from the mark. At least that is my
opinion and will remain so until someone can explain the logic of
Fortinbras marching his army through Denmark to fight a war in Poland,
and then returning battleworn and surely in need of resupply to attack
his actual target. Or are we also not to agree with the report: "Young
Fortinbras, [return] with conquest come from Poland"? After a while, by
not believing the text we could find sufficient conspiracy undercurrents
to have another play, perhaps we could call it "Fortinbras' Secret Revenge".

Jay Feldman

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