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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: April ::
The Murder of Gonzago
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0800  Thursday, 1 April 2004

[1]     From:   Jack Heller <
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 >
        Date:   Wednesday, 31 Mar 2004 09:06:02 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0790 The Murder of Gonzago

[2]     From:   D Bloom <
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 >
        Date:   Wednesday, 31 Mar 2004 09:52:18 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.0790 The Murder of Gonzago


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Heller <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, 31 Mar 2004 09:06:02 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 15.0790 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0790 The Murder of Gonzago

I kick myself for missing that Player Lucianus is the Player King's
nephew; thanks to those who pointed out this detail. I think it only
strengthens the reading I was developing. So "The Murder of Gonzago" may
be a death threat. Claudius may leave pissed off at Hamlet, not
guilt-stricken.

Jack Heller
Huntington College

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, 31 Mar 2004 09:52:18 -0600
Subject: 15.0790 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.0790 The Murder of Gonzago

The reference to "nephew" is certainly curious and suggestive, but not
to my mind the crucial aspect of catching the conscience of the king.
That is accomplished by re-enacting the precise means by which Claudius
committed the crime.

Whatever any individual courtier may have thought about the death of Old
Hamlet (reference Banquo: "Thou hast it now: King, Cawdor, Glamis, all .
  . . and I fear thou playd'st most foully for it"), the success of
Claudius's coup has forced everyone at least to pretend that it all
happened as told in the official story. "The Murder of Gonzago" forces
everyone to look at the possibility that Old Hamlet was murdered.

The courtiers would probably still ignore the whole thing, unless (like
the Percies) they decided to bail out on the usurper. But Claudius
cannot. He has been publicly accused, and, more importantly, he has been
faced with the vileness of his crime. He bears it for a while, not
wanting to shame himself by reacting in what might be construed as a
guilty fashion. But he can't maintain his composure when the actual
murder takes place.

Confronting people with the fact of their hypocrisy is a consistent
strategy of Hamlet's-when he indulges his ostentatious mourning in
contrast to the disrespectful revelry of the King and Queen; when he
calls Polonius a fishmonger; when he rails at Ophelia so furiously,; at
the beginning of "Murder" when the primary focus is a bitter satire on
the queen; in the subsequent discussion in her bedroom.

As many have noted, the parallel of the crimes is exact. Against all
possibility, Hamlet knows exactly how the murder of his father took
place, and with the production of "Murder" the King knows that he knows
-- and that everyone else will at least have a suspicion.

It is, when looked at that way, a spectacular piece of theatre. Claudius
sees himself for what he is, and (like Gertrude a few minutes later) is
devastated. If you assume some other motive for Claudius's sudden
departure, and have the actor portray a man who is, say, bored with a
knavish piece of work, or in need of relieving himself, or whatever,
then you lose that effect.

This is why I brought up the matter of thinking through the implications
of theories. Making the play significantly duller strikes me as unwise.

Cheers,
d

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Hardy M. Cook, 
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The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0800  Thursday, 1 April 2004

[1]     From:   Jack Heller <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Wednesday, 31 Mar 2004 09:06:02 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0790 The Murder of Gonzago

[2]     From:   D Bloom <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Wednesday, 31 Mar 2004 09:52:18 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.0790 The Murder of Gonzago


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Heller <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, 31 Mar 2004 09:06:02 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 15.0790 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0790 The Murder of Gonzago

I kick myself for missing that Player Lucianus is the Player King's
nephew; thanks to those who pointed out this detail. I think it only
strengthens the reading I was developing. So "The Murder of Gonzago" may
be a death threat. Claudius may leave pissed off at Hamlet, not
guilt-stricken.

Jack Heller
Huntington College

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, 31 Mar 2004 09:52:18 -0600
Subject: 15.0790 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.0790 The Murder of Gonzago

The reference to "nephew" is certainly curious and suggestive, but not
to my mind the crucial aspect of catching the conscience of the king.
That is accomplished by re-enacting the precise means by which Claudius
committed the crime.

Whatever any individual courtier may have thought about the death of Old
Hamlet (reference Banquo: "Thou hast it now: King, Cawdor, Glamis, all .
  . . and I fear thou playd'st most foully for it"), the success of
Claudius's coup has forced everyone at least to pretend that it all
happened as told in the official story. "The Murder of Gonzago" forces
everyone to look at the possibility that Old Hamlet was murdered.

The courtiers would probably still ignore the whole thing, unless (like
the Percies) they decided to bail out on the usurper. But Claudius
cannot. He has been publicly accused, and, more importantly, he has been
faced with the vileness of his crime. He bears it for a while, not
wanting to shame himself by reacting in what might be construed as a
guilty fashion. But he can't maintain his composure when the actual
murder takes place.

Confronting people with the fact of their hypocrisy is a consistent
strategy of Hamlet's-when he indulges his ostentatious mourning in
contrast to the disrespectful revelry of the King and Queen; when he
calls Polonius a fishmonger; when he rails at Ophelia so furiously,; at
the beginning of "Murder" when the primary focus is a bitter satire on
the queen; in the subsequent discussion in her bedroom.

As many have noted, the parallel of the crimes is exact. Against all
possibility, Hamlet knows exactly how the murder of his father took
place, and with the production of "Murder" the King knows that he knows
-- and that everyone else will at least have a suspicion.

It is, when looked at that way, a spectacular piece of theatre. Claudius
sees himself for what he is, and (like Gertrude a few minutes later) is
devastated. If you assume some other motive for Claudius's sudden
departure, and have the actor portray a man who is, say, bored with a
knavish piece of work, or in need of relieving himself, or whatever,
then you lose that effect.

This is why I brought up the matter of thinking through the implications
of theories. Making the play significantly duller strikes me as unwise.

Cheers,
d

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, 
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.
 

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