The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0833 Tuesday, 6 April 2004
Date: Monday, 05 Apr 2004 11:22:41 -0400
Subject: The Three Sons in Hamlet
David Bishop writes:
"The usurping Fortinbras seems to me an unbelievable character, above
all for one simple reason. At the end of his tragedies, Shakespeare
leaves the state under the rule of the best available candidate, who
represents a good, if exhausted, order. He does not give the crown to a
I almost agree. Fortinbras seems to be a usurper since at the start he
not only wants his father's old lands back but also targets Claudius's
kingship. Careful readers will note that later on, Fortinbras wants
Poland's outlands but does NOT target all of Poland and Poland's king.
Also, Fortinbras, whatever his hidden feelings, does not have to use his
army at the end of the play. He just takes what he wants. I think the
point is akin to that made by *The Atheist's tragedy*: patience brings
revenge to those who wait for it. I'd quibble only about whether F
represents a "good" order. He seems to represent the ethic of land
grabbing: Property rights triumphant. Young Hamlet, in his better
moments, seems to represent a higher, better ethic -- but perhaps only
appropriate for the private world, not the public one.
I thank Sean Laurence for his learned post on the history of warfare.
But I think he fails to distinguish between mercenaries who are career
soldiers and those "sharked up" off the street in Norway. Horatio's
comments about the latter seem dismissive.
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