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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: April ::
The Murder of Gonzago
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0834  Tuesday, 6 April 2004

[1]     From:   Douglas Brooks <
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        Date:   Monday, 5 Apr 2004 11:10:51 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0818 The Murder of Gonzago

[2]     From:   David Bishop <
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        Date:   Monday, 5 Apr 2004 15:34:51 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0818 The Murder of Gonzago


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Douglas Brooks <
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Date:           Monday, 5 Apr 2004 11:10:51 -0500
Subject: 15.0818 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0818 The Murder of Gonzago

D. Bloom states:

 >The ghost or may not be evil and untruthful but the parallel between his
 >story and the play as staged at Hamlet's behest seems pretty exact to me.

Yes, except for one major point. King Hamlet is killed by his brother;
King Gonzago is killed by his nephew.  This is a considerable difference
when it comes to catching the conscience of Claudius.  When Claudius
goes off alone after seeing this performance and confesses, he's doing
so because he's afraid his nephew is going to murder him and he doesn't
want to die with his sins about his head as  his brother did. The play
does not prove Claudius's guilt to anyone, not to Hamlet, not to
Horatio, because it shows a king being murdered by his nephew not his
brother.  For a number of reasons, psychological, narcissistic,
self-destructive etc, Hamlet undermines the efficacy of the play's
ability to catch the conscience of the king by projecting himself into
the role of the king killer when he informs all within earshot that
Lucianus is the nephew.    Thus Horatio in the following exchange is
necessarily vague about what he perceived the evidence from the king's
reaction is rendered inconclusive by Hamlet's commentary on Lucianus'
identity.

HAMLET
   Didst perceive?
HORATIO
Very well, my lord.
HAMLET
Upon the talk of the poisoning?
HORATIO
I did very well note him.

Yes, Horatio, but what exactly did you note?  Did you note him as
guilty? Or did you note him as frightened because his life has just been
threatened in public by the next person in succession to the throne?

Moreover, Hamlet tells Horatio to pay attention to the king during one
one speech in particular in the following, lines but never tells him
which speech to pay attention to:

if his occulted guilt
Do not itself unkennel in one speech,
It is a damned ghost that we have seen,

And finally, the king does not get up in reaction to any such speech
Hamlet may have written, but rather he gets up upon hearing the
following commentary from his would be nephew assassin:

HAMLET
He poisons him i' the garden for's estate. His
name's Gonzago: the story is extant, and writ in
choice Italian: you shall see anon how the murderer
gets the love of Gonzago's wife.

All of which is to say that if Hamlet really hopes to prove the king's
guilt with the play, he really botches it.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Bishop <
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Date:           Monday, 5 Apr 2004 15:34:51 -0400
Subject: 15.0818 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0818 The Murder of Gonzago

To answer Jay Feldman-and thanks for reading my post-I can't see any
indication that Hamlet's comments are heard only by Ophelia. They seem
on the contrary designed to demonstrate his antic disposition, and to
annoy Claudius. They're part of the behavior to which Gertrude ascribes
Claudius's walkout.

Best wishes,
David Bishop

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