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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: April ::
The Murder of Gonzago
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0842  Wednesday, 7 April 2004

[1]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 6 Apr 2004 10:30:45 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.0834 The Murder of Gonzago

[2]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 6 Apr 2004 09:45:34 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0834 The Murder of Gonzago

[3]     From:   W.L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 06 Apr 2004 22:11:09 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0834 The Murder of Gonzago


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Tuesday, 6 Apr 2004 10:30:45 -0500
Subject: 15.0834 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.0834 The Murder of Gonzago

Douglas Brooks writes,

 >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.

Partly this is a matter of personal opinion. I consider the
nephew-brother change trivial; Brooks considers it crucial. There's not
likely to be any resolution and others can put their money down on red
or black as they see fit.

The other point is more substantial. As I understand it, Brooks is
saying that Claudius enters into agonized and ultimately futile prayer,
not because he has just seen his terrible sin (the murder of a man
sleeping in his garden through pouring poison in his ear) portrayed in
public, but because the presentation threatens him with murder and he
wishes to get himself straight with heaven if it should happen.

I find this latter highly unlikely, but I also find it a very much
weaker idea. We have already had Claudius established as a man with some
shreds of conscience and some degree of remorse about his evil action
(III, 1). He is, in this, a full brother of such characters as Macbeth
and Brutus, as opposed to such unrepentant sinners as Don John, Iago and
Shylock. As with the first two, I find the agony of a man who has
tempted himself into irremediable evil much more interesting than the
religious concerns of a politician.

Cheers,
don

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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 >
Date:           Tuesday, 6 Apr 2004 09:45:34 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 15.0834 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0834 The Murder of Gonzago

 >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.

Ah, but it does reinforce his guilt to the audience of the play Hamlet.
Claudius hints at this in III. i. and openly admits it to us in III.
iii. But the issue being validly raised here is why does Shakespeare
confuse the point in the Mousetrap? What is he getting across to us by
making Lucianus his nephew? Or is it merely a thinly veiled attempt by
Hamlet to conceal what would certainly be treason - to imply that a king
has murdered the previous king when his only evidence for such is the
word of a ghost? And Horatio - why is he so uncommitted to Hamlet's
exuberance? Only "half a share" in a fellowship of players (a reference
autobiographical to Shakespeare's situation with the Chamberlain's Men?)
and only that he noted Claudius "very well". Not one reference to
reinforce Hamlet's assumptions. A mere "Hamlet, you and the ghost are
right" would have sufficed. And yet, Claudius is guilty. What is going
on here?

Brian Willis

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W.L. Godshalk <
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 >
Date:           Tuesday, 06 Apr 2004 22:11:09 -0400
Subject: 15.0834 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0834 The Murder of Gonzago

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

writes Douglas Brooks. Yes, absolutely. Hamlet intrudes himself into The
Murder of Gonzago and thus the play proves nothing about the king's
guilt.  The king is of course guilty, and Hamlet thinks that he's
guilty, but this play proves little beyond the fact that Hamlet is
unable to function well in a world of seeming.

Bill Godshalk

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