Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: April ::
The Murder of Gonzago
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0888  Friday, 16 April 2004

[1]     From:   D Bloom <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Thursday, 15 Apr 2004 08:11:35 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.0876 The Murder of Gonzago

[2]     From:   David Bishop <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Thursday, 15 Apr 2004 16:25:50 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0876 The Murder of Gonzago

[3]     From:   HR Greenberg <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 16 Apr 2004 04:10:46 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0873 The Murder of Gonzago


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 15 Apr 2004 08:11:35 -0500
Subject: 15.0876 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.0876 The Murder of Gonzago

Edmund Taft writes

 >The fundamental question is not
 >Claudius's guilt but the nature of the Ghost.
 >
 >Is this a good or bad spirit? If good, then revenge is God's will and
 >should be carried out. If bad, then, well, the opposite.

I have been around this question with ET (as have others) before. I
think the opposite. The origin of the Ghost is unknowable without some
kind of special revelation. Shakespeare does not bother about that
because it is not important enough to bother about. What is important is
whether Claudius is guilty of fratricide / regicide along with incest.
The ghost claims he is. Claudius confirms it. Hamlet's duty is clear.

Most assume that since the ghost is truthful about the guilt of
Claudius, it is truthful about its residence in Purgatory and its
release from there by the will of God. Since vengeance belongs to God,
according to Scripture, Hamlet's revenge on Claudius is no longer a
personal (and thus forbidden) act, but a part of Divine Justice, a
purging of the state of Denmark of its rottenness.

It makes not the slightest difference whether this is good theology,
either Protestant or Catholic. It's a good story. It has to square with
the feelings and beliefs of the general public not with the interpreters
St. Thomas or Calvin. It does so, even today.

There is always a vast body of generalized belief (moral, theological,
mythological, whatever) that fails to coincide with official doctrines
of church or state. Sometimes it flatly contradicts them. But it is in
this body that the successful dramatist works.

Cheers,
don

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Bishop <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 15 Apr 2004 16:25:50 -0400
Subject: 15.0876 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0876 The Murder of Gonzago

Thomas Larque makes what seem to me some sensible points about the
relationship between drama and theology. I think many critics today
vastly overestimate the relevance of the Catholic-Protestant conflict to
Shakespeare, and especially to Hamlet.

The ghost seems partly like an escaped prisoner, who has to be back by
dawn-or else what? We don't know, but we might suspect it will be horrible.

I think to call him a Catholic ghost is entirely misleading. The ghost
is the ghost of Hamlet's father. He imposes a duty to revenge on Hamlet,
a duty according with an ethos of honor and revenge that stretches back
into the mists of prehistory and persists today. If you don't see the
dynamic of honor and revenge operating in families and workplaces-or
even this list-and need something more lethal, try turning on the
Sopranos, or taking a tour of the middle east.

One major point about this ethos is that it is opposed by the Christian
prohibition of personal revenge. If the ethos of revenge were not so
strong, and so destructive, Christianity would not have needed to be
invented. This prohibition is not Catholic or Protestant, but Christian.
It is what Catholicism and Protestantism have in common. It is
incomparably more important in this play than any points of doctrinal
conflict, over say purgatory.

Purgatory is not named, but referred to obliquely in the word "purged"
and the conditions of the ghost's imprisonment. Yes, this does sound
like purgatory, but the censors left it in, and their reason for doing
so could hardly have been the thought that it satirized Catholicism.
They just didn't make much of it because in the context of the play
there's not much to make.  A vague idea of purgatory lets the ghost out,
ghosts are mysterious anyway, and the main point about the ghost is that
he tells Hamlet to do what, considering the truth of the murder, he
would feel, in  a part of himself, obligated to do anyway.

In another part of himself he is subject to a Christian
inhibition-unlike the ghost, who aside from having come from hell to
speak of horrors shows no sign of a Christian conscience. Leaving
Gertrude to heaven may sound Christian, but if it is, why wouldn't he
tell Hamlet to leave Claudius to heaven too? It's ironic that the
ghost's speaking of the horrors of hell would tend to vivify Hamlet's
Christian fear of damnation and work against his taking revenge. Without
this reminder he might charge ahead as thoughtlessly as Laertes, casting
conscience and grace into the pit and "daring" damnation.

Wringing all the logical possibilities out of particular lines, and then
claiming that these are centrally important to the play, is a common
critical method. Sometimes it can turn out to be true. Try, for example,
examining the meaning and implications of "I dare damnation", or having
a "craven scruple", or being made a coward by your conscience.

Best wishes,
David Bishop

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           HR Greenberg <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 16 Apr 2004 04:10:46 EDT
Subject: 15.0873 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0873 The Murder of Gonzago

what interests me about this passage is not the issue of purgatory, but
the ghost's statement that he could 'a tale unfold' about the
afterworld, yet another instance when a dying or dead man is given
powers of prophecy or revelation which are forestalled, in the Ghost's
example, perhaps by the fact that he is constrained by higher powers to
speak of his purgatorial term.

Hamlet upon his death talks about 'that fell sergeant death" whose
arrest constrains his ability not only to tell his own story, but I
believe impliitly any revelation of what's to come.

One also remembers that Hotspur, dying, voices the knowledge of similar
powers that give him the ability to prophecy but not the time.

Not being a scholar of Shakespeare (film yes), I wonder if this point
has been addressed at all. I would like to know more about any relevant
material.

I cannot see how any audience member would see Hamlet as a figure of
ridicule and if memory serves accounts from its first performance
forward speak of the observer being profoundly moved. No serious
scholarship I know of deems this so. There are no clowns as such in the
play -- although Hamlet famously cries down their role in his speech on
playing. Polonius, of course, is ridiculed by Hamlet, and acts and
speaks like a fool at times. I always found it peculiarly poignant and
quite in Hamlet's volatile but thoughtful character that, after
mercilessly satirizing Polonius, he bids the players -- or is it R and G
-- to 'use him well'.

Interesting discussion. HR Greenberg MD

_______________________________________________________________
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.
 

Other Messages In This Thread

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.