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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: April ::
The Murder of Gonzago
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0890  Monday, 19 April 2004

[1]     From:   Jack Heller <
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        Date:   Friday, 16 Apr 2004 07:32:02 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0876 The Murder of Gonzago

[2]     From:   Thomas Larque <
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        Date:   Friday, 16 Apr 2004 13:46:05 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0888 The Murder of Gonzago

[3]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Friday, 16 Apr 2004 09:46:36 -0400
        Subj:   The Murder of Gonzago

[4]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Friday, 16 Apr 2004 08:34:25 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0888 The Murder of Gonzago

[5]     From:   Alan Horn <
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        Date:   Friday, 16 Apr 2004 15:38:24 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0888 The Murder of Gonzago

[6]     From:   Jay Feldman <
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        Date:   Friday, 16 Apr 2004 14:19:24 -1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0888 The Murder of Gonzago


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Heller <
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Date:           Friday, 16 Apr 2004 07:32:02 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 15.0876 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0876 The Murder of Gonzago

This and the three sons in Hamlet thread have gotten away from my
ability to contribute in a timely fashion. It is the longest running
thread I've ever started, and even when I've disagreed with some
responses, I do appreciate them.

When I began the thread, I also asked about other plays-within-plays,
whether any of them (other than "Pyramus and Thisbe") end as the
participants expect. Would prior experiences of plays-within-plays shape
the Globe audience response? Which other dramas should we look to?

And a new question: I've noticed in Hamlet criticism, particularly
Girard's "Hamlet's Dull Revenge," references to prior revenge tragedies.
  But most revenge tragedies I can think of follow Hamlet: Antonio's
Revenge, The Atheist's Tragedy, The Revenge of Bussy D'Ambois, The
Revenger's Tragedy. I can only think of The Spanish Tragedy and the
ur-Hamlet and predecessors. So what other revenge tragedies would date
between Spanish Tragedy and Hamlet?

Jack Heller
Huntington College

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Larque <
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Date:           Friday, 16 Apr 2004 13:46:05 +0100
Subject: 15.0888 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0888 The Murder of Gonzago

I'm not sure whether anybody has pointed out that - theology aside -
Shakespeare *needs* purgatory for the literary situation in "Hamlet".

If Old Hamlet's spirit, on his body being killed by Claudius, went
directly to heaven and eternal bliss, then Young Hamlet is rather less
likely to be provoked into bitter and angry revenge (as required by the
play).  Indeed, as Feste points out in his truthful jests to Olivia in
"Twelfth Night", a true Christian should theoretically rejoice that
their dead loved ones are in heaven rather than mourning for them (or
trying to stick sharp pieces of metal into the ones who sent them there).

By contrast, if the ghost of Old Hamlet came from Hell, then Old Hamlet
would have to have been so evil as not to deserve the Christian reward
of spending afterlife with God and Jesus, and was instead deserving of
eternal punishment for presumably unspeakable sins.  In this case, Young
Hamlet's motivation would once again be seriously dented.  Why should he
make so much effort to revenge an evil, unpleasant father?  For
Shakespeare's play to have the effect that it does, at least Young
Hamlet (and probably the audience) must be convinced that Old Hamlet was
a noble, kindly King brutally and undeservingly murdered by a monster.

So even if Shakespeare was himself a Protestant, or even a loyal
propagandist for anti-Catholicism (as has been suggested, occasionally -
in stark contrast to the entirely opposite view, often voiced, that he
was himself a Catholic), then he might have allowed these fragments of
Purgatorial thinking to appear because his play needed them, just as
other plays needed Venus and Cupid, or Mars and Jupiter, or Roman belief
in the virtue and nobility of suicide.

Thomas Larque.
"Shakespeare and His Critics"       "British Shakespeare Association"
http://shakespearean.org.uk           http://britishshakespeare.ws

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Friday, 16 Apr 2004 09:46:36 -0400
Subject:        The Murder of Gonzago

Referring to the origin and nature of the Ghost (Is it from purgatory?
from hell?), Don Bloom writes:

"Shakespeare does not bother about that because it is not important
enough to bother about."

This is a good example of Don's approach in general. If a question is
difficult or not capable of easy resolution by referring to the critics
of the 1940's, then the question must be wrong or not important or
reveal the shortcomings of whoever asks the question.

Nonsense. The nature of the ghost is stressed in 1.5 repeatedly and
hangs over the play (and over Hamlet) like a black shroud. It won't go
away, no matter how much Don wants it to. Moreover, Don's logic is
faulty: the devil can quote scripture for his own purposes.

That is, the fact that the Ghost's account of its death seems accurate
proves nothing about its origin - nothing. How delicious (from the
devil's point of view) to use the truth to damn Hamlet! - if it's the
devil (or old Hamlet in hell) who appears in 1.5.

Just about everybody (except Don) accepts that, among other things, the
play *Hamlet* is an intellectual tour-de-force. Such plays are designed
to examine the very questions that Don wants us not to look at.

Ed Taft

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Friday, 16 Apr 2004 08:34:25 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 15.0888 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0888 The Murder of Gonzago

D Bloom writes, "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."

Well, a ghost is a ghost is a ghost just as a spirit is a spirit is a
spirit.

The spirit of Hamlet's father begins the play with information no one
could know except, according to the tale told, the murderer or the
murderee [sic], and lays down the gauntlet of information for Hamlet the
son to pick up and end the play.  The play confirms the spiritual nature
of the spirit inasmuch as swords had no effect upon him, in other words
he was not corporeal.  He is a spirit.  The nature of the tale told by
the spirit of Hamlet's father is clear, thus is the purpose of the
gauntlet laid down, and thus is the role of the son.  It is an
Information Age [sic] play!  The dichotomy of the message is crystal
clearly between black and white, good and evil, and any theatre-goer,
even a young child, had no trouble determining that Claudius was evil
and Hamlet the son was good. Ask any kid about that apparition at the
start of the play and the unfolding events, and you will get a black and
white, good and evil answer every time.  Typical of Will S, and fits his
canon that the city of God rights the ship of State, always!

Bill Arnold
http://www.cwru.edu/affil/edis/scholars/arnold.htm

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Alan Horn <
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Date:           Friday, 16 Apr 2004 15:38:24 EDT
Subject: 15.0888 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0888 The Murder of Gonzago

I just came across a reference to a book that would relate to recent
discussion on this thread: Stephen Greenblatt's Hamlet in Purgatory.

Alan H

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jay Feldman <
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Date:           Friday, 16 Apr 2004 14:19:24 -1000
Subject: 15.0888 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0888 The Murder of Gonzago

Don Bloom says: ...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.

Before nail guns, I once spent a month assisting a master carpenter.
Never once in that month did I see him miss hit a nail. It was a
pleasure to watch him work. Likewise, I believe Don Bloom has hit this
nail full square. David Bishop's remarks were dead on too.

Thanks - Jay Feldman

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