The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0982 Thursday, 29 April 2004
Date: Wednesday, 28 Apr 2004 10:32:35 -0400
Subject: The Murder of Gonzago
David Cohen asks me:
"In response to Sean Lawrence, you wrote, '. . . I think ascertaining
God's Will is the central intellectual problem in the play - both for
the audience and for Hamlet. And that's what I think the play from 4.4
on is primarily about.' What specific part of the text do you have in
mind as evidence for this intriguing statement?"
David, I'm thinking primarily of Hamlet's actions from 4.4 on. In a play
where acting and actions are so important, we need to give equal time
not only to Hamlet's words, but also to what Hamlet does. Here, in
chronological order, is Hamlet's part in the plot as the play draws to a
1. He boards the ship bound for England, even though he strongly
suspects that R&G have orders to somehow get rid of him.
2. He boards the Pirate ship, even though such an action might mean his
3. He returns to Denmark and announces in a letter to the king that he
is back, "naked" and "alone."
4. He enrages and insults Laertes during Ophelia's burial.
5. He later accepts a duel with the more skilled Laertes.
6. He avoids examining the foils before the fight.
As for his words during this time, he is obsessed with death and Providence.
I have my own ideas as to how to put his thoughts and actions together,
but I'd rather invite you or others first to comment on what, if
anything, is going on here.
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