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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: May ::
The Murder of Gonzago
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1079  Tuesday, 18 May 2004

[1]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Monday, 17 May 2004 07:09:59 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1070 The Murder of Gonzago

[2]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Monday, 17 May 2004 07:27:45 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1070 The Murder of Gonzago

[3]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Monday, 17 May 2004 11:28:08 -0400
        Subj:   The Murder of Gonzago

[4]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Monday, 17 May 2004 13:56:56 -0700
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.1070 The Murder of Gonzago


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Monday, 17 May 2004 07:09:59 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 15.1070 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1070 The Murder of Gonzago

David Cohen  writes, "First, imagine removing the four soliloquies-no
soliloquies, lots of action.  How much less of a play would Hamlet be?"

OK: why don't we just cut to the quick?  Imagine the play *Hamlet*
without the spirit/ghost?  Now, there is a twist!

OK: without the spirit/ghost we have *NO* knowledge of the murder, and
we have a prince without a prayer.

OK: it is *OBVIOUS* is it not, that without the spirit/ghost, the play
would be *NADA* and there would be no *CONFLICT*.

OK: so why *NOT* deal with the play *Hamlet* which Will S. gave posterity?

OK: I posit that the spirit/ghost of the *FATHER* of Prince Hamlet
invokes the *SON* to remedy *EVIL* in the world by his evil brother
Claudius and become a tragic hero, which is exactly what happens in Will
S.'s play *Hamlet*.  In other words, the *WILL* of the *FATHER* from the
*NETHER* world of *TRUTH* intrudes on this world and Prince Hamlet the
*SON* takes remedial action!  The will of the father through the actions
of the son becomes fateful, and fulfilling of the message of the
spirit/ghost.

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

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Monday, 17 May 2004 07:27:45 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 15.1070 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1070 The Murder of Gonzago

David Bishop writes, "As Hamlet tells us, with manic jubilation, the
Mousetrap did just what he wanted it to do. Yet it did fail, in one
important way. Claudius did not, as Hamlet faintly hoped, proclaim his
malefactions. Short of that, blench or walk out as he might, no one but
Hamlet and Horatio would have seen his behavior as exhibiting the guilt
of a regicide. As far as everyone else is concerned, King Hamlet was
bitten by a snake, and the Mousetrap is simply a play about some
Viennese intriguer, interrupted repeatedly by an ill-behaved, perhaps
mad, Hamlet, until the king has had enough, and driven into choler by
Hamlet's behavior, walks out, leaving the court none the wiser. Whether
or not Claudius now knows that Hamlet knows all, he knows that Hamlet is
dangerous. But he already knew that, when he overheard Hamlet say to
Ophelia that 'all but one-shall live.' That's when he started forming
his plot to remove Hamlet.  After the Mousetrap, Hamlet kills Polonius,
which drives the threat home.  If we didn't already know-or forgot--that
Claudius was guilty, we might be confused. But since Claudius confirms
the ghost's story with his 'painted word' speech, we aren't-or shouldn't
be. What possible purpose would be served if the guilty Claudius, in
walking out, did not reveal his guilt to Hamlet?  Theories of the
Mousetrap's "failure" suffer not merely from inaccuracy but from
pointlessness. Hamlet clearly indicates that he sees Claudius betray his
guilt by walking out, and since we, well prepared by Shakespeare to see
this, also see it, where is the problem?"

OK: methinks David has seen it correctly.  Bravo, my man, for a pointed
and decidedly accurate appraisal of Hamlet, the "Mousetrap," and the
play *Hamlet*.

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

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Monday, 17 May 2004 11:28:08 -0400
Subject:        The Murder of Gonzago

Sean Lawrence quotes me and then responds:

"Ed Taft writes,

 >"Again, suppose that you were sent on
 >a ship with guys whom you were pretty sure were out to do you in -
 >somehow. Would you leave everything to chance?"

Heavens, no.  I'd check their luggage and forge a death warrant for
them, like Hamlet does."

But Sean, you'd be dead if you did that! You don't happen to have Old
Hamlet's signet ring in your pocket, do you? Seriously, the point is
that chance/providence plays the crucial role in this pivotal scene.

David Cohen asserts that

"nowhere in Hamlet or any other play, does a major character engage
Providence, let alone a personal God, in a debate that furthers our
understanding of the ultimate meaning of man's existence."

That's no quite what I think Hamlet is doing. I think he is testing
Providence because he still has doubts about the Ghost, contra Graham
Bradshaw. But to answer your question, surely the nihilism of Macbeth
and the despair of Gloucester qualify as major characters who see the
world as absurd (not that Shakespeare necessarily did).

Finally, I'd suggest to David Bishop that Graham Bradshaw is right that
the Mousetrap fails. Throughout the first four acts, all of Hamlet's
tests fail, despite their brilliance, because personal concerns keep
intruding. He fails to question the Ghost as he should because he is too
afraid. His test of Ophelia in her closet fails because he scares her to
death and forces her to seek out her father and tell what happened. His
hints to Ophelia in 3.1 are overshadowed by his anger and seeming
madness; and so on. So it is with the Mousetrap, which might have worked
had Hamlet kept his mouth shut and just let the play do its job. What
Hamlet lacks until 4.4 is a way to divorce himself from what he wants to
know.

Ed Taft

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Monday, 17 May 2004 13:56:56 -0700
Subject: 15.1070 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.1070 The Murder of Gonzago

Ed Taft writes,

 >I appreciate Jay Feldman's parody; as usual, I don't understand the
 >comments of Sean Lawrence - they seem gratuitous and pointless sarcasm.

I'm sorry that you feel that way.  Perhaps I wasn't clear enough.  Let
me put it in point form:

1. You claim that one sign of Hamlet's testing God is entering into a
duel without examining the foils;

2. Your only evidence that he doesn't examine the foils is that he
doesn't see the poison;

3. Not all poisons are visible;

4. Therefore, there's no reason to think he doesn't examine the foils,
and this argument for Hamlet's suicidal testing of Providence should be
stricken from the list.

Yrs,
SKL.

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