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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: May ::
The Murder of Gonzago
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1155  Monday, 31 May 2004

[1]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Friday, 28 May 2004 07:33:42 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1147 The Murder of Gonzago

[2]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Friday, 28 May 2004 11:27:09 -0400
        Subj:   The Murder of Gonzago

[3]     From:   Pamela Richards <
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        Date:   Friday, 28 May 2004 09:06:19 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1147 The Murder of Gonzago

[4]     From:   Stephen C. Rose <
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        Date:   Friday, 28 May 2004 09:20:22 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1147 The Murder of Gonzago

[5]     From:   David Cohen <
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        Date:   Friday, 28 May 2004 11:30:24 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1147 The Murder of Gonzago

[6]     From:   Pamela Richards <
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        Date:   Saturday, 29 May 2004 04:50:02 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Murder of Gonzago


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Friday, 28 May 2004 07:33:42 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 15.1147 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1147 The Murder of Gonzago

Pamela Richards writes, "Agrippa's Fourth book of Magic, one of the
works cited by King James in his book, _Daemonologie_, tells us...of
four types of apparitions--elementals (apparently odd looking creatures
who were associated with air, earth, fire and water); Good spirits, for
example angels, who could not masquerade as evil spirits due to their
very nature, and always told the truth; Evil spirits, who could
masquerade as a great variety of things, and who were not bound to tell
the truth; and unhappy ghosts of the departed dead.  Hamlet's ghost
could fit into only the last two of these categories...Although in our
day and age, fundamentalist Protestants may automatically suspect that
ghosts are evil spirits...."

OK: putting aside the significance of Agrippa's book to Will S.'s play
*Hamlet* we are left with your citations and conclusions: two above with
which I have more than a slight quibble.  Ready?  first, if the
spirit/ghost of Prince Hamlet's father told the *Truth* as I suspect the
play suggests he did, then Agrippa's second type fits, and the
apparition in ACT ONE of *Hamlet* was an *angel* and therefore a good
spirit; and second, I daresay your views on so-called "fundamentalist
Protestants" is highly suspect.

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

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Friday, 28 May 2004 11:27:09 -0400
Subject:        The Murder of Gonzago

Although I couldn't follow all of David Cohen's objections, I can answer
one of them. Initially, Hamlet thinks that The Mousetrap works, but
Horatio pours cold water on him. As I argued in an earlier post, as 3.2
goes on, the close observer can see doubts beginning to form in Hamlet's
mind.

As to Hamlet's psychology, I don't deny it's a fascinating subject, but
it's not what I'm focusing on right now. I think it's better to respond
to what I have said than what you would like me to say; to the approach
I use, not the dozens I could use. You asked a bit earlier in what way
Hamlet's actions could be seen as honorable. I tried to answer that.
Actually, I think that Hamlet's psychology (since that's your interest)
gets in the way of solving his problems, and he has to find a way to
jettison his private issues (as they say), conquer his fear of death,
and overcome his emotional reactions to a Ghost who may or may not be
his father.

One of the main problems with Hamlet's Mousetrap is that he cannot
separate himself from what he wants to test and measure. He's often a
distraction to the audience, and his comments near the poisoning reveal
his own intentions as much as they suggest Claudius's possible guilt. In
fact, the play itself criticizes Gertrude and contains within it the
famous Oedipal

problems that Hamlet has been seen as harboring. Hamlet screws up his
own test because it is not impersonal and strictly logical in execution.

To my mind, Hamlet finds by the end of 4.4 a way to proceed that
separates his psychology from his quest to discover the truth and act on
it. He assumes the role of a soldier, a role which confers many
benefits. He must put aside his fear of death. He must consider the
command of the ghost impersonally, as coming from a superior, not a
father. As would-be soldiers are told in boot camp, mama and daddy are
no longer here. Soldiers must take their personal issues, whatever they
are, and pack them away in a suitcase. Once the war is over, he (or she)
can reopen the bag. Until then, it stays firmly shut, and the task is to
carry out the mission with whatever intelligence, skill, and cunning can
be mustered.

That mission, as I see it, is two fold: (1)  to continue hunting down
Claudius and (2) to test Providence in the process.

I might add, finally, that your wish to see Hamlet confront Claudius in
a showdown shows, I think, that you do want the prince to act like Gary
Cooper or John Wayne. But by the end of the play, Hamlet does exactly that!

Ed Taft

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Pamela Richards <
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Date:           Friday, 28 May 2004 09:06:19 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 15.1147 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1147 The Murder of Gonzago

David Bishop asks:

 >"If Hamlet, as Pamela Richards says, wants to provoke
 >a confrontation with Claudius--which as a general
 >proposition is difficult to disagree with--exactly
 >what sort of confrontation could he have in mind?
 >After Polonius's death, Claudius has Hamlet brought
 >guarded to his presence. Is this a confrontation, or
 >an opportunity for one? What should Hamlet do that he
 >does not do? Should he proclaim Claudius a murderer
 >and kill him, saying to the people that he knows
 >Claudius was guilty because a ghost told him so? What
 >would be likely to happen then, the thought of
 >which might give Hamlet pause?
 >
 >Just wondering."

Obviously, a confrontation with a King is a delicate thing.  Even
surviving life at court is sometimes difficult.  I'd say that Hamlet had
several priorities to follow in producing his eventual confrontation
with Claudius.  In order to achieve his goals, which he stated in 3.3:

1)  He needed to stay alive long enough to accomplish it.

Reason: sine qua non

2)  He had to keep his intentions secret.

Reason:  Apply # 1--Secrets get out, especially at court.  A direct
threat to the life of the king would be considered treason, and Hamlet
would have to assume he would not survive it.  Horatio was privy to many
of Hamlet's personal secrets, but as far as I can tell, not to the
specifics of his plan.

3)  He had to wait until Claudius was engaged in some act of sin.

Reason:  As a Protestant and educated in Wittenburg, Hamlet believed it
was possible for a man to be absolved of his sins without intervention
of clergy.  His sense of justice told him that Claudius himself,
deserved no quarter, because in the murder of Hamlet Sr., Claudius had
given none.  In fact, Hamlet even applied this principle to any of the
servants of Claudius who threatened his existence:  namely, Polonius and
R&G.  All died unshriven; in the case of R&G, Hamlet made a point of it.
  In fact, Laertes was the sole exception: the only one to die by
Hamlet's hand who had had an honorable chance to make his peace with
God. Not only did Laertes have the opportunity to shrive himself before
the fencing match; as Laertes died, Hamlet expressly forgave Laertes for
killing him.

David's questions:

"Exactly what sort of confrontation?"

First, we might ask ourselves, can Hamlet expect Claudius to abdicate
the throne in his favor?  I think not.  He sees Claudius as a shrewd
murderer, who, although he may be opportunistic enought to take
advantage of a deathbed repentance, is not capable of acting with
consistent moral purity.  His word is not to be trusted.

I think the best Hamlet can expect from a confrontation with Claudius is
an opportunity to enact justice.  According to Hamlet's reasoning, the
confrontation needs to be one in which he could avoid the use of
military intervention.  Without saying so, he also needs to avoid being
himself accused of treason.  Because he states that he does not wish to
extend to Claudius the opportunity for divine forgiveness, this must
necessarily be a surprise attack.  This leaves out:

Legal means
Military means
Conspiracy plots

We might describe Hamlet's role in such a confrontation as that of a
vigilante.  Perhaps more like a hunter or an assassin than a
conventional soldier, a large part of what he had to do was to wait for
the right moment to act.

"What should Hamlet do that he does not do?"

I believe he did everything he intended to do and stated he would do,
although he would have better served his country if he had lived longer.
  He said what he was going to do to serve justice, and he did it.  That
makes him a hero in my book--although the question of whether his
actions were entirely justified is left unresolved, and left to each
audience member to decide for himself.  And this makes him a tragic hero.

"Should he proclaim Claudius a murderer and kill him, saying to people
that he knows Claudius was guilty because a ghost told him so?"

This is not an inaccurate description of what he did, leaving out the
part about the ghost.  He initiated his confrontation directly after the
accusation of Caludius' intention to murder Hamlet left Laertes' lips.
This accusation effectively proclaimed him a murderer, but relied upon a
non-supernatural source.

And, consistent with the theory that Hamlet deliberately provoked a
confrontation with Claudius which would expose him and bring him to
justice in the midst of his sins, Hamlet was Claudius' intended victim
when the trap was sprung.  Mousebait.

Regards,
Pamela Richards

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephen C. Rose <
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Date:           Friday, 28 May 2004 09:20:22 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 15.1147 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1147 The Murder of Gonzago

Pamela -- Most interesting and excellent post.

Ed -- I would add that Hamlet is under extreme duress from the very
start, knowing he is doomed before the play begins.

Best, S

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Cohen <
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Date:           Friday, 28 May 2004 11:30:24 -0500
Subject: 15.1147 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1147 The Murder of Gonzago

Pamela Richards <
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 > writes,

 >In response to David Cohen's comments on augury:
 >
 >I agree with you, as I think we all must, that there are limitations to
 >free will, e.g. time, limited material resources, and obstacles outside
 >of our control, the willingness of others to cooperate with our plans,
 >etc.

You don't include in you list biological limits on free will, that is,
inner limitations as powerful as outer for any consideration of just how
limited our free will really is.  Consider: Two 30-year-old identical
twins separated at birth and raised in different countries were asked
about their personal habits.  Interviewed separately, they both proved
to be compulsively neat, precise, meticulous, punctual, and obsessed
with cleanliness, all to pathological excess. Asked for an explanation,
one twin answered "My mother.  When I was growing up, she kept the house
perfectly ordered.  She insisted on every little thing being returned to
its proper place 

 

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