The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.2075 Thursday, 9 December 2004
From: David Basch <
Date: Wednesday, 08 Dec 2004 19:25:39 -0500
Subject: Hamlet - SHK 15.2066
Comment: Re: Greenblatt's Hamlet - SHK 15.2066
Re: Horatio's Mission
Michael Luskin wishes to ascertain WHAT IS HORATIO BEING CALLED ON TO
TELL THE WORLD. I hold that it is not the details of how Hamlet,
Claudius, and the others came to have been killed in the last bloody
scene the play. The details of how that happened would have already been
evident to the royal court that witnessed the events of the mousetrap
play and the dueling contest at the end of the play.
But in responding to Michael Luskin's comments on credibility of
Hamlet's justification for action against Claudius, perhaps I did not do
justice in presenting the case since he finds it not convincing.
Luskin believes that the dead Hamlet would have needed an explanation of
the justification of his action if he were not to be written off in
history as a flake that killed the king.
My view is that Horatio's mission is not that at all, but is to reveal
how character flaws can bring even a good man to an early death, which
is what happened to Hamlet. Let me go over my argument again for another
round, hopefully better explained.
To begin with, the "mouse trap" play was staged for the purpose of
confirming Hamlet's suspicions about Claudius. Hamlet is satisfied that
Claudius was guilty by observing the reaction of Claudius along with
Horatio who agreed with him. Had Hamlet acted on that basis, he would
have had a good case and been persuasive in the Danish court with
Horatio to back him up, not to mention any others in the audience of the
play to confirm that the king really looked disturbed by the play,
strongly suggesting his guilt. Hamlet is a rightful avenger and would
have been in line to ascend the throne-powerful positions that would
have worked for him in a trial. In fact, the great problem of the play
has been the question of why Hamlet did not act on this basis but
allowed himself to spare the king, enabling the king to turn the tables
Michael Luskin also asks, Who watched the events of the final scene?
The entire court did. The coutiers watched Claudius offer the drink, in
which he publicly put a pearl, and which drink later turns out to have
contained the poison that kills the queen. Laertes before the royal
court is a dying witness that Claudius was behind the plots.
When this is recognized, our thoughts must face the real message of the
play, which concerns the nature of proper human character
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