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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: October ::
The Meaning of Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1841  Wednesday, 6 October 2004

[1]     From:   Peter Bridgman <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 5 Oct 2004 13:45:33 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1826 The Meaning of Hamlet

[2]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 05 Oct 2004 10:34:30 -0400
        Subj:   The Meaning of Hamlet

[3]     From:   Kenneth Chan <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 06 Oct 2004 00:36:29 +0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1826 The Meaning of Hamlet

[4]     From:   R. A. Cantrell <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 05 Oct 2004 22:10:56 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1826 The Meaning of Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Bridgman <
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Date:           Tuesday, 5 Oct 2004 13:45:33 +0100
Subject: 15.1826 The Meaning of Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1826 The Meaning of Hamlet

Kenneth Chan writes ...

 >Given that Hamlet did rashly kill Polonius in the next scene (while
 >mistaking him for the King), we can probably conclude that he would have
 >killed Claudius here had he not been at prayer.

I agree, except we cannot be certain that Hamlet mistakes Polonius for
the King.  If Hamlet leaves Claudius at prayer and goes straight to his
mother's chamber, then he knows it isn't his uncle behind the arras.

Peter Bridgman

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Tuesday, 05 Oct 2004 10:34:30 -0400
Subject:        The Meaning of Hamlet

Kenneth Chan writes:

"Given that Hamlet did rashly kill Polonius in the next scene (while
mistaking him for the King), we can probably conclude that he would have
killed Claudius here had he not been at prayer. This means that we
accept Hamlet's reason for sparing the praying Claudius as his genuine
reason; not some excuse for delaying his revenge. This would be
consistent with Shakespeare's portrayal of Hamlet's transformation into
the dreaded avenger."

Kenneth, if you are right, then why doesn't Hamlet confront Claudius
right after the bedroom scene and kill him? Why does it take more than
another act for Hamlet to finally act?

Regards,
Ed Taft

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kenneth Chan <
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Date:           Wednesday, 06 Oct 2004 00:36:29 +0800
Subject: 15.1826 The Meaning of Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1826 The Meaning of Hamlet

John W. Kennedy writes:

 >>"In his own words: "I do not know why yet I live to say this thing's
to do, Sith
 >>I have cause, and will, and strength, and means to do't." If Hamlet had
 >>been delaying because of the lack of proof, why would he say this?
 >
 >Because he is human?"

I think the question should really be "Why did Shakespeare write this
line?" The play is not an event reported by Shakespeare. It is fictional
drama crafted by him - he can make Hamlet say whatever he wants him to
say. So if Shakespeare means to convey the idea that Hamlet delayed
because of lack of proof, why would he write this line?

Ros King writes:

 >"He only says it in the Q2 version. There's no delay in F - or none that
 >gets in the way of his jubilation at the 'proof' of the Mousetrap
 >performance ..."

That's an interesting point. The relevant question, though, is this:
"Did Shakespeare write that line?" (Is there a dispute over this?) If
Shakespeare wrote the line, and the scene with that line was edited out
of F, the point, I believe, still holds: Why would Shakespeare write the
line at all if he meant to convey the idea that Hamlet delayed because
of lack of proof?

Also, if Hamlet's delay was simply due to the problem of proof, why did
Shakespeare not make this clear? Why not just spell it out? Shakespeare,
instead, gave the impression that Hamlet himself was unsure why he was
delaying. This suggests that the real reason for the delay is something
else.

The most plausible cause for the delay is, in fact, Hamlet's deeper
conscience - an inner voice that Hamlet himself failed to recognize
explicitly. The key point is that the rest of the play consistently
supports this understanding. Hamlet's delay can then be seen as an
integral part of the play; it is part of Shakespeare's artistic means to
convey a profound spiritual message.

Regards,
Kenneth Chan
http://www.hamlet.vze.com

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           R. A. Cantrell <
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Date:           Tuesday, 05 Oct 2004 22:10:56 -0500
Subject: 15.1826 The Meaning of Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1826 The Meaning of Hamlet

 >>Hamlet does not even mention the need for proof in the other soliloquy
 >>on the delay. There, he again appears not to know why he delayed. In his
 >>own words: "I do not know why yet I live to say this thing's to do, Sith
 >>I have cause, and will, and strength, and means to do't." If Hamlet had
 >>been delaying because of the lack of proof, why would he say this?
 >
 >Because he is human?

No, Hamlet is a fictional character who can be made to do anything at
all; could then, can now.


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