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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: June ::
The Murder of Gonzago
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1331  Monday, 21 June 2004

[1]     From:   Pamela Richards <
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        Date:   Friday, 18 Jun 2004 06:03:57 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1301 The Murder of Gonzago

[2]     From:   Claude Caspar <
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        Date:   Friday, 18 Jun 2004 10:34:59 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1317 The Murder of Gonzago

[3]     From:   Jay Feldman <
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        Date:   Friday, 18 Jun 2004 14:25:15 -1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1274 The Murder of Gonzago


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Pamela Richards <
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Date:           Friday, 18 Jun 2004 06:03:57 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 15.1301 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1301 The Murder of Gonzago

David Cohen quotes Pamela Richards:

Hamlet warns us [of his intentions to engage in antic behaviors]. . .
Yet some of his odd actions may be evidence of beliefs Hamlet holds
which bear further scrutiny and will give us clues to his possible
intentions and motivation.

David Cohen requests:

"Perhaps you could let us know what you discover, but quotes please, to
show us the textual basis of you inferences."

I will do my best to summarize some plot points which touch on "antic
behaviors"; I will add a few direct quotes from Hamlet which explain the
beliefs underlying the behaviors.  Based on your awareness of the
research on sequence of consciousness of beliefs versus actions, you may
be interested to note that some of the time, Hamlet explains his beliefs
to the audience before his "antic" actions, and sometimes after.
Also there are some brief notes on beliefs of the audience observing
Hamlet's actions, and what these beliefs mean to the audience and their
possible interpretation of the play.

In Act I, Scene v, Hamlet gives us our first glimpse of his antic
behavior.  On meeting with the ghost, he does not immediately vow
vengeance.  Instead, he dissembles, promising to "forget" his studies
and "remember" the ghost.  These proposed mental activities he
substitutes for vows of action.

"O all you host of heaven! O earth! what else?
And shall I couple hell? O, fie! Hold, hold, my heart;
And you, my sinews, grow not instant old,
But bear me stiffly up. Remember thee!
Ay, thou poor ghost, while memory holds a seat
In this distracted globe. Remember thee!
Yea, from the table of my memory
I'll wipe away all trivial fond records,
All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past,
That youth and observation copied there;
And thy commandment all alone shall live
Within the book and volume of my brain,
Unmix'd with baser matter: yes, by heaven!
O most pernicious woman!
O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!
My tables,--meet it is I set it down,
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain;
At least I'm sure it may be so in Denmark:

Writing

So, uncle, there you are. Now to my word;
It is 'Adieu, adieu! remember me.'
I have sworn 't."

When Hamlet again meets up with his companions, he makes light of his
conversation with the ghost--another instance of antic behavior.  He is
dissembling, in quite a humorous tone.

The belief underlying Hamlet's behavior is that Marcellus and Horatio,
however well-intentioned, may reveal information that would make him
vulnerable in court.

A note about the perspective of the audience:

This play was Shakespeare's second version of a play based on a
traditional story called "Amleth"--an archaic word for "Idiot".  It is
about a Danish prince who is forced to act the role of a fool in court
because the new king is the murderer of his father.  Those of the
audience familiar with this old story would anticipate some "antic
behaviors" from Hamlet.

"HORATIO
There needs no ghost, my lord, come from the grave
To tell us this.

HAMLET
Why, right; you are i' the right;
And so, without more circumstance at all,
I hold it fit that we shake hands and part:
You, as your business and desire shall point you;
For every man has business and desire,
Such as it is; and for mine own poor part,
Look you, I'll go pray."

Hamlet further avoids making a vow to the ghost when he attempts to have
Horatio and Marcellus take an oath of silence--truly, his behaviors in
this scene are thought bizarre by his companions.  In fact, after the
tense scene of meeting the ghost, the sight of Hamlet waltzing his group
and his sword from one part of the stage to another, and repeatedly
avoiding "swearing" to the ghost has potential for great physical comedy.

"HORATIO
There's no offence, my lord.

HAMLET
Yes, by Saint Patrick, but there is, Horatio,
And much offence too. Touching this vision here,
It is an honest ghost, that let me tell you:
For your desire to know what is between us,
O'ermaster 't as you may. And now, good friends,
As you are friends, scholars and soldiers,
Give me one poor request.

HORATIO
What is't, my lord? we will.

HAMLET
Never make known what you have seen to-night.

HORATIO MARCELLUS
My lord, we will not.

HAMLET
Nay, but swear't.

HORATIO
In faith,
My lord, not I.

MARCELLUS
Nor I, my lord, in faith.

HAMLET
Upon my sword.

MARCELLUS
We have sworn, my lord, already.

HAMLET
Indeed, upon my sword, indeed.

Ghost
[Beneath] Swear.

HAMLET
Ah, ha, boy! say'st thou so? art thou there,
truepenny?
Come on--you hear this fellow in the cellarage--
Consent to swear.

HORATIO
Propose the oath, my lord.

HAMLET
Never to speak of this that you have seen,
Swear by my sword.

Ghost
[Beneath] Swear.

HAMLET
Hic et ubique? then we'll shift our ground.
Come hither, gentlemen,
And lay your hands again upon my sword:
Never to speak of this that you have heard,
Swear by my sword.

Ghost
[Beneath] Swear.

HAMLET
Well said, old mole! canst work i' the earth so fast?
A worthy pioner! Once more remove, good friends.

HORATIO
O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!

HAMLET
And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. But come;
Here, as before, never, so help you mercy,
How strange or odd soe'er I bear myself,
As I perchance hereafter shall think meet
To put an antic disposition on,
That you, at such times seeing me, never shall,
With arms encumber'd thus, or this headshake,
Or by pronouncing of some doubtful phrase,
As 'Well, well, we know,' or 'We could, an if we
would,'
Or 'If we list to speak,' or 'There be, an if they
might,'
Or such ambiguous giving out, to note
That you know aught of me: this not to do,
So grace and mercy at your most need help you, Swear.

Ghost
[Beneath] Swear.

HAMLET
Rest, rest, perturbed spirit!

They swear

So, gentlemen,
With all my love I do commend me to you:
And what so poor a man as Hamlet is
May do, to express his love and friending to you,
God willing, shall not lack. Let us go in together;
And still your fingers on your lips, I pray.
The time is out of joint: O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!
Nay, come, let's go together.

Exeunt"

It is not until Act II, Scene ii that Hamlet reveals the beliefs which
propelled his determined attempts to avoid making a pact with the Ghost:

"The spirit that I have seen
May be the devil: and the devil hath power
To assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps
Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
As he is very potent with such spirits,
Abuses me to damn me: I'll have grounds
More relative than this: the play 's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king."

And here, in one sentence, Hamlet reveals his motivation in avoiding a
vow of vengeance to the ghost, together with his intention in springing
"The Moustrap"--setting us up for the next stage of the unfolding plot.

For the audience's part, they have been exposed to the idea of a demonic
apparition resembling a ghost through church teachings; in fact, forced
conversion to Protestantism as well as recent changes in the dogma of
the Anglican church have made fine distinctions in what may be expected
from a ghostly apparition which will undoubtedly cross the minds of
audience members well before Hamlet makes this statement.

More as time permits.

Regards,
Pamela  Richards

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Claude Caspar <
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Date:           Friday, 18 Jun 2004 10:34:59 -0400
Subject: 15.1317 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1317 The Murder of Gonzago

 >This is indeed a significant point.  I am glad you brought it up.
 >
 >If we are talking about:
 >
 >what Shakespeare's audience "sees",
 >what we as a modern audience "see",
 >what someone who is versed in history "sees",
 >what a literary critic "sees",
 >what someone who approaches the text to translate it into another
 >language "sees",
 >
 >each of these cases is distinct, and marked not only by the prevalent
 >culture and the preconceptions of each group named, but also by the
 >intentions of that group in viewing the events.  We cannot assume these
 >viewpoints are similar.

What exhausts me is watching someone reinvent the wheel, though it can
be enjoyed aesthetically as an eternal game of Fort-da, the lost-found
mirror game Freud realized children use to find their selves & Lacan has
made science of seeing/gazing - there is so much first-rate scholarship
on this phenomenology if one wants to cut to the chase, instead of
beating their lovely breasts, one only has to have good taste in picking
what to read- for example:

See the very interesting & intellectually challenging, Barbara
Freedman's "Staging the Gaze- Postmodernism, Psychoanalysis, and
Shakespeare Comedy." Her references will take you to the mother-loads of
this understanding.  I guess you could say we can blame Kant, but it is
since Husserl that this field has become a seminal battleground.  See
Blanchot, Bataille, Derrida, but more towards our focus on literature &
Shakespeare, who understood everything, Shoshana Feldman, & the usual
suspects.

 >Most of Hamlet's original audience probably had, for the most part, very
 >pure motivations.

This is, perhaps, the most na

 

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