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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: February ::
A Claudius Question
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0301  Tuesday, 15 February 2005

[1]     From:   Todd Pettigrew <
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        Date:   Monday, 14 Feb 2005 17:17:39 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.0290 A Claudius Question

[2]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Monday, 14 Feb 2005 20:30:19 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0290 A Claudius Question

[3]     From:   David Bishop <
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        Date:   Monday, 14 Feb 2005 15:18:58 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0290 A Claudius Question


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Todd Pettigrew <
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Date:           Monday, 14 Feb 2005 17:17:39 -0400
Subject: 16.0290 A Claudius Question
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.0290 A Claudius Question

It is perhaps worth noting that despite the election, in practice, from
the late 15th C through Shakespeare's lifetime, the Danish monarchy
passed from the King to his son in, I believe, every case but one. This
pattern, combined with English expectations might have given the English
audience a sense that while Claudius' reign might be strictly legal
(except for the murder part), it was not wholly right.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Monday, 14 Feb 2005 20:30:19 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 16.0290 A Claudius Question
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0290 A Claudius Question

D Bloom writes, "The play makes clear that the early Medieval world is
primary since the election is referred to several times. But Shakespeare
and his audience would have believed firmly that primogeniture was best.
  I have long assumed a bias against Claudius even before the Ghost's
revelations because he took advantage of the situation (the existence of
the election and the absence of Hamlet in Wittenberg) to gain a crown
that should rightly have gone to the son, even if custom allowed him to
do so."

Are we not forgetting that Claudius murdered his brother for the crown?
So, unless he thought there was a perception of his right, he would have
attained no right by the death of his brother Hamlet the King, now would
he?  In any event, if we believe so much in the power of the audience to
project its beliefs on the play, well they sure in hell [where the
audience would send him, had they had their druthers!] would recognize
that Claudius was a murderer and deserved his hellish ending at the end
of the play.

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

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Bishop <
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Date:           Monday, 14 Feb 2005 15:18:58 -0500
Subject: 16.0290 A Claudius Question
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0290 A Claudius Question

It seems clear from his plays that, as might be expected, Shakespeare
favored primogeniture--perhaps as the worst system aside from all the
others. The main reason is that other means of choosing kings, or
rulers, encourage faction and civil war. Primogeniture, of course, has
its own drawbacks, which Shakespeare rather thoroughly explored.

This is why Duncan's move away from election, toward primogeniture, by
putting Malcolm in Macbeth's path, makes him a good, if naive, king.
It's also why not establishing the rule of primogeniture when the time
was ripe, and instead resisting it (even if it was not yet the official
precedent) makes Lear a bad king. Primogeniture would have given the
whole kingdom to Goneril, and thus to Albany, which instead of happening
peacefully happens after terrible strife caused by resisting the correct
course. Claudius, in also moving toward primogeniture, by declaring
Hamlet "the most immediate to our throne" is giving a good imitation of
good kingship.

Best wishes,
David Bishop

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