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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: January ::
Hamlet Questions
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0029  Thursday, 6 January 2005

From:           Scot Zarela <
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Date:           Thursday, 6 Jan 2005 09:21:06 -0800
Subject: 16.0011 Hamlet Questions
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.0011 Hamlet Questions

Michael B. Luskin (SHK 16.0011) says that Hamlet "asks the first player
to do The Murder of Gonzago", and a little later that "he talked to the
player king about a production of it".

In his question Michael Luskin conflates the "First Player" with the
"Player King", as I've noticed many commentators do.  But is there any
warrant for this?  It seems to me more likely the "First" (foremost,
leading) Player would have taken the role of Lucianus the murderer -
after all, the King's role is destined to be short, as he dies in scene
two of the first act.

And this leads me to further suppose that Hamlet's "inserted" speech is
the rigmarole about "Thoughts blacke, hands apt, Drugges fit, and Time
agreeing" - which has at least two merits:  the lines seem awkwardly
amateurish, like Hamlet's previous try at verse, in the letter to
Ophelia; and they have to do with the deed of murder, not the marital
relations of the characters.  Remember, this is what Hamlet chiefly
wanted to put before the King:  "something like the murder" of Old Hamlet.

It might be objected that "Thoughts blacke" is a very short speech, only
seven lines in the Folio.  But Hamlet may have written more, and in
hearing the speech performed may have grown impatient with his clumsy
verses - again like the letter to Ophelia, where he broke off from verse
and finished unpacking his heart in prose.

I have another reason for not accepting the dialog of Player King and
Queen as coming from Hamlet's hand.  "Full thirty times hath Phoebus
Cart gon round" matches up so nicely in metric and tone with "The rugged
Pyrrhus, he whose Sable Armes" that I can't help but hear them as two
samples of a single brand of stage oratory, and thus as Shakespeare's
characterization of the "house" style of these Players' dramatist.  In
the world of the play, such professional skill would be banausic, not a
princely attainment.

Continuing high regard for the Shakespeare Conference, and gratitude for
Hardy's peerless editorship, and a happy New Year to all,

-- Scot

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