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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: March ::
A Claudius Question
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0537  Tuesday, 22 March 2005

[1]     From:   John W. Kennedy <
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        Date:   Monday, 21 Mar 2005 11:13:51 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0521 A Claudius Question

[2]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Monday, 21 Mar 2005 08:14:11 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0521 A Claudius Question

[3]     From:   Stephen C. Rose <
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        Date:   Monday, 21 Mar 2005 08:58:52 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0521 A Claudius Question

[4]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Monday, 21 Mar 2005 13:55:32 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.0521 A Claudius Question


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John W. Kennedy <
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Date:           Monday, 21 Mar 2005 11:13:51 -0500
Subject: 16.0521 A Claudius Question
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0521 A Claudius Question

Edmund Taft <
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 >Bill Arnold asks Abigail Quart, "[H]ow can you possibly downplay the
 >central theme of the play, and that is that the kingship has changed
 >hands in violation of 'Thou shalt not kill!'"
 >
 >There's a hole in Bill's argument that you could drive a sixteen-wheeler
 >through. If this commandment is the rock-bed of the play, then Hamlet is
 >clearly guilty of murder and damned, just as Claudius is. Hamlet kills
 >Claudius and the kingship changes hands. QED.

Hamlet, as the rightful king (for Claudius's murder of King Hamlet has
debarred him from rightful succession), has not only the right but the
duty to punish murderers.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Monday, 21 Mar 2005 08:14:11 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 16.0521 A Claudius Question
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0521 A Claudius Question

Edmund Taft writes, "Bill Arnold asks Abigail Quart, "[H]ow can you
possibly downplay the central theme of the play, and that is that the
kingship has changed hands in violation of 'Thou shalt not kill!'"

"There's a hole in Bill's argument that you could drive a
sixteen-wheeler through. If this commandment is the rock-bed of the
play, then Hamlet is clearly guilty of murder and damned, just as
Claudius is. Hamlet kills Claudius and the kingship changes hands. QED."

Not really.  First of all, I find it hard to imagine you driving a semi
anywhere, let alone on Shakespeare's stage in front of Shakespeare's
audience.  So, motive means nothing in your scenario, right?  You
divorce yourself from Shakespeare and his play, totally?  You reject the
spirit and his message in ACT ONE, while you blithely wheel around the
stage leaving tire tracks of your own undoing.  Whatever happened to the
FACTS of the play, the dialogue, the actions of the characters, the
rising and falling action of the drama, and the resolution of the
opening scene?  You seem to ignore the "something is rotten in Denmark"
theme and refuse to attach that smell to its rightful heir, and that was
the false usurper Claudius who killed the lawful King Hamlet, coveted
his wife, and violated ALL TEN COMMANDMENTS in doing so.  And now you
wish to deny the protagonist his attempts to right that wrong placed in
front of the audience by Shakespeare?  Do you really believe that
audience shared your sentiments, your viewpoint, and your semi-truck
muck?  You should stop losing sight of Shakespeare in your quest to
metaphorize a play with your own wild interpretation sans motive.  Look
up the word tragedy in a dictionary. It's still there, last time I looked.

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

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephen C. Rose <
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Date:           Monday, 21 Mar 2005 08:58:52 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 16.0521 A Claudius Question
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0521 A Claudius Question

Ed Taft writes: "There's a hole in Bill's argument that you could drive
a sixteen-wheeler through. If this commandment is the rock-bed of the
play, then Hamlet is clearly guilty of murder and damned, just as
Claudius is. Hamlet kills Claudius and the kingship changes hands. QED."

Whether damned or not, H is culpable and one could view the entire play
as a commentary on the hopelessness of existence under the seal of
violence and revenge, no matter how we may feel about the those who
violate the commandment.

Best, S

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Monday, 21 Mar 2005 13:55:32 -0600
Subject: 16.0521 A Claudius Question
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.0521 A Claudius Question

Edmund Taft writes:

"Bill Arnold asks Abigail Quart, "[H]ow can you possibly downplay the
central theme of the play, and that is that the kingship has changed
hands in violation of 'Thou shalt not kill!'"
"There's a hole in Bill's argument that you could drive a
sixteen-wheeler through. If this commandment is the rock-bed of the
play, then Hamlet is clearly guilty of murder and damned, just as
Claudius is. Hamlet kills Claudius and the kingship changes hands. QED."

I'm not so sure of this hole no matter how many wheels you have on your
truck. On the one hand, I'm not positive that the fact that Hamlet may
be guilty of murder, and thus damned, constitutes a "hole" in the idea
that the central issue of the play is the moral complexity of homicide.
  On the other hand, he may, in fact, not be guilty of murder, even
though he kills Laertes and Claudius and causes the death of Rosencrantz
and Guildenstern.

In the first instance, Hamlet's advocate could easily claim self-defense
for his client. Laertes and Claudius were clearly trying to murder him,
and in fact succeeded in doing so. That his deadly response would be
considered unforgivable (and thus damning) in the Upstairs Court is by
no means so clear to me as claimed.

The killing of the hapless pair is more problematic, as Horatio notes.
But again the advocate might suggest that Hamlet figured that R&G knew
of the murderous intent of their mission and thus he was justified in
striking back.

Was he? You may assume not, but are you positive that the Judge agrees
with you?
Even if Hamlet were real we could have no certainty how God would judge
him. And since he is fictional, only Shakespeare could (or rather would)
make such a judgment, and he leaves the question open.

Cheers,
don

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