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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: May ::
Dating Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0902  Friday, 6 May 2005

[1]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Thursday, 05 May 2005 14:46:22 -0400
        Subj:   Dating Hamlet

[2]     From:   Julia Griffin <
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        Date:   Thursday, 05 May 2005 14:54:03 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0880 Dating Hamlet

[3]     From:   Jay Feldman <
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        Date:   Thursday, 05 May 2005 13:19:38 -1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0880 Dating Hamlet

[4]     From:   Kenneth Chan <
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        Date:   Friday, 06 May 2005 08:42:57 +0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0880 Dating Hamlet

[5]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Friday, 6 May 2005 09:56:11 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.0880 Dating Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Thursday, 05 May 2005 14:46:22 -0400
Subject:        Dating Hamlet

Bruce Young writes: "Since 'emulate' means, roughly, 'desiring to equal
or surpass another,' in the end it maybe doesn't matter whose pride the
line refers to: whoever started the rivalry, both are now imitatively
engaged in it."

That's how I read it, Bruce. Horatio's recollection is really far more
damning than Don Bloom realizes. Sure, it was a fair fight (apparently),
and Old Hamlet accepted a challenge that was initiated by Old
Fortinbras, but so what? The real issues here are that Old Hamlet is
ready to sacrifice his kingdom and his people (potentially) for more
land. This is the ethos that Old Hamlet represents, a value system that
puts land and conquest above everything else. Later, the Ghost will put
revenge above everything else, including the welfare of his son. Young
Hamlet is different, at least at first, but the dynamics of the play
move him inexorably toward his father's "values." And near the end of
the play, he becomes a walking, talking dead man (already poisoned), the
spitting image of his father.  His father's crime is rectified in that
young Fortinbras gets back the disputed territory, and all of Denmark to
boot. (Sort of like interest on Old Hamlet's debt.)

Young Fortinbras incarnates the older values of his father and Old
Hamlet, and in that sense, the play illustrates the defeat of
Renaissance humanism in the face of an older, coarser, more bloody set
of medieval values. In modern terms, it's much like the defeat of
"flower power" in the 1960s, or the annihilation of the values of the
transcendentalists by the bloody reality of  civil war. Or the collapse
of Henry James's belief in civilization once World War I began.  Actions
based on primal emotions have a way of coming back, and back, and back.
. . .   In that sense, the Cain and Abel episode may well be THE primal
crime.

Ed Taft

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Julia Griffin <
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Date:           Thursday, 05 May 2005 14:54:03 -0400
Subject: 16.0880 Dating Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0880 Dating Hamlet

Dr. Arnold:

I really do not think anyone believes Claudius was doing the right thing
when he murdered his sleeping king and brother.  It was the wrong thing.
  I think everyone will grant you this point.
What other people are trying to do is to argue that good and evil within
the play are not simply restricted to that one event.  Old H is not the
only person to die, or to be killed, or to be a victim of someone else.
  And so Claudius Was Bad seems, to some of us, not to be absolutely the
last word permissible on this play.

Julia

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jay Feldman <
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Date:           Thursday, 05 May 2005 13:19:38 -1000
Subject: 16.0880 Dating Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0880 Dating Hamlet

Bruce Young says: "Still, I think the play is ambivalent about old
Hamlet. Besides repeated suggestions that his ghost might come from
hell, there is his "start[ing] like a guilty thing" (Horatio's words in
the same scene [1.1.148]) when the cock crows."

Surely this guilt stems from his concern that the day is fast
approaching and that his nightly walk must cease so that he may resume
his purgation:

"I am thy father's spirit,
Doom'd for a certain term to walk the night,
And for the day confin'd to fast in fires,
Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature
Are burnt and purg'd away."

Jay Feldman

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kenneth Chan <
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Date:           Friday, 06 May 2005 08:42:57 +0800
Subject: 16.0880 Dating Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0880 Dating Hamlet

David Basch writes:

 >"It is when it is recognized that the play, Hamlet, is Shakespeare's
 >dramatization of Ecclesiastes that the true meaning of Shakespeare's
 >play emerges as it presents the poet's interpretation of the meaning of
 >this book of the Bible. Hence, the time period of the play as a parable
 >is meant to be set somewhere in time, all time. That is why the play
 >partakes of elements of many times. In Shakespeare's interpretation,
 >justice does indeed triumph as everyone can be seen to have gotten what
 >his/her deeds have sown as every secret thing is brought into judgment
 >and the queen, left to heaven. (ECC 12:14  For God shall bring every
 >work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or
 >whether it be evil.)"

Shouldn't the true meaning of Hamlet, at the very least, answer the
following questions?:

Why does Hamlet delay his revenge?

Why does Hamlet become so brutal that, after accidentally slaying
Polonius, he proceeds to insult dead man, hide his body, and make
macabre jokes about it?

Why does Shakespeare include all those prolonged scenes in Hamlet that
do not contribute to the main action of the play? - i.e. the long
swearing ritual at the end of Act 1, the long dialogue between Polonius
and Reynaldo, the lengthy dramatic recitation about Pyrrhus, the long
set of instructions by Hamlet to the players, the entire graveyard
scene, the protracted dialogue with Osric. Why does Shakespeare include
all these unnecessarily prolonged scenes unless there is  some purpose
to them?

Surely the true meaning of Hamlet should explain all these and many
other "enigmatic" parts of the play. In other words, shouldn't it
explain the play in its entirety, and not just arbitrarily selected
portions of it?

Regards,
Kenneth Chan
http://homepage.mac.com/sapphirestudios/qod

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Friday, 6 May 2005 09:56:11 -0500
Subject: 16.0880 Dating Hamlet
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.0880 Dating Hamlet

Bruce Young, although he admits that "Horatio indicates that 'Valiant'
old Hamlet killed old Fortinbras in a fair and lawful fight,"
nevertheless "think[s] the play (and therefore Shakespeare if not
Shakespeare's Horatio) is ambivalent about old Hamlet's killing of old
Fortinbras too." And he cites what he calls an "especially slippery
phrase: 'Thereto prick'd on by a most emulate Pride.'" Because "[i]n
context, either the Danish or the Norwegian monarch could be the one
'prick'd on,' and the 'most emulate Pride' could likewise belong to
either of them."

He goes on to suggest four different ways of reading the passage (which
I won't quote), all of them ingenious and at least dimly possible. But
only one really works well. As he himself notes, "'emulate' means
roughly, 'desiring to equal or surpass another.'" The pride is emulate,
and it would be Norway who would be jealous of the greater king,
Denmark. Likewise, Horatio says that King Hamlet "was by Fortinbras . .
  . . dar'd to the Combate," as a result of this "emulate pride."
King Hamlet may or not be proud (probably the former), but it is Norway
who is jealous of the other's greatness, and, in his (Norway's) pride,
dares King Hamlet to wager a chunk of Denmark against all of Norway.

This is simple, requires no contortion of the syntax and makes excellent
sense. Kings or otherwise, these are two medieval warlords. They fight
both for glory and for the fun of it (see Hotspur).

I don't think I actually have a dog in this fight, although I like to
think (to crack the wind of a poor phrase) that there is some fight in
the dog.

Cheers,
don

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