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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: May ::
Dating Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0918  Tuesday, 17 May 2005

[1]     From:   Joseph Egert <
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        Date:   Friday, 06 May 2005 18:00:53 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.0864 Dating Hamlet

[2]     From:   Bruce Young <
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        Date:   Friday, 6 May 2005 13:59:28 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.0902 Dating Hamlet

[3]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Friday, 6 May 2005 15:57:44 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.0902 Dating Hamlet

[4]     From:   Joseph Egert <
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        Date:   Friday, 06 May 2005 18:58:47 +0000
        Subj:   Re 16.0880 Dating Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph Egert <
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Date:           Friday, 06 May 2005 18:00:53 +0000
Subject: 16.0864 Dating Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.0864 Dating Hamlet

Don Bloom, who believes that Horatio's report of the primal slaughter
vitiates its criminal import, misses the point entirely. Shakespeare,
having kowtowed to these mammocking nobles his entire working life,
relentlessly probes here and elsewhere the death-linked honour code itself.

I believe Bloom, honorable insightful scholar that he is, will in time
come to see the Dark and acknowledge this Thing of Darkness prowling the
night without and within.

Regards,
Joe Egert

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bruce Young <
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Date:           Friday, 6 May 2005 13:59:28 -0600
Subject: 16.0902 Dating Hamlet
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.0902 Dating Hamlet

Two thoughts in response to the discussion about Claudius:

(1) I agree that some of my four readings of "Thereto prick'd on by a
most emulate Pride" are more likely than others.  The most likely, in my
opinion, would be (paraphrasing part of the passage):

Old Hamlet was-"prick'd on" to accept the dare by his ambitious desire
to defeat a rival-dared by old Fortinbras to single combat.

Old Hamlet was dared to single combat by old Fortinbras, who was
"prick'd on" to make the dare by his ambitious desire to defeat a rival.

Both readings, I think, are more or less equally possible, and either
(as my paraphrasing indicates) requires some juggling or amplifying of
phrases to become unambiguous.

(2) There's much in the play that makes us uncertain and ambivalent
about Old Hamlet's character, and I think most of it is there for that
very purpose.  Alongside Hamlet's praise of and devotion to his father,
there's the reference I quoted before to the ghost's "start[ing] like a
guilty thing"; the contrast in the same scene between this season when
entities like the Ghost are about and Christmastide when "no spirit dare
stir abroad, . . . So hallowed, and so gracious, is that time"; the
references to hell ("goblin damn'd, . . . blasts from hell" [1.3.40-41];
"shall I couple hell?" [1.5.93]; the Ghost's moving about and speaking
from under the stage [1.5.149ff.]; "As if he had been loosed out of hell
/ To speak of horrors" [2.1.80-81]; and "Prompted to my revenge by
heaven and hell" [2.2.584]); and more, including the Ghost's effect on
Hamlet ("Now could I drink hot blood," etc.).

Much more could be said about how the play is something other than a
simple tale of good guys versus bad guys or a simple celebration of revenge.

Examples that could be cited include Hamlet's various uncertainties and
hesitations, the complex and at least partly sympathetic presentation of
Claudius, and the problematic results of Hamlet's quest for revenge.

Bruce Young

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Friday, 6 May 2005 15:57:44 -0500
Subject: 16.0902 Dating Hamlet
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.0902 Dating Hamlet

Edmund Taft writes:

"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."

That they are older no one with a calendar would dispute, but I'm a
little less certain about such generalities as "coarser [and] more
bloody." I am not sure precisely what "coarser" means here, so that I'm
not sure whether I agree or not. Are we comparing Dante and Chaucer with
Ariosto and Spenser? Or something else?

Likewise "more bloody."

(Peripherally, has there ever been a century more bloody than the one we
just escaped?)

Finally, does Claudius represent Renaissance humanism?

Just wondering,
don

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph Egert <
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Date:           Friday, 06 May 2005 18:58:47 +0000
Subject:        Re 16.0880 Dating Hamlet

To Bill Arnold, who charges Claudius with two bites of the apple (murder
and lust): Wouldn't a closer analogy cast Claudius as the Serpent in the
Garden seducing Gertrude/Eve? Old Testament legends often describe
Eden's Serpent as erotically irresistible to Eve.

To Bruce Young, who speaks of a "primal tendency to enmity and violence,
something embedded in human nature:"

You're describing the Old Mole himself as explored in an earlier post
("SHK 16.0702 A Claudius Question").

To Bob Grumman, who asks "why muddle a sizzling psychological drama?": I
plead Not Guilty. Shakespeare is the primal muddler.

Finally , to David Basch, who casts Hamlet as a lawful avenger: I used
"Divine Law" not merely in its original Hebraic sense, but as refracted
through millennia of Christian and Muslim history. Debates continue to
rage how legitimate was young Hamlet's vengeance. The strict Divine
Rightists would leave Claudius to Heaven untouched, he being de facto
ruler and therefore God's regent on Earth, despite his murderous
usurpation. Indeed, the Ghost seems to believe in the Divine Right for
Queens, but not for Kings, as he urges the Prince to leave Gertrude to
Heaven but slay Claudius.

Regards,
Joe Egert

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