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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: May ::
Dating Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0985  Tuesday, 24 May 2005

[1]     From:   Joseph Egert <
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        Date:   Monday, 23 May 2005 21:51:09 +0000
        Subj:   SHK 16.0945 Dating Hamlet

[2]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 24 May 2005 08:37:48 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 16.0965 Dating Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Joseph Egert <
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Date:           Monday, 23 May 2005 21:51:09 +0000
Subject: Dating Hamlet
Comment:        SHK 16.0945 Dating Hamlet

Don Bloom writes, "...land speculation through combat to the
death...doesn't seem to me a Satanic evil."

It did to the sincere faithful of the day and probably to Shakespeare
himself. The irreconcilable tension between the religious code of humble
devotion, and the chivalric ethos of personal glory and adulterous lust
preceded Renaissance humanism by centuries at least.

In COR I.3, Shakespeare mocks the mammockers through Valeria lauding the
savage son, "Indeed la tis a noble child."

I hear this same mocking tone in HENRY5 (IV.7) after Henry has the
prisoners' throats slashes, "O tis a gallant king."

Again in MACBETH(I.2) after hearing in gory detail of Macbeth's butchery
of Macdonwald, milky Duncan exclaims, "O valiant cousin! worthy gentleman!"

Finally, in HAM (I.1) we hear Horatio limit "valiant" King Hamlet's
esteem to "this side of our known world."

Is there any doubt where Shakespeare stood regarding the "offending
Adam"? Are we not glimpsing the heart of the man from Stratford?

Young Hamlet, and perhaps his author, is torn from another direction as
well. The play is designed to reassure us, wavering in our faith, that
Someone is out there above Nature guiding our destiny. Behind the
reason-able Christian humanism of Erasmus and Montaigne lurks the
materialist amoral abyss of Machiavelli, a prospect that terrified the
faithful. Young Hamlet for much of the play aches with this doubt, as in
his letter to Ophelia: "Doubt thou the stars are fire,/Doubt that the
sun doth move..." He seeks above all (perhaps protesting too much) to
convince the skeptic HoRatio, his author, and ourselves that "There are
more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,/ Than are dreamt of in your
philosophy."

Regards,
Joe Egert

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Tuesday, 24 May 2005 08:37:48 -0500
Subject: 16.0965 Dating Hamlet
Comment:        RE: SHK 16.0965 Dating Hamlet

Edmund Taft writes:

"I am happy, once more, to clear up Don's puzzlement. Friendship was not
unknown in Medieval times, of course, but it became a cardinal virtue
for the English with the publication of Spenser's Book 4 of the FQ."

It is most kind of ET to clear up my puzzlements, but in this case he
hasn't. In four words: I don't believe it. I would like to see his
sources for both judgments: (1) that friendship was not a cardinal
virtue in the Middle Ages; (2) that it became one in England only as a
result of the Fairie Queene.

I don't want to be angry or disputatious, but I need to be clear that we
are talking about the same things here and that ET has good reasons for
making his assertions.

don

PS: The reference to Erasmus shows that we are getting somewhere. I
think that Erasmus had approximately zero influence with his theory, but
at least the theory is stated. On the other hand, my guess about Spenser
is the reverse phenomenon (no less common): the principle has to be
stated and urged because there is a perception that an important social
good is disappearing.

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