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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: December ::
Hic et ubique
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.2038  Friday, 9 December 2005

[1] 	From: 	Joseph Egert <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 08 Dec 2005 17:25:48 +0000
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.2026 Hic et ubique

[2] 	From: 	David Bishop <
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	Date: 	Friday, 9 Dec 2005 03:05:40 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.2025 Hic et ubique


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Joseph Egert <
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Date: 		Thursday, 08 Dec 2005 17:25:48 +0000
Subject: 16.2026 Hic et ubique
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.2026 Hic et ubique

Could the Ghost be running from the exposed cruciform sword hilt, as 
from Marcellus' "partisan" cross?

Joe Egert

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		David Bishop <
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Date: 		Friday, 9 Dec 2005 03:05:40 -0500
Subject: 16.2025 Hic et ubique
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.2025 Hic et ubique

Jenkins says, "Threefold oaths had a particularly binding force 
(sometimes explained by their invocation of the Trinity), and this one 
will have still further solemnity from seeming to be sworn at the behest 
not of Hamlet only but of a supernatural agent also."

Hence the ghost moves, to provide three occasions for swearing. In each 
case I think they have to move to where the ghost's voice seemed to come 
from, to get close to him, to swear before him as one would swear before 
an authority. Also to swear on the ground above him, which his presence 
in a way sanctifies--except that one cause of Hamlet's incipient madness 
may be his awareness, not entirely worked out consciously and therefore 
expressed as a kind of hysteria, that sanctification and the ghost do 
not exactly coincide. This could be taken as an oath sworn before and on 
behalf of a devil. Following the ghost is, as far as possible, to move 
in the direction of hell. The dual nature of the sword, as sword and 
cross, suggests the clashing ideals now beginning to do battle inside 
Hamlet: the conflict between the duty, and the sin, of revenge.

The oath becomes more powerful when demanded, and sworn before, the 
ghost, on that supernaturally charged ground. Hamlet is also dragging 
the others to the ghost to combine his own command to swear with the 
ghost's. There may be some foreshadowing here: Hamlet tries to unite 
with the ghost, and the ghost moves away from him, while crying "Swear."

Why would the ghost want to swear the others to silence? Hamlet might, 
so as to match the smiling villain in a contest of deception, and to 
plan his revenge in secret. He may also want cover for the antic 
disposition. He may put it on to provide himself with an alibi for 
killing the king: an alibi that (in his dreams) will allow him to 
recover from his madness and assume the throne without the stigma of 
having killed Claudius to usurp it himself. Love-madness would be a 
particularly convenient form of temporary insanity: in his madness he 
might even kill Claudius thinking he was Polonius, the father who barred 
the door to Ophelia, thereby driving him mad. Then he could claim he was 
not himself and ask pardon, while with the misunderstanding about his 
love of Ophelia cleared up they could marry and live happily, in sanity 
and health, ever after. The ghost could not share these complicated 
motives. He would presumably be telling them to swear only with a sense 
that Hamlet was enlisting their silence in the cause of revenge, to 
avoid alerting Claudius. Yet the repeated "Swear" has a deeper 
resonance. It seems to suggest a reiteration of the ghost's demand that 
Hamlet hold to his own oath: "I have sworn't." Even if it were taken 
only literally, as a weighter voice repeating Hamlet's command, it would 
be reinforcing the general project of revenge, a project whose 
simultaneous moral urgency and impossibility are starting to drive 
Hamlet into the same state he proposes to feign.

Best wishes,
David Bishop

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