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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: November ::
Hamlet: Revenge or Justice?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1886  Tuesday, 15 November 2005

[1] 	From: 	Kenneth Chan <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 15 Nov 2005 01:04:37 +0800
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1876 Hamlet: Revenge or Justice?

[2] 	From: 	Edmund Taft <
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	Date: 	Monday, 14 Nov 2005 12:07:09 -0500
	Subj: 	Hamlet: Revenge or Justice

[3] 	From: 	Kenneth Chan <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 15 Nov 2005 01:37:40 +0800
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1876 Hamlet: Revenge or Justice?

[4] 	From: 	Bill Arnold <
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	Date: 	Monday, 14 Nov 2005 13:06:51 -0800 (PST)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1876 Hamlet: Revenge or Justice?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Kenneth Chan <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 15 Nov 2005 01:04:37 +0800
Subject: 16.1876 Hamlet: Revenge or Justice?
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1876 Hamlet: Revenge or Justice?

John-Paul Spiro writes:

 >"Does Shakespeare say that the ghost is an "erring spirit"?  I
 >was under the impression that Horatio says that, not Shakespeare.
 >And I recall that Hamlet says something about Horatio not
 >knowing everything...though that's just Hamlet talking--again,
 >not Shakespeare."

I am well aware that what Shakespeare's characters say need not 
represent Shakespeare's own feelings about the matter. The point I am 
trying to make has nothing to do with that.

The point is really this: If the play is about "a divine call to correct 
an injustice", as Bill Arnold suggests, why then would Shakespeare 
repeatedly make the suggestion to the audience that the messenger of 
this "divine" call (i.e. the ghost) may be anything but divine?

If this suggestion is made only once, we may pass it off as a chance 
occurrence. This, however, is not the case. The suggestion is made many 
times, and the ghost himself also informs us that he is no angel. 
Furthermore, in case we still miss the point, Shakespeare drives home 
this impression (i.e. the dubious nature of the ghost) by making the 
ghost cry out repeatedly from below (the traditional location of hell) 
during the eerie swearing ritual.

Shakespeare typically repeats his important points many times in his 
plays. It is really time we acknowledge that Shakespeare does 
meticulously craft his plays for a purpose. What he is trying to tell us 
here is that this call for revenge is anything but divine. Further 
evidence that this is the case resides in the fact that the rest of the 
play completely, and perfectly, fits in with this meaning.

With best wishes,
Kenneth Chan
http://homepage.mac.com/sapphirestudios/qod

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Edmund Taft <
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Date: 		Monday, 14 Nov 2005 12:07:09 -0500
Subject: 	Hamlet: Revenge or Justice

Don Bloom writes: "If [Ed Taft] means what he seems to mean, it simply 
does not square with reality. People commit acts of revenge with malice 
aforethought all the time-planning and enacting them with great (and 
sometimes gleeful) care."

I meant every syllable of what I wrote. Don confuses the planning of 
revenge with the act itself: the act itself is always one of pure, 
unthinking aggression: it has to be, logically. Only blood and violence 
drive the brain during the act itself, even if the actor appears calm. 
The killing of Polonius is the "ding an sich," the pure act, with no 
forethought, and Shakespeare portrays it exactly that way. Especially 
during the Renaissance, the actor has to "forget" the Renaissance 
commonplace that "revenge recoils against the revenger."

As for Iraq - well, surely that's another time and another matter.

Ed Taft

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Kenneth Chan <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 15 Nov 2005 01:37:40 +0800
Subject: 16.1876 Hamlet: Revenge or Justice?
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1876 Hamlet: Revenge or Justice?

Bill Arnold writes:

 >"What both do is focus on the protagonist Prince Hamlet and,
 >with a broad and erred brush, ignore the antagonist King Claudius
 >who CREATED the PREMISE that the play begins with and is
 >only RESOLVED with the latter's death at the hands of the
 >protagonist, and judge and jury and executioner of justice: Prince
 >Hamlet.  Classic!  I love it."

This seems far too simple an interpretation of Hamlet. It assumes that 
Hamlet is merely another common revenge story. If this were the case, 
there would surely not have been so much debate about the play over the 
centuries. There are just too many problems with interpreting Hamlet in 
this way.

For a start, if Hamlet is judge, jury, and executioner of justice, why 
did he dispatch Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to their death? Is that an 
act of justice? Also, why did Hamlet delay his "act of justice" against 
Claudius, and why did Shakespeare highlight this point?

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

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Bill Arnold <
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 >
Date: 		Monday, 14 Nov 2005 13:06:51 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 16.1876 Hamlet: Revenge or Justice?
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1876 Hamlet: Revenge or Justice?

John Paul Spiro writes, "Does Shakespeare say that the ghost is an 
'erring spirit'?  I was under the impression that Horatio says that, not 
Shakespeare.  And I recall that Hamlet says something about Horatio not 
knowing everything...though that's just Hamlet talking-again, not 
Shakespeare."

All good points!  And to add to the fire, these logs created from the 
play itself:

(a) In response to Horatio challenging the Immortal Truth of the Spirit 
of King Hamlet, Act I, Scene IV, Lines 64-67, Prince Hamlet says:

"Why, what should be the fear?
I do not set my life at a pin's fee;
And for my soul, what can it do to that,
Being a thing immortal as itself?"

Given that the audience was English, Christian, 1600, this speaks to the 
Belief that the Soul is Immortal and that the Spirit of his father is 
same as the Spirit of himself, one Beyond the Body and the other yet 
Within.  For Prince Hamlet invokes not swearing lightly False Truth, 
invoking oaths upon the Catholic Sainthood, alleging he speaks Truth, 
when he says, Act One, Scene 5, Lines 136-138: "Yes, by Saint Patrick, 
but there is, Horatio, And much offence too.  Touching this vision here, 
It is an honest ghost, that let me tell you:"

(b) Inasmuch as Act One IS the Premise, Marcellus speaks to it, when, 
having witnessed the Spirit of King Hamlet, Scene IV, Lines 89-90: 
"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark."

Given that the Spirit seeks Revenge and Prince Hamlet questions an 
immediate response of such, and his Thinking Actions throughout the play 
support that, we seek to establish that the Premise is One of Justice 
and Not of Revenge, as Prince Hamlet notes, *appropriately* as the LAST 
WORDS of Act One, Scene V, Lines 189-190, saying: "The time is out of 
joint: O cursed spite, That ever I was born to set it right!"

This statement of Prince Hamlet, bracketing the End of Act One with the 
Opening line of "Who's there?" and the entrance before the guards and 
Hortatio and Prince Hamlet, is *the* Spirit of Truth, fortold in the 
Christian Bible, the Bible of the author, Shakespeare, from the words of 
Jesus in John, C 16, 8 and 11 and 13: 8 "And when he is come, he will 
reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:" 11 "Of 
judgment, because the prince of this world is judged." 13 "Howbeit, when 
he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for 
he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, *that* 
shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come."

Thus, when things that Come To Pass actually bear out the Spirit of 
Truth, it is so Writ, which was and IS the point of the words of of 
Jesus; once again, the Master of the Faith of the Audience!

Given, in Act III, Scene III, when King Claudius fesses up to the Spirit 
of Truth, Before The Christian Audience, his crime of murder of his 
brother King Hamlet and Resolves the Premise that he was guilty, leaving 
No Doubt with the audience, and us as readers of the text, and that only 
Prince Hamlet can Restore Denmark to his Rightful State because only he 
was "born to set it right!," we note Claudius saying, Lines 36-38:

"O, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven;
It hath the primal eldest curse upon 't,
A brother's murder.  Pray can I not...."

Noted that from the Old Testament story of Cain and Abel to the Spirit 
of Truth of the New Testament, and the words of Jesus, we adjure that 
Justice was and IS the final aim of Prince Hamlet who acts it out in Act 
Five.  He accepted that his Acts were possibly Acts of Sin in accordance 
to The Scripture, But his Acts were of Righteousness, and his final 
Judgment would be up to the Spirit of Truth as per the Bible of the 
Christian Audience of Shakespeare's Age.

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

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