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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: October ::
Hamlet: Revenge or Justice?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1779  Thursday, 20 October 2005

[1] 	From: 	Joseph Egert <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 18 Oct 2005 23:40:43 +0000
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1767 Hamlet: Revenge or Justice?

[2] 	From: 	Kenneth Chan <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 19 Oct 2005 08:42:56 +0800
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1767 Hamlet: Revenge or Justice?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Joseph Egert <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 18 Oct 2005 23:40:43 +0000
Subject: 16.1767 Hamlet: Revenge or Justice?
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1767 Hamlet: Revenge or Justice?

David Bishop believes "Shakespeare has not approved of taking revenge on 
the word of a ghost."

Exactly.

I feel the discussion is too narrowly focused on the crime of Claudius 
while overlooking the wider historical context within the play that 
Shakespeare emphasizes. To paraphrase Billy Joel, the fire didn't start 
with Claudius. Let me mount my hobby-horse one more time. Old Fortinbras 
is the Pompey of this drama, whose vengeful yet immortal spirit leaves 
his slaughtered body at the moment of death to infuse the newborn body 
of Prince Hamlet. Competing with this spirit is the Holy Christian 
Spirit of forgiveness and Providential acceptance entering that same 
body at baptism. This Holy Spirit is later buttressed by Hamlet's 
Wittenberg conscience. These two contending spirits comprise the young 
Prince's agonizing psychomachia, ending in the eradication of the Danish 
royal family and in the restoration of the Fortinbras line. All that's 
missing is the Old Ghost in his true identity of Old Fortinbras gloating 
over the dead at Elsinore.

Regards,
Joe Egert

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Kenneth Chan <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 19 Oct 2005 08:42:56 +0800
Subject: 16.1767 Hamlet: Revenge or Justice?
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1767 Hamlet: Revenge or Justice?

David Bishop writes: "The ghost calls Hamlet to revenge with the story 
of his murder. As far as there's any doubt about the truth of this 
story, it is dispelled, for Hamlet, Horatio and the audience, by the 
play scene. However, since no one else suspects a murder, since the 
Mousetrap is only a play, and since Hamlet's behavior plausibly explains 
the king's choler, no one else suspects Claudius of anything. The truth 
is now objective, but not public. For revenge, Hamlet only needs to kill 
Claudius. For justice, he needs public proof."

The problem with this is that Hamlet actually does set out to kill 
Claudius after the play scene. He does not wait for public proof. When 
he encounters the King praying, Hamlet refrains from killing him because 
he is afraid the act of praying may save him from hell, as Hamlet 
clearly says in the text. It is not because of the problem of public proof.

Later, Hamlet actually does carry out the act of killing, only he kills 
the wrong man. When he thrusts his rapier through the arras, Hamlet's 
intention is clearly to kill the King. He does not wait for public proof.

Kenneth Chan

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