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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: October ::
Hamlet: Revenge or Justice?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1786  Friday, 21 October 2005

[1] 	From: 	Edmund Taft <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 20 Oct 2005 13:43:57 -0400
	Subj: 	Hamlet: Revenge or Justice

[2] 	From: 	David Basch <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 20 Oct 2005 14:14:32 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1779 Hamlet: Revenge or Justice?

[3] 	From: 	David Bishop <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 19 Oct 2005 15:30:34 -0700
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1779 Hamlet: Revenge or Justice?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Edmund Taft <
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Date: 		Thursday, 20 Oct 2005 13:43:57 -0400
Subject: 	Hamlet: Revenge or Justice

Joseph Egert writes: "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. . . ."

Well, it would seem that Old Fortinbras would pass along his need for 
revenge to young Fortinbras, no? But in the wider scheme of things, I'd 
suggest that Joe is on to something but needs different terms: Hamlet's 
psychomachia is a conflict between skeptical Renaissance humanism, on 
the one hand, and Medieval notions of honor, on the other.


Ed Taft

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		David Basch <
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Date: 		Thursday, 20 Oct 2005 14:14:32 -0400
Subject: 16.1779 Hamlet: Revenge or Justice?
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1779 Hamlet: Revenge or Justice?

Concerning Hamlet's wish to act on the basis of justice and not his 
suspicions stoked up by the ghost, I think we are finding quite a lot of 
agreement on list. Where some of us divide is over whether Hamlet's 
proof is sufficient for action that would be accepted by the people.

I think we must conclude that it is sufficient. For Hamlet has himself 
as witness and Horatio. And Hamlet is beloved of the people and they are 
likely to support him and get him to be the rightful king. But the 
problem and tragedy of Hamlet is that his self righteousness and his 
over wise ratiocinations get in the way of his prudence in carrying out 
justice and leads to his self destruction, just as Ecclesiastes warned 
would be the certain outcome of such traits.

David Basch

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		David Bishop <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 19 Oct 2005 15:30:34 -0700
Subject: 16.1779 Hamlet: Revenge or Justice?
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1779 Hamlet: Revenge or Justice?

Kenneth Chan makes two good points: that in the prayer scene and the 
closet scene Hamlet seems willing to kill Claudius without public proof 
of his crime.

I might first distinguish between Hamlet and Shakespeare, and say that 
it's Shakespeare who will not let Hamlet kill Claudius without public 
proof. But that's only part of it. The other part, treated in more 
detail in my book, involves the presence in Hamlet of a subconscious, 
which now and then breaks the surface. This is a more difficult 
argument. I won't go far into it here, except to suggest, first, that 
there seems something self-deceptive about an argument that involves 
using the Christian God to take revenge for you. Hamlet later mentions 
the futility of trying "to circumvent God." And in the closet scene, 
Hamlet kills at a moment of high emotion, at least close to madness, 
which might serve his purpose if, as I suppose, part of his underlying, 
quasi-conscious plot is to use madness as an excuse to kill the king. He 
prepares this alibi, but then expends it on Polonius, sending him back 
to the drawing board.

Joe Egert has discerned two of what I call Hamlet's clashing ideals. He 
misses the third.

Best wishes,
David Bishop

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