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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: February ::
Hamlet Puzzles
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0071  Sunday, 26 February 2006

[1] 	From: 	Steve Sohmer <
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	Date: 	Monday, 20 Feb 2006 11:45:09 EST
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0063 Hamlet Puzzles

[2] 	From: 	Jim Blackie <
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	Date: 	Monday, 20 Feb 2006 12:32:58 -0500
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 17.0063 Hamlet Puzzles

[3] 	From: 	Larry Weiss <
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	Date: 	Monday, 20 Feb 2006 13:40:39 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0063 Hamlet Puzzles

[4] 	From: 	David Bishop <
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	Date: 	Monday, 20 Feb 2006 16:53:28 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0063 Hamlet Puzzles

[5] 	From: 	Joseph Egert <
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	Date: 	Monday, 20 Feb 2006 23:02:25 +0000
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 17.0063 Hamlet Puzzles

[6] 	From: 	David Basch <
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	Date: 	Monday, 20 Feb 2006 21:21:41 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0063 Hamlet Puzzles

[7] 	From: 	Hardy M. Cook <
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	Date: 	Sunday, February 26, 2006
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0063 Hamlet Puzzles


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Steve Sohmer <
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Date: 		Monday, 20 Feb 2006 11:45:09 EST
Subject: 17.0063 Hamlet Puzzles
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0063 Hamlet Puzzles

Dear Friends,

Frank Whigham raised a series of interesting questions about "Hamlet" 
which I will, briefly, try to briefly answer.

     (1) Was Gertrude adulterous?

Yes, both adulterous and incestuous. One can commit incest with a dead 
brother's wife. But one can only commit adultery with her while the 
brother is alive. A man's marriage to his wife ends at the moment of her 
death; a woman's marriage to her husband ends only when he is buried.

     (2) Do we believe that Claudius won her with gifts? What would that
     mean? What kinds of gifts? (Like the ones that Bassanio buys 
Portia?) Is
     she stupid? Do we trust the Ghost's contemptuous language? Do we trust
     his narcissism?

Gertrude is highly randy but certainly not dull; while Claudius and 
Polonius speculate about the cause of Hamlet's "madness," Gertrude puts 
her finger on it. The Ghost, a dead penitent, appears to be a reliable 
reporter. Moreover, in his final appearance his sins seem to have been 
burned away.

     (3) What does (marrying) Gertrude have to do with the possession of the
     crown? Did Claudius want her for some such reason?

Gertrude may have had some life interest in the crown. However, a queen 
regnant was an historical anomaly when Mary Tudor came to the throne 
(and Elizabeth after her). One would have to possess the woman with the 
life interest in the crown in order to possess the crown.

     (4) What did the ruling elite (or whoever is addressed in 1.2 as having
     "better wisdoms") "go along" with, regarding Claudius's ascent to the
     throne (or is it Gertrude's re-marriage)? Is it the swift choice of a
     king to replace the dead one? Or is it the incest? Is the relevant
     parallel (in their eyes, as it were) then with Prince Arthur, Henry
     VIII, Katherine of Aragon, and the Pope's dispensation? It's worth
     noting that in the interesting play A Looking Glass for London and
     England (set in Nineveh, 1592?), which begins with a brother 
(admittedly
     Asiatic) taking his wife to wed, a courtier immediately says (not
     waiting even as long as Kent), "What a terrible idea!"

I have argued elsewhere that Hamlet was conceived prior to the marriage 
of Old Hamlet and Gertrude. Under prevailing law, that made him a 
bastard eigne whose right to the succession could have been vacated had 
Gertrude born Claudius a son in wedlock.

     (5) Why do only the Hamlets father and son talk about incest?

Why did many English acquiesce when Henry Tudor married Catherine of 
Aragon? To have spoken against the marriage could have been construed as 
treason. Royal incest was not a topic upon which one wished to be seen 
as outspoken. It's noteworthy that Polonius warns Ophelia that Hamlet is 
a prince and, therefore, cannot marry her ... whereas Gertrude, who 
certainly knows the facts of Hamlet's conception and birth, was hoping 
that Hamlet would marry Ophelia.

     (6) Why is Fortinbras's uncle "impotent and bedrid"?

Fortinbras' "bedrid" uncle is a peacemaker ... unlike Hamlet's 
belligerent uncle. But this is only the beginning of the contrast 
between the two uncles. The fact that Old Fortinbras is "impotent" may 
remove doubt about Young Fortinbras' legitimacy. For those who are 
interested in such things, FORTINABRAS is an anagram for A FIRST BORN.

     (7) What has Poland to do with anything (such as Polonius's name)?

This is a very complex trope which centers on the Pole or de la Pole 
family who had variegated fortune under the Tudors. When Henry VIII's 
divorce hit the fan, Reginald Pole (1500-1558) begged permission to 
continue his studies in Paris. Eventually, he returned to serve Queen 
Mary. But Pole was stripped of his legatine powers and censured for 
doctrinal unsoundness ... despite the fact that he was dogmatic to a T 
(which may account for Polonius' lecture to Laertes, who is going to 
study in Paris).

As to Poland, it was and is a Catholic country. Norway was and is 
Protestant. The war between them may well have religious underpinnings 
... as has the text of Hamlet.

     (8) "The Murder of Gonzago" and the king's reaction to it do not prove
     that the ghost is not a devil, only that Claudius is guilty. What
     happened to Hamlet's earlier concern about the former?

There are two factions seeking after perfect knowledge in Hamlet. One, 
Claudius and Polonius, are seeking the cause of Hamlet's madness ... 
which Gertrude readily identifies as his father's death and her 
o'erhasty marriage. The other searcher is Hamlet ... who is seeking 
certain knowledge of the truthfulness of the Ghost. Claudius horror and 
rage at the play is, to Hamlet, sufficient evidence to tip the teetering 
scales regarding both Claudius' guilt and the Ghost's honesty.

     (9) Why doesn't Hamlet fret about the revenge prohibition "Vengeance is
     mine" (in Deuteronomy, Romans, and Hebrews), when he worries about the
     cognate prohibition on suicide? Has the omission anything to do with
     Hieronymo's lengthy fretting about it in The Spanish Tragedy?

Suicide is never justified. Clearing an incestuous, adulterous murderer 
from the Danish throne might be, provided there is proof of his crimes.

     (10) How did Ophelia die?

If I'm not mistaken she drowned.

     (11) How are we to understand Hamlet's weird apology to Laertes?

Hamlet, having committed himself to the hand of providence (the fall of 
the sparrow), is cleansing his conscience (confessio) prior to mortal 
combat. Many warriors did so.

     (12) How old is Hamlet? 19 or 30? If the former, then why does the
     gravedigger scene contain the apparent suggestion that he's 30? If the
     latter, why bury the data?

This is a tactic Shakespeare used first in Julius Caesar ... dispensing 
information on a subject in reverse order ... which requires those 
auditors who are capable to integrate the information to grasp the 
playwright's design. Hamlet is 30 (he's fat and he sweats). He was born 
on the day Old Hamlet overcame Old Fortinbras. This was fewer than nine 
months after the marriage of Hamlet's parents. The math is detailed in 
the Player King's speech (the "dozen" lines which Hamlet wrote "thirty 
dozen moons ... twelve [a dozen] times thirty"). Shakespeare buries the 
data because a play about an illegitimate prince might not have gone 
down well under Elizabeth (thrice declared a bastard: by her father, 
parliament, and the pope), or under James who was suspected of illegitimacy.

     (13) Why does Hamlet give his dying voice to Fortinbras?

Fortinbras is a legitimate royal, a first-born, and a hero. The royal 
house of Denmark is about to become extinct. It was not unusual to 
borrow a royal from another country when this occurred. Fortinbras' 
arrival isn't coincidence but providential.

     (14) Why does Horatio the true and more suicidal friend and skeptic use
     the optative in the "flights of angels" speech? (This seems the only
     survival of Kyd's post-mortem speech where Andrea and Revenge apportion
     out rewards and punishments after the revenge is carried out, in richly
     in favor of the revengers.)

Horatio and Hamlet have been at school at Wittenberg, where they were 
taught that there is no purgatory and one went to heaven or hell 
immediately on one's death.

Hope this helps.

Steve Sohmer

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Jim Blackie <
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Date: 		Monday, 20 Feb 2006 12:32:58 -0500
Subject: 17.0063 Hamlet Puzzles
Comment: 	RE: SHK 17.0063 Hamlet Puzzles

<Frank Whigham>While I share Jim Blackie's sense that Shakespeare was not a
"cheap"
trickster (at least most of the time), I do think that Hamlet is a play
with more than a usual dose of interpretive mystery. None of the
problems listed below strike me as arousing silly author's identity
questions, but the obscurities are puzzling. (Many of these are
questions that students regularly ask; perhaps the original audiences
might have done so too. That is, they're not just question from the study.)

This is followed by many good puzzles and mysteries that lead us in many 
directions. I agree that the points are valid, maybe considered, and 
contribute to our fascination with a complex play. Interpretation was 
not at issue with my minor tantrum.

I'd therefore like to clarify that my point was that Will wasn't 
purposefully withholding information from a play to get what is called 
in today's movie parlance an "AhHa!" (please excuse my use of technical 
terminology here.) I can't think of any "red herrings" or similar 
trickery to keep the audience's attention or interest although there are 
plenty of opportunities, such as Titus' dinner party menu - we know up 
front what the main course will be.

I was responding to a point made by another that there is much 
"sub-plot" or "behind the scenes" actions that we can deduce as being 
true and obvious although it does not exist in the text or stage 
directions. I can't come up with anything that is not made out of whole 
cloth by the person who discovered their bit of Shakespearean 
obviousness. If someone can show we the error of my ways, I will relent 
and admit that I was, once again, dead wrong.

Sorry if I was unclear, but I will always risk not making my point if I 
can possibly get a cheap laugh out of a bad pun, myself...

Jim Blackie
Bardoholic

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Larry Weiss <
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Date: 		Monday, 20 Feb 2006 13:40:39 -0500
Subject: 17.0063 Hamlet Puzzles
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0063 Hamlet Puzzles

An interesting collection of questions, Here are my responses, some more 
tentative than others:

 >(1) Was Gertrude adulterous?

I am largely persuaded by John Dover Wilson's analysis that she was, but 
it is by no means a closed question.

 >(2) Do we believe that Claudius won her with gifts? What would that 
mean? What kinds of gifts? (Like the ones that Bassanio buys Portia?) Is 
she stupid? Do we trust the Ghost's contemptuous language? Do we trust 
his narcissism?

I have always understood this to mean natural gifts, or personal charm: 
  "With witchcraft of his wits, with traitorous gifts --/ O wicked wits 
and gifts that have the power/ So to seduce!"  If this is the correct 
reading it highlights that Hamlet's perception of Claudius's appearance 
and demeanor -- e.g., "batten on this moor"; "satyr"; "king of shreds 
and patches" -- is far off the mark, and it raises questions of the 
extent to which we can trust Hamlet's judgment.  As for the ghost's 
"narcissism," I don't see it.  It would not be unreasonable for him to 
be peeved by the use he received at his brother's hand, and it would be 
natural for his speech to reflect that.

Gertrude is not stupid (vide "The lady doth protest too much"); but she 
is an alcoholic.

 >(3) What does (marrying) Gertrude have to do with the possession of 
the crown? Did Claudius want her for some such reason?

Tony Burton has written a lengthy and erudite answer to this question, 
which was published in two parts in The Shakespeare Newsletter.  In 
brief, Tony suggests that (under English law) Gertrude, as widow, had a 
temporary possessory interest in the late king's estate which could be 
vested into joint title if she married within a specified period of 
time; hence the hasty marriage.  Tony's analysis, while tight, does not 
entirely persuade me, as it assumes that the audience would have a more 
precise understanding of a technical point of law than is reasonable to 
assume.

 >(4) What did the ruling elite (or whoever is addressed in 1.2 as 
having "better wisdoms") "go along" with, regarding Claudius's ascent to 
the throne (or is it Gertrude's re-marriage)? Is it the swift choice of 
a king to replace the dead one? Or is it the incest?

The immediate antecedent is the marriage, not the assumption of the 
crown; and that makes the most sense as the election to the throne 
preceded the wedding.

 >Is the relevant parallel (in their eyes, as it were) then with Prince 
Arthur, Henry VIII, Katherine of Aragon, and the Pope's dispensation?

It most likely would have resonated with the Elizabethan audience.

 >(5) Why do only the Hamlets father and son talk about incest?

Do you think it would have been prudent for Polonius, Osric, Voltimand, 
et al. to make this a subject for casual banter?

 >(6) Why is Fortinbras's uncle "impotent and bedrid"?

Probably for no reason other than to explain why he did not squelch his 
nephew's expedition sooner.

 >(7) What has Poland to do with anything (such as Polonius's name)?

There are two references that suggest that Poland was a traditional 
enemy of Denmark -- Hamlet pere "slew the sledded Polacks on the ice" 
and Claudius gives leave to Fortinbras to traverse his dominions for an 
expedition against Poland.  The chief minister's name is evocative, as I 
have commented here before (see the archives).  It seems to me that this 
is a wonderful little grace note, telling the audience not to 
underestimate the doddering old man, who in palmier days was 
sufficiently astute or courageous to earn the agnomen.  Remember, the 
character was Corambis in Q1.

 >(8) "The Murder of Gonzago" and the king's reaction to it do not prove 
that the ghost is not a devil, only that Claudius is guilty. What 
happened to Hamlet's earlier concern about the former?

Isn't there enough in the play without adding this question?

 >(9) Why doesn't Hamlet fret about the revenge prohibition "Vengeance 
is mine" (in Deuteronomy, Romans, and Hebrews), when he worries about 
the cognate prohibition on suicide? Has the omission anything to do with 
Hieronymo's lengthy fretting about it in The Spanish Tragedy?

I refer my friend to the answer I gave a few moments ago.

 >(10) How did Ophelia die?

She drowned.  Of that there is no possible doubt, no probable, possible 
shadow of doubt, no possible doubt whatever.  The only question is 
whether it was suicide or accident.

 >(11) How are we to understand Hamlet's weird apology to Laertes?

He anticipates the McNaghten rules.  But, seriously, Dover Wilson 
provides a fairly persuasive answer to this one too.

 >(12) How old is Hamlet? 19 or 30? If the former, then why does the 
gravedigger scene contain the apparent suggestion that he's 30? If the 
latter, why bury the data?

I don't understand the last part of the question.  In V.i WS twice tells 
us that Hamlet is thirty -- once by precise reckoning from the date the 
gravedigger became sexton and then again from the fact that Hamlet 
remembers Yorick, who died 23 years earlier.  I agree that WS probably 
had a younger character in mind originally, but a character is as old as 
the actor who plays him appears to be, and Burbage was over 30.  I 
suspect that the V.i speeches were added to tell the audience that this 
wasn't miscasting.  (Burbage is also said to have weighed 17 stn; and 
Gertrude says Hamlet is "fat and scant of breath.")

 >(13) Why does Hamlet give his dying voice to Fortinbras?

Who else was left?  A more thematic answer is that Hamlet saw in 
Fortinbras's cause (as in Laertes's) the image of his own.

 >(14) Why does Horatio the true and more suicidal friend and skeptic 
use the optative in the "flights of angels" speech?

Horatio is a questioner, not a doubter.  After all, he "in part 
believe[s]" the arrant nonsense about spooks not being manifest at 
Christmas.  There is no reason to think that Horatio does not believe in 
angels.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		David Bishop <
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Date: 		Monday, 20 Feb 2006 16:53:28 -0500
Subject: 17.0063 Hamlet Puzzles
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0063 Hamlet Puzzles

If SHAKSPER is wading back into Hamlet criticism, I guess I can start 
tediously rehearsing my pet theories, which can be found in more detail 
at clashingideals.com.

Some of Frank Whigham's questions are very complex, but I think most of 
them do occur to attentive readers and viewers of the play.

1) "Adulterate" and "incestuous" were often used, I believe, as general 
terms of abuse when they weren't literally true. We don't take the 
marriage as literally incestuous, which doesn't mean that we are 
supposed to be entirely comfortable with it, or to go along with it, 
like the court. On the other hand, Hamlet, like the ghost, seems to 
overdo it a bit, and I think this is part of Shakespeare's plan. The 
young Hamlet shares with the ghost a fanatical puritanism. This is 
suggested most, perhaps, by the failure to provide more specific 
evidence of adultery, and by the effective identification of these 
charges with the horrible sins of a) second marriage and b) marrying 
Claudius.

I would suggest that if Gertrude had literally committed adultery Hamlet 
would not remain so fond of her as to envision a reconciliation, and 
especially would not be treating her so respectfully in the last act. 
She would also not have to look into her "very soul" to find the source 
of her guilt, which seems to me to be a feeling that she preferred the 
witty and gift-giving Claudius to her rather icy first husband.

6) Fortinbras's uncle is impotent and bedrid, I think, for two reasons. 
1) To explain why Claudius had to reveal the truth to him (incidentally 
showing his competence as a king) and 2) to indicate that the strong 
young Fortinbras could have simply overthrown his aged uncle if he chose 
to. That instead he bows to his uncle and swears not to pursue his 
revenge on Denmark shows that he has sincerely converted to lawfulness 
and leaves him the best available choice to succeed at the end. The 
sincerity of his conversion is shown both in his speech as he passes 
through Denmark and in his judicious claiming of the throne.

7) I have a pet theory that Shakespeare gave Polonius his name, at least 
partly, because Poland functions as a substitute target for Fortinbras 
as Polonius does for Hamlet. Or maybe he liked the speech prefix Pol. 
for him better than Cor. In the play Poland is also a kind of wild east, 
where wars can be fought without worrying too much about legal issues. 
Fortinbras goes to war there to show his strength (necessary for a 
prospective king) and also his discipline, in shifting his target from a 
lawless to a more or less lawful one.

8) We may question the deep sincerity of Hamlet's expressed doubts about 
the ghost. Also, if the ghost were a devil would that be because the 
story was false or because he commanded revenge? Hamlet's problem, of 
publicly proving Claudius's guilt, is not, as it happens, solved by the 
Mousetrap, since Claudius does not, as Hamlet partly hoped, proclaim his 
malefactions. Also because no one suspects this is anything but a play 
and because Hamlet's behavior provides an adequate explanation for 
Claudius's walkout.

9) Perhaps the greatest source of mystery in the play is Hamlet's 
failure to speak explicitly about the moral drawbacks of revenge. 
Laertes' explicit summary of all the qualms he would cast aside for the 
sake of "daring damnation" suggests, I think, some of what's going on in 
Hamlet's mind. The play develops this theme in intriguing and subtle 
ways, possibly, in part, reacting against the lack of subtlety in the 
revenge play tradition. He does at least say that one obstacle to 
revenge might be the (oxymoronic) craven scruple. This paradoxical note 
resounds in "conscience does make cowards of us all", in "daring 
damnation" and in his "Christian" revenge fantasy in the prayer scene: 
using the Christian God to take revenge (circumventing God). These are 
oxymoronic because a true scruple cannot be craven. Is it cowardly to 
fear God? Hamlet is caught between the duty, and the sin, of revenge. 
His deepest ideals, it turns out, clash. They can't fully be reconciled, 
unless by doing what Shakespeare does in the end: transforming Hamlet's 
revenge, more or less, into justice.

11) This is getting too long, so I'll just add that in apologizing to 
Laertes Hamlet expends the alibi he has established for killing the 
king: that he was crazy, but now he's sorry, it wasn't really him, so 
can't we all get along? It wouldn't really have worked with the king, 
but in a deep part of his mind I think he grasped at that hope. 
Shakespeare has created a character with some unconscious, or 
semi-conscious, motives, and the alibi of insanity is one of them.

Best wishes,
David Bishop

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Joseph Egert <
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Date: 		Monday, 20 Feb 2006 23:02:25 +0000
Subject: 17.0063 Hamlet Puzzles
Comment: 	RE: SHK 17.0063 Hamlet Puzzles

I believe that Frank Whigham's recitation of HAMLET puzzles barely 
scratches the surface. I'd be most interested to hear Frank's own 
solutions, tentative as they may be.

Joe Egert

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		David Basch <
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Date: 		Monday, 20 Feb 2006 21:21:41 -0500
Subject: 17.0063 Hamlet Puzzles
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0063 Hamlet Puzzles

Frank Whigham raises many questions about Hamlet, some of which have 
straightforward answers. While audiences of Shakespeare's play may 
puzzle over its meaning, no one should suppose that Shakespeare was in 
doubt about the play's meaning. Shakespeare did not write from the hip 
but took care with the tiniest detail of his words. He has a point to 
make and makes it in a complex play, as complex as life, and leaves his 
audience to ponder this meaning.

Nevertheless, Shakespeare gives clues about his meaning in that he 
reveals by the many parallels in the play that it is a dramatization of 
the Bible's Book of Ecclesiastes. There are dozens of parallels in 
Hamlet to Ecclesiastes so that the greatest puzzle is why critics have 
failed to take full account of these parallels or to ponder the meaning 
of the play as revealed by this key fact.

Frank Whigham went on to raise 14 questions. I would like to try to 
answer those about which I think I have something to say. I will repeat 
each of his questions and follow with my answer.

    (Q1) Was Gertrude adulterous?

The play is indefinite about this. But Gertrude must have certainly 
flirted with Claudius and given him reason to think that by killing King 
Hamlet he would reap a harvest. She had been the "snare," the woman that 
Ecclesiastes mentions, "whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as 
bands: whoso pleaseth God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be 
taken by her." Claudius was indeed "taken."

    (Q2) Do we believe that Claudius won her with gifts? What
    would that mean? What kinds of gifts? (Like the ones that
    Bassanio buys Portia?) Is she stupid? Do we trust the Ghost's
    contemptuous language? Do we trust his narcissism?

It is apparent that Gertrude loves Claudius. She is not stupid but is 
pretty much wrapped up in herself and does not think about the 
consequences of her flirting and encouragement of Claudius. As far as 
the ghost is concerned, apparently he speaks from "the world of truth," 
the afterlife, with an anguished heart that recognizes that he has been 
betrayed and that his wife had joined the betrayer, though not 
necessarily having deliberately colluded with Claudius.

    (Q3) What does (marrying) Gertrude have to do with the
    possession of the crown? Did Claudius want her for some such
    reason?

Apparently, the marriage of Claudius to Queen Gertrude cemented his 
acceptance by the Danish ruling authorities as the new King. It was a 
neat package: an attractive Queen and that he became King, passing over 
young Hamlet as the heir to the throne.

    (Q5) Why do only the Hamlets father and son talk about incest?

Do they talk about "incest" or Gertrude's treachery in going on to marry 
the man who killed Hamlet? No one else suspects what has happened behind 
the scenes. They think King Hamlet died by the bite of some insect.

    (6) Why is Fortinbras's uncle "impotent and bedrid"?

He is an old man.

    (Q7) What has Poland to do with anything (such as Polonius's
    name)?

King Hamlet fought the "Polak" as does Fortinbras in the play. 
Polonius's name has nothing to do with the Polak.

    (Q8) "The Murder of Gonzago" and the king's reaction to it do
    not prove that the ghost is not a devil, only that Claudius is
    guilty. What happened to Hamlet's earlier concern about the
    former?

The play, by showing Claudius is guilty, verifies the testimony of the 
ghost. The ghost spoke truth, hence was not a devil that came merely to 
tempt Hamlet to commit a crime and to Hell.

    (Q9) Why doesn't Hamlet fret about the revenge prohibition
    "Vengeance is mine" (in Deuteronomy, Romans, and Hebrews),
    when he worries about the cognate prohibition on suicide? Has
    the omission anything to do with Hieronymo's lengthy fretting
    about it in The Spanish Tragedy?

Revenge was acceptable at the time as we see by Laertes' conduct and was 
even acceptable in the Bible, which accepted the concept of the "blood 
avenger" (but provided "cities of refuge" for the accidental man 
slayer).  Hamlet contemplates suicide as a way to get out of 
responsibility but his fear of what might follow him after his death in 
the other world makes "a coward" of him. Murder was forbidden in the 
Bible and this prohibition included self murder as all religious people 
agree.

    (Q10) How did Ophelia die?

She accidentally drowns in her delirium.

    (Q11) How are we to understand Hamlet's weird apology to
    Laertes?

The apology is not weird. Hamlet sincerely begs forgiveness. As Hamlet 
says right after killing Polonius, he will have to "answer for this 
deed." In this apology is Hamlet's answer for his deed. Hamlet knows 
that killing Claudius was unintentional in his pursuit of Claudius.

    (Q12) How old is Hamlet? 19 or 30? If the former, then why
    does the gravedigger scene contain the apparent suggestion
    that he's 30? If the latter, why bury the data?

Hamlet is both "young Hamlet" and the Hamlet of 30. Shakespeare has this 
inconsistency in his story since he wants to make the point that the 
Hamlet after his return from his aborted trip to England is a matured 
person.

    (Q13) Why does Hamlet give his dying voice to Fortinbras?

Hamlet recognizes Fortinbras's claims to kingship in Denmark and wants 
his people to end strife by accepting the new ruler with his blessing.

    (Q14) Why does Horatio the true and more suicidal friend and
    skeptic use the optative in the "flights of angels" speech?
    (This seems the only survival of Kyd's post-mortem speech
    where Andrea and Revenge apportion out rewards and punishments
    after the revenge is carried out, in richly in favor of the
    revengers.)

After what the skeptical Laertes has seen: a ghost, the murder of his 
friend, the murderers having their crimes brought down upon their own 
heads, the Queen's accidental death, the retribution visited upon those 
who had acted willfully in hurting others, the many turns of events, 
etc', he is persuaded of a more complex world with more things than he 
had dreamed of, as he lives to go off to tell Hamlet's story to the world.

David Basch

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Hardy M. Cook <
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Date: 		Sunday, February 26, 2006
Subject: 17.0063 Hamlet Puzzles
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0063 Hamlet Puzzles

Isn't the point the puzzles and NOT the answers? Maynard Mack observed 
some time ago that this play is distinctly in the interrogative mode? It 
seems to me that Hamlet is more about the questions and puzzles than the 
answers to them and that we could go on for ages arguing one side or 
another.

What is interesting is how choices in performances of the play are 
realized and how each performance creates a reading of the text.

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