The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0124 Monday, 6 March 2006
From: Jim Blackie <
Date: Friday, 3 Mar 2006 13:28:58 -0500
Subject: Puzzling over Hamlet and Historical Accuracy?
Stuart Manger wrote:
>Question: was not Denmark an elective monarchy at the time? And is it
>not therefore perhaps that Claudius is elected? And if so, he is not
>pretending, he is - or in what sense does Bill Arnold mean 'pretends'?
This issue has always bothered me -- Would Will have known the form of
government in Denmark at the time of this play? Or, more probable to me,
at least, would he not use his knowledge of the current time and place
upon which to base his rationale for the theft of throne?
I guess he COULD have just Googled either "Saxo Grammaticus" or even
"Danish Monarchy 11th century."
More broadly, aren't ALL his plays, regardless of supposed locale,
really just reflections or representations of England during the
Elizabethan/Jacobian years? Do we really suppose his knowledge
encompassed all the sociological minutia of Venice, Vienna, Rome, Egypt,
My point, nearly lost in my examples, is that I believe Will wrote as if
primogeniture were the same in his plays as in his land, unless he were
to make some clear textual distinction within that play. Not to do so
would surely confuse the audience, would it not?
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