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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: March ::
Historical Accuracy
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0124  Monday, 6 March 2006

From: 		Jim Blackie <
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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?

Jim Blackie

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