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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: November ::
Collapsing Ambiguities in Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0662  Tuesday, 18 November 2008

From:        Aaron Azlant <
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Date:        Tuesday, 18 Nov 2008 20:14:29 -0500
Subject:     Collapsing Ambiguities in Hamlet

I have sort of an odd question for the group:

I noticed two examples in /Hamlet/ of a similar phenomenon, where a number of 
explanations for an event or behavior are presented and are then collapsed by a 
character in the play.

For instance, Hamlet concludes that Claudius' reaction to /The Mousetrap/ 
confirms his guilt. However, the play not only replicates Claudius' 
crime-revealed to the audience in the next scene-but also presents the action of 
a nephew killing his uncle, the king. It's therefore possible that Claudius is 
reacting either because of his own guilt or to a veiled threat against himself, 
especially since he sits through the dumb show without incident.

Similarly, Claudius collapses the meaning of Ophelia's songs while mad, which 
could be either about Hamlet or her father, into simple eulogies of the latter.

In both cases, the play moves on without incident, as though these ambiguities 
simply did not exist.

One could argue that a similar thing happens whenever characters discuss 
Hamlet's motivation, which is always described by third-parties in ways that 
reflect their own, simpler motivations.

Can people on the list think of other examples, form Hamlet or elsewhere in 
Shakespeare?

--Aaron

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