The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0054 Sunday, 1 Feburary 2009
Date: Tuesday, 27 Jan 2009 10:56:21 +0100
Setting aside the last posts about the confusion of motives regarding
the duel for the moment, I find David Basch's defence of his hero,
Horatio, so charming, that I don't really want to contradict him. I
promised him some time ago that I would reread Hamlet, to clarify my
ideas. Alas, I had only begun, when I was interrupted. Well I'm starting
again today, so will return to this subject. In the meanwhile, to keep
the theme going:
I was relieved, in the first scene to find Horatio more human than I had
expected: he grows pale with fear when he sees the ghost. Horatio is an
important but nevertheless a supporting character, a bit of Greek chorus
commenting on the passions of his master. Shakespeare doesn't go more
deeply into Horatio's life: had he done so his "sterling qualities"
(David) would soon be put to the test, as those of good Obama will be.
David is right, in a way, about Horatio trying to put straight a
decadent aristocrat, but Hamlet tells us much more about life than he
does. There is hardly a great play or novel in which the main characters
don't struggle against their established social world.
The letters about the confusion and mixed motives surrounding the dual
are interesting and make good reading. Donald rightly describes the
whole situation as loopy. If we think, rather, of a dark destiny working
it's way through people's lives, then all the loopiness falls into
place. The mythical forces of destiny are not rational. Hamlet cedes,
but his dying words seek a way out of the trap:
If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart,
Absent thee from felicity awhile,
And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain,
To tell my story.
Telling the story is a form of resistance against destiny. Hamlet makes
this plea to Horatio, but it is Shakespeare who tells the story. Already
a profound insight into myth takes a step out of it. It is true that
Horatio is the man who stands aside, so he represents a point of
resistance to the blind forces of myth. But I have to reread the play...
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