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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: January ::
Heroes
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0044  Monday, 26 January 2009

[1]  From:   David Basch <
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      Date:   Wednesday, 21 Jan 2009 10:51:50 -0500
      Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0037 Heroes

[2]  From:   Conrad Cook <
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      Date:   Wed, 21 Jan 2009 14:06:30 -0500
      Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0037 Heroes

[3]  From:   Donald Bloom <
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      Date:   Wednesday, 21 Jan 2009 13:20:03 -0600
      Subj:   RE: SHK 20.0037 Heroes


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:      David Basch <
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Date:      Wednesday, 21 Jan 2009 10:51:50 -0500
Subject: 20.0037 Heroes
Comment:   Re: SHK 20.0037 Heroes

As Conrad Cook writes, I did indeed claim the following:

David Basch wrote:

 >For example, Horatio recognizes that the dueling match is a trap
 >and he tries to warn Hamlet, saying, "My Lord, you will [lose] that
 >wager." And when Hamlet has misgivings about participating in the
 >duel match, Horatio advises that he say that he is ill. Despite
 >this, Prince Hamlet overrules him in this and everything else. Try
 >and tell a determined prince a thing or two!

And Conrad comments as follows:

 >Horatio's warns Hamlet that he will *lose* the duel; and he tells Hamlet,
 >if Hamlet has an ill premonition, to obey it. Neither of those 
constitutes a
 >recognition that the duel is a trap.

Unlike Conrad, I do read these events as Horatio recognizing Hamlet's 
plight with respect to Claudius and Horatio rightly expects the worst.

Discussing the situation with Horatio, Hamlet asserts that "the interim 
is mine," the interim until news gets back from England about the deaths 
of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Horatio's comment about losing the duel 
is his pithy way of recognizing that the Claudius that was intent on 
murdering Hamlet will not be idle in the interi to accommodate Hamlet. I 
can't imagine what Conrad thinks is happening instead.

I would also point out how Hamlet philosophizes in the play on how 
Providence works: that what is meant to be will be. Hamlet was indulging 
in fatalism, born of his amazing run of luck that brought him back home 
safely out of Claudius's clutches. All of this reminds me of the warning 
of the Bible's Ecclesiastes that not only should not one be over 
righteous -- as Hamlet was -- but that one should also not be wise over 
much, which is how the over much wise Hamlet was being -- a real wise 
guy. Ecclesiastes concluded that such behavior leads to self destruction 
-- the tragedy of the play.

While I am at it, Ecclesiastes also observed that "the wisdom of the 
poor is despised; it is not heard." That is a pretty good description of 
how Prince Hamlet treats Horatio's advice -- Horatio being described by 
Hamlet as someone "who only has his good spirits to feed and clothe 
him," that is, a poor man. It all makes sense of the play to me.

David Basch

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:      Conrad Cook <
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Date:      Wed, 21 Jan 2009 14:06:30 -0500
Subject: 20.0037 Heroes
Comment:   Re: SHK 20.0037 Heroes

David Basch <
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 > wrote:

 >>
 >> [..] Conrad comments as follows:
 >>

-> Horatio's warns Hamlet that he will *lose* the duel; and he tells Hamlet,
-> if Hamlet has an ill premonition, to obey it. Neither of those 
constitutes a
-> recognition that the duel is a trap.

 >>
 >> Unlike Conrad, I do read these events as Horatio recognizing Hamlet's
 >> plight with respect to Claudius and Horatio rightly expects the worst.
 >>
 >> Discussing the situation with Horatio, Hamlet asserts that "the 
interim is
 >> mine," the interim until news gets back from England about the deaths of
 >> Rosenkranz and Guildenstern. Horatio's comment about losing the duel is
 >> his pithy way of recognizing that the Claudius that was intent on 
murdering
 >> Hamlet will not be idle in the interi to accommodate Hamlet. I can't
 >> imagine what Conrad thinks is happening instead.

Horatio's warning is, "You will lose this wager, my lord." I have 
trouble reading that as a warning that the duel is rigged. It's too far 
to go.

Horatio is telling Hamlet that Laertes is a better swordsman. Then, when 
Hamlet feels sick at heart, Horatio tells him to go with his gut. That 
is not the same as realizing it's a trap: if Horatio had warned him it 
was a trap, Hamlet would not have replied, "We defy augury."

 >> I would also point out how Hamlet philosophizes in the play on how
 >> Providence works: that what is meant to be will be. Hamlet was 
indulging in
 >> fatalism, born of his amazing run of luck that brought him back home 
safely
 >> out of Claudius's clutches. All of this reminds me of the warning of the
 >> Bible's Ecclesiastes that not only should not one be over righteous 
-- as
 >> Hamlet was -- but that one should also not be wise over much, which 
is how
 >> the over much wise Hamlet was being -- a real wise guy.

A thought-provoking comparison with Ecclesiastes, and a well-argued 
reading.  Still, I think there's textual evidence against it.

Let's look at the passage:

] Hamlet.  ... there's a special providence in
] the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be
] not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come:
] the readiness is all. Since no man knows aught of what he leaves,
] what is't to leave betimes? Let be.

The "it" which Hamlet is talking about is the fall of a sparrow:  and 
the fall of a sparrow here is compared to the death of Hamlet, who is 
variously linked with birds of prey throughout the drama. If his fall be 
now, it is not to come -- and there's nothing more to worry about. If it 
is not to come, and the future is clear of it, then that must mean it 
will be now. If it be not now, it will inevitably come:  the readiness 
for death is all. Since no man knows anything of what he leaves, what is 
it to leave early? Let be.

In other words:  "Ah! -- screw it."

 >> Ecclesiastes
 >> concluded that such behavior leads to self destruction -- the tragedy of
 >> the play.

But Hamlet has nothing against self-destruction. In fact, he regrets 
that the Everlasting fixed his canon against self-slaughter, and asks 
himself, "to be or not to be."

Again, David, you mention Hamlet's "the interim is mine" comment, but I 
consider that passage, when considered in full, to refute your reading.

Shortly before Osric arrives:

] Hor. It must be shortly known to him from England
]     What is the issue of the business there.
] Ham. It will be short; the interim is mine,
]     And a man's life is no more than to say 'one.'

Horatio has read Claudius's signed and sealed warrant for Hamlet's 
death, and said: "What a king is this!" Hamlet finally, finally has hard 
evidence that Claudius is a usurper.

Probably he could have legally done what Laertes abortively did, 
marching into Elsinore and killing Claudius, justifying it with the 
document:  If the Danish people were willing to mount an insurrection 
against Claudius over Polonius's vanishment, how much more willing would 
they have been to move against him with hard evidence that he had 
ordered Hamlet's assassination?

But, Hamlet didn't do that. He returns stumbling into Ophelia's funeral. 
Next, Horatio warns Hamlet:  when Claudius gets the news from England, 
he will move against you. Hamlet replies that, until then, he has the 
initiative -- the interim is his.

And just as he says this, Osric shows up to draw Hamlet into the duel. 
By getting drawn into that duel, which is irrelevant to his purpose, 
Hamlet surrenders the initiative to Claudius.

Look at the timing:

That duel ended up with the queen being poisoned and Hamlet ordering 
that the doors be locked. By the time the doors are unlocked, to the 
sight of massive carnage, Fortinbras and the English ambassadors are 
waiting on the other side.

So, even if the duel had not been rigged, had Hamlet either won or lost, 
on the duel's termination Claudius would have received the waiting 
English ambassadors, publically gotten news of the deaths of Rosencrantz 
and Guildenstern, and on the spot ordered Hamlet dragged off.

In other words, when Hamlet says, "I am constant to my purposes," 
meaning he intends to follow through on the duel, in fact by following 
through on the duel he is sabotaging his purpose. Again.

Conrad.

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:      Donald Bloom <
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Date:      Wednesday, 21 Jan 2009 13:20:03 -0600
Subject: 20.0037 Heroes
Comment:   RE: SHK 20.0037 Heroes

David Basch writes, "For example, Horatio recognizes that the dueling 
match is a trap and he tries to warn Hamlet."

Conrad Cook responds, "Horatio warns Hamlet that he will *lose* the 
duel; and he tells Hamlet, if Hamlet has an ill premonition, to obey it. 
Neither of those constitutes a recognition that the duel is a trap.

Both are, I think, not taking into account the fact that the situation 
is quite crazy to begin with. In the preceding scene they were trying to 
strangle each other over the dead body of Ophelia. An hour or so later a 
friendly competition using deadly weapons is proposed between the two. A 
trifle suspicious, I think we'd all agree.

Granted, the characters themselves dance around this obvious absurdity. 
As noted, Horatio does ask if Hamlet's "mind dislike anything" about it, 
but he doesn't flat out say that the whole business is a transparent 
sham from start to finish.

Hamlet apologizes to Laertes ("Sorry about killing your dad, mate, but I 
was off my chump at the time") but as a prelude to a fencing match it's 
entirely goofy. Laertes offers a guarded response ("I'll consult some 
experts to determine whether I'll have to challenge you or knife you in 
the back to get revenge, but until then we'll pretend it never 
happened") that is hardly less loopy. The king takes his part with the 
hokum about the priceless pearl that will go to Hamlet if he gets an 
early hit, and then drinks his health as if they were best of friends. 
Granted they have to continue the sham in front of the public but what 
are they doing in front of the public if not setting up something 
underhanded? It is not a friendly match. Nobody's friends and nobody's 
having fun.

The queen, bless her heart, seems to take it all at face value, not 
suspecting her husband of his murderous deceit. But then again, maybe 
she does. Maybe she is weary of life: she has acted very scandalously, 
married with the murderer of her first husband, seen a man killed by her 
son. Maybe one could stage it such that she suspects that the cup is 
poisoned and drinks it deliberately, tearing it away from Claudius, 
expecting to die.

Responding to Horatio's concern, Hamlet seems to recognize that they 
have all completely lost control of the situation (if they ever really 
had it):

Not a whit, we defie Augury; there's a speciall
3669: Prouidence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis not
3670: to come: if it bee not to come, it will bee now: if it
3671: be not now; yet it will come; the readinesse is all, since no
3672: man ha's ought of what he leaues. What is't to leaue be-times? (FF)

And it may be that's why he goes through with the whole ridiculous 
business as if it made perfect sense. He no longer cares to be engaged 
in this game of spying and traps, mines and counter-mines. He no long 
cares about anything except getting it over with. Or so I read it.

Cheers,
don

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