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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: May ::
What ho, Horatio
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0269  Wednesday, 27 May 2009

[1] From:   Anna Kamaralli <
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     Date:   Thursday, 21 May 2009 04:30:41 +0000 (GMT)
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0249 What ho, Horatio

[2] From:   Arthur Lindley <
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     Date:   Thursday, 21 May 2009 08:09:27 +0100
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0249 What ho, Horatio

[3] From:   David Bishop <
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     Date:   Thursday, 21 May 2009 13:34:29 -0400
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0249 What ho, Horatio

[4] From:   Brian Willis <
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     Date:   Thursday, 21 May 2009 16:40:58 -0700 (PDT)
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0249 What ho, Horatio

[5] From:   Anthony Burton <
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     Date:   Tuesday, 26 May 2009 11:46:15 -0400
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0249 What ho, Horatio


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Anna Kamaralli <
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Date:       Thursday, 21 May 2009 04:30:41 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: 20.0249 What ho, Horatio
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0249 What ho, Horatio

"Horatio is like tofu."

Can we have that put on a T-shirt?

Regards,
Anna Kamaralli

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Arthur Lindley <
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Date:       Thursday, 21 May 2009 08:09:27 +0100
Subject: 20.0249 What ho, Horatio
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0249 What ho, Horatio

A counter question: why should anyone who has not been talking to the 
Ghost believe that the Mousetrap has proved Claudius' guilt? The court 
has just seen a play in which a nephew kills his uncle accompanied by 
Hamlet's mocking of his uncle. What would you conclude? Horatio, who 
knows about the Ghost's existence but not the Ghost's story, gives the 
appropriate, cautious, press-conference sort of answer.

Arthur

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       David Bishop <
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Date:       Thursday, 21 May 2009 13:34:29 -0400
Subject: 20.0249 What ho, Horatio
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0249 What ho, Horatio

I think Lynn Brenner is right that Horatio's "hedging" if it could be 
put across, would only bewilder us -- and I would add, bewilder us in 
the wrong way. This is not an example of good, or deepening, ambiguity, 
but just a misunderstanding.

For one thing Horatio does not invite psychological investigation the 
way Hamlet does. But the main argument, which goes back a long way, 
turns first on the pointlessness -- cf. Jenkins -- of this "ambiguity". 
We can hardly help believing the ghost, but just in case, Claudius tells 
us he's guilty in his "painted word" speech before the play. Then we get 
more confession in the prayer scene. The problem here is not that the 
audience would doubt his guilt. The first question is why Hamlet would. 
A ghost might be generically questionable so we can allow for the play 
to delay revenge, just barely. But the difficulty of revenge is the real 
problem. Horatio's "note" gives Hamlet a pun to take off on, indicating 
his agitation -- and pointing to his susceptibility to madness. The 
argument finally turns on a recognition of dramatic convention. The 
"ambiguity" crowd is saying that plays work the way plays don't work.

Best wishes,
David Bishop

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Brian Willis <
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Date:       Thursday, 21 May 2009 16:40:58 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 20.0249 What ho, Horatio
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0249 What ho, Horatio

Surely, Horatio's repetition of the words "very well" settles the 
matter. Not only that, it seem to me a texturing of the script that 
indicates to the actors playing Claudius and Horatio how to react to The 
Murder of Gonzago. An argument for prevarication on Horatio's part seems 
paratextual to me and countertextual to everything we can glean about 
Horatio from the rest of the script.

Brian Willis

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Anthony Burton <
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Date:       Tuesday, 26 May 2009 11:46:15 -0400
Subject: 20.0249 What ho, Horatio
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0249 What ho, Horatio

Let me add my voice to those who agree with Cheryl's professor friend, 
but with a somewhat different reason from others. To be sure, the 
studied neutrality of Horatio's response is distinctly unenthusiastic, 
and far from a statement of agreement that Claudius has just betrayed 
his own guilt for murdering the old king. But there is another feature: 
Hamlet has misdescribed the situation -- and is leading us all astray -- 
in saying the king rose "upon the talk of poisoning."

The text reads:

Ham. A poisons him i' th' garden for his estate. His name's/
Gonzago. The story is extant, and written in very/
choice Italian. You shall see anon how the murderer/
gets the love of Gonzago's wife.

Oph. The king rises.

What Horatio very well did note is that the king rose as soon as Hamlet 
declared that he would show how the murderer would get the love of the 
king's wife, in fulfillment of his purpose to obtain his victim's 
estate. I discussed this topic at length, showing how Claudius's 
marriage to Gertrude disinherited Hamlet and put the old king's estate 
into Claudius' hands, in a series of articles published in The 
Shakespeare Newsletter, and now available online at hamletworks.org at 
the "Hamlet criticism" tab.

The point to note here is that Claudius did not rise during the dumbshow 
enactment of poisoning, nor Hamlet's provocative statement to that 
effect. Nor does he rise when Hamlet declares the motive for murder -- 
obtaining the king's estate. He knows that the murder itself and his 
personal motive are safely unprovable against him. However, he rises to 
interrupt the entertainment the moment Hamlet announces that the next 
scene will show how he won the king's widow -- the essential last step 
in obtaining the dead king's estate -- because that is something 
Gertrude (his "jointress") and the court know all about; the hasty 
wooing, the existence of a (presumably) negotiated jointure agreement, 
the importance of the timing ("within a month") of the marriage, were 
all public knowledge. Gertrude and the court might find the presentation 
-- and the linkage of the murder with the marriage -- all too convincing 
a revelation of Claudius's cynical duplicity for him to tolerate. There 
is no reason to believe he lost his composure, only that he terminated 
the festivities. Kozintsev's Russian film Hamlet brilliantly captures a 
display of autocratic self-control (applauding as he leaves) which works 
well in this context.

So Hamlet has construed as proof of guilt for murder, an action that 
proved only Claudius's unwillingness to tolerate an enactment of how he 
got the "love" of Gertrude.  The playgoers have already seen for 
themselves that Hamlet is mistaken, so there is no need for Horatio to 
make the point. In fact, his noncommittal, nonjudgmental, and supportive 
  attentiveness is entirely in keeping with the character who was so 
easily accepted as a confidante by Marcellus, Francisco and Barnardo; 
then Hamlet; then Claudius and Gertrude; and then the pirates. I do not 
take his Fifth act "'Twere to consider too curiously to consider so" as 
a reproof to Hamlet, any more than his expressions of disbelief before 
the first appearance of the ghost. All are simply statements of his own 
thinking at the moment, marked by his characteristic unwillingness to 
speculate but subject to correction as further evidence may require.

Tony

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