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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: June ::
What ho, Horatio
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0297  Tuesday, 9 June 2009

From:       Alan Pierpoint <
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Date:       Saturday, 06 Jun 2009 02:46:38 -0400
Subject: 20.0289 What ho, Horatio
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0289 What ho, Horatio

The point about Horatio not telling Hamlet about Ophelia's death, 
attributed to me but made by another contributor to the list, is 
perplexing. It's hard to see how Horatio, mister information in Act I, 
would not know of Ophelia's death. Did he lack the courage to be the 
bearer of bad news? Neither explanation is convincing. Plot hole? 
Anyway, I'm puzzled by Conrad Cook's statement that the king and queen 
don't know about the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia. Gertrude's 
"Sweets to the sweet" speech in V.i expresses, I think sincerely, the 
hope she once had of having Ophelia for a daughter-in-law, and her lack 
of surprise when Polonius shows them Hamlet's love letter way back in 
Act II suggests, to me anyway, a knowledge of the relationship that 
predates the events of the play. Laertes and Polonius certainly know 
about it in Act I; wouldn't the whole court know by the end of Act IV?

Regarding the snakebite story: Europe's adders being timid little 
things, the possibility of one biting and killing a healthy king as he 
slept would be exactly zero. But even if Denmark had been crawling with 
king cobras, regicide, or threat of same, was common enough back then to 
make the story suspicious; the point being that the audience of the 
Mousetrap would have every reason to be predisposed to see guilt in 
Claudius's reaction. Shakespeare plainly expected HIS audience to see it 
that way. Remember, too, that after the Mousetrap and the death of 
Polonius, in the time it took a man to get from Wittenberg to Elsinore, 
Claudius had a full revolt on his hands. The peasantry was prepared to 
replace its king with the son of a government minister. Can't we infer 
that the whole country "knew" that it had a usurper on the throne? 
-Alan Pierpoint

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