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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: June ::
What ho, Horatio
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0312  Friday, 12 June 2009

[1] From:   Alan Pierpoint <
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     Date:   Saturday, 06 Jun 2009 02:46:38 -0400
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0289 What ho, Horatio

[2] From:   Aaron Azlant <
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     Date:   Wednesday, 10 Jun 2009 14:33:56 -0400
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0307 What ho, Horatio

[3] From:   Alan Pierpoint <
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     Date:   Wednesday, 10 Jun 2009 15:22:52 -0400
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0307 What ho, Horatio

[4] From:   Robin Hamilton <
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     Date:   Wednesday, 10 Jun 2009 22:18:26 +0100
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0307 What ho, Horatio

[5] From:   Cheryl Newton <
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     Date:   Wednesday, 10 Jun 2009 18:17:46 -0400
     Subj:   What ho, Horatio


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
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

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Aaron Azlant <
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Date:       Wednesday, 10 Jun 2009 14:33:56 -0400
Subject: 20.0307 What ho, Horatio
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0307 What ho, Horatio

 >"Plot hole"?  In _Hamlet_!?
 >
 >!)

Booth ("On the Value of Hamlet") writes about this some, but there are 
many examples of continuity aberrations in the play:

* Fortinbras is described early on as reckless but is later revealed to 
be calm and disciplined.

* The Ghost tells Hamlet that he cannot reveal the secrets of his 
prison-house immediately after partially doing so. He then urges Hamlet 
to revenge his murder (a decidedly non-Christian act) immediately after 
telling Hamlet to leave his mother to (a presumably Christian) heaven. 
Later he chides Hamlet for his "blunted" purpose after Hamlet has killed 
Polonius in the heat of anger, mistaking him for Claudius (an erroneous 
but purposeful act). This reprimand is also in a scene where the ghost 
appears only to Hamlet, despite the fact that Horatio and the guards 
have observed it previously.

* Hamlet refers to suicide (a decidedly non-Christian act) as a 
"felicity" immediately after exchanging (Christian) forgiveness with 
Laertes.

* Hamlet seems to invent the idea of staging a play that mimics the 
murder of his father after giving instructions to the First Player to 
stage exactly such a play.

* Claudius seems to become king by virtue of his blood relation to King 
Hamlet although, later, it appears that Laertes may become king via 
election due to his popularity.

* Gertrude accepts the idea that Hamlet is "author" of his own exile; 
earlier in the Closet scene, she acknowledges that Claudius had planned 
Hamlet's removal much earlier. Similarly, Hamlet is the one that 
introduces the idea that he is to be sent to England in this scene and 
then later expresses (possibly mock) surprise to Claudius that he is to 
be sent away.

* In the same scene, Hamlet shifts from condemnation of the wars between 
Poland and Norway as "th'impostume of much wealth and peace" to the 
opposite sentiment, that "rightly to be great / is not to stir without 
great argument / but greatly to find quarrel in a straw / when honour's 
at the stake."

* Ophelia is treated as a suicide although there is no evidence in the 
play that she is one. When Laertes confronts the priest who refuses her 
Christian burial, he never questions this fact, just the priest's 
heartless rigidity. It is *Hamlet* that introduces ideas of suicide into 
the play; similarly, in /King Lear/ it is Lear that is said to be blind 
and complains about his heart ("O this mother swells . . ."), though it 
is Gloucester who is blinded and who dies of a heart attack.

* Claudius notes that "of Hamlet our dear brother's death / The memory 
be green," but upbraids his nephew for persisting in "obstinate 
condolement" over Hamlet senior a few lines later.

* In the play's third scene an audience is invited to fault Polonius for 
his too- stubborn and too-callous rejection of Ophelia's insistence that 
Hamlet loves her. Throughout the remainder of the play, however, it is 
frequently invited to fault him for stubbornly holding the opposite view 
-- that frustrated love for Ophelia is the only possible motivational 
factor behind Hamlet's madness.

* Hamlet expresses admiration both for Horatio's cool, rational 
self-control and for the First Player's ability to force himself, 
through a very different kind of self-control, into a heated passion.

and perhaps the most egregious example:

* Hamlet's oft-quoted observation that death is "the undiscovered 
country / From which no traveller returns"  --  a truisim  --  does not 
square with the fact that he has been visited, three acts beforehand, by 
the ghost of his father, who motivates much of the plot of the play.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and I would be very curious to read 
any additions.

  -- Aaron

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Alan Pierpoint <
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Date:       Wednesday, 10 Jun 2009 15:22:52 -0400
Subject: 20.0307 What ho, Horatio
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0307 What ho, Horatio

Replying to Conrad Cook: Okay, I'm (mostly) convinced. One question: how 
does Shakespeare want his audience to view the "love" of Hamlet for 
Ophelia? As a pure, true love that would have flourished had not the 
events of the play interfered? As a "toy in blood"? As the infatuation 
of a spoiled, late-maturing prince who can't make up his mind about 
anything important? Is the audience expected to give much credit to 
Hamlet's hyperbolic protestations in V.i, or do we recognize that he is 
protesting too much? As many have observed, he has a lot to answer for 
and he knows it, whether or not his letters have helped cause Ophelia's 
death (a compounding of his guilt that I hadn't thought of before.)

Regards,
Alan Piepoint

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Robin Hamilton <
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Date:       Wednesday, 10 Jun 2009 22:18:26 +0100
Subject: 20.0307 What ho, Horatio
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0307 What ho, Horatio

Isn't there a simpler explanation to those so far put forward?

If Horatio had told Hamlet about Ophelia's death, the scene where Hamlet 
and Laertes join each other in her grave would not have taken place.

The reason is simple dramatic necessity.

Robin Hamilton

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Cheryl Newton <
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Date:       Wednesday, 10 Jun 2009 18:17:46 -0400
Subject:    What ho, Horatio

I hope Hardy will allow me to finish up the topic with a Thank You to 
everyone!  The T-shirt idea was doubly funny because a friend tried to 
order a custom made shirt for me last Christmas: "WWHD: What would 
Horatio do?" She received a stern refusal for "inappropriate content!" 
(Mayhap a touchiness about a sacrilegious take-off on WWJD? Yet I've 
seen WWSPD -- What would Snake Plisken do?)

I strongly agree with a collapsed time line: Horatio is sent to mind 
Ophelia, he is distracted by the pirate's delivery of the letter, 
Ophelia dies (almost immediately) -- so Horatio knows nothing of it 
until he & Hamlet stumbled upon the o'er-hasty burial.

Cheryl

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