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Home :: Archive :: 2010 :: April ::
Mousetrap in Hamlet

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0154  Wednesday, 6 April 2010

 

[1]  From:      Conrad Cook < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:      March 31, 2010 7:13:10 AM EDT

     Subj:      Re: SHAKSPER Digest - 26 Mar 2010 to 30 Mar 2010 (#2010-25)

 

[2]  From:      Donald Bloom < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:      March 31, 2010 2:41:50 PM EDT

     Subj:      RE: SHK 21.0151  Mousetrap in Hamlet 

 

[3]  From:      Hardy M. Cook < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

     Date:      Tuesday, April 6, 2010        

     Subj:      RE: SHK 21.0151  Mousetrap in Hamlet 

 

 

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

From:         Conrad Cook < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         March 31, 2010 7:13:10 AM EDT

Subject:      Re: SHAKSPER Digest - 26 Mar 2010 to 30 Mar 2010 (#2010-25)

 

Tue Sorensen wrote:

 

>:-) I must reply. It is endlessly amusing how people 

>perceive The Mousetrap. My take is even more controversial: 

>The Mousetrap is for the mouse, i.e. Gertrude. But what is 

>The Mousetrap? Experts don't agree. I say that The Mousetrap 

>is the "dozen or sixteen lines" that Hamlet wrote and 

>inserted into The Murder of Gonzago, as a play within a play 

>(within a play). Hamlet cannot be stopped once he gets 

>started, so he wrote the full 100 lines spoken by the Player 

>King and Player Queen. A nice long exchange the purpose of 

>which is to show Old Hamlet and (young Hamlet's ideal version 

>of) Gertrude before Old Hamlet's death. Note how Claudius 

>doesn't understand what this is about (because, among other 

>things, it has very little to do with The Murder of Gonzago), 

>but Gertrude has a reaction. Hence, it must be for her. There 

>is no other mouse in this play but Gertrude. The dumb-show 

>that entraps Claudius; *that* is the real part of The Murder 

>of Gonzago, and we might call that The Rat!

>trap, Claudius being taken for such by Hamlet.

>

>Ahh, but Claudius isn't a rat. He's a serpent, that stung 

>the King.

 

I counter: Hamlet makes his intentions in staging _the Murder of Gonzago_ clear: they are meant for Claudius. Gertrude is collateral damage (as all the plots and schemes have).

 

By the way... Gertrude is often played as outraged, at "The lady doth protest too much." But I think the better delivery would have Gertrude vegged out, like someone watching TV, unaware of the relevance of what she was saying. Similarly for Claudius: a murderer asking if the play is PG.

 

Conrad.

 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:         Donald Bloom < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         March 31, 2010 2:41:50 PM EDT

Subject: 21.0151  Mousetrap in Hamlet

Comment:      RE: SHK 21.0151  Mousetrap in Hamlet

 

Conrad Cook counters Sorensen: "Hamlet makes his intentions in staging _the Murder of Gonzago_ clear: they are meant for Claudius. Gertrude is collateral damage (as all the plots and schemes have)."

 

This also seems to be the opinion of Hamlet, who ought to be considered the leading (though not sole) expert on Hamlet's intentions. After all, he tells Hamlet, "The play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king," and Horatio, "One scene of it comes near the circumstance I have told thee of my father's death. I prithee, when thou seest that act afoot, even with the very comment of thy soul, observe my uncle." This seems pretty straightforward to me, as do his comments to Horatio after the play on its success in infuriating and frightening his uncle.

 

On the other hand, it is clear that the damage to Gertrude is more than collateral. He picked a play that depicted not only the murder of a ruler by his brother, but the seduction of the brother's wife by his murderer. The hypocritical posturing of the duchess about fidelity after her husband's death must insult and embarrass the queen seriously, since everyone will know that it's deliberate, not accidental, on the part of Hamlet. And just in case she should attempt to ignore it, he asks her, "Madam, how like you this play?"

 

Both the murder and the seduction are part of the complex of Claudius's crime: he murdered Old Hamlet for both the crown and the queen. But the seduction, though it makes Hamlet depressed, disgusted and angry, does not require blood revenge as the murder does. Thus the primary purpose of The Moustrap is to confirm the ghost's accusation of the king, before Hamlet sets about to kill him. The insult to Gertrude is only secondary.

 

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------

From:         Hardy M. Cook < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >

Date:         Tuesday, April 6, 2010        

Subject: 21.0151  Mousetrap in Hamlet 

Comment:      RE: SHK 21.0151  Mousetrap in Hamlet 

 

Two summer's ago, I saw the RSC Hamlet with David Tennant as Hamlet and Patrick Stewart as Claudius at the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford. I loved it. I especially enjoyed the Mousetrap, thinking when I saw it that this version presented the Mousetrap as I always thought that I would stage it if I were ever to direct the play. 

 

I have probably seen more productions of _Hamlet_ than of any other play in the Shakespearean canon, and I see many, many plays ever year. Critics and commentators, especially those of the Romantic period, have described Hamlet as representing the most intelligent character in drama. Whether accurate or not, the character displays the wit and verbal dexterity often associated with clever persons; and, in many ways, the play resembles a mystery: "The time is out of joint. O cursed spite / That ever I was born to set it right!" At the center of the plot is Claudius's getting away with murder, and no one in the kingdom seeming to even suspect him; no one except for Hamlet: "O my prophetic soul! Mine uncle?" If one accepts these premises, then it seems that it would follow that the Claudius character would need to display an intelligence of the same order as that of the protagonist. This point is what I believe is well convey by the staging of the Mousetrap in the Tennant/Stewart _Hamlet_. 

 

In many of the productions I have seen, Claudius, as does Macbeth after seeing the ghost of Banquo in the banquet scene of _Macbeth_, "loses it" after the murder of the Player King in the Mousetrap. Macbeth's behavior at the banquet scene clearly indicates to those witnessing his actions that something is not right, and throughout the remainder of _Macbeth_ the lords of Scotland have no doubts that the King was complicit in murders:

 

><Cath> Great Dunsinane he strongly Fortifies:

>Some say hee's mad: Others, that lesser hate him,

>Do call it valiant Fury, but for certaine

>He cannot buckle his distemper'd cause

>Within the belt of Rule.

>

><Ang> Now do's he feele

>His secret Murthers sticking on his hands,

>Now minutely Reuolts vpbraid his Faith- breach:

>Those he commands, moue onely in command,

>Nothing in loue: Now do's he feele his Title

>Hang loose about him, like a Giants Robe

>Vpon a dwarfish Theefe.

 

In most of the _Hamlet_s I have seen, the Claudius character reacts similarly at the conclusion of the Mousetrap to the way Macbeth behaves after the appearance of Banquo's ghost.

 

In the 2008 RSC _Hamlet_, Patrick Stewart's Claudius is restrained and controls himself and by doing so presents a character who is a worthy opponent for Hamlet, a character who got away with murder and yet who is able to continue to appear to have no involvement in the death of his brother to everyone else in the kingdom. Nevertheless, Claudius does convey to Hamlet that he knows that his nephew knows what he has done by his actions at the end of the Mousetrap. 

 

To illustrate my contentions, I have taken some screen captures from the video release of this production and put them into a PowerPoint presentation with brief commentary. Anyone interested in seeing or downloading this presentation will find it at http://www.shaksper.net/~hcook/mtrap.ppt {WARNING: Because the file contains high quality images, the download time will be at least five minutes and perhaps considerably longer if you have a slow connection to the Internet.}

 

 

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