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Home :: Archive :: 2012 :: March ::
Hamlet’s Abrupt Reversal at III.4.125-130

 

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.109  Wednesday, 14 March 2012

 

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

     Date:         March 13, 2012 8:22:12 PM EDT

     Subject:     Hamlet’s Reversal

 

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

     Date:         March 14, 2012 7:08:33 AM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Reversal

 

 

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

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

Date:         March 13, 2012 8:22:12 PM EDT

Subject:     Hamlet’s Reversal

 

Emendation may resolve Hamlet’s contradictory remarks noted by Andrew Wilson. Hamlet seems otherwise consistent, despite events. The reversal is the Ghost’s:

 

  Ghost. Doe not forget, this visitation

Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose,

But looke, amazement on thy mother sits,

O step between her, and her fighting soule

 

His appearance meant to egg Hamlet on to a revenge that could falter on the killing of Polonius. But the Ghost’s emotions were overcome by his Queen’s distress, which caused him both to ask Hamlet to comfort her and to threaten Hamlet's resolve (from pity for an odd couple—the dead father and living mother). As for whetting the purpose,

 

His forme and cause conioynd, preaching to stones

Would make them capable . . .

 

On turning to the Queen, the King wimps out,

 

                                . . . doe not looke vpon *her,*

Least with this pittious action you conuert

My stearne effects . . .

 

Whereat the Ghost leaves and Hamlet resumes berating his Mom. It is better perhaps to look for consistency in this play than contradiction and I think one should not overlook the possibility that minor corruption may confuse matters here and elsewhere.

 

Two points: take him for all in all, the Ghost is just a ghost, not a god; and however this is handled, by anyone (Shakespeare, Whoopi, etc.), there must be fictional contradictions. One of my formative moments as a kid was a TV statement: “I choose to believe in ghosts.” Right!! but I didn’t give up on TV until a critic came back from vacation to say it was all crap. He ought to know, I thought.

 

Gerald E. Downs

 

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

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

Date:         March 14, 2012 7:08:33 AM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: Reversal

 

Steve Roth wrote:

 

>If the similarity that I espy between Caesar’s time with the 

>pirates (Plutarch Lives, Caesar, 2.1-3) and Hamlet’s is safe,

 

The similarity is easily explained: Shakespeare wrote “Julius Caesar” the year before he wrote “Hamlet”—it was probably the immediately preceding play.

 

John Briggs

 

 

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