The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0394  Friday, 16 February 2001

From:           Clifford Stetner <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 15 Feb 2001 21:41:41 -0500
Subject: 12.0356 Re: Hamlet Spy Caught Spying
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0356 Re: Hamlet Spy Caught Spying

Once again, I would like to argue for the relevance of the sources to
resolving ambiguities in Shakespeare's treatment.  The Hamlet myth often
includes a test of Hamlet's sanity involving sending him out alone with
his friend's sister.  The theory presented to Feng (Claudius) by his
chief advisor (no relation to the girl) is that, if Hamlet takes the
opportunity to sleep with her, he is faking his insanity (only a nut
would pass up such an opportunity).  The two rendezvous in a clearing in
a wood where the girl's brother sends an unlikely encoded message (a
stick or reed tied to a flying insect) which hips Hamlet to the plot.
The two then have sex, but Hamlet makes sure that no firm evidence of it
can be discovered by his wicked uncle and his counselor (much as the
question of Ophelia and Hamlet's relations prior to the play's action
remains obscure to you and me). So Hamlet defeats his persecutors by
having his cake and eating it too so to speak.  It is a vital point in
the sources, therefore, that Hamlet is onto the plot and knows his
interaction with the girl are under surveillance.  The absence of the
coded message from the interlude with Ophelia is another example of
Shakespeare's fooling with his sources (as Hamlet does with his in the
Mousetrap) in such a way as to introduce ambiguities that the sources
explicitly remove.

Clifford Stetner

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