The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0652  Thursday, 11 March 2004

From:           Rolland Banker <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 9 Mar 2004 22:32:58 -0800 (PST)
Subject:        The Three Sons in Hamlet

I bought some Shakespeare tapes from the Teaching Company awhile ago and
in appreciation received this fascinating article from the Atlantic
Monthly c/o Teaching Company.

The Three Sons in Hamlet
By Jean Paris; June 1959

An excerpt:

"....But in the very opening scene, and before the Ghost has spoken, we
are given an inkling of the fact that the tragic cycle goes back further
than that. When the two sentinels, Marcellus and Bernardo, wish to know
why the kingdom is in such a frenzy of military preparation, Horatio
explains to them that some time before, the late king, Hamlet, had taken
on Fortinbras, king of Norway, in single combat, had slain him and
annexed a large portion of his lands. To regain them young Fortinbras,
his son, "of unimproved mettle hot and full," was now busy gathering
together a force of "lawless resolutes,"

and this, I take it,
Is the main motive of our preparations,
The source of this our watch, and the chief head
Of this post-haste and romage in the land.

Strange as it may seem, I know of no major Shakespeare critic or scholar
who has given to this speech of Horatio's the attention it would seem to
deserve. This is all the more extraordinary in that it occurs at the
very beginning and was apparently intended to point up the genesis, the
"original sin," in the fateful cycle of events that make up the tragedy
of Hamlet. If we want proof of this, we can find it in the gravedigger's
scene in the last act. When asked by Hamlet how long he has been digging
graves, the gravemaker replies:

I came to't that day that our last king Hamlet
Overcame Fortinbras . . . the very day that young
Hamlet was born-he that is mad, and sent into

There is no reason to suppose that Shakespeare gave the gravedigger
these pregnant lines to establish an odd coincidence. It seems clear
enough that in this scene, one of the most meaningful in the entire
play, ...."

I found it fascinating and The Teaching Co. told me to share it so here


If that doesn't work I can send the whole article by email if anyone is

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