The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.2032 Friday, 9 December 2005
Date: Friday, 9 Dec 2005 03:21:03 -0500
Subject: Hamlet According to Hawkes
I would like to propose a thread focused on a discussion of a prominent
piece of Hamlet criticism, Telmah by Terence Hawkes (in his book That
Shakespeherian Rag). Perhaps Professor Hawkes 'himself' will join in, if
the discussion should become interesting.
Though of course anyone is free to participate, if I were making my own
ideal rules I would want this discussion to be carried on by careful
readers who are capable of paying attention to Hawkes and to Hamlet.
Such statements are next to useless, but the point is that it may be
time to be a little less nice to the murderous Gertruders. Or maybe just
ignore them and move on. They don't deserve any more attention than they
pay--though you do have to allow a little room for the naive enthusiast.
I was once one myself.
To begin, then, on the first page of Telmah, already I find something
that seems to me untrue. Professor Hawkes says of the opening of Hamlet,
"it is immediately noticeable that the military are not in complete
control. Fundamental errors occur....The password, 'Long live the king',
could hardly be less appropriate: we know that a king has recently not
lived long, and that another incumbent will soon cease to live."
What's wrong with this picture? To me it seems that "Long live the king"
is a perfectly appropriate password, even when, maybe especially when, a
king is recently deceased. Also, at this stage of the play we know
nothing of the death of either king. If it's to be argued that we do
indeed know because we have seen the play before, that changes the
critical convention without notice. Does Hawkes mean to change that
convention, or has he simply made a mistake?
Perhaps the rest of the essay will tell the tale. Next week: on to page 2!
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