The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.1065  Thursday, 30 November 2006

From:         Louis Swilley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:         Wednesday, 29 Nov 2006 16:40:21 -0600
Subject:     Hamlet - yet once more

An old friend and I were today discussing "Hamlet" for the umpteenth 
time. One of the points introduced made me aware for the first time 
(shame!) of the three repetitions of the idea of one dying unshriven. 
The Ghost protests that he was so served by Claudius; later, Hamlet 
backs off from killing Claudius because he prefers to catch him in an 
unshriven state,  "kicking his heels at heaven"; this is followed his 
ugly treatment of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern whom he sends to their 
death "no shriving time allowed." (It would appear that Hamlet's conduct 
in these last two events is expressly against the logical extension of 
the Ghost's restraining remark to Hamlet about Gertrude, "Leave her to 
Then what is to be made of Hamlet's calm attitude on his return to 
Elsinore - after the butchering of R. and G., (about which, by the way, 
Horatio is horrified.)
Then the whole play shows Hamlet trying to bring Claudius to justice for 
the murder of his father, yet it is not that issue, but Claudius' 
successful plot against the prince's life that destroys him. This is in 
the public order. I suppose we may say that, by this means, Claudius' 
crime is one against the state, rather than the object of personal 
revenge. It would be seriously irresponsible of a prince to act out of 
personal revenge rather than for correction of the public order.
L. Swilley

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