We talked a bit in class about what-- if anything-- makes Shakespeare so great that we read almost one of his plays each year. Having forgotten (please forgive me, Billy!) the glory of Macbeth, I was trying to remember what it was that made his plays so great-- and I will not deny that for a moment I faltered in my faith.But then we began to read Hamlet, and the language just swept me away. It's so beautiful. There's just the abundant creativity and beauty to everything he writes-- and a tight complexity of form, I feel, a very deliberate structure and symbolism and imagery to all of it's beauty-- much like Vergil. He captures these major themes of, well, the human experience, and he entwines several of them so eloquently within his plays. I'm sure as I read Hamlet I will realize even more what makes him so great, but I am loving this play.I think, also, that reading (or performing, or watching) Shakespeare is a gratifying and enjoyable experience for anyone who can understand it. I don't mean to be elitist, I just mean that, once you can get through the old language and his complexity, there's so much behind it-- and, furthermore, one feels invigorated having worked through it. It's one of the reasons I believe more educated people often prefer-- or at least really enjoy-- intellectual comedy. Most comedy is funny-- well, it's all supposed to be-- but I mean, even the simple stuff is good. But the experience of both watching or hearing something funny, and exercising your mind enough to understand it when it's not immediately apparent is pleasing. Shakespeare is like that. It makes one's mind move, and the beauty and genius of it is only sweeter with the mental exercise required to appreciate it.
i think that hamlet's new stepfather and his mother might have had an affair happening before the king died. his mother shows such little emotion over her husband's death, and she criticizes her son for mourning for his death.
I think that one reason that Shakespears is sometimes so difficult for people is that Shakespeare uses the subjunctive form of verbs and that style of writing and talking has gone/is going extinct in the English language. But, I agree with puddlewonderful: the language and poetry is quite beautiful and inspirational. His mastery of language abounds.Is Claudius committing incest by marrying and sleeping with Gertrude? Hamlet obviously thinks so, but Henry VIII married Catherine of Aragon, who was married to his older brother [It was expected that Henry's brother would not die and that Henry would not have syphillus, making his male children sickly and stillborn and/or death-prone---sorry for the history; correct me if I'm wrong, Brandon].
Henry VIII was my basis, actually, for my claim in class that it was against Church law to marry one's brother's widow-- didn't Henry need a special allowance from the Pope to do that? I remember Mrs. Quinet talking about it, and then how controversial it was when he wanted ANOTHER wife after getting special allowances to divorce the one previous to Catherine and to marry Anne Boleyn-- and that's how the whole Anglican church got started... right?? (I can't believe I remember anything of Quinet! Wow!) If all of the above is true (note that I could be quite wrong), then, could Hamlet's repulsion be a bit of commentary on Henry/the Anglican church? We know that Shakespeare's family was originally Catholic, and that he himself might have been a closet Catholic, although they did convert to Anglicanism (I guess because of government pressure?). I know that that historians say they weren't too pleased about it.
Actually, Michelle, I totally said that first. Remember? I was all like "Hey, I have a footnote," and then I read it and everyone was all like - Andrew, you're so awesome.
I don't remember it-- honestly, I don't, else I would not have posted what you'd already said. What, exactly, did your footnote explain again? All of what I said, or some of it?
Jane, turns out you're correct about Hamlet's mom and stepfather. I'm confused though... does Hamlet's mom know that the stepfather murders his father in Act I?
I think so. The King implies it with all the names he calls her, and then likewise Hamlet implies it with his hatred for her. He wouldn't hate her as much, I think, were she simply an adulteress to his beloved father, but he is especially angry because she betrayed him at the expense of his life. Also, remember how the King tells Hamlet not to kill her? It kind of implies that killing her might seem a natural extension of his charge to Hamlet to seek revenge. Last year the essay on our final exam asked us to argue that Macbeth followed the model of a Greek tragedy. Based on what we've read of Aristotle does anyone see elements of Greek tragedy in Hamlet, or does Shakespeare use a different form?
It seems as though Hamlet's mother does not know that Cladius was the one who killed old Hamlet. She tells Hamlet to stop mourning but she does not seem to show any initial guilt about her knowledge of a murder. She tells him to stop mourning because she is seemingly already emotional with cladius and she wants the transiton to his reign to be smooth.
I would think that his mother was not part of the plot, or else it would be more apparent. I dont think shakespeare would leave that to the imagination and he would explore the possibilities of showing it to the audience.
Yeah. But even if the mother had known about the murder, she couldn't have really done much about it right?
well she wanted to help, i dont think that she knew and wanted to stop it, or else she would have warned him.
I think the fact that the father tells Hamlet not to take revenge on his mother shows that the mother was not involved in the murder. I think she married the new king simply to look after herself.
Well caroline, maybe the king was not aware of his wife's plot. But I think the queen knew her marriage was one of power and not one for love. this can be shown through ofilia and hamlet, that they will never be together because of love. he would end up marrying the princess of some other place if nothing went wrong in their land.
I think it's really confusing to determine when Hamlet is "acting" and when he isn't. Also, I think that Stephen makes a good point. If she thought that Claudius killed her husband, she would probably go out of her way to mourn excessively instead of encouraging Hamlet to get over it.
I think that Hamlet's true insanity becomes apparent in the beginning of Act III assuming that he has been pretending until this point in the plot. Hamlet claims to have loved Ophelia once and then claims to have never loved her at all. Hamlet does not know that Claudius and Polonius are hiding, so he could not be trying to trick anyone except possibly Ophelia which seems unlikely.
I think Hamlet's views on death and suffering in the whole "To be, or not to be?..." ordeal is really interesting when he mentions that the only reason people continue to suffer in their lives is because they fear death. I have heard this a million times but I never really payed attention to what he was saying.
Dean: A master as shakespeare not leave something to question? Oh, silly Dean. So much of this play is for the viewer's/reader's-- and director's-- discretion. Perhaps the ambiguity of the Queen is part of that. I think she fits into another theme, though-- a sort of misogynistic, fatalistic view of women and their fickleness in love and power...
The lyreblog = Michelle. Sorry about that.Stephen: Do you mean the things he says to Ophelia prove his insanity? I am not sure that is not insanity so much as, well... the pain of betrayal, a show of his extreme grief. This is where I am going to get a little Freudian-- but bear with me. Doc says that it's a modern imposition on a Northern Renaissance work, but, again, if we accept Freud, we accept that these notions are built into the subconscious of every human, part of normal development, and so natural that they are easily and unknowingly imparted unto a work.So. To justify Hamlet's behavior (with some Freudian thought):When a boy is young, he sees his mother as the ideal female; he loves her so much that he wants her as wife, as sexual partner (this part is very Freud). But, he becomes aware of this father-figure, and, though at first he dislikes the man, he grows to admire him. And so, because this father has the affections and devotions and sexual love of his mother, he wants to be like the father, so that he can seek a woman like his mother. His father becomes his role-model, and his mother, the ideal female that he, when his time comes, shall seek a likeness of. But for Hamlet this picture goes awry. Suddenly this father figure is torn from him, and, furthermore, this mother figure, this ideal woman whom he so loved, whom he so admired, has proven false. She has betrayed the father figure-- and in doing so, betrayed the son, who sculpted himself in the father's image, who fancied himself the likeness of the father, and who hoped to have as wife and partner one day the likeness of his mother.He has had it with women. This perfect feminine creature has proven a monster, unfaithful to the father figure, to whom Hamlet still owes his loyalty. So what can he think of Ophelia, Ophelia whom, if we are to assume their tryst was one of real feeling on Hamlet's part, represented to Hamlet the likeness of the Queen, his mother? She is like the Queen-- she is like all women, whom the Queen represents-- she is false. She will only betray him. There can be no real love that lasts beyond ambition, beyond the fickle fancies of women. Let me reiterate: Hamlet has been betrayed-- or so he feels. We see a similar emotion in children of divorced unions, whose parents have remarried-- this jealousy for the spouse, this anger at one parent's rejection of another for this outsider. This is, for reasons discussed in class, even worse.So I wouldn't go so far as to call Hamlet's words insanity-- they are not, exactly, the speech of a mind off the deep end. He has a touch of madness to his anger, but all anger, all intense emotion, is a bit irrational. However, I believe that he is not crazy, at least not there.Maybe I am just too attached to him.
So there's that line in act II (I think) that says something about time being messed up. I know that it mostly ties in to the great chain of being, but does anyone think that Shakespeare was starting a time theme, like in Macbeth?
Let me begin by saying that I don't accept Freud....I do, however, agree with Michelle that Hamlet need not be crazy (though he can be portrayed as such, as in the [horrible] Kenneth Branagh version). It is quite possible for Hamlet to be merely acting crazy for the sake of an elaborate scheme that will (somehow) make it easier for him to kill the king.As far as Ophelia is concerned, there are two things to be taken into consideration:1. Hamlet may be pretending to be crazy by stating that he loved her and then saying that he never did; this may be some strange continuation of his elaborate scheme--though, again, what he hopes to achieve by this deception is uncertain.and/or 2. Hamlet is just an angry guy at this point; when people are angry their emotions go haywire-- they say things they mean, then say things they don't mean; it's easy in a fit of emotion to contradict yourself--many people do this. Hamlet might, perhaps, veer on madness in the extremity of his anger, but his behavior is nevertheless fairly natural, for it is an extreme case of emotion.Let me conclude by saying how much I love Hamlet (it is an absolutely MARVELOUS play) and how much I LOVE HUMANITIES(!!!!), the most awesome class in the world. I loved taking it, and I love being able to tie things I learned in it into things I'm learning about now--it's so much fun.I'd also like to apologize for posting about Hamlet--I just couldn't resist. :)Have a great senior year guys!
Oh, and now that I see that El Paco has posted about time in the interval I was writing, I just have one thing to say:In Macbeth: "The time is free."In Hamlet: "The time is out of joint."
dean elazab said...Well caroline, maybe the king was not aware of his wife's plot.The king wasn't aware of Claudius's part in the plot either. He died in his sleep.King Hamlet's knowledge of his own murder seems to be evidence that he has gained some form of omniscience in death (this was also seen with Virgil in Dante's Inferno).I would say that it's very unlikely that Hamlet's father would in the afterlife learn of the circumstances of his own death, but not of all the conspirators in the plot to murder him. Thus, since he does not incriminate Gertrude at all when speaking to Hamlet, and since he seems to possess some amount of afterlife-revelation omniscience, I think it's safe to say that Gertrude did not conspire in his murder - she is guilty only of being a fickle woman.And aren't they all guilty of that one.
I think that the queen probably did know about the murder, mos tmarriages were arranged she could have been acting the whole time when she hung on him. And often times, even when a loved one betrays you, you will still care about that person.
I think that in resonse to Andrew's question of time, I do not think that any time theme in Hamlet could be related to Macbeth. In Hamlet, any distortion of time seems to relate to a disturbence in the Great Chain of Being, while in Macbeth the time motiff referred to the circular motion of time in that the scene that started the play ends the play.
But I feel like there were also perversions in the chain of being in Macbeth too. For example, Lady Macbeth asked to be "unsexed." This seems like it defies the order of things determined by God (if a woman is asking to loose her femenine qualities to become more like a man so she can commit murder).
The Great Chain of Being figured prominently into Macbeth, Stephen. It started with nearly the same thing-- a king was unjustly killed and someone not meant to have the thrown took it anyway. Claudius and Macbeth defy their countries' laws of succession. Remember how it was dark during the day after the king was killed? And the horses ate each other? Steph actually provided the quotes about time from both plays. Once Macbeth is dead and order is restored, and "the time is free." That is, free of all the madness and chaos, back into its proper order. Likewise, when Hamlet says "the time is out of joint," he is referring to the strange things that are going on because of the disruption of divine order. Time-- order--life-- are now out of joint because a king is dead and Claudius has placed himself into the wrong tier.
I think the fact that Shakespeare includes so much of the Great Chain of Being really illustrates that he is a transitional playwright-- he wrote during the first blossom of the Northern Renaissance in England, as the Medieval paradigm really began to shift to that of the Renaissance.
Does anybody have an explanation for exactly why Hamlet decides to act crazy? It just doesn't seem very logical to me... it seems to me like Hamlet really doesn't have much of a plan, and he is really saved by a sort of deus ex machina when the theater troupe comes along.Furthermore, his idea of putting on a play reenactment of his father's murder also seems a little farfetched. I think it was kind of dumb and also rather unlikely for Claudius to overreact as he did, that was probably the worst thing he could've done. But if the actor troupe hadn't randomly just come along, Hamlet would've just been stuck with his crazy act.Altogether, I find these aspects of the plot to be rather contrived. I get that it's Shakespeare, and a lot of it is exaggerated and overdramatic because that's just Shakespeare's style. But coming from a culture where movies and other mediums of entertainment strive to be realistic and believable, Shakespeare's fudging of believability for the sake of advancing the plot still makes me do a double-take.TOO LONG; DIDN'T READ VERSIONHamlet's nonsensical decision to start acting crazy, the theatrical troupe's perfect timing in showing up at the castle, and Claudius's overreaction to the play all seem like contrived plot elements to me. Thoughts?
John I think hamlet acts crazy to get people to stop thinking of his grief, Kira in deathnote(sorry strange reference) does the same thing to keep the people he is plotting against to not suspect him. Madness causes people to stay away, where depression makes people look into you more. If hamlet needed privacy for his scheme then him being depresed would not help.
Yes, I was just going to ask that too (John) about the play within the play. Why did Shakespeare make the play within Hamlet almost identical to Hamlet Senior's death? Shakespeare seemed like a pretty clever guy, so why did he make the play so obvious? He didn't bother to just imply it, or use symbols/allegory, he just straight up reenacted the actual murder. Why did he make it so obvious?
I think that hamlet wanted the biggest emotion from claudius, so they used the most obvious acts. if they did a subtle play then claudius wouldnt have felt so strongly
Maybe you guys are looking too far into this? Like we said in class, Hamlet is probably acting crazy to stall. It can't possibly be easy to just go and kill someone because a ghost told you to. Also, by acting crazy, Hamlet is trying to divert attention from himself. As for the play, try to put yourself in the king's position. If you had just killed someone in his sleep and a few months afterward you saw a movie about someone killing someone else in his sleep, wouldn't you at least have a mini-freak out? Even if he did overreact, you have to take into account that this is a play. Hamlet has to somehow confirm that Claudius was guilty, and I can't really think of a better way.
el paco said...Even if he did overreact, you have to take into account that this is a play. Hamlet has to somehow confirm that Claudius was guilty, and I can't really think of a better way.That's weak. If there really is no good way for Hamlet to realistically know for sure that Claudius is guilty, then Shakespeare should've reworked the plot of Hamlet to make it more believable - "it had to be this way because all the other possible plot paths were even more farfetched" isn't a good explanation.I guess I can sort of understand what Shakespeare was going for, but those plot elements still seem precarious to me. I feel like Hamlet doesn't have the flow and logical progression of events that some of the other works we've studied have had (Oedipus?)
I agree with Andrew that Hamlet is acting crazy on purpose at lease initially, however, I do not think he is acting crazy to divert attention away from himself. If anything, Hamlet's attitude throughout the play has caused Cladius to view him with suspicion and eventually order his execution.
John are you kidding me? So everything has to be super-realistic or else it's just terrible?
Of course not everything has to be super-realistic. I don't mind the use of the ghost of Hamlet's father at all in the play, or the use of other supernatural things.You know about the idea of "suspension of disbelief"?http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suspension_of_disbeliefIt's like in Superman - where nobody questions that Superman is an indestructible alien being from the planet Krypton, but they call BS when nobody recognizes Superman just because he puts on a suit and a pair of glasses and calls himself Clark Kent.Shakespeare does tend to exaggerate things though, not just in Hamlet but in all his works - like at the end of Romeo and Juliet, when Romeo chooses to kill himself instead of go on with his life without Juliet. That's a little overdone too, I think, but I get to some extent that that's Shakespeare's thing.Maybe the only reason his tenuous plot bothers me is because art today in the form of books and movies mostly try their best to emulate real life. I don't know. Am I the only one bothered by these plot elements?
I wasn't bothered at all, but I tend to be very willing to suspend all disbelief, sometimes to a fault. I at first assumed The Tin Drum was some brand of magical realism, instead of thinking that Oskar was crazy-- even though Stephanie told me after I read it that one could interpret Oskar to be crazy. The play within a play didn't bother me. Staged, such things are much more fun that one realizes-- there is really so much that is lost in the reading of a Shakespeare play, a good stage version can make an infinite number of interesting bits out of it all. Also, I thought it was quite realistic. Am I the only one who started to feel guilty while reading The Scarlet Letter? I'm no adulteress-- nothing of the sort-- but I still felt a twinge of guilt for all my trespasses unatoned, for all the mean or wrong things I'd done. It's the same thing. Shakespeare's characters are always nervous about the murders they've committed. Unlike criminals portrayed today (who often remain calm during their trials), these are somewhat decent people who have just taken a wrong turn. They make terrible mistakes and feel guilty about them. They realize what they've done. They're very human, very easy to relate to. Also, audiences took pleasure from different little tricks back then, i think. Today, we like postmodern bits, little moments of self-awareness, wherein an actor acknowledges that he or she is part of a play, breaking the fourth wall and the whole fantasy premise that what is going on is real action. I think. I enjoy it, anyway. I've seen audiences laugh quite liberally at such bits. Back then, besides puns, I think audiences enjoyed those little plays within plays, which mimicked the action of the first play-- the outside play-- the real play. Shakespeare certainly liked it; he uses it a lot. And it is kind of cool-- to see characters respond to what are basically their own actions.I really think it is an issue of paradigm, John. Like you said-- today we like hyper-realism. It started with independent films-- movies that captured the awkwardness, the lack of grace in every day life, the clumsiness of it all, the way things don't always work out for the best, but how, sometimes, people manage anyway. And such movies have become quite popular (Juno, I think, is a good example). And we still have some "suspension of disbelief" (good old Coleridge!). For example, we know that the people in Friends could not have had such nice apartments with the jobs they possessed. Or that the characters in the O.C. can't possibly be in high school, firstly because they look like twenty-sometimes, and secondly, because they have way too much time for people attending school (from what I gleaned. I think I've seen a grand total of three episodes). And of course, you have comedies like Pineapple Express, but that's a different story altogether. But I really wasn't bothered at all by the plot elements. His twisty, turny plots are fun, and I like the way he gets everything into a bit knot, then unravels it in the end-- either with lots of death (tragedy), or with marriages for all! (comedy)
I didn't like the whole "play within the play" thing because I think Hamlet made the play so blatantly obvious that he knew about what the King did. I didn't think there wasn't really anything cunning or witty about it.
I think that the play within a play aspect of Hamlet is interesting because it allows Hamlet a vessel in which he can portray his passiveness through an action which seems fairly ironic. It also represents an opposite action of Laertes who aggresively wants to kill his father's killer.
I think what's "realistic" varies from story to story. For example, in Harry Potter it might perfectly realistic for someone to fly on a broomstick and no charcters within the story would question the plausability of that situation because that is realistic for the environment that has been established by the author. However, if the same thing happened in "No Exit" it would seem very incongruous with the established plot line.
Ehren -That's what I was talking about with the suspension of disbelief Wikipedia link above. From the article, using Superman as an example:"Some find it strange that while some audience members took issue with the flimsiness of Superman's disguise, they didn't take issue with the idea of the existence of a superbeing whose only weakness was kryptonite. One arguing from the theory of suspension of disbelief would contend that while Superman's abilities and vulnerabilities are the foundational premises the audience accepted as their part of the initial deal; they did not accept a persistent inability for otherwise normal characters to recognize a close colleague solely because of changes in clothing."The more I think about it, all of Shakespeare's plays seem to have critical best-possible or worst-possible luck and/or timing, somewhat convoluted plans to accomplish a seemingly simple goal, and exaggerated reactions from characters within the play - in Romeo and Juliet as I mentioned earlier, for example, all of these elements are present in one form or another. They are also in A Midsummer Night's Dream if I remember right.I suppose these elements serve to heighten the drama in Shakespeare's world and make the climax of each of his plays all the more epic. Or something like that?
I think so, John. It definitely heightens the suspense and the drama of everything-- and it is often used in conjunction with irony, which is always fun. You see the same thing, often, in comedies today-- one terrible thing after another just keeps happening to the protagonist. Shakespeare's plays are, completely and utterly, tragedies. They are depressing and terrible (in the sense that the situations are terrible for the characters, not the plays themselves!). Shakespeare makes the most of the sadness by envisioning the worst possible scenario, so awful, in fact, that it would be unlikely to happen "in real life." But every twist and turn for the worst makes the play increasingly tragic, increasingly unfortunate and increasingly dooming for all the characters involved-- which is, I think, the point. The timing, the poor luck, the dramatic reactions of the dramatic, emotional characters-- all of these elements arouse the full sympathies of the audience, drawing them with their drama into the play, allowing the audience to experience deep emotions-- I hesitate to call it cathartic, but certainly, it is satisfying to be run through such heights and depths of feeling. The same happens in Oedipus, somewhat-- there are multiple ways the plot could turn, but things unfold so that he experiences the most shame, the worst fall, and Oedipus and everyone go into great detail, great, agonizing detail, about their misfortune.(Granted, Aristotle argued that Oedipus was perfect in its predictability and that the plot was excellent because it was so believable, but you could, I suppose, say that the plot of Hamlet is justified by the characters involved... there isn't any real, solid deus ex machina...).Also, it must be remembered that these are plays, and plays for a different audience. Things are overdone on the stage-- far more overdone than in television or movies-- and for Shakespeare's audience (which was large, rowdy, and expected a REALLY entertaining show) I think they needed to be more overdone. So yes, John. The nature of Shakespeare's plays-- all those seemingly over-the-top elements-- serve to make the play, as you said, "epic."
John - I'm sorry, but I simply can't stand your argument here. It's a play. If there wasn't super-perfect timing or exaggerated reactions, and it was completely realistic, it would be really really really boring. Ever watch Laguna Beach or The Hills? That's how boring it would be.
I agree with caroline about the "play within a play" if they made it cheeky and meaningful it would have been much more enjoyable. I think the bluntness of it totally ruins the arguement that the king would be upset, maybe he would be upset at the graphic nature or just seeing a death played out so wickedly.
i think that the play within the play serves the function of reassuring hamlet that claudius killed his father. it also gives hamlet a way to stall.
Dean - Say you murdered your little brother and took his girlfriend. Your son (or in this case, say your cousin), who happens to be acting kind of crazy takes you to see a play - you have no idea what the play is about, but you're pretty excited because plays are always fun. As you're watching excitedly, you see a character murder his brother exactly the same way you murdered your brother. You're saying that you wouldn't even freak out a little bit?I find no problem with the way Shakespeare uses the play within the play as a device. The only problem I have with the play is this: how did Claudius get the throne in the first place?
Yes! Andrew, I am wondering the same thing!
I think the play within a play was very neat. And i agree with andrew because it would definitely cause a strong reaction if you witnessed your crimes being displayed in the form of a play , i thought that was brilliant.
I think the play within a play was Hamlet's way of telling the king that he knew. I don't think there was truely any doubt in Hamlet's mind that the king had killed his father. I think he used the play to upset the king and make him feel guilty, not to see if he actually did it.
yeah i agree with caroline on the part about making the king feel guilty, because the king certainly had a reaction to it. If anything it just reassured Hamlet of what he already knew.
i think that the play within a play gave hamlet another excuse to delay killing the king. although he claims to want proof, he really already knew the king did it. i also think that he wanted the rest of the court to know that claudius killed king hamlet.
I agree. I think he was definately trying to delay the killing too.
I thought the play with in a play was cool. It reminded me of Velazques's paintings with the mirrors. It was a nice way to show to see the king's reaction who would not have been expecting it so wouldn't have been able to control his emotions. However, Hamlet seemed weak to me. So, far Shakespearse men haven't been very strong. Romeo kills himself instead of continuing on with his life, Macbeth needs reassurances from his taunting wife, and Hamlet just keeps on stalling. However, all three die at the end because they have taken an initiative, but they were still cowardly in the process. I don't think this made any sense. Sorry.
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