Hamlet--criticism and summary

I. Northrop Frye on Shakespeare

A. length of play: Q1, Q2, F--everybody talks too much: Ghost, Polonius, Ham

B. Ham not Sh.

1. preference for university theatre highbrow; not Sh.

C. problem play--big problems: how mad is Ham? why doesnt he act ?

1. little ones:

a. why does he fall in rage at Laertes

i. pleads madness as excuse

ii. denies he's mad to Gertrude

iii. sympathises with Laertes rage: image of my cause, I see the portraiture of his 5.2.77

iv. why isn't Ophelia excused for doubtful suicide

b. supernatural

i. ghost is real

ii. is it believable: purgatory; desire for revenge; evil spirit?

iii. wierd emphasis on manner of death

iv. supernatural contracts rather than expands life

v. revenge is no noble purpose

D. three concentric circles of revenge

1. polonius', hamlet's, fortinbras' --all are completed; but no moral balance is restored; a tragedy without catharsis

E. women are pathetic; crushed under wheels of male egos

F. apart from his crime, Claudius is healthy while Hamlet is sick

1. his behavior toward Ophelia, R and G, Pol.

G. question of dramatic rhythm--Calderwood and Goldman

1. central three acts suspend; V completes I; orgy of action in last minute; all of it a flurry of confusion; but nevertheless the logical outcome of Claudius' crime

2. Frye: the ironic vs. the heroic sides of the tragedy

3. To be or not to be is the kernel of the play

a. vision of consciousness as a vacuum at the centre of being

4. paradoxes of action and thinking about action

II. Michael Goldman

A. from Sh. and the Energies of Drama (1971)

1. "HV: The Strain of Rule,"

a. masterful speeches; joy of public performance; man speaking to crowd; hard work; physical appeal

i. splendid noise of speech and battle

ii. encourage listeners to make demanding effort; strenuousness; play's atmosphere of strenuous activity; arduous, exigent, exhausting

iii. chorus sounds like king; same job; note of straining; insistence on notion of inadequacy and necessity of effort; enjoins effort of imagination to overcome limits

iv. strain of leading army, making kingdom bigger, turning man into soldier, turning man into king

(1). Henry exhorts men to outdo themselves at Harfleur

(2). counterstrains of Bardolph and Fluellen--into the breach: food for powder...you dogs = greyhounds in the slips

(3). scene in IV: king is not man like other men--but he is a man, and his humanity consists in this: he must pay the price of his role.

(a). to be effective, king must play political roles--Harry (like Ike or Jack or Bobby)

(b). performing convincingly is both character's and actor's job here; places strain on his imagination

(c). in treatment of prisoner on stage, we must feel ashes in the mouth of all political glory, part of renunciations and exertions demanded of king

(4). Wooing scene shows him out of public eye--private man; he plays the man; less strenuous; but king's awkwardness (and intimacy) itself is also a role; private life is just as much a performance

2. "Hamlet and our Problems"

a. Hamlet as actor's role

i. diversity: soldier, scholar, madman, fencer, critic,magnanimous prince, cunning revenger, aloof noble, witty ironist, man of people, etc. Rapid switch between them/ misture of several at once

ii. his instructions to the actor: be realistic, but find some unity among them

iii. play itself manipulates audience's appetite for action that makes sense and seems complete and resolved

(1). stop-action technique --III,iii Claudius at prayer;interruption; action of play in play;self interruption; no line between intensity and pose in 2.2.608; reveals action as acting--analyses HV; creates doubt about any action

(a). action loses its name, falls into non-action

(2). importance of reason in action; movement in the play toward significant action--his life is a story

(a). contrasted to confusion or meaninglessness, as in first scene

(b). characters struggle to find out and interpret what others have done

(1). gertrude has blocked out meaning of hers

(2). increasing pressure to clarity leads to deeper uncertainty

(3). to act significantly it is necessary to be an actor--play part and use disguise, be and not be

(3). ending releases all our pent up energies and expectations

(a). pressure toward on stage fight: III,iii, escape from R and G, fight w. L.

(b). stage audience mystified, but we're not; distinction between play and real is blurred but clarified in the action; ends with the discharge of energy in F's peal of ordinance, the air is cleared

(c). Hamlet's problem is sincerity; finding action that is true to the complexity and delicacy of his inner self--no problem for Laertes or Fortinbras

(d). H. can act only when he says let be, gives up endeavor to manage the destructive or uncontrollable--cf. Hans Castorp--i.e. when he becomes most passive, least rational

(1). does what drama does; tries to make sense of life through action; in this case tragedy.

B. from Acting and Action in Sh. Tragedy (1985)

1. introd.

a. what is action

i. informing drive; through impulse

ii. actions imitating actions in the world;

iii. commenting on (demonstrating) actions in the world

iv. theatrical action comments on action in general

v. playwrite makes action out of acting, itself a mode of action

b. action links self with world--man of action; makes things happen; events belong to him; events become deeds; self has meaningful impact on world

i. action is a notion that allows us to think of a person as having what he does. Character is the quality by which our being may be said to have its doing.

ii. unity of action in play--its action--links separated events; allows play to have its deeds and us to experience it as complete

iii. our action as audience in grasping and interpreting how the play "acts" is separate from its acts on stage. we give acts significance in larger action

(1). we dont usually experience our own life in this way as a having.

iv. We enjoy promise of movement when actor steps out on stage; thrust

(1). aggressive charge that comes from playing a part--changing oneself into something other

(2). projection of role to audicne

(3). events and dialgue which sustain it through time in scripot

(4). pleasure of perfromance is of self thrusting itself out into the world

(5). actor's created self is identical with actor's deed; we watch the actor's self making the character's self; the self is the making

(6). kinestehtic appeal; we copy or reenact internally what we see

v. threee kinds of action

(1). praxis=character action

(2). theoria=audience action

(3). poiesis= actor's action

(a). the event itself; determines aud. response; difficulties created by playwright (NB) and how to master them.

(1). playing Hamlet is similar to Hamlet's problem and the audience's: making sense of what's going on; finding inner coherence

2. "to be or not to be" and the spectrum of action

a. analyzing action (J.L. Austin)--spectrum of action

i. stages=mental preparation=intention

ii. phases=physical actions=gesture

iii. stretches= effects=outcomes

b. apply to revenge: act of revenge contains forethought and certain style; combines feeling, speech and gesture

c. Ham. confuses and complicates these elements

i. outward gestures have obscure inward meaning--Ghosts and Ham's; Ophelia's--pondered by onlookers

ii. make us regard action as problematic

(1). eg. V, ii, 30-32; forging commission

(2). make it hard to interpret what is the overall line of the action

iii. Cl. prayer scene complicates

(1). especially the inner stages for Cl.

(2). the stretches--consequences --for Ham; revenge not revenge if it sends him to heaven

(a). misinterpretation of apparent prayer by Ham

(b). political action full of such misjudgements

(c). Cl. reminds that "above" "action lies in his true nature"

(d). tries to make knees bend to stimulate thoughts of true repentance; moving backward from gesture to motive

iv. ending provides clear action, though accident rules; Ham has let be; revenge gets fulfilled; audience is exhilirated and ambiguities seemed dissipated

(1). but, stretch of Ham's action is to lose kingdom and unintentionally reward Fortinbras, who didn't expect it; reversing father's early victory

d. To be or not to be

i. analysis of action as an action carried out by actor, character, and audience

(1). Poiesis: relatively inert speech; no typical shifts and accelerations; little resource for unleashing and varying aggressive current.

(a). often artificially jazzed up by actors

(b). look for buried current of emotion that takes time to work to surface and for gathering feelings into rapidly moving lists carrying emotional progression

(2). imitation of the mind's deliberation--not much specific reference to events of play

(a). spectrum of action dissolves in its own thrust toward definition

(3). undercurrents:

(a). "bear" --passive suffering as human condition

(b). peace of no sensation; oblivion--paradoxically related to action

(1). these two opposed to one another

(2). specific implied reference of sleeplessness, heartache, etc.

(3). the rub: interruption, obstacle

(4). experience of mystery=ghost and its world; fear of unknown

(4). conclusion--action is dissipated; this turns the audience's expectation of action back on it; we want to but cannot find the name of the action--leaves us with larger mystery

(a). opening scene involves asking a question and getting wrong answer--mysterious unresolved atmosphere; sinister, enigmatic world; question reflected back to questioner

(b). meeting the king takes us to heart of action and then backs off--counter to his readiness and resolve--

(5). Like in Lear, leaves us confronting absurdity or its possibility--or meaning. Hamlet's final sense of fate and destiny, giving himself up to it, allows the end to unravel with great fanfare, but we still don't know what happened; if its all random.

(6). Is Hamlet too hoist in his petard? Does his story have meaning--it certainly does to Fortinbras: good luck. Are all other victims deserving their fate? How Gertrude and Ophelia?

III. Maynard Mack

IV. My New notes

A. teach approach: being with the notion of interrogation; asking questions; get class to ask questions; list on board

B. Children's game of hide and seek: "Hide fox and all after" IV,ii,31--Ham's delight in trickery

C. Hamlet teaches us to think like Shakespeare or at least Shakespeare critics--seeing patterns and multiple meanings; turning language inside out like chevril glove, like the fool in TN; fool that he is

1. patterns: Fortinbras and Laertes as two revenging sons; the family drama. Hamlet is inactive compared to both; but action in both is ill-advised

D. human inconsistency and silliness; about the limitations of reason; about the questionability of love; comments on fate in MND and TN: what fools these mortals be; Olivia's comments about fate; Viola's about Time; the Fools about the Whirligig of Time; and about heaven and hell. Henry the V about patriotism and treachery; about mercy and cruelty; means and ends and the problematicism of action; and the triumph of stupid force; back to Jaques on role playing ending up with sans everything; and especially to the Ralegh poem: only we die in earnest, that's no jest--no jest and yet a jest

E. elements of the conventional--fulfilling expectations of genre--in earlier plays; and elements of questioning and subverting them. Hamlet's origins and popularity as a revenge story--the most basic of stories; wild justice--and murder mystery, detective, suspense, gothic horror story; its subversion of those conventions. The questions and peculiarities and mainly mixed responses of audience.

V. Harry Levin: The Question of Hamlet [That is the question]

A. Interrogation--Interrogatio, a rhetorical device for arousing emotions (48)


2. Hamlet as enigma; heart of mystery; magnitude of scholarship

3. Background: Saxo Grammaticus; Revenge Tragedy; etherialized

4. Distinctions: length; Sh.'s first attainment of full mastery (?); habit of generalization--in Ham and others. Montaigne: subjectivity and sententiousness; favorite quotations obscure drama

5. Emphasis on stagecraft; critique of Laertes' ranting at graveside. God as Jig-Maker (III,ii,132)

6. macrocosm, microcosm

7. lots of writing: tables, poems, three letters, writes down speech; thinks about writing plays

8. "tropically"--applies to "mousetrap." trope=twist of phrasing

a. interrogative mood of play--opening; graveyard scene, though this is common; use of "the question"--key word of play

b. changing of guard at opening presages dynastic change

i. who's there? --God?

ii. opening place and atmosphere: grim and mysterious; suspense

iii. ghost good or bad? associated with two discredited traditions: from Purgatory--discredited by Luther at Wittenberg; his claim for revenge discredited by both churches: vengeance is mine; belief in ghosts is problematic

(1). these are Ham's problems not ours

c. Polonius advice on how to act--mask reality; similar to Hamlet's advice to players; sets tone of Machiavellian policy

i. truth and falsity; honesty and dishonesty--are you honest, to Ophelia

(1). she's unwitting victim; doesn't know about eavesdropping

d. Questioning of R and G--their surmise is that he is disappointed with not having succeeded to throne

i. Claudius' that its fathers death; Gertrude that its her remarriage; Polonius that its love

e. They test him till arrival of players; then with play, he tests Ghost; Horatio is his spy---theme of political distrust

i. he's changed from resenting false appearance to maintaining and manipulating it

f. Big crux: hesitation to kill Claudius at prayer

i. Dr. Johnson horrified--so unchristian a use of afterlife; other critics find other anomalies.

ii. Ham. never questions his duty to kill the king though he never carries it out.

g. Moves with too much haste in killing Pol, who dies spying and prying; and only finally does act against King in haste and confusion

h. Fortinbras is Ham's counterpart on public level of overplot, just as Laertes is on private level of underplot

i. Hamlet sees his situation in both

(1). but doesn't see contrasts: Laertes is overhasty; Fortinbras' father doesn't want to be revenged; both are mad

i. Play's fifth act destination where stage becomes a graveyard; play goes from dirge in marriage to mirth at funeral; danse macabre

i. the legal question of suicide: Donne's Biathantos--a very vexed one--is it offense or self-defense; the grave-diggers arent sure

ii. Ham's abstrract musings about death are brought home with shocking partiuclarity (39)

iii. He begins with death wish; acts it out by jumping into grave

iv. O proud death, says Fortinbras...peace produces as much as the battlefield. Cynicism

v. Death is glamorized as "felicity" and "silence" and "flights of angels" but also as food for worms; also as a prison house of torments; as undiscovered country from whence no traveller returns; all these are juxtaposed and contradictory

j. "Hamlet takes place in an open univese; its signs and omens...are equivocal; it is not merely Cl., it is Ham and nearly everyone else who dies cut off from confession and absolution, 'not shriving time allowed.' Death is suden and birth unwought for; the conditions of existence are questionable from first to last; nothing is certain except that chruchyards yawn and gravedigging is a useful employment...the play has kept us guessing; it leaves us wondering"(42)

k. Knowledge is never adequate; the interrogative gives way to the imperative; to the question of action

i. rationality and behavior; the contemplation of alternatives which leads vice, moral responsiblity, guilt--and to our idealization of others--animals don't have this apparant freedom. And yet is it really freedom? The question of responsibility and determinism.

B. Doubt--Addubitation, a kind of deliberation with ourselves; contemplation of two alternatives

1. hendiadys= doubling of words dominates speech

a. words and deeds; puns; dual roles...equivocation

2. La Rochfoucauld: Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue" Hamlet, who at first Knows not seems" through engagement with drama, learns that etymology of actor is "hypocrite"; puts antic mask over melancholia; Claudius is to double business bound. Polonius is the expert hypocrite; double dealing embodied in Polonius

3. Hamlet's isolation and alienation makes him disiherited modern hero(53)

4. Hamlet's poem about doubt echoes Ren. scepticism in Ralegh, Montaigne, Donne: the new philosophy calls all in doubt; but Hamlet's love for Ophelia (II,ii, 116-119) is also open to doubt, both ways; and certainly by Laertes and her father.

5. The ghost insists on being remembered; Claudius and Gertrude insist on forgetting; Norse folklore of revenge; father represents earlier culture vs. student at Wittenberg; he can't measure up to Herculean standard and identifies himself with Claudius in the analogy (I,ii, 153). Embodiment of manhood.

a. ambiguous father; [double bind] ambiguous Ghost and ambiguous Claudius who also claims to be father

b. Cl. is Cain--offspring and continuation of original sin; cf. Cain's jawbone-- and satyr; father is Hyperion, the sun-god. Theme of gods and beasts as extreme polarities of human possibility....what is man; questioning of humanist optimism:

c. Pope: in doubt to act or rest;/ In doubt to deem hiself a god, or beast;/ In doubt his mind or body to prefer; /Born but to die, and reasning but to err.

d. Mirror image; Portraits --mirror used by queen to put on makeup; several references--graveyard and with Ophelia

6. Hamlet's misogyny

VI. Terence Hawkes

A. "Telmah"--"What Happens in Hamlet" written by Dover Wilson as response to Russian Revolution; attempt to assert textual integrity over Greg's 1917 suggestion that Claudius doesn't get trapped by the play within play

1. a little silly and inconsequential

VII. Maurice Hussey: the world of Sh. and his Contemp. 1971

A. Disillusionment with politics; 1600-1603

1. failure of Essex; Troilus and Cressida; taking idealism of war, chivalry, romance, patriotism, glory and turning it into satire--anti chivalric; people less than life; decomposition of ideals

2. tragic period; tragedy and history; if Henry V were not so successful; if his self-doubt in IV, i overcame his supreme confidence; if the scepticism of the perceptions of hypocrisy didn't elevate it; if the world of fallen Adam, corrupt people, were irredeemable by action.

B. World of Hamlet

1. rotten in state

2. ruled by Cain figure; brother-murderer; secrets permeate; smiles are phony; but treachery has succeeded; authority is corrupt

3. observation of everybody and suspicion

4. attractive or ugly; Jacobi vs. Olivier performance.

a. Who's to blame for mayhem at end?

i. King

ii. Hamlet and ghost

(1). Question of legitimacy of revenge (wild justice); exceeding instruction; murder of R and C; Pol., brutalizing Oph. and mother

(2). Ghost comes from night world--MND.

(3). Former Prince Hamlet as Ren. man; his disgust and disenchantment

iii. Fortinbras alreader discredited as warmonger and adventurer ascends to throne

VIII. My notes

A. Organization: cast scene this Thursday; reading notes by Monday 10/21

B. NB: On tragedy: about pain; dramatizes pain; confusion; disorder; things not working; not turning out well; chaos.

1. on tragic ERROR: fate that realizes ends or arbitrary chance...find quote about things turned awry

a. all the spying and surveillance and information gathering and elaborate plots, but everything goes wrong; accident rules over intention throughout

2. Hamlet's pain and guilt: lost father; remarried mother; forced to stay; lost legacy; harsh command; lost love; betrayal of friends; lost self-control

3. Ophelia's pain and guilt

4. Claudius' pain and guilt

5. Gertrude's, Polonius' Laertes' R and G's

a. Queen's speech on guilt(IV,v): to my sick soul (as sin's true nature is)/Each toy seems prologue to some great amiss/ So full of artless jealousy is guilt/it spills itself in fearing to be spilt

6. tragedy: political and communal decomposition; doom working itself out; fate as we look back; to those invovled, confusion; fall of noble man and majestic structure

a. examples: ecological disaster; economic disaster; political and military defeat

b. ghost as portent of doom

C. politics of situation;--politics and psychology

1. a corrupt polity--something rotten in the state--falling by internal decay at the top, to an outside invader; what it feels like to someone on the inside who's hesitant and confused

2. Older Hamlet and King Lear--a questionable sense of military honor supplanted by corrupt self serving regime, placing protagonists in between; forced to choose between absolutism and relativism?

D. family issues

1. domineering and admired father

2. step parent

3. incest--confusion of categories: husband's brother's wife

4. sexuality: revulsion and threat--sex as evil. Polonius, Laertes, Claudius, Gertrude, Ophelia

5. three young people driven mad

E. Problematicism of action: inaction=cowardice=guilt vs. action=haste=brutality

F. Hamlet and revenge

G. Ghost beliefs of audience

H. Atmosphere: betrayal and distrust; corruption--social and individual

1. love as corrupted--actual and perceived

a. brotherly, parental, filial, romantic

b. Perception of corruption--Ham. Laert. Polonius

I. Ethical issues: revenge; suicide; death; life after death

J. Hamlet and doubt; scepticism

1. See II,ii--and all soliloquies; study soliloquy; discuss deepening psychology

a. the action of the mind--cf. MND

b. is the ghost a devil?

c. fate and freedom

2. Montaigne and Shakespeare

a. the essai; que sais je; fideism and scepticism; the limits of reason and the power of rationalization; the breakdown of religious certainty; the growth of empiricism and relativism

K. Unanswered questions

1. is ghost legit or not?

2. are ghosts real? what happens in afterlife? is there an order that "shapes our ends"? that punishes the guilty?

3. is revenge correct or not?

a. does Ham renege because of cowardice when Cl. prays

4. did Gertrude know Claudius killed old Ham

5. is Ham. mad or only apparantly so?

6. what does the speech in III,iv, 183 to Gertrude mean with its crazy double negatives?

7. what's status of Hamlet's idealized vision of Fortinbras and the actor crying and his father

IX. Hamlet --Scene summary

A. I

1. I,i. Castle ramparts

a. obscurity, ambiguity--long live the King

i. whose the King; what's the King; the King is a turd; the last King was great

ii. secret conspiracy

iii. Horatio's scepticsm; a scholar; tries to control it; thinks its from hell

(1). so I have heard and so in part believe it (165)

iv. fear and wonder at entry of ghost

(1). ghost beliefs of audience?

(2). fantasy or reality (55)

(3). bodes strange eruption to our state

(a). tragic warning danger, threat, unease

v. ghost

(1). fair and warlike form..smote Polack; angry parle

(2). resistant to communication

vi. premonitions of war

(1). arming; the watch; pressure on populace

(2). rumor: young Fort. is trying to retake by force--lawless resolutes-- the land that Old F. lost to old Hamlet in chivalrous contest

(a). Fortinbras=strongarm

(b). ghost may portend fall of the state to Fort. [correct]

(3). fear spectacle; play property

2. I,ii. Castle--Ham and Claud

a. King's official public declaration and self-justification--an actor

i. imperial jointress; warlike state; filling in history

(1). sends diplomatic message to sick old Fortinbras to call off his rambunctious young son

(2). flatters self and Laertes; rituals of respect; permits departure

ii. Hamlet's first words: aside; moody; impertinent; sick of playing by rules--impatience with older generation like Fortinbras?

(1). G's motherly concern

(2). claim of sincerity, though he'll deceive

(3). these indeed seem...actions that a man might play (85)

(4). G and C both plead the commonness of death of fathers

iii. Cl. declares H. next in line; lets L. go but H. must stay: chiefest courtier; Ham. consents; King exits celebrating

b. Solil. A

i. Flesh melt: pure depression; self-loathing; suicide wish blocked by law. Rank and gross dominate; loathing of mother's inconstancy; disgust; suppression: "I must hold my tongue"

(1). impotence and sarcasm and depression; he gives in to Mothers request

c. Encounter with Horatio

i. H's sarcasm about drinking and contrast of King and father

ii. Strangeness of ghost mystifies us

iii. H. enforces secrecy

iv. Foul deeds will rise; his suspicion and exhiliration

3. I,iii. Room--Laertes departs

a. Laertes advises O. not to trust H.; rottenness of youth

i. he'll be king and rise above you; don't sleep with him

(1). righteous and sanctimonious speech--shot and danger of desire; best safety lies in fear; youth to itself rebels--

(2). she answers: avoid hypocrisy

b. Pol. gives righteous sermon to L.; everybody advising everybody with proverbs : Queen, King, Laertes, Ophelia, Polonius

i. pries into her business; gills her; Affection pooh; knows when blood burns

ii. She doesn't know what to think;

(1). corruption of age; same as Laertes--don't trust Ham

c. General generational distrust; parallel family relations

4. I,iv Ramparts--ghost comes

a. cold air; King's wassail; Ham criticizes King's and custom of drunkenness; H. moralizes on one fault corrupting noble man

i. Ghost appears; spirit of evil or good? ignorance; fundamental disorder; inquiry

b. H. displays courage; they worry he may be maddened by it; desperate with imagination


5. I,v Battlements--Ham and Ghost

a. sternness of father...blindly led by fate; binding H. to revenge; secrets of his prison house--frightening vision of purgatory

b. revelation of murder; Ham. insists he'll take swift revenge

i. incestuous and adulterate beast; also attack on mother; lust's vileness

ii. sent to account with imperfections on head

iii. dont attack mother; leave her to heaven

c. Ham: host of heaven...shall I couple hell?;

i. starts acting strange: moves from tables of memory to book in which he writes down adage

ii. acts evasive and strange to H. and M--wild and whirling words

iii. he'll have secrets like ghost has secrets like they'll have secrets.

(1). H. makes them swear, reinforced by ghost--bizarre comedy with ghost

(a). Horatio's reactions to strangeness--more things in heaven and earth

(b). Ham. states plan to put on antic disposition in future--uses antic style to imitate their forbidden hints; obsession with keeping secrets--cf. Polonius--and spying

(1). ANTIC DISPOSITION: true feelings or mere simulacra; true madness or "seems"

(c). time out of joint; he is born to set it right--alone

(1). confirmation of his sense of his fate

(2). ghost of father as in Vergil


1. II,i Room--Pol and Reynaldo spy; Ophelia and Pol

a. Pol. spies on Laertes. Acting (as did Ham in previous scene) role of entrapment; putting words in Reyn.'s mouth--accusations of youth and liberty like he made toward Ham.

i. entrapment like Ham with players; losing track of his own speech, just like Ham. --bait of falsehood take carp of truth; by indirections find directions out

b. Ophelia reports Hamlet's act--his gestures of histrionic madness; her confusion

c. Polonius sure it's lovesickness; regrets his mistaken inference that Ham. was not serious about her.

i. he's obnoxious, dangerous, but well intentioned fool

2. II, ii Castle-R G survey and players arrive

a. King sets R and G to spy on H. cf. Polonius

i. INTRIGUE: Plot, counterplot, countercounter, countercountercounter; cf. Presumed Innocent

ii. unctuous atmosphere

iii. King's curious suspicion; Queen's theory: his father's death and our oerhasty marriage

b. return of ambassadors; action complete

i. Fortinbras has restrained his son; son has obeyed; Fortinbras now advancing against Polack; trade offered for passage through Denmark; well ended transaction

c. Polonius' comedy; shows Hamlet's love letters to King--distasteful revelation; he suffered for lover in his youth

i. insists he'll find where truth is hid; sets a trap to spy on Ham

d. Hamlet plays clown; speaks riddles--two ruses encounter one another; false conversation

i. method in madness (207)

ii. speaks partly to Pol. partly to himself: "except my life"

iii. after Pol. to R and G

(1). Denmarks a prison; there's nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.

(2). opportunity for Hamlet to express his wit and outlook--montaigne

(3). he gets them to admit they were sent for; confesses he has been depressed about human condition

(a). god vs beast contrast; hyperion and satyr

iv. introduction of players

(1). R and G distract Hamlet's inquiry; the ones you were wont to take such delight in

(2). digression on the war of theatres; generational strife among players; youth attacking age; fickle public; analogy of battle between Claudius and old Ham.

(3). Ham. passes confusing message to King via R and G: am but mad NNW; acts antic before them with Pol. ... at great length [actor's heyday]

(4). Ham's grand welcome; notices their aging; asks for speech, praising an unpopular play "caviary to the general"--wants to hear speech about slaughter of father priam; Hamlet recites, Polonius impressed

(5). Endless speech about Pyrrhus' attack and Queen's horror.

(a). relevance to father's death and mother's remarriage to killer

(6). Ham. sets up Murder of Gonzago with interpolated speech; left alone

(a). rather than acting, H. gets involved with liteature--a student

v. Solil. B

(1). rogue and peasant slave: self hate--the actor can summon up more [but false] activity "for nothing" than can Hamlet with his true cause. If the actor had that cause, he'd drown stage.

(a). [change of tone] Attacks self with full aggression and takes it passively. He must be coward since he hasn't killed king.

(b). Then attacks king: Bloody, bawdy villain. Self hate to King hate.

(c). Screams for vengeance. Then mocks himself for ranting at King instead of acting

(d). Another change: About my brain: sets up (or recollects) plan to catch king's conscience and get confession, for proof of his guilt

(1). Here he doubts that the ghost may be a deceptive devil with "power to assume a pleasing shape." [just like Claudius] , Hamlet admitting his own proneness to deception out of my weakness and my melancholy

(2). This reverses the certainty emphasized earlier in the speech and contrasted to the illusion motivating the player, also a manic mood full of futle and silly action (like Fortinbras and Laertes). Revenge too may be futile and misguided action



1. III.i Castle-surveillance with Ophelia; Ham rejects her

a. King grills R and G who can't find out anything about H.; wants to distract him with players

i. Will spy on H. with Pol. in presence of Oph. to see if love's his problem--staged action; so may be Hamlet's

ii. Pol. makes comment about hypocrisy; the King expresses his immense guilt: O heavy burden (53); lash to conscience. NB: we know here the king's done it

b. Solil. C--To be or not to be (cf. Goldman)

i. longing for death as surcease of sorrow, and fear of it as deterrent--cf. Lear's Edgar

ii. list of life's pains

iii. dread of the unknown keeps us from action

(1). from suicide or from revenge?

(2). cowardice=reluctance to commit suicide or homicide; both involved in war=conscience=sicklied over, pale cast of thought

(3). action=enterprise of pitch and moment=native hue of resolution=suicide or homicide

c. Oph. returns letters; Hamlet hurt; his pain here again

i. Ham. replies that beauty corrupts honesty; that all humans are sinners--that he himself is corrupt, irredeemably fallen-- and therefore reproduction should cease and she should go to a nunnery (cf. Lear's curse and death wish)

ii. Gets more abusive and angry--misogynous ranting, like Lear's--a manifestation of madness--and loses control

iii. Hamlet has been hurt by both women; mother's marriage and Ophelia's return of letters

iv. Ophelia mourns the spoiling of perfect youth; noble mind

d. Claudius concludes he's not mad; decides to send him to England

i. Polonius suggests more surveillance after play with Gertrude

2. III,ii Castle-play in pay

a. Ham. lectures players on mimesis and moderation; play to the judicious spectator; don't let the clowns get out of control

i. Hamlet's high-mindedness and self-righteousness; nobility vs. baseness

ii. Same comes out in long, pompous, flattering praise of Horatio, broken off in mid-speech(line 76) like Polonius'--"something too much of this--"

b. Asks Horatio to observe Cl. during his experiment; mirror image of Claudius' suspicions and methods

i. If his occulted guilt/do not itself unkennel in one speech/ it is a damned ghost that we have seen.

c. plays the fool with Cl., Pol, and Gertrude; very manic rather than depressive; comes back to Ophelia and torments her, acts merry, makes bitter jokes about mother's remarriage

d. The play; MND situation

i. dumbshow reenacts plot; Ophelia and Ham back to joking together about play

ii. what's relation of player king to ghost king?

iii. Player queen says: none wed the second but who killed the first; ..a second time I kill my husband dead/when second husband kisses me in bed.

iv. Player King is sceptical: this world is not for aye, nor tis not strange/even our loves should with our fortunes change...our wills and fates do so contrary run/that our devices still are overthrown; our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own. (215)

v. Queen mistrusts; Hamlet is sarcastic, manipulative and obscene; Ophelia enjoys herself; he's in complete control--the Mousetrap

vi. King leaves as Lucianus starts poisoning

vii. H. is manic, funny, and zany; his scheme worked; he takes the ghosts word for thousand pound (292); plays fool with them

(1). funny conversation with R and G; they still try to play on him; he does recorder trick

(2). same with Polonius in camel trick--very like a whale

viii. Solil D.

(1). Its witching time of night/ Now he could drink hot blood. But restrains himself from killing mother.

(a). We expect real action to come, since his doubts are gone

3. III,iii Castle--King at prayer

a. King more uptight, feeling sick; again sending H. abroad; R and G toady to him, noticing his "groan." Sense of illness pervading society further

b. Pol. tells King he'll spy on Ham with mother

c. King's suffering--his long soliloquy; cf. Hamlet's

i. primal curse

ii. man to double business bound; guilt defeats strong intent (40)--cf. Ham. ; frozen

(1). stuck between repentance and enjoyment of sin--cf. HV

(a). what can work in appearance here on earth, wont work above (60)

(1). world is corrupt and hypocritical, but not essence

(b). compare to Ham. Solil. C. Fear of existence of other world keeps us from acting--from suicide and homicide

(2). O limed soul, that struggling to be free/Art more engaged. Help, angels! Make assay/ Bow stubborn knees...Be soft as sinews of the newborn babe./All may be well. [He kneels]

(a). comes very close to salvation; repentance; inner struggle; movement from inward to outward gesture

d. Hamlet sees him and almost kills him, but then stops himself--"conscience" stops him.

i. but it's a demonic conscience; refusal to kill him when he may not go to hell; taking on divine role and extension of consequences of actions into the next world again.

(1). could this also be rationalization for timidity

ii. king isn't redeemed; Hamlet's wrong; both his and king's intents gone awry--lose name of action--aborted action again...will and fate

4. III,iv Queen's closet

a. after inaction, delay and aborted action, a flurry of misconceived action followed by insincere repentance

i. he provides the glass to see the inmost part of you and wrestles with her; she mistakenly fears he'll murder her; calls for help--an accident--he doesn't mean to

ii. Polonius responds to save her (wrong); he stabs through arras thinking it the King (wrong)

(1). Ham. can't kill when he sees his victim; she doesn't want to see herself

iii. Ham justifies his act by telling mother Cl. killed King, but she doesn't understand

(1). he sees his mistake but feels no remorse

(2). she doesn't feel remorse for her guilt

iv. He compares pictures of Old Ham and Claudius

(1). the accusation is for having chosen an inferior man for second husband, out of lust

(2). now she sees her error and sin--her sense of guilt

v. Ghost enters, to restrain Ham. with Gertrude and egg him on with Claudius

(1). Hamlet's guilt; also his asking Ghost not to make him be merciful to G. because it will dull his anger

(2). Gertrude doesn't see Ghost; calls H. mad

vi. Ham. tries to convince her to stop sleeping with Cl.; they establish emotional contact: "when you are desirous to be blest/ I'll blessing ask of you." He repents for killing Polonius, then turns manic and cruel again while revealing plot to get R and G and going to "lug the guts into the neighbor room."

(1). same kind of emotional volatility as with Ophelia

D. IV [lame act]

1. IV,i Castle --Gert. and Cl.

a. G. tells King of Pol's murder; lies, saying he's mad; King lies to her saying he'll cover for Ham.

2. IV,ii--Ham and R/G

a. H. plays fool and hide and seek over P's body with R and G, as he later will over Oph's body.

3. IV,iii--Ham and Cl.

a. King and Ham., who plays fool with morbid jokes over Polonius' dead body--criminal behavior; calls King Mother;

b. King, paranoid about Ham's popularity and danger to his regime, reveals plan to have Ham. killed in England

4. IV,iv--plain in Denmark; Fortinbras

a. Captain explains the absurdity and futility of war pursued by Fortinbras and Polack

b. Ham. sees it as consequence (impostume) of too much wealth and peace

c. Solil D--How all occasions do inform

i. Human value found in "godlike" reason and action, sleeping and feeding is bestial. [Father always referred to as godlike; Claudius as bestial]

ii. Attacks his own hesitation as craven scruple--one part wisdom and three parts coward; Fortinbras is better--" a delicate and tender prince"(?)-- since he'll war for an eggshell

(1). Hamlet sees as a model, a man whose actions he describes as criminal. His claim that "Rightly to be great/...is greatly to find quarrel in a straw/when honor's at the stake" is absurd. His model of action is "the imminent death of twenty thousand men/...for a fantasy and trick of fame." He falsely idealizes.0

iii. Honor's at the stake; he has a million reasons to do it; "from this time forth/my thoughts be bloody"

5. IV,v --Ophelia/Laertes

a. Gentleman describes her madness--problem of interpretation--part sense, part nonsense

b. Queen's speech on guilt: to my sick soul (as sin's true nature is)/Each toy seems prologue to some great amiss/ So full of artless jealousy is guilt/it spills itself in fearing to be spilt

c. Ophelia sings song of dead father and betrayed maiden that confirms her fathers and Laertes' warnings; looked on as pathetic spectacle by Gertrude and Claud; now she has to be watched

d. Cl's speech about gathering chaos; King asks for guards; Laertes breaks in rabble chanting L. shall be King

e. L. is impetuous to revenge father [Ham. could do same]; no reluctance--"I'll dare damnation...Let come what comes, only I'll be revenged most thoroughly for my father." Cl. convinces him to slow down.

f. Pol.'s has to have secret funeral--why? Cl. brings him around

6. IV,vi--Horatio and letter from Ham. detailing accidental escape

7. IV,vii--Claudius/Laertes/Gertrude

a. Laertes asks Claudius why he's delaying; King's rationalizations

i. He's stuck on Gertrude, who "lives almost by his looks"

ii. The great love the general gender bear him

iii. Is this sign of poor ruler? of his weakness and lack of self-control and assertiveness

iv. Laertes idealizes his sister--"stood challenger on mount of all the age."

v. Cl. promises revenge; then letter from Ham. arrives; Cl. has sneaky plan that will keep truth from Mother and everyone

(1). long digression on Laertes' reputation for sword fighting via Lamord, and Hamlet's envy; Claudius seems to be playing him like a fish

(2). Claudius discusses the decline of resolution and the failure of revenge; Laertes expresses willingness to cut his throat in church--cf. Hamlet's reluctance to get Cl. praying; but also softening up for a dirty trick

(3). Cl. suggests "practise": duel with poisoned swords--"Hamlet is free from all contriving" and contingency plot to poison his drink

(4). Queen reports drowning of Ophelia; Laertes gets more upset

E. V

1. V,i--Churchyard

a. Clowns-- appearance of populace, after Laertes' crowd and mention of Ham's popularity

i. raise major issues

(1). is she to receive Christian burial? Coroner's judgement is yes

(a). is her drowning self-defense?

(2). what is nature of an act: three branches--to act; to do; to perform; if you go to the water and it doesn't come to you, it's an act; ergo she's guilty

(3). she'd be guilty if she weren't of "the great folk" who have more right to kill themselves

(4). Class discourse:

(a). Adam was gentleman--bore arms--to dig; mention of other non gentle profession: gardner, ditcher, gravedigger, mason, shipwright, carpenter [JC], gallowsmaker and gravemaker, who build very strong, outliving a thousand tenants and lasting till doomsday.

(b). Hamlet appreciates their earthiness; clown sings of time's passage; Hamlet meditates memento mori; overreaching politicians and glib courtiers, fine lady, lawyers; death everywhere; smart banter between clown and Ham.

(5). Clown recollects Ham's father's defeat of Fort. and Ham's birth [back to beginning]

(a). Ham interrogates him, but he is evasive, just as Ham is with others

(b). discourse of corpse rotting--water is a sore decayer of your whoreson dead body.

(c). invokes Yorick the Jester [Feste], another clown; more memento mori; Alexander stuffing bunghole--prep. for death of him and King

b. King and funeral enters

i. maimed rites--unhallowed death, like Ghost's and Claudius'

(1). Laertes says she'll be in heaven when priest is in hell; jumps in grave to make stronger gesture of mourning [to compensate for maimed rites?] [cf. Hamlet's frustrated mourning for father] Claudius wont allow any proper mourning because of political fears--cf. Ireland; South Africa; Iran. At funerals, revenge is sworn.

(2). Hamlet opposes Laertes' histrionics and declares himself: I am Hamlet the Dane (Hamlet, the King?) creating great stir among bystanders, especially mother; insists he loved Ophelia much more and will fight for that: "Fourty thousand brothers with all their quantity of love could not make up my sum." [Egotism]--rants as much as Laertes

(3). King says he's mad; Queen also

2. V,ii-Castle

a. H. retells ship escape to Hor.

i. emphasizes his rashness: praised be our rashness for it...our indiscretion sometime serves us well/ when our deep plots do pall, and that should learn us/there's a divinity that shapes our ends/ Rough hew them how we will [FATE]

b. brings proof of King's order to have him executed

c. hectic narrative, emphasizing his glory in having acted, taking delight in the deviousness of his practise, anxiously drawing out response from Horatio

i. "or I could make a prologue to my brains they had begun the play."

ii. pride in hoisting on petard and again getting RG before shriven

iii. insistence that coincidence was fate: even in that was heaven ordinant/ I had my father's signet

iv. "they are not near my conscience; their defeat does by their own insinuation grow." Contrast to earlier admission of guilt

v. asks Horatio now, again, if he's not right to kill king, rehearsing his offenses; Horatio changes topic;

d. Is ready to get King and then gets sidetracked by Laertes and Osric

i. runs circles around Osric, but trivial exchanges on detailed duello protocol

ii. Osric requests Ham fight for king--"play"

(1). relation to "play's the thing"?

iii. Hamlet has premonition of his own death; rejects it as "gaingiving as would perhaps trouble a woman." Horatio says wait; Ham. states he defies augury; accepts his death: There is special providence in fall of sparrow; if it be now ...the readiness is all...Let be"--contrast this speech to dalliance with Osric

(1). stirring introduction to grand entrance of king and final scene.

e. Asks Laertes' pardon (225)

i. says it was madness: Hamlet denies it...His madness is poor Hamlet's enemy"--facile diminished capacity defense; evading any responsibility; this is false

ii. Laertes falsely gives it, knowing he'll kill Ham.

iii. Hamlet again insincere in saying "I'll be your foil" after just saying to Horatio, he'll beat Laertes

iv. the King is also faking: The KIng shall drink to Hamlet's better breath.

f. Play begins

i. Hamlet wins bouts; King's plan foiled when Queen drinks from cup--moment of suspense as King tries to stop her

ii. Laertes "against my conscience"--goes after him in cheat; both are wounded [violation of rules]

(1). woodcock to my own springe--I am justly killed with mine own treachery

(a). relate to deaths of Gertrude/Pol./ RandG/Ophelia/Ham

(2). Queen's discovery of drink--appropriate?

(3). Laertes dying, blames the King

iii. Ham locks door, hits King with sword and makes him drink--double hoist on petard

iv. L and Ham. forgive each other

v. Ham convinces Horatio not to kill himself (suicide) in order to tell Ham's story.

vi. Ham's articulate death: last act is to vote for Fortinbras and prophecy his election; the rest is silence; his experience of death; he finally stops talking

vii. Fortinbras and English ambassadors both enter to clean up the mess

viii. Horatio sums up: carnal, bloody, unnatural acts/accidental judgments, casual slaughters, deaths put on by cunning and forced cause/ purposes mistook fall'n on inventors heads.

ix. a sight "becomes the field but here shows much amiss."