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Hamlet – Third lecture mutability_ mortality

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Hamlet – Third lecture mutability_ mortality Powered By Docstoc
					   Hamlet – fourth lecture:
The thematics of mutability and
          mortality

    “Did these bones cost no more the
    breeding but to play at loggets with
  them? Mine ache to think on‟t.” (V, 1,
                  86-87)
           Hamlet and death
Whatever else the play is about – the morality of
    revenge, madness, theater and the world --
 it’s about death.
The visual icon of the play is inevitably a man
    holding a skull and looking intently at it.
And Hamlet seems intensely preoccupied with
    death in all its aspects . . .
. . . and with the instability of human existence.
   Hamlet‟s shock at his mother‟s
     “forgetting” of his father
• The source of his dark vision of reality: a kind of
  moral entropy:
• First soliloquy expresses a longing for death,
  non-existence: I.2.129ff.
• “Frailty, thy name is woman (I, 2, 146).
• And everything seems to follow from this.
• To R & G, the reversal of Renaissance
  celebration of man: “What a piece of work is a
  man . . .” II.4.274.
• “And yet to me what is this quintessence of
  dust?”
• Nothing appears stable, lasting.
• Except Horatio? III, 2, 53ff.
    And death as the end to which
          everything tends
• Hamlet‟s riff on the body‟s decay after Polonius‟
  death, IV.3.
• “Your worm is your only emperor for diet.” (IV.3.
  20ff)
• “. . . a king may go a progress through the guts
  of a beggar.”
• Ophelia‟s madness: “is‟t possible a young maid‟s
  wits should be as mortal as an old man‟s life?”
  (IV, 5, 159-60).
• Ophelia: “Lord, we know what we are, but know
  not what we may become.” (IV, 5, 43)
• Her song: “And will he not come again . . .” (l
  183)
Hamlet‟s addition to “The Murder of
           Gonzago”?
• Hamlet asks the player king if he could study a
  speech of “some dozen or sixteen lines” which
  he would write and insert into the play.
• Knowing Hamlet‟s mind, can we find those lines
  in the play as it‟s performed (in III.2)?
• What does obsess Hamlet?
• He‟s certainly struck by his mother‟s “falling off”
  (as ghost calls it).
• Does he also generalize from this to a
  consciousness of the mutability of all human
  love?
 Finding Hamlet‟s additions in III, 2
• How long have king and queen in “Murder of
  Gonzago” been married?
• Could Hamlet have made additions to the player
  queen‟s role?
• Player king‟s speech generalizes, makes a
  philosophical principle of the
  mutability, mortality of human love.
• “This world is not for aye, nor „tis not strange/
  That even our loves should with our fortunes
  change/ For „tis a question left us let to prove/
  Whether love lead fortune, or else fortune love.”
• The player queen‟s vow, ll. 212ff.
          Claudius to Laertes
• Claudius interrupts himself at IV, 7, 105.
• “I know love is begun by time . . . Time qualifies
  the spark and fire of it.”
• “There lives within the very flame of love/ A kind
  of wick or snuff that will abate it, And nothing is
  at a like goodness still . . .”
• Or will Laertes be constant in his desire for
  vengeance?
• As inciter to revenge, Claudius becomes for
  Laertes the equivalent of the ghost for Hamlet
      The gravediggers, V, 1
• Who builds stronger than the mason, the
  shipwright, or the carpenter?
• Maybe the gallowsmaker?
• But really the gravemaker – “The houses
  he makes lasts [sic] till doomsday.”
• “Has this fellow no feeling of his
  business?”
• Should one sing while digging a grave?
  Hamlet‟s meditation on death
• “That skull had a tongue in it, and could sing
  once.”
• “A fine revolution, an we had the trick to see‟t.
  Did these bones cost no more the breeding but
  to play at loggets with them? Mine ache to think
  on‟t.”
• Skulls, skulls, more skulls.
• Death as grimly comic: none of these skulls can
  prevent the gravedigger‟s abuse.
• When did the gravedigger come into his
  profession?
• The very day of Hamlet‟s birth!
• How long will a body last you? Some eight year
  or nine year (especially tanners).
 Death comes closer and closer
• “Here‟s a skull now hath lien you i‟ th‟ earth three
  and twenty years.”
• “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio.” All that
  he was is now reduced to this stinking skull.
• Clip from Branagh Hamlet: Billy Crystal as the
  gravedigger.
• “To what base uses we may return.”
• Alexander or Caesar – the most powerful human
  beings – have turned simply to dust.
• And death comes even closer: “Enter King,
  Queen, Laertes, and the Corpse.”
• “What, the fair Ophelia?”
• Laertes‟ curse of Hamlet, l. 236.
    The culmination of Hamlet‟s
            madness
• “I loved Ophelia.”
• And yet his actions have driven her to
  madness and death.
• And does this drive Hamlet to madness?
  V.1.229ff.
• And what is his madness but a response
  to all he has seen, understood?
• And to his consciousness of moral
  entropy, mortality.
     Hamlet‟s eventual fatalism
• The return of his sanity, calm, V.2
• “There is a special providence in the fall of a
  sparrow.”
• And l. 296: “We defy augury . . .”
• “If it be now, „tis not to come; if it be not to come,
  it will be now. If it be not now, yet it will come.
  The readiness is all.”
• A seeming acceptance of the inevitability of
  death.
• “Since no man of aught he leaves knows, what
  is‟t to leave betimes? Let be.”
    The symmetries of the duel
• Laertes accomplishes vengeance against
  Hamlet.
• But ends up dying himself in the process.
• And Hamlet now accomplishes his vengeance
  against Claudius, who will go to damnation.
• Death wins? Simply entropy?
• Laertes: “Exchange forgiveness with me, noble
  Hamlet./ Mine and my father‟s death come not
  upon thee,/ Nor thine on me.”
• And Horatio, the stoic, is entrusted with Hamlet‟s
  “story.”
• Fortinbras? The rash, hotheaded non-entity in
  control.
• The futility in the politics of the play.
        “O proud Death . . .”
“ . . . What feast is toward in thine eternal
   cell/ That thou so many princes at a shot/
   So bloodily hast struck.”
The final toll: Ophelia, Hamlet, Laertes,
   Gertrude, Claudius – and finally R & G.
Final scene is a funeral cortege, as all the
   bodies are solemnly taken off.
And finally Hamlet‟s body, borne “like a
   soldier to the stage . . .
“For he was likely, had he been put on, To
   have proved most royal.”

				
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posted:6/28/2011
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