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Lecture 24

ENGL 4723 Lecture 24: Hamlet Notes (Week 9)

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ENGL 4723
Edward J Jones

Hamlet Concerned with inquisition: asking for information they don’t have. Guards think they have seen a ghost: does it matter that we understand what we see? Yes, looks like King Hamlet, representation, possible image, how confident can you be in what you see? Being inquisitive. How do we know what we know? Simple questions with non-answers. Horatio skeptical until he sees it himself, evidence of ghosts and ghost identity. How do they know they see a ghost? Ghost entered through stage directions, author confidently asserts position, tell us what we need to know. Cock crowing: morning, sunrise, Jesus and Peter denying Jesus three times, cock crows. Key moment of betrayal, ghost can only stay until it crows, was murdered by Claudius. Fire cleansing spirit: Purgatory, evil spirit or good spirit? Commit crime to cleanse of crime? Ghost to be negotiated with carefully, if at all. What we know, when we know it is important. Act I hamlet has heard info from the ghost, but doesn’t know what to do with it. Guards only know that there was a ghost, not what he said: Hamlet knows more. Horatio partly in the dark: characters only partially aware of what others know, if he knew what Hamelt went through it would change dynamic later. Act I keeps information away from everyone, even audience. “air bites shrewdly” “very cold” sets up for ghost; setting dark and cold, ghost and Hamlet attitude. Discussion of suicide: Hamlet before he sees the ghost, fragile state, grieving, emotionally wrought. Hamlet not introduced until after Laertes and Polonius. [King Hamlet killed Old Fortinbras and took his land before the play began, seed for revenge set, Young Fortinbras, Old Norway: Fortinbras uncle steps up to help him—uncle that Claudius should be to Hamlet.] why didn’t Hamlet become King? Gertrude married Claudius, but he isn’t too young to take the throne. Ophelia tells Laertes to follow his own advice to her regarding Hamlet. Ophelia says he loves her. Polonius and Laertes don’t trust Hamlet in that regard. Relationship seems to be above board, he isn’t playing with her—she is the only one that sees the truth of their relationship, but she listens to her father. Not a revenge play because it has the obstacles of Christian values and virtues. Religious and philosophical concepts—ghost creates unreliability—Hamlet must be careful in listening to it. Shakespeare sets up thoughtful characters: Bolingbroke poetic and accomplished, Richard thoughtful idealist disconnect as to how he will exist in the world, Romeo thoughtful in specific categories metaphor not pragmatic to confront the world, Hamlet both types. Intellectual challenge, stand out character needs worthy opponent (Claud
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