I don't think Hamlet's sexual hangups, such as they are, have any great significance to an understanding of the play.
he doesn't want to sleep with his mother -- he just wants her to still be his mother
This is otm. In terms of his society and its values, he had two parents he was brought up to love and reverence. One parent was murdered and has returned as a ghost to demand Hamlet revenge his death. The other parent has married the murderer. Hamlet's position has become psychologically untenable, yet he must resolve it through action and every avenue to action brings moral obloquy on him, according to his taught morality.
The play is the portrait of his tormented, morally obstructed and impossible position. Any resolution to Hamlet's impossible set of choices can only be tragic. That's why Shakespeare chose to base a tragedy upon it, but the impossibility of a morally acceptable resolution is why nobody really likes the ending and the play's climax slumps into unsatisfying death and futility.
― more difficult than I look (Aimless), Tuesday, 8 March 2022 04:14 (ten months ago) link
Perhaps he’d have discovered better options for action, though, if he really discussed these issues with Horatio or another trusted friend. As a prince, for instance, he had a claim to the throne and could have tried to enlist the support of allies to overthrow Claudius. Preventing such a possibility, I imagine, is why Claudius demanded he stay at Elsinore in Act One. The fact that he feels alone — and that he needs to be alone — seems really significant to his dilemma.
― treeship., Tuesday, 8 March 2022 12:39 (ten months ago) link
Overthrowing Claudius may have resolved some of the more political aspects of his dilemma, but not the profound emotional shock and dissonance he was experiencing.
― more difficult than I look (Aimless), Tuesday, 8 March 2022 16:03 (ten months ago) link
he is enraged that, at the end of the day, he will need to decide for himself who he wants to be. the opening line of the play, "who's there?", is probably the question hamlet is asking himself
does anyone else see the play as pessimistic? the idea seems to be that, when all the old codes of virtue are in abeyance, man is too weak to construct a new system of meaning for himself.
the play is pessimistic in that it ends in death but how else could it end. nevertheless the savage leninist hamlet of act v (efficiently disposing of enemies + rewriting the play from offstage + being inexplicably thirtyish all of a sudden) has achieved a kind of existential victory over at least some of his acts i-iv problems. that the play responds to this new promethean threat by immediately killing everyone and ending is a kind of joke i think: even as author and revolutionary hamlet is still ultimately constrained, a "mutine in the bilbo".
agree that one of his Problems is that he is alone or that he can't ~accept love~, tho horatio is not necc the answer to this as there is no way hamlet (or we) can be sure he is not a spy. it's ophelia that he rly misses his shot w afaict-- nevertheless in a sense she too is (unwillingly) also a spy! everyone is a spy, is another Problem for him-- a problem thrown into a strange light by the persistent way in which the collapsing external State is a metaphor for hamlet's collapsing internal state (each screaming thought "another room in the castle", fortinbras seeming to conquer from both outside and inside), so when he flees from political surveillance is he also fleeing from ~being known~? do we have to learn how to accept without fear the (intelligence) agencies of others? yet hamlet is right to fear being known, since once he possesses the ghost's secret (the poison in the ear) being known would likely mean death-- something that maybe allows him to grimly indulge his preexisting angst over not ~really~ being knowable anyway even when he's "playing" his feelings to the gallery as in act i.
― difficult listening hour, Wednesday, 9 March 2022 13:11 (ten months ago) link
my own pet hamlet discussion question is: does polonius know?
― difficult listening hour, Wednesday, 9 March 2022 13:18 (ten months ago) link
it seems he can't know, because if he knew, he would probably suspect, when running around in circles trying to interpret hamlet, that hamlet has found out. if he doesn't know, then the king has kept from his chief intelligence officer the deadliest and most important secret in the castle, causing the latter to be remembered for centuries as an idiot. more rot in the state.
― difficult listening hour, Wednesday, 9 March 2022 13:22 (ten months ago) link
― horseshoe, Wednesday, 9 March 2022 13:23 (ten months ago) link
hi horseshoe <3! someone left this batsignal on.
― difficult listening hour, Wednesday, 9 March 2022 13:25 (ten months ago) link
on reflection i definitely don't see it as pessimistic-- or maybe i find its pessimism, its submission to change+incompleteness, exhilarating? in contrast the last couple of acts of othello or macbeth feel genuinely unpleasant-- rly difficult to sit thru, leave me wrung out and shaken, like aliens. (have played in the former-- iago responds to a pettier trauma with a creative flowering not unlike hamlet's, but afterwards you want to go home.) hamlet never feels that way. maybe a me problem (in a couple of senses)-- is it the most solipsistic tragedy? even if just in the sense of being about solipsism.
nevertheless yeah always a thrill: the act iv disintegration; act v with its swashbuckling, its premonitions of nietzsche-- not just prescient tbh but a kind of terrifying rapid foreshortening of future consciousness, like a pre-death vision that arrives at melville's dead blind wall centuries early, as much by accident as genius (this is why it's good to have a scene)
without interlocutors, his psyche becomes fragmented. his dilemma, furthermore, reflects that of modern man -- shakespeare was prescient here. hamlet studied at witternberg -- was perhaps a student of martin luther -- and represents the "new" man, who takes ultimate questions unto himself.
which brings on catastrophe, but inevitable catastrophe, bearing the hope(/fear) of transformation. the undiscovered country. recently gave a complete norton shakes to someone as a grad present and inscribed it "stand and unfold yourself"-- this is a process hamlet does manage to begin, even if he never finds out who's there.
― difficult listening hour, Wednesday, 9 March 2022 14:11 (ten months ago) link
Lenin is a great point of comparison for the Hamlet of Scene V. The ruthlessness with which he dispenses Rosencrantz and Guildenstern shocks the conscience—even shocks Horatio at first, but then he doesn’t make a point of it. Hamlet is unlike Lenin, though, in that he doesn’t have a real ability to actually ascend to power and ends up giving the kingdom away.
By the end he is basically amoral and a liar. His speech to Laertes asking forgiveness is such bullshit. He blames “madness” for his actions, going so far as to speak of his “madness” as a separate person. This is bullshit and self serving—the whole play has shown how fine a line there is between his feigned insanity and presumptive normal melancholy sanity.
His actions at the graveyard speak volumes. He can’t stand to see someone else express their own misery. Everything must always come back to him and his grim circumstances.
The dominant reading that he is suddenly sane in the last scene in the play is outlandish. From his nastiness to Osric to his self-exculpating account of his madness, he has become a much worse person than he was in the beginning. His soul is hardened.
― treeship., Tuesday, 15 March 2022 01:05 (ten months ago) link
Maybe that’s what “sanity” is. He cuts off his self-interrogation and “the rest is silence.”
― treeship., Tuesday, 15 March 2022 01:07 (ten months ago) link
The ruthlessness with which he dispenses Rosencrantz and Guildenstern shocks the conscience
i mean they are delivering him to his death, for money. unchristian not to just slip over the side of the boat and leave them i suppose but no one ever said shakespeare was christian. (who are the "pirates" who deliver him home by the way-- shades of j. caesar!-- and what, if anything, do they ask for in return? are they pirates or are they privateers-- state contractors? have they placed hamlet on a sealed train and re-injected him into denmark, like a poison, swift as quicksilver?)
agree that he is not "sane" at the end, or anyway any saner than usual. have always found his speech to laertes moving and believable tho, if impossible to imagine being accepted. "i have shot mine arrow o'er the house and hurt mine brother" seems as profound a confession and apology as can be expected; in this light his characterization of his destructive self as "mad" seems less self-exculpation and more... description, acknowledgement that some of the selves he flickers thru are no good and not worth calling hamlet. he pleads instead to be identified with his best self. but instead of accepting this-- which he even says his "nature" inclines him to do!-- laertes remains beholden to "elder masters" and their forms of honor: he needs a king to tell him he's satisfied. he won't be free. you can't blame him, since hamlet's efforts to free himself have been catastrophic; but you also can't deny that if he did let go of authority at this moment and step into the unmoored void with the guy holding out a hand as a brother, both of them would live.
certainly does act out in the graveyard i admit. (imo bobby+james at laura palmer's graveside is a pastiche of this.) not sure how to read him here tbh: the language becomes so hysterical. next time.
osric deserves it.
― difficult listening hour, Tuesday, 15 March 2022 02:14 (ten months ago) link
not sure how to read him here tbh
i mean not that this
He can’t stand to see someone else express their own misery.
― difficult listening hour, Tuesday, 15 March 2022 02:19 (ten months ago) link
osric isn't even really a person: he is a plot device. hamlet senses this. when osric opens his mouth someone else's voice comes out, and apparently it's made him rich. to express such open contempt for this is arrogant and uncharitable, but that's our prince.
― difficult listening hour, Tuesday, 15 March 2022 02:31 (ten months ago) link
(maybe he kills rose+guild so casually because they, too, have used their godlike apprehension to become, in senses both "diagetic" and non-, "plot devices".)
― difficult listening hour, Tuesday, 15 March 2022 02:35 (ten months ago) link
i mean lol reversing myself yet again sure the play is pessimistic in that its focus is on the destruction/rupture/violence caused by consciousness stepping thru the mirror to discover+use its own infinite unknowable mutability, and not on the constructive/binding/healing potential of the very same discovery. the latter is what as you like it is about, which is why it's a comedy.
― difficult listening hour, Tuesday, 15 March 2022 02:55 (ten months ago) link
again tho it has a promethean/icarian vibe to me, a classical savagery, that is v diff from the satanic triumph at the end of othello (paradise lost 60 years in advance and as a downer) or the famously thorough rottenness of macbeth. idk if ilx poster JCLC likes hamlet (maybe not particularly lol?) but the "suicidal pride" once suggested as an interest of his is what's powering act v's (ironic) heedless rush as well as its psychedelic lyricism.
― difficult listening hour, Tuesday, 15 March 2022 03:16 (ten months ago) link
I think my reading of Hamlet has changed since the last time I posted here.
― treeship., Sunday, 8 January 2023 01:16 (four weeks ago) link
Big question I have now is whether he was trying to protect Ophelia by chasing her out of Elsinore before the violence popped off.
― treeship., Sunday, 8 January 2023 01:17 (four weeks ago) link
― Farewell to Evening in Paradise (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 8 January 2023 01:44 (four weeks ago) link
where’s your father?
― difficult listening hour, Sunday, 8 January 2023 09:04 (four weeks ago) link
osric deserves it.― difficult listening hour, Monday, March 14, 2022 10:14 PM (ten months ago) bookmarkflaglink
― difficult listening hour, Monday, March 14, 2022 10:14 PM (ten months ago) bookmarkflaglink
osric's chief sins are 1.) flattery and 2.) trying and failing to fit in with the manners of the nobility. he is a prosperous landowner, an image of the rising bourgeoisie who were, at shakespeare's time, trying to make inroads into the upper class. hamlet has infinite disdain for osric and his ambitions to rise above his station. but i wonder where shakespeare fits into it. shakespeare was bourgeois: the son of a glovemaker, he was sent to a school that taught latin and greek so he could fit in with the upper class. and as a theater director, he proved a canny businessman, accruing an impressive fortune in his lifetime. perhaps most pertinently, shakespeare's father was granted a coat of arms in 1596, three years before the staging of hamlet, signifying the fact that his family had made inroads into the aristocracy.
what does all this mean?
― treeship., Sunday, 29 January 2023 20:13 (one week ago) link
in the branaugh version, osric is stabbed by fortinbras's invading forces. this feels right to me. he is another rosencrantz, another guildenstern, another gatsby -- that is, a casualty of aristocratic recklessness.
― treeship., Sunday, 29 January 2023 20:14 (one week ago) link
class read on osric correct+insightful but continue to think that this--
hamlet has infinite disdain for osric and his ambitions to rise above his station
--is not quite right, or rather not complete? the first thing hamlet does is tell osric to put on his hat, which he has presumably removed because he is talking to the prince. when osric demurs, hamlet humiliates him in a reprise of the dost-thou-see-yonder-cloud exchange by "madly" contradicting himself line-to-line as his interlocutor agrees with whatever he says. when osric delivers his message, which is a trap to kill hamlet, hamlet dismisses him, describes him to horatio as someone who "complied with his dug before he sucked it" (obscure, and indeed v freudian lol, but having something to do surely with obedience as impulse that could not be embedded deeper), and says that just going along with "the tune of the time" doesn't get you anywhere. this plus the very in-character stoner musing he does here about his structural brother laertes, whom he does respect ("his semblable is his mirror; and who else would trace him, his umbrage, nothing more") always makes me think hamlet's contempt is for osric's method: his willing subordination (to the king, to the times, and to the play).
of course hamlet's existential freedom (such as it is-- still in the bilboes of course) is precisely the royal prerogative. (it's why polonius warns ophelia off.) so yes he is being the snotty prince he always is, here. but i don't know that it's because osric is pretending to that prerogative himself-- instead he's contenting himself with dressing up its absence.
― difficult listening hour, Sunday, 29 January 2023 21:05 (one week ago) link
his structural brother laertes, whom he does respect
(but who does disappoint him in the end of course. laertes' fateful "i am satisfied in nature... but in terms of honor i stand aloof"... is being "satisfied in nature" what osric should be doing with "his dug", instead of neurotically "complying" with it? not that hamlet's the guy you think of when you think satisfied in nature lol. but this is after all act 5.)
― difficult listening hour, Sunday, 29 January 2023 21:33 (one week ago) link
question of whether osric is partly a mean self-portrait is fun. (i think he does this a lot w bit characters tbh-- sometimes because he's playing them.) the theater of course is not the most respectable or osrician way to build on a petitbourgeois legacy but it's definitely a way and shakes definitely did it. he also, unlike marlowe, survived it-- maybe by knowing when to turn on his osric.
― difficult listening hour, Sunday, 29 January 2023 21:43 (one week ago) link