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21 March 2010 @ 07:56 pm
things rank and gross in nature  
I simply CANNOT STAND Freudian readings of Hamlet. I recognize that this is probably irrational of me, but I have absolutely no patience for them. I'll deal with them, if I must, in performance, but as critical takes or in the classroom? No, thank you. Which makes it really hard to read student papers or have classroom discussions, because I want to squash that take as so much nonsense, but of course I do not and cannot do such a thing--so I wind up trying to ignore it and pass over such comments in silence, or redirect them in some way.

It is all very frustrating. Especially because so often, I see it because it's just one of those things that "everybody knows" about Hamlet, along with the fact that he's totally irresolute and should just get on with it already. Because, you know, murder should be done with the same care and attention you'd give to putting together a grocery list.

I mean, if Hamlet genuinely thinks that his mother is committing incest--and historical signs seem to point to yes on that one, plus there's that little part where he actually calls it incestuous--then it doesn't seem particularly odd that he might be horrified by that. Plus his dad just died; he may or may not have the right to be appalled by how quickly his mother's remarried, but he doesn't have to want to sleep with her to be a little bit upset about the whole thing. And he doesn't seem to be at all worried about his mother's having been married to his father, you know? "Could you on this fair mountain leave to feed, / And batten on this moor?" suggests that he's fine with the concept of his parents' having had sex; it's still appetite in the first image, but it's not diseased appetite. The act isn't the issue; it's the difference between feeding and battening, between Hamlet senior and Claudius, between the "fair mountain" and the "moor." His problem isn't really that his mother is having sex; it's that she's having sex with someone who isn't his father (and specifically his uncle). I'm not saying that Hamlet is necessarily the most well-adjusted young man, and he certainly has some issues with Ophelia (though there, too, it's not *just* about women, but about the fact that everyone is doomed to be sinful--"Why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners?"). But there's more going on there than just "can't come to terms with his mother's sexuality" or "really wants to sleep with her himself." If anything, his biggest problem seems to be a fervent wish that he'd never been born, which comes up all the time: "O that this too too solid flesh"; "O cursed spite! That ever I was born to set it right"; "it were better that my mother had not borne me."
viomisehuntviomisehunt on March 22nd, 2010 07:14 pm (UTC)
Gertrude was happy with her new husband. We have to wonder if Hamlet noticed for the first time that she had not been "happy" with his father?
tempestsarekind: all the world's a stagetempestsarekind on March 22nd, 2010 08:03 pm (UTC)
It's an interesting question. Textually Hamlet seems to think that they had a charmed marriage (in 1.2, at least: "why, she would hang on him, / As if increase of appetite had grown / By what it fed on"), which is why he's so surprised that she could transfer her affections to Claudius so quickly. But a lot depends on how one plays the Ghost: if he's this stern, remote, forbidding figure, then it's easier to imagine that Gertrude is happy with Claudius not just because she was happy with both men, but specifically because she was *not* happy with Hamlet senior.
viomisehuntviomisehunt on March 22nd, 2010 09:45 pm (UTC)
It really would depend on the age differnces; it could have gone either way. I think King John's wife was about 12 or 13; certainly a 14 or 15 year old 'woman' might form a dependence on her 25-30 year old spouse;then along comes the younger brother and she can have a good time. And Cladius certainly see to love Gertrude.
tempestsarekind: hamlet/horatio OTPtempestsarekind on March 22nd, 2010 10:00 pm (UTC)
True, he does. Hamlet seems so blindsided by the whole thing that it definitely makes one wonder what the real truth of the relationship was.
viomisehuntviomisehunt on March 22nd, 2010 10:29 pm (UTC)
Contemporaries of Henry VIII felt as he did as to the value of a wife. At least for royalty; her principle duty was to provide a heir. Many statesmen were not happy about having a Queen: have to find that "regiment of women" statement.
tempestsarekind: corset pouttempestsarekind on March 23rd, 2010 03:16 pm (UTC)
I believe I know the one you mean: John Knox?

And yes, the heir is crucial--but not at stake in Hamlet, because...well, there's Hamlet. :) So Gertrude's remarrying, and marrying her brother-in-law, is problematic in a way that doesn't quite map onto the situation with Henry VIII, I think.
viomisehuntviomisehunt on March 23rd, 2010 05:35 pm (UTC)
View of women
Oh,didn't mean it in that way. Getrude remarrying is troubling simply because she doesn't have to provide a heir. She might have actually married for love and heaven forbid " Carnal pleasures!"

I actually was thinking of Hamlet and his relationship to his mother or women in general. As far as he is concerned, his mother has done her duty, as he is proof. I'm reminded of the Setee/sutee statement in Gone With the Wind. Nothing in

Hamlet's treatment of his mother or Orphelia suggest "what really makes a woman happy" has entered his brain. Orphelia takes care of his lust, he enjoyed her, but he's not sharing anything with her. She's there to give him solace and later, he believes as a trap or distraction. She's is not his partner. His attitude is simply "bask in my glow", and he obviously thought that having been privy to his father's "whatever" his father had, his mother should not have the desire for another man.
One of the things that was very real for that time period were short life spans because of the number of women who died in childbirth or complications afterwards. Of course there were men who died in war--but unless she was a rich and young widow, men were courting war widows as much.
tempestsarekind: books and flowerstempestsarekind on March 24th, 2010 01:57 am (UTC)
Re: View of women
She might have actually married for love and heaven forbid " Carnal pleasures!"

Which Hamlet can't even *imagine*: he outright dismisses the possibility--"At your age, the heyday in the blood is tame..." Hamlet would have been *so* surprised, I think, if he'd lived to be middle-aged or even old.
viomisehuntviomisehunt on March 25th, 2010 04:17 pm (UTC)
Re: View of women
"At your age, the heyday in the blood is tame..."

Hamlet makes this statement, but I think, it was impossible that he did not see that Gertrude was in love with her husband and "happy" in her marraige. There is the suggestion that the court is more relaxed than it was in his father's time. Hamlet is still in mourning, his mother and stepfather are having receptions and entertainment. I think more than an observation, or what he believes, Hamlet pronounces this as a reprimand -- he knows she does feel passion, but I rather thought he was attempting to shame her.
tempestsarekind: books and flowerstempestsarekind on March 25th, 2010 10:37 pm (UTC)
Re: View of women
Oh, I agree--he's trying to shame Gertrude there. I just think it's telling that he attempts to do it by saying, basically, "you're old, you're not supposed to have passionate feelings."