Wednesday, January 18, 2006

This is all a bit experimental: my first attempt at using the internet for something useful, rather than just buying rubbish off ebay and checking my bank account.



Blogger Mr.D said...


1:31 PM  
Blogger Mr.D said...

How far would you agree that Hamlet "is a play dealing with the effect of a mothers guilt upon her son" (T.S Eliot, The Sacred Wood)

T.S Eliot believes that Hamlet is gripped by an “excessive” inexpressible emotion and that the play deals with the effect of a mother’s guilt upon her son. He believes Shakespeare imposed the theme of the mother’s guilt upon the inherited plot of Hamlet and that Hamlet’s insane rantings are a sign of Shakespeare wrestling with an inappropriate theme, not Hamlet wrestling with a variety of problems including the sins of his mother. However as John Dover Wilson points out, Hamlet does have a variety of other problem: his father has recently died, which would make any person very upset, not only that but his mother has married to his uncle, which is shocking within itself because of the incestuous nature of the relationship, not to mention that it has been less than a month since the death of his father. Hamlet has also not inherited the throne like he should have which is very puzzling and upsetting for Hamlet because he is being denied what should be rightfully his.

T.S Eliot believes that the play is about the effect of a mother’s guilt on her son can be argued both ways. One of the obvious acts that Gertrude has done that could be seen as having an affect on Hamlet is that she married Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle, within a month of the death of old Hamlet, which makes Hamlet upset as he sees this as very disrespectful to his father. He also feels that she has not mourned old Hamlet’s death like a widow should. But if all this wasn’t enough to upset Hamlet the person she has married is old Hamlet’s brother and Hamlet’s uncle, Claudius. Not only is this shocking to Hamlet but it would also be shocking to the audience. This is because anything dealing with incest or incestuous matters was a very delicate and shocking area to go into during these times, because to marry a family member or anyone related to you was a sin, as written in the bible.

Continuing with the theme of incest that surrounds this part of the play, Hamlet in his first soliloquy seems to be jealous of his mother’s relationship with Claudius but at the same time he seems disgusted with her, although in his disgust seems to be fascination. We see how disgusted he is when he cannot even finish his sentences because of his anger and sadness at his mother “nay, not so much, not two-” “and yet within a month-” “Let me not think on’t-”.

This adds to the point that T.S Eliot has made about Hamlet not being able to share his feelings and having inexpressible emotions. This may lead us to believe that Hamlet has an Oedipus complex, which would add to his anger and confusion. He could be angry and disgusted at himself as much as with Gertrude. If this is a possibility there is no wonder he doesn’t want to express his emotions, he could be so disgusted with himself that he doesn’t even want to think it. We also see more evidence of how Shakespeare himself is reflected through Hamlet in some ways: many believed Shakespeare had an Oedipus complex and this could be shown as Shakespeare feelings towards himself being expressed through Hamlet who cannot express his emotions as they are Shakespeare’s, not his own. Eliot at least implies belief in this explanation: Dover Wilson argues that Eliot, “would not perhaps go to the length of the psycho-analyst Dr. Ernest Jones, who declares that Hamlet suffers from an Oedipus complex because Shakespeare did also, he seems to hint at such a solution”.

Another question of Gertrude’s guilt is her ‘o’er hasty marriage’. There is a lot of confusion and debate surrounding this area, it is not clear Gertrude committed adultery or not. Because the wedding was within a month of the death of Old Hamlet the question arises over whether Gertrude had an affair with Claudius whilst old Hamlet was still alive. Hamlet’s point of view after the ghost tells him that Gertrude was the victim of Claudius’ “wicked wit” and “traitorous gifts” is that Gertrude was a victim of Claudius In his first soliloquy he blames her fully for betraying her first husband’s memory by marrying too quickly but this seems to change when the ghost moves on to Claudius’ guilt than Gertrude’s, suggesting that Hamlet is only obsessed with his mother’s crimes when he is largely unaware of his uncle’s.

Now we enter the part of the play where the double entry argument occurs. The debate is whether or not Hamlet overheard the plot by Polonius, Claudius and Gertrude, which was to set him up in a room with Ophelia and for Polonius and Claudius to listen on in their conversation. By doing this they would be able to find out the reason behind his madness. Polonius believes that Hamlet is mad because of his love for Ophelia, but Claudius begins to have his suspicions on whether Hamlet is only pretending to be deranged and is wondering if there is a method behind the madness or not.

One could say that Hamlet did hear this plot to spy on him and that he knows what to say to make them believe Ophelia is the source of his madness. Dover Wilson argues powerfully for his interpretation. The evidence for this is that in the scene with Gertrude, Polonius and Claudius where they are talking about Hamlet, Polonius states “You know sometimes he walks for hours together here in the lobby”. This is arguably when Hamlet walks on, the audience know he is there as we see him walk on, Hamlet knows that Polonius, Claudius and Gertrude are there because he can clearly see them, but they don’t realize his presence.

Some argue that Hamlet did not hear the plan to spy on him and Ophelia and they have a reasonable case with valid evidence. We are not absolutely sure that Hamlet did come in to the different space. Then again when Hamlet finally enters the room with Polonius and Claudius he starts talking nonsense like we would expect him to: but there is method behind his madness. Polonius states to Claudius that he will “Loose” his daughter to Hamlet. The word “loose” means to send a cow when she is in heat to mate with a bull. He is comparing Ophelia to a cow: he is using his daughter like she is a piece of meat, hence why Hamlet calls Polonius a “fishmonger”. This may seem like an innocent and perhaps a crazy thing to say to someone but what Hamlet is secretly saying is that Polonius is a pimp and his daughter is a whore. Now for Hamlet to know that Polonius said this he must have overheard him talking to Claudius and Gertrude, which also means that he was in the separate space and the double entry argument is correct.

In Act 3, scene 2 we see Hamlet’s fourth soliloquy. Just before, Hamlet had altered the play that was to be performed so that the death scene was almost identical to the one that Claudius performed on Hamlet’s father. Hamlet would watch Claudius during the play and observe his reaction to when the death scene came on. If Claudius looked guilty or ran out Hamlet would know that he was guilty and that “it is an honest ghost”. But although this was Hamlet’s plan he did not carry it out himself as he was watching his mother. As the scene takes place Claudius has the play stopped and rushes out, this is when Hamlet knows that he is guilty of killing his father.

Now that Hamlet knows this he has a plan to prick Gertrude’s conscience. He will treat Gertrude badly, but in a rational way, which is controlled and not out of control like in his first soliloquy, this is shown where he states, “Let me be cruel, not unnatural. I will speak daggers to her, but use none”. This is in favour of Dover Wilson as we can see that Hamlet knows what he is going to do and has thought of a plan and is not going to just randomly act aggressively towards his mother like T.S. Eliot suggests.

However we do see some very aggressive language which would be in favour to T.S. Eliot, but it is not directed towards Gertrude, it is aimed at Claudius, this is because he now knows Claudius killed his father. This is a strong argument in favour of Dover Wilson.

In the “closet scene” Hamlet starts pricking his mother’s conscience straight away by constantly talking about the incest ‘your husband’s brother’s wife’ and he also accuses Gertrude of killing old Hamlet. This is a good case for Dover Wilson as he does not act very violently or irrationally his language may be explicit and hurtful but, if we believe Hamlet’s own pronouncements in the forth soliloquy and also a desperate attempt to get Gertrude to reject Claudius in favour of her son. Further on in the scene Hamlet calls Claudius ‘A murderer and a villain’ this is a point for Dover Wilson because Hamlet does not focus solely on his mother but also on Claudius, which is justified. When the Ghost enters only Hamlet can see him. The point Dover Wilson would say is that the reason that only Hamlet can see him is that because you have to have direct business with a ghost to see one, this is why Gertrude can not see the ghost. T.S. Eliot would argue that the psychological trauma that Hamlet has suffered had made him see the ghost in this particularly stressful time for him. But the ghost is not in the armour like that last time Hamlet has saw him. The ghost is wearing his nightgown that he would wear to bed. This is because that they are in old Hamlet’s bed chamber and this is how he would be dressed if still alive and in the room. This shows that the ghost could be real and not an image in Hamlet’s mind because if it were, then the ghost would be in armour as this is the only thing Hamlet has seen him in. This would show that Hamlet is not imagining his father and that he is acting rationally, a good point for Dover Wilson.

John Dover Wilson and T.S. Eliot both make good and debatable arguments of the point ‘How far would you agree that Hamlet ‘is a play dealing with the effect of a mother’s guilt upon her son’. T.S. Eliot raises this point in his book ‘The Sacred Wood’ and uses the textual evidence, which supports him, but Dover Wilson seems to have a more convincing argument. I believe that Dover Wilson has a stronger case because many of the scenes and scenarios seem to have many points that are in his favor. In Hamlet’s soliloquy’s he has very aggressive angry language which is aimed towards his mother. But it is mostly controlled and planned aggression which shows he is not having excessive emotions. This would show that John Dover Wilson has the stronger case. This is why I think that his argument is more agreeable than T.S. Eliot’s.

Word Count: 1,875


Jenkins, Harold, ed. The New Arden Shakespeare: Hamlet. London; New York: Methuen, 1982
Eliot, T.S. “Hamlet and His Problems” In the Sacred Wood: Essays on poetry and criticism Taylor and Francis books limited London: 1920
Wilson, John Dover. What happens in Hamlet: Cambridge: 1935 Cambridge University Press

9:47 AM  
Blogger thomas Childs said...

testing testing 123

10:46 AM  
Anonymous Jamie said...

yo, thanks for this it will prove to be very helpful dans l'avenir. jamie

2:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...



9:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gabrielle James
Baz Lurhrman doesnt bore us, but thrills us with the exciting. modern version of Romeo and Juliet. Violence, underaged-sex and swearing the norm in the mondern streets of Verona. Every parents worst knightmare.

8:45 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home