Monday, November 27, 2006

Y12 Hamlet essays first thousand words

If you've submitted it electronically, I've marked it below. Please do use 'lightingfools' for this, it's what it was designed for and makes life a lot easier for student and teacher- marking in cyberspace is very effective! My marking and comments are in BLOCK CAPITALS. Remember, this mark forms your first AfL assessment.

Matthew Milner 18th November 2006How far would you agree, Hamlet is ?a play dealing with the effect of a mother?s guilt upon her son? (TS Eliot, The Sacred Wood) ?THE critics, TS Eliot and John Dover Wilson have contrasting views on Shakespeare?s Hamlet, his emotions and his actions within the play. TS Eliot believes that Hamlet is distraught with the actions of Gertrude, his mother, and that is the most important reason for his emotional turmoil and his APPARANTLY INSANE actions and thoughts, but as Gertrude`s actions are not SINFUL OR REPREHENSIBLE enough to warrant this sort of a response from Hamlet, Eliot believes that the play has failed AS A SATISFYING WORK OF ART.However, John Dover Wilson?s view on the character of Hamlet is that there are many valid, or at least UNDERSTANDABLE reasons which THE AUDIENCE can SYMPATHISE WITH for his actions and grievance. Dover Wilson sees Hamlet?s brooding on his mother and women in general, especially Ophelia as being simply motivated by jealousy and disgust, RATHER THAN BY AN OEDIPAL OBSESSION, WHICH ELIOT SUGGESTS SHAKESPEARE FORCED INTO THE PLAY BECAUSE OF PSYCHOLOGICAL PROBLEMS OF HIS OWN (LOOK AT ELIOT’S OWN WORDS HERE AND USE A QUOTATION0. John Dover Wilson CONCLUDES HIS RESPONSE TO ELIOT’S VIEW ON THE PLAY WITH THE ASSERTION ‘the facts as they appear, account for Hamlet’s madness and melancholy and treatment of the women in the play, but whether they excuse him raises another and different problem’.SOME ELEMENTS OF THE PLAY, DEPENDING ON INTERPRETATIVE JUDGEMENT, support TS Eliot`s view of Hamlet being distraught with his mother and some support John Dover Wilson?s view that there are many possible reasons for this emotional turmoil. SIGNIFICANTLY, MUCH DEPENDS ON THE DIRECTOR’S CHOICES; THE SAME SCENES, if presented in different ways, can support either CRITICS’ view.Hamlet?s first soliloquy is extremely important to the overall understanding of TS Eliot`s view of Hamlet?s actions and the play itself. ONE CAN SEE EVIDENCE FOR ELIOT’S ASSERTION THAT ‘Hamlet is a play dealing with the effect of a mother?s guilt upon her son’ IN THE LINE?O that this too too solid flesh would melt? (1.2.129). What this implies is that Hamlet feels dirty and that he would like to melt away into nothingness, commit suicide, Also the word ?solid? could also BE?sullied?, DEPENDING ON WHICH EDITION OF HAMLET IS TRUSTED, which means dirty. This could mean that possibly he feels dirty because of what his mother and uncle have done, whether it is their hasty marriage or the fact that they are together or also because he has sexual feelings for his mother. He then goes on to say
‘Or that the Everlasting had not fixed His canon `gainst self slaughter? (1.2.131-132).
This supports TS Eliot`s view of the play because this could mean that he wants to commit suicide so he can get away from the sins of his mother (EXPAND THIS- IS IT THAT HE WANTS TO DIE TO ESCAPE FROM HIMSELF AND HIS OWN ‘OEDIPAL EMOTIONS’ TOWARDS HIS MOTHER?). Another quote that supports This distress towards his mother is when he struggles on many occasions to complete his sentence and says ?and yet within a month-Let me not think on`t?. This shows that Hamlet is obsessed with his mother because he cannot bear to think of his mother, Gertrude, even being close to Claudius let alone sleeping with him. TS Eliot would say that due to the speaking about not having the throne or even his own father`s death, this soliloquy would be about his mother and nothing else.On the other hand, Dover disagrees with this. He believes that Shakespeare had a particular interest in the subject of jealousy as he constantly included the subject in a lot of his work, especially in his Sonnets. John Dover Wilson also points out that TS Eliot doesn?t mention the fact that Gertrude`s relationship with Claudius is incestuous. At the beginning of Hamlet, Hamlet just refers to his mother as ?so loving to my mother? (1.2.140) but later on goes on to talk about women as a whole, ?Frailty, thy name is woman? (1.2.146), which would give the AUDIENCE the impression that he has a problem with women in general, rather than just his mother, and some people could say he suffers from misogyny, which means that someone just hates women all together.Later on in the play, in the scene between Opehlia and Hamlet which is Act 3 scene 1, it is made clear, as stated by Dover Wilson, that Hamlet has a problem with women in general rather than just his mother. ?You jig and amble, and you lisp, you nick-name God?s creatures? (3.2.146/7), this quote suggests that Hamlet has strong feelings on how women trick men with their charm and looks, rather than his feelings for his mother and her actions after his father?s death.The scene which follows Hamlet?s meeting with the ghost of Old Hamlet is similar to Hamlet?s first soliloquy, but Hamlet?s source of anger is different.Hamlet only mentions his mother once during this scene, ?O most pernicious woman? (1.5.105). This suggests that he is more wooried about what the ghost has said to him about his father?s murder. This supports Dover Wilson?s agrument that Hamlet?s ?antic disposition? is due to many factors not just purely his disgust with his mother.In Act 2, Scene 2 the ?double entry? comes into the play. Dover Wilson and TS E liot both have contrasting views on this section and both have enough evidence to agrue their view is correct. The question is whether Hamlet overhears Claudius, Gertrude and Polonius`s plan to set Hamlet up by secretly listening to Hamlet and Ophelia talking, when they will be behind aN mirror which they can see out of but Hamlet cant see in 9THAT’S ONLY IN KENNETH BRANAGH’S FILM VERSION. IN THE PLAY, THEY JUST HIDE BEHIND AN ARRAS- A WALL-HANGING0. Polonius is trying to prove to Claudius that it is Hamlet?s love for Ophelia that is the cause of his madness, where on the other hand, Claudius is trying to show that Hamlet is only pretending to be ?mad? and that there is more behind this uncharacteristic behaviour. We do not know when Shakespeare intended Hamlet to appear in this scene, but this would be crucial to find out whether the double entry is true or not.John Dover Wilson belives that the double entry in true andthat Hamlet knows that he is being spied on. It could well be that Hamlet enters the scene when Polonious says ? You know sometimes he walks for hours together here in the lobby? (2.1.160). John Dover Wilson thinks this is true and that Hamlet knows to put up a smoke screen and pretend that is was Ophelia?s rejection that has led to his madness.

WELL DONE- A FLUENT AND ORIGINAL START. YOU NEED TO EVALUATE THE ARGUMENTS OF BOTH CRITICS A LITTLE MORE AND LOOK AT THEIR STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES. ALSO, PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO MY COMMENTS AND SUGGESTIONS ABOVE

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Mallory Schartz How far would you agree that Hamlet is “a play dealing with the effect of a mother’s guilt upon her son”? (TS Eliot, The Sacred Wood)TS Eliot and John Dover Wilson both have differing critical standpoints on Hamlet’s motivations and for the causes of his madness and melancholy. TS Eliot’s maintains that Hamlet is appalled with his mother’s behaviour and that Hamlet is, in principle, “a play dealing with the effect of a mother’s guilt upon her son”; however, he goes on to argue that her hasty marriage to his uncle Claudius is not terrible enough to lead to his emotional turmoil, therefore the play is a failure. On the other hand, Dover Wilson has evidence for believing that Hamlet has adequate reasons for his state of mind and melancholy: Hamlet’s motivation can be seen as the net result of a number of factors, which do include the ‘sins’ of his mother- more precisely, the possible incestuous relationship between Claudius and his mother- but, significantly, a range of other reasons, such as the murder of his father, his encounter with the ghost, the subsequent questioning his Protestant faith and the fact that Claudius is on the throne of Denmark and not him.

Dover Wilson argues that Hamlet’s issues with his mother and with women generally have their roots in simple jealousy, which appears in many of Shakespeare’s plays, rather than any Oedipal obsession (USE A QUOTE FROM JDW). He also comments on the fact that a Shakespearean audience would have seen Hamlet’s disgust for his mother as perfectly rational because it was considered incest if you married your in-law in the 17th century, because of the way Henry VIII used an obscure biblical reference to marriage between in laws being a form of incest. He was unable to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, in order to marry Anne Boleyn. Through research, he discovered that it was an abomination against God to marry someone who has previously been married to your brother: this was the turning point for Henry VIII as Catherine had earlier been married to his elder brother.(EXPLAIN HOW THIS WOULD HAVE EFFECTED SHAKESPEARE’S FIRST AUDIENCE, ESPECIALLY IN THEIR RESPONSE TO THE FIRST SOLILOQUY) TS Eliot hints at the idea that Shakespeare was suffering from his own personal troubles to do with his mother, therefore was writing about himself. 9USE A QUOTE FROM ELIOT HERE)Hamlet’s first soliloquy (I.II.129) tends to favour TS Eliot’s arguments due to the fact that Hamlet’s main anger is focused on his mother’s “o’er hasty marriage”. The opening line, “O that this too too sullied flesh would melt”, suggests that Hamlet feels dirty, possibly because he has sexual feelings towards his mother. This is also evident when he struggles, on numerous occasions, to finish his sentences, for instance, “and yet within a month – Let me not think on’t –” (I.II.145/6). This implies that he is infatuated with her because he cannot bear to think of her with Claudius. TS Eliot would argue that, due to the lack of concern about not inheriting the throne and his father’s recent death, the first soliloquy shows that this is the main cause for his antagonism. However, Dover Wilson disagrees with this, “the strain, however, I associate, not with any mysterious complex, but with the more common-place derangement known as jealousy”. He believes that Shakespeare had a particular interest in the subject of jealousy as he repeatedly wrote about it, especially in the Sonnets. Dover Wilson also points out that TS Eliot doesn’t mention the fact about Gertrude’s relationship with Claudius being “incestuous” (I.II.157). At the beginning he just refers to his mother, “so loving to my mother” (I.II.140), yet goes on to generalize from his mother to all women, “Frailty, thy name is woman –” (I.II.146) giving the impression that he has an irrational disgust for women, pointing to an irrational disgust for his mother. Later on, in the scene between Hamlet and Ophelia (III.I), it is made apparent as stated by Dover Wilson, that Hamlet is indeed something of a misogynist rather than just having an uwholesome obsession with his mother. “You jig, and amble, and you lisp, you nick-name God’s creatures” (III.II.146/7) suggests that Hamlet has strong feelings about the way women trick men by using their femininity. (IS THIS AN ARGUMENT FOR ELIOT OR JDW? YOU SEEM TO BE ARGUING BOTH WAYS HERE!)The scene directly after Hamlet’s interaction with the Ghost of Old Hamlet is similar to his first soliloquy, however the source of anger is different. Hamlet only mentions his mother once, “O most pernicious woman” (I.V.105) which suggests that he is more concerned with the recent information about his father’s murder. This backs up Dover Wilson’s argument that Hamlet’s “antic disposition” is the result of many factors rather than purely disgust for his mother. (EXPAND THI- WHAT ARE HAMLET’S CONCERNS HERE IF NOT HIS MOTHER? REMEMBER TO ANALYSE QUOTATION)In Act 2, Scene 2 the “double entry” argument is brought into the play. T.S Eliot and Dover Wilson have opposing views on the matter and adequate evidence so support their beliefs. The question is whether Hamlet overhears Polonius, Gertrude and Claudius’ plan to set him up by secretly listening to Hamlet and Ophelia having a conversation. Polonius is trying to prove that it is Hamlet’s love for Ophelia that is the root of his madness, yet Claudius is suspicious that Hamlet is only pretending to be mentally unstable and there is more behind his unusual behaviour. We are unsure when Shakespeare wanted Hamlet to enter the scene, which is the crucial point in determining the double entry argument true of false. It is possible that Hamlet comes on when Polonius says, “You know sometimes he walks for hours together here in the lobby” (II.I.160). Dover Wilson believes this to be so and that Hamlet knows to act as if it is Ophelia’s rejection that has led to his emotional turmoil. Other evidence that Hamlet is present when they are discussing the plan is that he calls Polonius a “fishmonger”. (YOU NEED TO EXPLAIN THE DOUBLE MEANING OF FISHMONGER AND WHY IT’S REVEALING)The reason for this is that he knows he is using Ophelia for his own profit. It also relates back to Polonius stating that he will, “loose” his daughter to Hamlet. The word “loose” refers to sending a cow to mate with a bull when she is in heat. Polonious is comparing his daughter to a cow and treating her like a piece of meat, giving Hamlet a means to call him a “fishmonger”.

Hamlet changes the subject from, “sun breed maggots in a dead dog” (II.I.181) to “Have you a daughter?” (II.I.182). This implies that Hamlet feels that what Polonius is asking his daughter to do is disgusting. Hamlet also tells Polonius “Let her not walk i’th’ sun” (II.I.184) meaning don’t let her go down in the world by carrying out the plan. On the other hand T.S Eliot’s counterargument is that, due to his state of mind, he is just making it all up and has no meaning behind it. Hamlet could appear on stage just before he starts talking meaning he is unaware of the whole plan.Mallory

VERY DECENT START, MALLORY. PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO MY ADVICE AND THE CHANGES I HAVE MADE HERE. YOU’VE WRITTEN ABOUT THE FIRST 1200 WORDS HERE-WELL DONE! TO IMPROVE, YOU NEED TO EVALUATE THE STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES OF BOTH TS ELIOT’S AND JDW’S ARGUMENTS

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Eleanor Cobbe 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]There are many different views of Shakespeare’s Hamlet; the opinions of T.S Eliot and John Dover Wilson being of particular interest and dispute. T.S Eliot suggests that the cause of Hamlet’s madness, THE EXPLANATION FOR HIS MELANCHOLY AND THE MOTIVATION FOR HIS ACTIONS A is his mother’s hasty and incestuous marriage to his uncle Claudius. This leads him to suggest that the play is a failure because his mother’s actions are not sufficient to justify his subsequent actions and emotional turmoil. John Dover Wilson, on the other hand, believes that Hamlet’s anguish is the result of a combination of factors, such as the death of his father, the fact that his uncle has stolen his crown and THE TRAUMA OF ENCOUNTERING his dead father’s ghost which rocks his protestant beliefs. Dover Wilson would then assume that Hamlet’s actions were, if not justified, THEN AT LEAST understandable to the audience and therefore the play is not a failure.(USE A QUOTE FROM JDW HERE) T.S Eliot’s main reasoning behind suggesting that Hamlet is obsessed with his mother is that he is suffering from an Oedipus complex. 9CAREFUL- USE QUOTATION FROM JDW- ELIOT NEVER ACTUALLY SAYS THIS, ALTHOUGH HE DOES SUGGEST IT STRONGLY) This means that Hamlet is sexually attracted and obsessed with his mother and therefore he is envious of Claudius’ relationship with her. He is also feeling sexual jealousy because another man has taken his mother away from him and he can’t handle the idea of her being sexually impure.(MORE SIGNIFICANTLY, HE IS DISGUSTED WITH HIMSELF FOR HAVING SUCH PERVERSE FEELING FOR HIS MOTHER0 Eliot justifies this view by looking at the way Hamlet calls his mother’s sheets “incestuous” in his first soliloquy and suggests that the incest is in fact his own feelings over his mother as, in modern eyes, the relationship between his mother and his uncle is not incestuous.9YOU NEED TO LOOK AT THE FIRST SOLILOQUY IN A LOT MORE DETAIL, CONCENTRATING ON LANGUAGE AND ITS ALMOST COMPLETE FOCUS ON GERTRUDE RATHER THAN CLAUDIUS) However, Dover Wilson can argue this by saying that it was, in fact, incest at the time as Henry VIII had created the Protestant faith just 40 years ago (NOT CREATED THE PROTESTANT FAITH- THAT WAS MARTIN LUTHER- BUT RATHER THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND, WHICH IS A BRANCH OF PROTESTANTISM. PROTESTANS ARE SIMPLY ANYONE WHO CALLS THEMSELVES A CHRISTIAN BUT ISN'T A CATHOLIC)on the basis that marrying your brother in law was a sin, as read in the Bible. This HISTORICAL FACT weakens Eliot’s whole argument considerably, as it becomes apparent that the Shakespearean audience would have agreed with Hamlet and therefore it seems obvious that he was only talking about his mother and Claudius’ relationship. Dover Wilson also disagrees that this Oedipal theme is a reflection of Shakespeare’s own incestuous feelings for his mother, an idea that is portrayed in many of Shakespeare’s plays and hinted at by Eliot 9GO FURTHER INTO THIS, USE QUOTATIONS- ITS A BIT UNCLEAR AT THE MOMENT AND IT LOOKS LIKE YOU'RE SAYING MANY OF SHAKESPEARE'S PLAYS HAVE OEDIPAL THEMES, WHICH NEITHER JDW NOR ELIOT SUGGESTS- ELIOT JUST SAYS HAMLET IS MOTIVATED BY AN UNHEALTHY, POSSILY OEDIPAL, OBSESSION WITH HIS MOTHER, AND PERHAPS THIS CAN ONLY BE EXPLAINED BY SHAKESPEARE HAVING A SIMILAR PROBLEM WHICH HE WANTED TO WORK OUT THEOUGH EXPLORING IT IN THIS PLAY).Hamlet’s first soliloquy is the AUDIENCES’ first insight INTO his character. It reveals Hamlet’s emotional turmoil after the death of his father and the remarriage of his mother. Overall, the soliloquy focuses more on Hamlet’s anger towards his mother getting remarried rather than the fact that he isn’t King or his father’s death. His anguish is apparent from the fact that he cannot finish any sentence concerning his mother’s incestuous sexual relationship with his uncle, for example “…and yet within a month-“ [1.2.145] as if the thought of it sickens him to the point that he can’t even think of it. He has become incoherent at the thought of this incest, which is perhaps an indication of his tormented mental state as he is usually an extremely intelligent and eloquent character. This soliloquy shows that Hamlet is slowly being driven crazy by the thought of his mother’s incestuous relationship with Claudius more than any other factor. He has become incoherent and has almost hysterical thoughts about the idea and cant even bring himself to think about it sometimes. This would indicate that Eliot is correct in saying that Hamlet is extremely emotionally disturbed by the fact that his mother has married so quickly and that this is a huge factor of his eventual breakdown. However, at this point Dover Wilson could argue that Hamlet isn’t even aware of his father’s murder by his uncle and therefore of course he hasn’t mentioned it and it is not at the front of his mind. In the scene IMMEDIATELY AFTER HIS ENCOUNTER WITH THE ghost, Hamlet delivers his second soliloquy, which mainly concentrates on the issue of his father’s murder. Although Hamlet was relatively incoherent in the first soliloquy, his increasing amount of repetition and emphasis on words in the second indicates that he is now more distressed after seeing the ghost than he was with his mother incestuous and hasty marriage to Claudius. (VERY GOOD, BUT YOU NEED SOME QUOTES AND ANALYSIS HERE TO SUPPORT YOUR ASSERTIONS)This would mean that Dover Wilson was more accurate when he suggested that Hamlet’s madness was a culmination of factors such as his father’s death, his mother’s remarriage and his throne being stolen by his uncle. His mother is only mentioned in one line, “O most pernicious woman!” (1.5.105), which indicates that he has almost put it out of his mind at this point in the play. This again weakens T.S Eliot’s argument because it shows that it can’t have been that much of an issue for him.There is also a lot of evidence to suggest that Hamlet was also affected by a loss of faith after the appearance of the ghost. Dover Wilson would cite this as a major trigger for Hamlets emotional turmoil as it occurs just before Hamlet’s second emotionally charged soliloquy. This also has nothing to do with his mother and therefore he is not dealing with the effect of his mother’s sins. As Protestants do not believe in ghosts, they see them as angels or demons playing tricks on them, Hamlet is deeply confused and troubled by his sighting of the ghost. He may be unsure whether the ghost is merely a demon lying to him about being murdered and therefore faces a crisis – should he risk avenging his father’s death or not? However, this theory is contradicted by the fact that Hamlet calls it “thou poor ghost” (1.5.96) which indicates that he believes it really is the ghost of Old Hamlet. We can clearly see that he is a religious man because at the start of the soliloquy Hamlet wants resolve and strength to help him in his time of need. He asks Heaven for help and then Earth, then even considers asking Hell, as he is so desperate for inspiration and help, “O all you host of heaven! O earth! what else?/ And shall I couple hell?” (1.5.92). This shows that he is slowly turning crazy because he is even considering going against his faith to help him in his time of need. He says “grow not instant old” (1.5.94) because he doesn’t want to be paralysed by fear or misery at this crucial stage in his life where he has the responsibility and knowledge to take his life in his own hands. He also wants to be completely focused on avenging his fathers death and therefore must wipe his memory clean of anything that is unimportant, such as his mothers relationship with his uncle, “from the table of my memory/ I'll wipe away all trivial, fond records/ All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past”. By clearing all his past issues with his mother he can properly take care of Claudius. This indicates again that Gertrude is not one of the biggest issues in his life and that T.S Eliot was wrong to suggest that it was his mother’s sins that caused his insanity if he can dismiss it this quickly and if his fathers murder takes prevalence.ELLIE, word count 1269.

23/30 B WELL DONE ELLIE- THIS IS FLUENT AND INTELLIGENT. TAKE CLOSE NOTE OF MY MARKING AND YOU NEED TO TRUST YOUR OWN JUDGEMENTS MORE- YOU SHOULD GET AN A FOR THIS, BUT WITHOUT SOME MORE PERSONAL INPUT, THE VERY HIGHEST MARKS ARE NOT AVAILABLE. THE EXAMINERS VALUE ORIGINAL THOUGHT MORE THAN ANYTHING- THINK AND WRITE- THERE ARE NO WRONG ANSWERS (JUST BETTER WAYS OF PUTTING YOUR ANSWER!)


Lisa Ecclestone
How far would you agree that Hamlet is “a play dealing with the effect of a mother’s guilt upon her son.”? (TS Eliot, The Sacred Wood)

The critics TS Eliot and John Dover Wilson have very different opinions in what motivates the actions of Hamlet and the causes of his emotional turmoil. According to TS Eliot, Hamlet’s chief motivation and the principle cause of his melancholy is his disgust at his mother, Gertrude, caused by her quick remarriage to his uncle and his possible incestuous feelings towards her. DON’T LUMP THESE TWO IN TOGETHER- THEY ARE VERY DIFFERENT, ESPECIALLY AS THE ‘INCESTUOUS FEELINGS’ ALLEGATIONS IS PURELY A MATTER OF INTERPRETATION- THERE IS NO ABSOLUTE EVIDENCE FOR IT IN THE PLAY. USE A QUOTE FROM ELIOT TO SUPPPOT YOUR POINT HERE AND KEEP THE DISTINCTION CLEAR. Furthermore, he argues that the extent of Gertrude’s sins are not extreme enough to excuse Hamlet’s madness making the play “most certainly an artistic failure”. He argues this because he views Hamlet’s inability to express his feelings whilst talking about his mother as Shakespeare’s inability to express why Hamlet should be disgusted and angry at her and sees this as his failure as a writer. GOOD, BUT YOU AT LEAST NEED TO MENTION THE FIRST SOLILOQUY HERE EVEN IF YOU DON’T ACTUALLY ANALYSE IT AT THIS POINT IN YOUR ESSAY BUT LEAVE THAT UNTIL LATER. *
However, Dover Wilson argues that it is a number of different causes which motivates Hamlet in his madness, including: his father’s death and murder; Claudius usurpation of his crown; Ophelia’s rejection of his love; the betrayal of his as they are used as informants against him to Claudius; the disruption of his Protestant faith due to the ghost’s appearance as well as Gertrude’s hasty remarriage to his uncle. In his opinion it is the combination of these factors, not one solely, which cause his depression and which lies behind his ‘antic disposition’.

He also understands, due to one historical fact that TS Eliot seems to have overlooked, that Hamlet has full rights to being disgusted at his mother due to her “incestuous” (1.2.157) marriage to his uncle. I KNOW YOU’RE LEADING UP TO A FULL DISCUSSION OF THE FIRST SOLILOQUY, BUT IT STILL FEELS ODD TO LEAVE THIS POINT ‘HANGING’ HERE. YOU NEED TO FIND A WAY TO LEAD FROM * ABOVE INTO THIS AND THEN INTO *2 BELOW MORE CLEANLY.

*2 Essentially, both critics have valid points of view and evidence can be found for both throughout the play. TS Eliot argues that Hamlet’s motivation is purely disgust at his mother and this can be particularly seen in Hamlet’s first soliloquy. From the first soliloquy it is obvious that Hamlet’s mind is tormented, he is melancholic, angry and suicidal “Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d/ His canon 'gainst self-slaughter. O God!
God!” (1.2.131/2).
His state of mind is on the edge of emotional turmoil, and this is shown through the way he speaks: Shakespeare breaks the speech up with punctuation, creating pauses and stops, showing that Hamlet, an articulate individual, is made psychologically transparent through his incapability of expressing his thoughts- HIS SOLOLOQUY DOES NOT SIMPLY TELL THE AUDIENCE WHAT HE IS FEELING AND HIS CONFUSION- IT ENACTS THAT CONFUSION IN ITS CONFUSED, CHOPPED-UP EXPRESSION. His thoughts stall and don’t flow like those of an articulate person, in comparison to the speech Claudius gives at the beginning of the scene, which is calm, complex, well communicated and fluent. Furthermore there is the length of his sentences; “But two months dead-nay, not so much, not two-” (1.2.138).
They are short and occasionally unfinished again associating his inarticulateness with his emotional turmoil.
Furthermore, we can see in the content of the speech that the focus of Hamlet’s anger is his mother Gertrude. His irrationality communicates his particular anger at his mother not mourning long enough, as a widow should, and marrying just two months after her first husband’s death. Hamlet sees this as disrespectful to his father’s memory, but the main issue is arguably Hamlet’s APPARANT incapability in accepting his mother’s sexuality. His thoughts linger on his mother’s relationship with his uncle but every time he comes close to actually drawing on the fact that they are together, his thoughts change course “and yet within a month-/Let me not think on’t” (1.2.145/6).He cannot bare to think on his mother with Claudius. Although Hamlet seems disgusted by his mother there also seems to be an element of fascination there for him, explaining why his mind keeps drawing back to the subject.
This is arguable evidence to conclude that Hamlet has Oedipus complex, he is jealous of his mother and Claudius and when he says “With such
dexterity to incestuous sheets!” (1.2.156)
TS Eliot argues that Hamlet is describing his own disgust at his incestuous feelings towards his mother, as Gertrude’s and Claudius’ relationship would not be deemed incestuous as they are not blood related. He cannot express his disgust at himself for having incestuous feelings for his mother, which possibly echoes Shakespeare’s inability to express those types of feelings, which he may have suffered from as well. WELL ARGUED, THIS.
However Dover Wilson argues that TS Eliot is oblivious to one important historical fact. Gertrude’s and Claudius’ relationship would have been seen as incestuous by a Shakespearean audience, meaning that it would have not only been incestuous to Hamlet, but also to Shakespeare, the players at the globe and the audience. This is because whilst Henry VIII was looking for a loophole so he could divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn, he went to the Pope claiming to have found a law in the Bible saying that it was against god to marry your brother’s wife, and Catherine had been married to Henry’s older brother Arthur. So with Hamlet being in production only about fifty years after that point, their relationship would have been seen as incestuous, giving Hamlet every right, as far as a contemporary audience would be concerned, to be completely disgusted and angry at his mother.
Moreover, Dover Wilson argues that Hamlet’s apparent obsession with Gertrude disappears when he is pressed by more important issues, such as the appearance of the ghost. In the speech after the ghost’s appearance although we can see that Hamlet is yet again on the edge of emotional turmoil, it is most arguably not caused by Gertrude, but at the thought of revenge for his father and anger at his uncle murdering him. What is important in this speech for Dover Wilson is that Gertrude is only a subject of the speech for a few lines “O most pernicious woman! /O villain, villain, smiling damned villain!” (1.5.105) this implies that Hamlet has more important matters to express and arguably if he was obsessed with his mother, as TS Eliot argues, then no matter how distraught he would have been by the news of his father’s murder, he would have probably discussed her more.

Essentially Hamlet’s mind being on the brink of madness is caused by a mixture of matters, particularly here the new found knowledge of his father’s murder by his uncle and the loss of his religion in believing the ghost is his father. It is also possible that the subject of Gertrude arises because of the possibilty of her being involved in Old Hamlet’s murder. This can be infered because the ghost of Old Hamlet calls Claudius “that incestuous, that adulterate beast” (1.5.42). This could suggest that in death Old Hamlet has found out about an affair between Gertrude and Claudius whilst he was alive.
But in any case the main concern on Hamlet’s mind and the cause of Hamlet’s emotional turmoil is the new knowledge of Claudius murdering his father. Also from this scene Hamlet tells Horatio that his going “To put an antic disposition on-” (1.5.180), this means that he will not always mean what he says and intends to put on an act to stop arising suspicion.
Another factor in favour of TS Eliot’s view of Hamlet is Hamlet’s apparent misogynistic feeling towards women, shown through his behaviour towards his mother, Gertrude and also towards his lover Ophelia. The first bit of evidence for this in Hamlet’s first soliloquy where he says “Frailty, thy name is woman-” (1.2.146) in anger at Gertrude. He obviously models his idea of women on his mother and as he sees her as something of disgust instead of exclaiming “Frailty, thy name is Gertrude” he imagines all women as something that have earned his disgust, anger and disrespect. Of course when considering his treatment of Ophelia, one has to consider the so called ‘double entry argument’ and whether it is true or not, although this is open to interpretation by the director. YOU DO NEED TO EXPLAIN THE MECHANICS OF THE DOUBLE ENTRY AND THE REASONS FOR BELIEVING IT. If the double entry is true then Hamlet has overheard Polonius’ and Claudius’ plan to use Ophelia against him and to spy on him to find out what the cause of his malady is. This means when he is speaking to Ophelia he is acting to quell Claudius’ suspicions of him. So, it is possible that he is aware of Polonius’ and Claudius’ presence and is acting up for them. However TS Eliot thinks that double entry is not true and his treatment of Ophelia is just his misogynistic nature showing through “Get thee to a nunnery” (3.1.121) implying that he hates women as a whole because he uses Gertrude as a model for women in general and he feels disgust towards her. Also the fact that he proudly announces that he is “proud,
revengeful, ambitious” (3.1.125)
suggests that he has no knowledge of them being watched, after all he would not want Claudius to know that he was a likely threat to him.

Arguably, however, it could be partly because of both reasons. Hamlet has heard the plan and therefore decides to put on an act to please Polonius and Claudius, but psyches himself up so much that he starts believing what he is saying and it ceases to be an act, and he therefore shows his anger at Ophelia, for being used as a spy against him, by sexually bullying her and throws in subtle threats towards to Claudius “Those/ that are married already- all but one- shall live” (3.1.150) because he is worked himself up o much that he cannot control his feelings any longer.

Word Count- 1,549

21/30 (B-) WELL DONE- THERE NEEDS TO BE MORE PERSONAL EVALUATION OF THE STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES OF BOTH ARGUMENTS HERE AND I’M A LITTLE CONCERNED THAT YOU HAVE ONLY LEFT YOURSELF 500 WORDS TO COVER THE MANY OTHER IMPORTANT EPISODES IN THE PLAY, BUT THIS REMAINS A VERY EFFECTIVE INVESTIGATION AND SHOWS CONFIDENT UNDERSTANDING.

Sinead Gervis

How far would you agree that, Hamlet is ?a play dealing with the effect of a mother?s guilt upon her son.?( TS Eliot, The sacredwood)?TS Eliot believes that Hamlet is a play dealing with the effect of a mother?s guilt upon her son and he also feels that the play is a failure WHY DOES HE THINK IT’S A FAILURE? YOU NEED TO CONNECT THE TWO POINTS TOGETHER- ELIOT DOES!. John Dover Wilson disagrees with this and suggests that Hamlet’s mother does have a part in Hamlet’s psychology, but only a part, a contributing factor along with many others factors such as old King Hamlet’s death, Claudius ruling Denmark and Hamlet himself not being king.In Hamlet’s first soliloquy the audience would perhaps expect him to talk about how he is not king or how upset he is about his fathers death, but instead the speech focuses almost obsessively on his mothers relationship with Claudius. You can see it in two ways, that Hamlet is upset as his mother married too quickly ?Would have mourned longer-married with my uncle, my fathers brother (But no more like my father that I to Hercules) within a month?. He thinks she moved on too quick after his fathers death. Or you can see it as he envies Claudius and wants his mother for himself. THIS NEEDS REDRAFTING- IT ISN’T CLEAR WHAT POINT YOU AR MAKING HERE AND WHICH INTERPRETATION IS FAVOURABLE TO WHICH CRITIC.TS Eliot thinks that the whole first soliloquy is AN EXPRESSION OF how Hamlet is jealous of his mother and has sexual feelings for her. Hamlet seems to think that Gertrude?s and Claudius? relationship is wrong and ?incestuous? .TS Eliot sees the word ?incestuous? as the way Hamlet feels for his mother and that if they did have a relationship it would be incest, but Dover Wilson thinks that this is talking about his mothers relationship with Claudius ,which back in the time when the play was first written it would have been seen as incest. AGAIN. THIS NEEDS TO BE EXPRESSED MORE CLEARLY, USING QUOTATIONS FROM THE PLAY ITSELF, FROM THE CRITICS AND AN EXPLANATION OF THE IMPORTANCE OF HENRY 8th’s DIVORCE FROM CATHERINE OF ARAGON.TS Eliot thinks that Hamlet has feeling for his mother because of how worked up he gets when talking about her and Claudius, he can barely talk or finish his sentences. He keeps talking about his mothers relationship with Claudius but cannot bring himself to say the words. ?Like niobe, all tears. Why, she-? ,He stops talking in the middle of a sentence, its almost as if he cannot get the image out of his mind but the words won?t come out either.Dover Wilson perhaps disagrees with this as he thinks that whenever Hamlet gets very upset he does not talk properly- THE INARTICULACY OF THE FIRST SOLILOQUY IS NOT LIMITED TO THOUGHTS OF HIS MOTHER, BUT TO ANY THOUGHTS THAT HAMLET FINDS PARTICULARLY UPSETTING. FOR EXAMPLE In Hamlets second soliloquy he is very angry with Claudius and THERE cannot bring himself to say Claudius? name. ?Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain.? When talking about Claudius he lists a lot of adjectives to avoid saying his name. So Dover Wilson argues that in Hamlets first soliloquy its not that Hamlet has feelings for his mother its just the fact that when he is upset he cannot express his feelings and finds it hard to talk. GOOD- THIS IS AN ORIGINAL AND INSIGHTFUL BIT OF ANALYSISIn Hamlets second soliloquy TS Eliot believes that even though he is angry with Claudius and at himself for not getting revenge ,his mother is still on his mind. Hamlet uses words like ?whore, drab and stallion?,’STALLION ISN’T- NOT SURE WHERE YOU GOT THAT FROM! These are all words for prostitutes or low women. Perhaps he uses these words to show he is still thinking about his mothers low behaviour. After Hamlet says this though, he starts to break down again and struggles to get his words out. ?A stallion! AHA- YOU MEAN ‘SCULLION’, NOT STALLION- LOWLY MAID, ASSUMED TO BE OF EASY VIRTUE.Fie upon?t, foh! About, my brain!? He uses a lot of punctuation. SO WHAT/? WHAT IS THE EFFECT/ AND HAMLET DOESN’T USE PUNCTUATION- SHAKESPEARE DOES!TS Eliot argues that he struggles to talk because he is thinking about his mother again but Dover Wilson thinks that its not just his mother it is because he is talking about women in general. AGAIN, THAT DOESN’T CONTRADICT WHAT ELIOT SAYS- HIS FEELINGS FOR HIS MOTHER LEAD HIM INTO DISGUST FOR HIMSELF AND THEREFORE DISGUST FOR ALL WOMEN WHO HE KNOWS HAVE THE POWER TO MAKE HIM FEEL ASHAMED OF HIS OWN PERVERSE SEXUALITY- IN ELIOT’S VIEW!T.S. Eliot does believe that Hamlet cannot get his words out when talking about his mother but he also thinks that? the play is certainly a artistic failure? , and he thinks perhaps Hamlet does not finish his sentences in the first soliloquy because Shakespeare could not think of what hamlet could say. USE A QUOTATION FROM ELIOT TO EXPLORE THIS FURTHERHamlets third soliloquy backs up Dover Wilson?s theory as it is difficult to see how Hamlet is upset about his mother in this as all he talks about is the crown not being his, law and office. Hamlet would rather trade in the pain of life for death.? But that the dread of something after death?, but he only wants to die if there is no after life, so he still wouldn?t be in pain after his death. Hamlet always thinks before he acts, and this is why he feels angry with himself because he wants to get revenge on Claudius. ?Thus does make cowards?, the reason he has not taken any action yet is because he is still not sure if the ghost was his father or not and if it was telling the truth.YOU NEED TO EXPLAIN THE MECHANICS OF THE DOUBLE ENTRY HERE In the ?Double entry? when Hamlet is talking to Ophelia his mother comes into it straight away and he talk about how he wishes he was not born but phrases it in a odd way. ?It were better my mother had not born me?. There is no need to involve his mother in this but he still cannot help but blame her. The double entry could be false as Hamlet uses the words ?revengeful? and ?ambitious? and he would not say this if Claudius was listening as it would make him suspicious. Also the double entry could be true as Hamlet asks Ophelia ?wheres your father??, then after he says this he starts laying into to Ophelia. Perhaps he didn?t know they were there until he asked , then by her answer he could tell so he started puttin on a act. Towards the end of talking to Ophelia he seems to get confused and caught up in the moment. He threatens Claudius by saying ?I say we will have no more marriage. Those that are married already-all but one-shall live.? This appears as Hamlet does know they are there but takes it a bit far and ends up making it obvious which makes Claudius suspicious of him.To find out if Claudius really is guilty Hamlet puts on ?the mouse trap?, which is a play in the play and Claudius? reaction will make up Hamlets mind to get revenge. NOT REALLY RELEVANT TO THE ESSAY, THIS COMMENT.

Word count 1,009


17/30 C THIS IS A VERY PROMISING EFFORT, AND THERE ARE SOME GENUINE IDEAS OF YOUR OWN HERE- NICE TO SEE YOU WITH THE CONFIDENCE TO FOLLOW YOUR OWN NOTIONS ABOUT THE PLAY. YOU DO NEED TO FOLLOW MY MARKING CAREFULLY, THOUGH, AS THIS DOES NEED TO BE IMPROVED.

8 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

blah blah

Fred

5:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

heres the ammended first half of my essay and the next part, still have some more to write....

TS Eliot and John Dover Wilson both have differing critical standpoints on Hamlet’s motivations and for the causes of his madness and melancholy. TS Eliot’s maintains that Hamlet is appalled with his mother’s behaviour and that Hamlet is, in principle, “a play dealing with the effect of a mother’s guilt upon her son”; however, he goes on to argue that her hasty marriage to his uncle Claudius is not terrible enough to lead to his emotional turmoil, therefore the play is a failure. On the other hand, Dover Wilson has evidence for believing that Hamlet has adequate reasons for his state of mind and melancholy: Hamlet’s motivation can be seen as the net result of a number of factors, which do include the ‘sins’ of his mother- more precisely, the possible incestuous relationship between Claudius and his mother- but, significantly, a range of other reasons, such as the murder of his father, his encounter with the ghost, the subsequent questioning of his Protestant faith and the fact that Claudius is on the throne of Denmark and not him.

Dover Wilson argues that Hamlet’s issues with his mother and with women generally have their roots in simple jealousy, which appears in many of Shakespeare’s plays, rather than any Oedipal obsession. In his book What Happens in Hamlet, he says that Eliot, “would prehaps not go to the length of the psychi-analyst Dr Enest Jones, who declares that Hamlet suffers from an Oedipus complex, because Shakespeare did also, but he seems to hint at such a solution.” He also comments on the fact that a Shakespearean audience would have seen Hamlet’s disgust for his mother as perfectly rational because it was considered incest if you married your in-law in the 17th century, because of the way Henry VIII used an obscure biblical reference to marriage between in laws being a form of incest. He was unable to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, in order to marry Anne Boleyn. Through research, he discovered that it was an abomination against God to marry someone who has previously been married to your brother: this was the turning point for Henry VIII as Catherine had earlier been married to his elder brother. Shakespeare’s first audience’s would have been very disturbed by the relationship between Claudius and Gertrude and especially Hamlets first soliloquy, where the word “incestouous” is first used. TS Eliot hints at the idea that Shakespeare was suffering from his own personal troubles to do with his mother, therefore was writing about himself, “Hamlet is up against the difficulty, that his disgust is occassioned by his mother, but that his mother is not an adequate equivalent for it.”

Hamlet’s first soliloquy (I.II.129) tends to favour TS Eliot’s arguments due to the fact that Hamlet’s main anger is focused on his mother’s “o’er hasty marriage”. The opening line, “O that this too too sullied flesh would melt”, suggests that Hamlet feels dirty, possibly because he has sexual feelings towards his mother. This is also evident when he struggles, on numerous occasions, to finish his sentences, for instance, “and yet within a month – Let me not think on’t –” (I.II.145/6). This implies that he is infatuated with her because he cannot bear to think of her with Claudius. TS Eliot would argue that, due to the lack of concern about not inheriting the throne and his father’s recent death, the first soliloquy shows that this is the main cause for his antagonism. However, Dover Wilson disagrees with this, “the strain, however, I associate, not with any mysterious complex, but with the more common-place derangement known as jealousy”. He believes that Shakespeare had a particular interest in the subject of jealousy as he repeatedly wrote about it, especially in the Sonnets. Dover Wilson also points out that TS Eliot doesn’t mention the fact about Gertrude’s relationship with Claudius being “incestuous” (I.II.157). At the beginning he just refers to his mother, “so loving to my mother” (I.II.140), yet goes on to generalize from his mother to all women, “Frailty, thy name is woman –” (I.II.146) giving the impression that he has an irrational disgust for women, pointing to an irrational disgust for his mother.

Later on, in the scene between Hamlet and Ophelia (III.I), it is made apparent as stated by Dover Wilson, that Hamlet is indeed something of a misogynist rather than just having an uwholesome obsession with his mother. “You jig, and amble, and you lisp, you nick-name God’s creatures” (III.II.146/7) suggests that Hamlet has strong feelings about the way women trick men by using their femininity, leading Dover Wilson to believe that Hamlet is prehaps a misogynist.

The scene directly after Hamlet’s interaction with the Ghost of Old Hamlet is similar to his first soliloquy, however the source of anger is different. Hamlet only mentions his mother once, “O most pernicious woman” (I.V.105) which suggests that he is more concerned with the recent information about his father’s murder. This backs up Dover Wilson’s argument that Hamlet’s “antic disposition” is the result of many factors rather than purely disgust for his mother. Hamlet has other concerns at this point such as seeing his deceased father, finding out that his father was murdered by his uncle and the upsetting of his protestant faith.

In Act 2, Scene 2 the “double entry” argument is brought into the play. TS Eliot and Dover Wilson have opposing views on the matter and adequate evidence so support their beliefs. The question is whether Hamlet overhears Polonius, Gertrude and Claudius’ plan to set him up by secretly listening to Hamlet and Ophelia having a conversation. Polonius is trying to prove that it is Hamlet’s love for Ophelia that is the root of his madness, yet Claudius is suspicious that Hamlet is only pretending to be mentally unstable and there is more behind his unusual behaviour. We are unsure when Shakespeare wanted Hamlet to enter the scene, which is the crucial point in determining the double entry argument true of false. It is possible that Hamlet comes on when Polonius says, “You know sometimes he walks for hours together here in the lobby” (II.II.160). Dover Wilson believes this to be so and that Hamlet knows to act as if it is Ophelia’s rejection that has led to his emotional turmoil. Other evidence that Hamlet is present when they are discussing the plan is that he calls Polonius a “fishmonger” (II.II.174). One reason for this is that he knows he is using Ophelia for his own profit. It also relates back to Polonius stating that he will, “loose” his daughter to Hamlet. The word “loose” refers to sending a cow to mate with a bull when she is in heat. Polonious is comparing his daughter to a cow and treating her like a piece of meat, giving Hamlet a means to call him a “fishmonger”. On the other hand, due to Hamlets state of mind, he could just be putting words together to form a sentence. In this case TS Eliot’s argument that the double entry is not true is favoured.

Hamlet changes the subject from, “sun breed maggots in a dead dog” (II.II.181) to “Have you a daughter?” (II.II.182). This implies that Hamlet feels that what Polonius is asking his daughter to do is disgusting. Hamlet also tells Polonius “Let her not walk i’th’ sun” (II.II184) meaning don’t let her go down in the world by carrying out the plan. On the other hand TS Eliot’s counterargument is that, due to his state of mind, he is just making it all up and has no meaning behind it. Hamlet could appear on stage just before he starts talking meaning he is unaware of the whole plan.

The result of the double entry argument comes in Act 3, Scene 1, just after Hamlet’s third soliloquy. This scene can be anaylised from two different perspectives, on being that Hamlet does know that he is being spied on and the other being that he is oblivous to Claudius and Polonious’ presense. Dover Wilson believes that Hamlet is aware of the plan and lays into Ophelia in order to trick them. When Hamlet says, “I loved you not” (III.I.118/119), in Dover Wilsons eyes, Hamlet doesn’t really mean it and is just doing it for Claudius’ benefit. However, TS Eliot’s counter argument would be that he is speaking the truth and is annoyed at Ophelia. Hamlet specifically blames his mother for his birth, “better my mother had not borne me” (III.I.124), giving TS Eliot reasoning for believing that it is still his mother that has effected him. It has been said that “where’s your father?” (III.I.130) is the line when Hamlet hears or notices Claudius and Polonious behind the arras. This would make sense as he carries on having a go at Ophelia. Hamlet makes a comment, that acts like a threat towards Claudius, which implies that he doesn’t know of Claudius and Polonius’ whereabouts, “those that are married already – all but one – shall live” (III.I.150). The repetition of the word “farewell” by Hamlet gives the impression that he keeps wanting to leave but still has more to get off of his chest. For TS Eliot this would resemble Hamlet’s true feelings towards Ophelia, yet Dover Wilson would prehaps agrue that he is attempting to trick Claudius and Polonius into thinking that it is Ophelia making him act this way by gradually getting more distressed.

When Claudius and Polonius come out of hiding after Hamlets exits, Claudius isn’t convinced that it is purely Ophelia that has angered him, he suspects he knows about the murder, “there’s something in his soul O’er which his meancholy sits on brood” (III.I.166/167). In this case he represents Dover Wilson because he thinks there are more reasons causing his unusual behaviour. On the other hand Polonius is confident that Ophelia is the cause of his madness and sets up the ‘closet scene’ between Gertrude and Hamlet, “after the play Let his queen-mother all alone entreeat him To show his grief, let her be round with him, and I’ll be plac’d, so please you, in the ear of all their conference” (III.I.183-186). Polonius, similarly to TS Eliot believes that women are the route cause of his lunacy.

When Hamlet finds out about the actors coming to Elsinore, he immediately takes this as his oppourtunity to prove whether Claudius is guilty of his fathers murder or not. In order to do this his adds a scene into the play that parallels the situation according to the Ghost. Hamlet also includes a link to his mothers hasty marriage, which could essentially be a point for TS Eliot. The main argument comes when the play is being performed, who is Hamlet watching for a reaction. For TS Eliots theory to be correct Hamlet needs to be observing Gertrude for her reaction to the hasty marriage in the play. Dover Wilson, however, wants Hamlet to be watching Claudius to see his reaction to the murder. From the way that Hamlet talks to Horatio before the play, we would assume that he is going to be taking notes on Claudius, “For I mine eyes will rivet to his face, And after we will both our judgements join In censure of his seeming” (III.II.84-87). Arguably, Hamlet could be asking Horatio to keep an eye on Claudius enabling him to watch Gertrude, making her his first concern. Evidence for TS Eliot is given when Hamlet asks his mother, “Madam, how like you this play?” (III.II.224). This implies that he is pricking at Gertrudes conscience and see how if it has affected her in any way. The way that Hamlet says, “O, but she’ll keep her word” (III.II.226) emphasises that Gertrude didn’t keep her word and Hamlet wants her to know how he feels about what she did.

Mallory

2:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How far would you agree that, Hamlet is “a play dealing with the effect of a mother’s guilt upon her son.” (TS Eliot, The Sacred Wood)?


Throughout Hamlet’s soliloquies, Shakespeare illustrates his feelings to the audience towards both other characters and events that have occurred. One critic, TS Eliot, believes that Hamlet’s soliloquies demonstrate that the play is “dealing with the effect of a mother’s guilt upon her son.” Eliot believes that Hamlet is disgusted by his mother, and this is the principle motivation for his madness and depression. Eliot makes a point, however, that the play is therefore an “artistic failure”, because Hamlets disgust is not adequate enough to be the cause of his insanity. Eliot appears to imply Hamlet suffers from an Oedipus complex, and therefore so did Shakespeare, in that he has incestuous feelings towards his mother.

However, another critic, Dover Wilson, believes otherwise; he sees Hamlet’s anger towards his mother and women in general (particularly Ophelia), as being merely motivated by jealousy and disgust, rather than that he has incestuous feelings for his mother. He states that there are numerous reasons for his instability, besides his mother’s behaviour; the murder of his father, Claudius becoming king, his friends and his lover spying on him and the loss of his faith after witnessing the ghost of his father. Wilson also adds that Eliot does not mention the historical context of the play. At the time when the play was written, the marriage of a sister-in-law was as shocking as incest, as Henry VIII found it said so in the bible and used it as an excuse to divorce is his first wife, who had previously been married to his older brother. Therefore, when the play was acted out in front of Shakespeare’s first audience, Hamlets disgust would have been understandable.

During Hamlets first soliloquy, in Act 1 Scene 2, the audience learn a great deal about his personal feelings towards the other characters in the play, in particular his mother, Gertrude. The majority of the soliloquy reveals his strong feelings towards his mother, and her “incestuous” marriage to Hamlets uncle, now the King of Denmark, Claudius. A great deal of the soliloquy backs up the opinion of T.S Eliot, that Hamlet in fact does have sexual feelings towards his mother.

The beginning of the soliloquy highlights immediately what state of mind Hamlet is in. It is clear he is an unstable character, who wishes to end his life. Hamlet begins his soliloquy by wishing he could just melt away; “O that this too too sullied flesh would melt, / Thaw and resolve itself into a dew” (1:2:106). Hamlet uses the word “sullied”, which could be interpreted as meaning tainted, or dirtied. This could be a sign of how Hamlet feels about himself, he feels dirty for some reason, and just wishes he could “melt” away, escaping from the world around him. However, Hamlet then continues to explain that he is unable to end his miserable life, as to God it is a sin; “Or that the Everlasting had not fixed / His cannon ’gainst self-slaughter” (1:2:131).

Throughout Hamlets first soliloquy, there are many pauses within sentences, and these sentences are extremely short, for example; “Let me not think on’t-” (1:2:146) and “Why, she-” (1:2:149). Hamlet appears very inarticulate throughout, and with each pause, it appears he is forcing himself not to say something. Hamlet also regularly repeats himself; “too too” (1:129), “God, God” (1:2:132), as if he is in such a state he is unable to speak coherently. This supports Eliot’s argument, Hamlet has gone insane due to his feelings towards his mother.

From the opening four lines of Hamlets first soliloquy it is clear he is extremely depressed and on the verge of suicide. He has lost his father, and just two months later his mother married his father’s brother, which to Hamlet disgraces him. However, Hamlet barely talks about his father, and when old King Hamlet is mentioned, it is not about how Hamlet misses him, but instead highlighting what a good man he was; “So excellent a king” (1:2:139). Hamlet cannot help but talk about his mother, perhaps supporting Eliot’s point of argument.

The audience are uncertain as to why Hamlet has such strong feelings towards the marriage. T.S. Eliot’s interpretation is that Hamlet is in fact in love with his mother, and the thought of her in bed with another man sickens him. This is not however, because of the image of his own mother having sex, but perhaps instead because Hamlet is actually having incestuous thoughts towards his mother. So therefore the use of the word “incestuous” (1:2:157) is not referring to the marriage of Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle, and Gertrude, but instead of Hamlet’s own thoughts of himself and his mother.

The ghost of old King Hamlet first appears in the opening scene of the play, but does not talk. He then later reappears, but again does not speak to the characters. It is not until later, when meeting with Hamlet, that the ghost speaks. This is extremely unusual for Shakespeare’s plays, as, for many of his well-known plays such as Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare uses Senecan ghosts (the typical theoretical model of a ghost) that are a theatrical convention of most plays. Old King Hamlet’s ghost differs greatly from these; he talks to Hamlet, more than one character witness the appearance of him, and he is there for a purpose, rather than merely there to scare characters that were perhaps involved in the death. However, later in the play during the closet scene between Hamlet and his mother (3:4), the ghost reappears, and instead this time it is only visible to Hamlet. The audience are then left questioning their beliefs; they would have been of protestant faith, at least publically, and so do not believe in ghosts. The role of the ghost makes is apparent that Old Hamlet is the real mainspring of Hamlet’s melancholy and “madness”, therefore supporting Wilson’s view.

When Hamlet first speaks in his second soliloquy of Act 1, after meeting the ghost of his father, Hamlet appears inarticulate. He repeats many words; “Hold, hold” (1:5:93), “villain, villain, smiling damned villain” (1:5:106) and “smile and smile and be a villain” (1:5:108). It appears he is not conscious of his speech, as though things are confused within his mind. It is likely he is distressed and upset after the news of his fathers death and after witnessing the ghost, but also of the fact that the religious faith he has believed in all of his life is in fact false. This supports Wilson’s interpretation, Hamlet is in fact an unstable character, and the confusion he is experiencing is merely the sum effect of the many difficulties he has recently faced.

Within this soliloquy, Hamlet regularly refers back to his uncle, King Claudius; “so, uncle, there you are” (1:5:110), whereas Hamlets mother, Queen Gertrude is only mentioned within one line;
“O most pernicious woman” (1:5:105). This backs up the opinion of Dover Wilson; Hamlet is in fact mourning the death of his father, and so his behaviour in his first soliloquy is not that he has incestuous feelings for his mother, but that he is bitter at her for marrying his uncle so soon. This is shown as Hamlet only talks about his mother once in this soliloquy, rather than obsessing over her like it would be expected if he did have such feelings.

As the scene progresses and Hamlet’s soliloquy ends, Horatio and Marcellus come on stage. Hamlet informs the two characters that he has found out some news about his fathers death. As Hamlet speaks, Shakespeare uses little punctuation, causing Hamlet to speak rapidly. This makes the audience, and even the characters present, begin to think Hamlet has become mentally unstable. Horatio exclaims;
“These are but wild and whirling words, my lord” (1:5:132). At this point, the audience may believe Hamlet has gone insane.
At the end of the scene, Hamlet informs Horatio and Marcellus that he is going to “put an antic disposition on” (1:5:170) This is questioned by the audience; is Hamlet stating he is going to pretend to be mad, or perhaps has actually already gone insane but this is an attempt to hide it from his friends? This is likely as he cannot risk Claudius finding out about his new knowledge of the death of his father.

Hamlets second soliloquy occurs in act two of the play. He is still acting in a troubled manner, but he is now also very angry; not with Gertrude or Claudius, but with himself for not yet killing the murderer of his father. As Hamlet speaks about his hatred for Claudius, he is unable to even speak his name, and once again speaks in an incoherent manner; “bloody bawdy villain/ Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain”(2:2:515). This backs up the opinion of Wilson; Hamlets spoke in this manner when attempting to talk about his mother, therefore perhaps confirming that Hamlet is upset over a number of issues, rather than that he is experiencing incestuous feelings towards his mother. However, Eliot would create the counter-argument that although Hamlet is listing things as though he cannot speak, he is still able to use punctuation clearly. When Hamlet spoke about his mother in this first soliloquy, he was not even able to create sentences.

Act three scene one of the play introduces the double entry argument; does Hamlet over hear the plan between Polonius and Claudius to spy on him and thus find out whether Ophelia is the main motive for his madness? This leads to the conversation between Ophelia and Hamlet. Eliot believes the double entry to be false, and that the reason he is so abusive towards her is due to Hamlet having misogynistic feelings. Hamlet says; “it were better/ my mother had not borne me” (3:1:122), Hamlet blames his mother for giving birth to him. However, Wilson believes that the double entry theory is true; Hamlet acts insane and hateful towards Ophelia to protect his plan for catching out Claudius during the mousetrap play. Evidence to support this would be that Hamlet asks; “Where’s your father” (3:1:129), as though he is giving Ophelia a chance to admit her betrayal. However, this scene could also be interpreted in another way. It is possible that Hamlet could perhaps not know about Polonius and Claudius spying on him until he hears them on stage where he would then realise their plan and continue to ill-treat Ophelia in a more aggressive manner. This once again backs up the opinion of Wilson; although Hamlet does have a problem with his mother, and Ophelia for spying on him, these are not the only reasons for his insanity.

Within act three scene two of Hamlet, the mousetrap play is acted out to the characters. Hamlet and Horatio both plan to observe Claudius’ reaction towards the re-enactment of the murder. However, Hamlet appears to observe Gertrude more than he does Claudius; “if she should break now!” (3:2:218). This provides evidence for Eliot; Hamlet seems to be more interested in watching Gertrude than doing what his father said and getting revenge upon his murderer. However, Wilson would argue against this; Hamlet observes both Claudius and Gertrude. It would be understandable for him to watch the response of his mother, as he is still very upset over her hasty marriage.

The closet scene between Hamlet and Gertrude occurs in act three scene four. The scene is very much open to interpretation as Gertrude is presented with no psychological transparency. It is therefore never clear whether she played a part in the murder, or whether she is just an innocent, naïve character. Hamlet asks Gertrude to “throw away the worser part of it” (3:4:155), meaning the bad part of her heart that belongs to Claudius. This could be interpreted in two ways; Eliot believes that it suggests Hamlet is asking his mother to love him and not Claudius. However, Wilson understands it as not suggesting anything, but merely as a son being jealous of his mother’s new partner.

Hamlets penultimate soliloquy reveals his personal reflections on recent incidents. Hamlet secretly realises that he is a lot like Claudius, and rebels against this to be more like his father. This aids in Wilson’s argument as it is another reason why Hamlet has gone insane; he wants to kill the murderer of his father, but he is too much alike him to do so. Towards the end of his soliloquy, Hamlet states that he needs to stand up for his honour; “When honour’s at stake. How can I then/ That I have a father killed, a mother stained” (4:4:55). By the way in which Hamlet ranks his misgivings leads the audience, as well as Wilson, to believe that the result of his insanity it due to a number of reasons, rather than that he only has incestuous feelings for his mother.

As the play progresses and the audience receive a more detailed picture of Hamlets situation, it becomes apparent that, in my opinion, it is not “a play dealing with the effect of a mother’s guilt upon her son”, as Hamlet appears to be dealing with numerous issues that lead him into madness. I therefore agree with the opinion of Dover Wilson; that Hamlet is merely motivated by anger and disgust, rather than he has incestuous feelings towards his mother.

Word count: 2,214

Lauren Miles

12:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cheers: I'll mark these and get back to you ASAP.

Mr. D

1:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lisa Ecclestone- made changes to first part of essay and have wrote some more, not finished though
How far would you agree that Hamlet is “a play dealing with the effect of a mother’s guilt upon her son.”? (TS Eliot, The Sacred Wood)

The critics TS Eliot and John Dover Wilson have very different opinions in what motivates the actions of Hamlet and the causes of his emotional turmoil. According to TS Eliot, Hamlet’s chief motivation and the principle cause of his melancholy is his disgust at his mother, Gertrude, caused by her quick remarriage to his uncle. Furthermore TS Eliot argues that Gertrude’s sins are not extreme enough to excuse Hamlet’s madness and that “his disgust envelops and exceeds her.” He goes on to argue that Hamlet’s inability to express his disgust is infact Shakespeare’s own failure as a playwright and that he “tackled a problem which proved too much for him.” It is this inability in being able to express reasons for Hamlet’s disgust that TS Eliot thinks makes the play “most certainly an artistic failure”. Eliot also seems to imply that Hamlet’s disgust is not at his mother directly but at his own incestuous feelings towards her and has arguably evidence for in Hamlet’s first soliloquy, as Dover Wilson says “He would not perhaps go to the length of the psycho-analyst Dr Earnest Jones, who declares that Hamlet suffers from an Oedipus complex, because Shakespeare did also, but he seems to hint at such a solution.”

However, Dover Wilson argues that it is a number of different causes which motivates Hamlet in his madness, including: his father’s death and murder; Claudius usurpation of his crown; Ophelia’s rejection of his love; the betrayal of his friends as they are used as informants against him to Claudius; the disruption of his Protestant faith due to the ghost’s appearance as well as Gertrude’s hasty remarriage to his uncle. In his opinion it is the combination of these factors, not one solely, which cause his depression and which lies behind his ‘antic disposition’. He also understands, due to one historical fact that TS Eliot seems to have overlooked, that Hamlet has full rights to being disgusted at his mother due to her “incestuous” (1.2.157) marriage to his uncle and it is this point which can explain a lot of Hamlet’s concerns of his mother’s relationship in his first soliloquy.

Essentially, both critics have valid points of view and evidence can be found for both throughout the play. TS Eliot argues that Hamlet’s motivation is purely disgust at his mother and this can be particularly seen in Hamlet’s first soliloquy. From the first soliloquy it is obvious that Hamlet’s mind is tormented, he is melancholic, angry and suicidal “Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d/ His canon 'gainst self-slaughter. O God!
God!” (1.2.131/2). His state of mind is on the edge of emotional turmoil, and this is shown through the way he speaks: Shakespeare breaks the speech up with punctuation, creating pauses and stops, showing that Hamlet, an articulate individual, is made psychologically transparent through his incapability of expressing his thoughts. His thoughts stall and don’t flow like those of an articulate person, in comparison to the speech Claudius gives at the beginning of the scene, which is calm, complex, well communicated and fluent. Furthermore there is the length of his sentences; “But two months dead-nay, not so much, not two-” (1.2.138). They are short and occasionally unfinished again associating his inarticulateness with his emotional turmoil. This confused language and chopped up sentences enact his feelings, his confusion, his frustration and his melancholy to the audience.

Furthermore, we can see in the content of the speech that the focus of Hamlet’s anger is his mother Gertrude. His irrationality communicates his particular anger at his mother not mourning long enough, as a widow should, and marrying just two months after her first husband’s death. Hamlet sees this as disrespectful to his father’s memory, but the main issue is arguably Hamlet’s apparent incapability in accepting his mother’s sexuality. His thoughts linger on his mother’s relationship with his uncle but every time he comes close to actually drawing on the fact that they are together, his thoughts change course “and yet within a month-/Let me not think on’t” (1.2.145/6).He cannot bare to think on his mother with Claudius. Although Hamlet seems disgusted by his mother there also seems to be an element of fascination there for him, explaining why his mind keeps drawing back to the subject.

This is arguable evidence to conclude that Hamlet has Oedipus complex, he is jealous of his mother and Claudius and when he says “With such
dexterity to incestuous sheets!” (1.2.156) TS Eliot argues that Hamlet is describing his own disgust at his incestuous feelings towards his mother, as Gertrude’s and Claudius’ relationship would not be deemed incestuous as they are not blood related. He cannot express his disgust at himself for having incestuous feelings for his mother, which possibly echoes Shakespeare’s inability to express those types of feelings, which he may have suffered from as well.

However Dover Wilson argues that TS Eliot is oblivious to one important historical fact. Gertrude’s and Claudius’ relationship would have been seen as incestuous by a Shakespearean audience, meaning that it would have not only been incestuous to Hamlet, but also to Shakespeare, the players at the globe and the audience. This is because whilst Henry VIII was looking for a loophole so he could divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn, he went to the Pope claiming to have found a law in the Bible saying that it was against god to marry your brother’s wife, and Catherine had been married to Henry’s older brother Arthur. So with Hamlet being in production only about fifty years after that point, their relationship would have been seen as incestuous, giving Hamlet every right, as far as a contemporary audience would be concerned, to be completely disgusted and angry at his mother.

Moreover, Dover Wilson argues that Hamlet’s apparent obsession with Gertrude disappears when he is pressed by more important issues, such as the appearance of the ghost. In the speech after the ghost’s appearance although we can see that Hamlet is yet again on the edge of emotional turmoil, it is most arguably not caused by Gertrude, but at the thought of revenge for his father and anger at his uncle murdering him. What is important in this speech for Dover Wilson is that Gertrude is only a subject of the speech for a few lines “O most pernicious woman! /O villain, villain, smiling damned villain!” (1.5.105) this implies that Hamlet has more important matters to express and arguably if he was obsessed with his mother, as TS Eliot argues, then no matter how distraught he would have been by the news of his father’s murder, he would have probably discussed her more.

Essentially Hamlet’s mind being on the brink of madness is caused by a mixture of matters, particularly here the new found knowledge of his father’s murder by his uncle and the loss of his religion in believing the ghost is his father. It is also possible that the subject of Gertrude arises because of the possibility of her being involved in Old Hamlet’s murder. This can be inferred because the ghost of Old Hamlet calls Claudius “that incestuous, that adulterate beast” (1.5.42). This could suggest that in death Old Hamlet has found out about an affair between Gertrude and Claudius whilst he was alive. But in any case the main concern on Hamlet’s mind and the cause of Hamlet’s emotional turmoil is the new knowledge of Claudius murdering his father. Also from this scene Hamlet tells Horatio that his going “To put an antic disposition on-” (1.5.180), this means that he will not always mean what he says and intends to put on an act to stop arising suspicion.
Another factor in favour of TS Eliot’s view of Hamlet is Hamlet’s apparent misogynistic feeling towards women, shown through his behaviour towards his mother, Gertrude and also towards his lover Ophelia. The first bit of evidence for this in Hamlet’s first soliloquy where he says “Frailty, thy name is woman-” (1.2.146) in anger at Gertrude. He obviously models his idea of women on his mother and as he sees her as something of disgust and instead of exclaiming “Frailty, thy name is Gertrude” he imagines all women as something that have earned his disgust, anger and disrespect.

Of course when considering his treatment of Ophelia, one has to consider the so called ‘double entry argument’ and whether it is true or not, although this is open to interpretation by the director. Double entry depends entirely on how Shakespeare’s stage directions are interpreted and how they have changed over the years, but at the Globe theatre the stage would have been seen to the audience as two rooms, the inner stage is one room and the outer stage is another. So when Polonius says “Here in the lobby” Hamlet appears reading a book, unconscious of the other character’s presence, as if in another room. As Dover Wilson explains “In short, “Here in the lobby” is equivalent to a stage direction and marks with practical certainty the moment at which Hamlet comes in and the place of his entry.” So it is possible that before his entry on the outer stage, Hamlet would have been seen listening to Polonius’ plan therefore giving reason to his treatment of Ophelia. If the double entry is true then Hamlet has overheard Polonius’ and Claudius’ plan to use Ophelia against him and to spy on him to find out what the cause of his malady is. This means when he is speaking to Ophelia he is acting to quell Claudius’ suspicions of him. So, it is possible that he is aware
of Polonius’ and Claudius’ presence and is acting up for them. This would also explain Hamlet’s manner when speaking to Polonius after his entry, because as Polonius notices “Though this be madness, yet there is method/ in’t.” (2.2.205) If you look at Hamlet’s speech there are hints that he heard the plan and is disgusted by the fact that Polonius is going to “loose” (2.2.163) his daughter to him. He calls Polonius a “fishmonger” (2.2.174) which can be interpreted as a Hamlet calling Polonius a pimp, which would imply that he knows about the plan and the double entry theory is true. This reinforces Dover Wilson’s point that he is just treating Ophelia badly as an act to throw Claudius off the scent.

However TS Eliot thinks that double entry is not true and his treatment of Ophelia is just his misogynistic nature showing through “Get thee to a nunnery” (3.1.121) implying that he hates women as a whole because he uses Gertrude as a model for women in general and he feels disgust towards her. Also the fact that he proudly announces that he is “proud, revengeful, ambitious” (3.1.125) suggests that he has no knowledge of them being watched, after all he would not want Claudius to know that he was a likely threat to him.

Arguably, however, it could be partly because of both reasons. Hamlet has heard the plan and therefore decides to put on an act to please Polonius and Claudius, but psyches himself up so much that he starts believing what he is saying and it ceases to be an act, and he therefore shows his anger at Ophelia, for being used as a spy against him, by sexually bullying her and throws in subtle threats towards to Claudius “Those/ that are married already- all but one- shall live” (3.1.150) because he is worked himself up so much that he cannot control his feelings any longer.

However there are other examples of Hamlet sexually bullying Ophelia to support TS Eliot’s theory for example before the Mousetrap starts in Act 3 Scene 2. Hamlet makes endless comments that makes Ophelia embarrassed and he purposely does so “Do you think I meant country matters?” This sexual reference makes Ophelia uncomfortable and as Hamlet carries on sexually bullying her it is clear that this is his intention. But on the other hand he could be doing this because he knows Polonius is watching his actions towards his daughter, so the show is completely put on for Polonius. However arguably it seems that Hamlet is doing a bit of both, he has a mask on to deceive Polonius but he also means the things he says to Ophelia in his anger at her deceiving him.

A point in the play where Gertrude seems to be the last thing on Hamlet’s mind is his second soliloquy in Act 2 Scene 2. Here is angry at himself for not killing Claudius yet, he is angry at the fact that one player can get more passionate about the story of Hecuba that happened a thousand years ago, than he can get about revenging his own father’s murder “What’s Hecuba to him, or he to her,/ That he should weep for her?” (2.2.553/4) He is angry at himself for delaying his killing of Claudius because of his rational thinking. This is a good point for Dover Wilson, because if Hamlet was obsessed with his mother he would argue why she wasn’t more like Hecuba rather than scold himself for not acting on the ghost’s wishes.
However as he talks himself into killing Claudius it is apparent he is on the edge of emotional turmoil again and he says “Must like a whore unpack my heart with words” (2.2.581) He likens himself to a prostitute having to talk themselves into feeling desire, he must talk himself into killing. But at the mention of women he loses his hold on his sanity and his thoughts become irrational fortifying TS Eliot’s view on Hamlet’s misogyny.

Instead of talking himself into killing Claudius straight away, Hamlet chooses to test the Ghost’s accusation by putting on a play echoing the alleged murdering of Old Hamlet, The Mousetrap. Ain Hamlet’s words “If his occulted guilt/ Do not itself unkennel in one speech/ It is a damned ghost” (3.2.80/1/2)

word count-2321

2:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Matthew Milner 18th November 2006

How far would you agree, Hamlet is a play dealing with the effect of a mother`s guilt upon her son? (TS Eliot, The Sacred Wood)

The critics, TS Eliot and John Dover Wilson have contrasting views on Shakespeare?s Hamlet, his emotions and his actions within the play. TS Eliot believes that Hamlet is distraught with the actions of Gertrude, his mother, and that is the most important reason for his emotional turmoil and his apparently insane actions and thoughts, but as Gertrude`s actions are not sinful or reprehensible enough to warrant this sort of a response from Hamlet, Eliot believes that the play has failed asa satisfying work of art. However, John Dover Wilson`s view on the character of Hamlet is that there are many valid, or at least understandable reasons which the audience can sympathise with for his actions and grievance. Dover Wilson sees Hamlet’s brooding on his mother and women in general, especially Ophelia as being simply motivated by jealousy and disgust, rather than by an oedipal obsession, which Eliot suggests Shakespeare forced into the play because of psychological problems of his own. Eliot also says that “ Hamlet is dominated by an emotion which is inexpressable” and that “Hamlet’s bafflement at the absence of objective equivalent to his feelings is a prolongation of the bafflement of his creator in the face of his artistic problem”.

John Dover Wilson concludes his response to Eliot’s view on the play with the assertion ‘the facts as they appear, account for Hamlet’s madness and melancholy and treatment of the women in the play, but whether they excuse him raises another and different problem’.Some elements of the play, depending on interpretative judgement, support TS Eliot`s view of Hamlet being distraught with his mother and some support John Dover Wilson’s view that there are many possible reasons for this emotional turmoil. Significantly, much depends on the director’s choices, the same scenes, if presented in different ways, can support either Critics’ view.
Hamlet’s first soliloquy is extremely important to the overall understanding of TS Eliot`s view of Hamlet’s actions and the play itself. One can see evidence for Eliot’s assertion that ‘Hamlet is a play dealing with the effect of a mother’s guilt upon her son’, In the line “O that this too too solid flesh would melt” (1.2.129). What this implies is that Hamlet feels dirty and that he would like to melt away into nothingness, commit suicide, Also the word “solid” could also be “sullied”, depending on which edition of Hamlet is trusted, which means dirty. This could mean that possibly he feels dirty because of what his mother and uncle have done, whether it is their hasty marriage or the fact that they are together or also because he has sexual feelings for his mother. He then goes on to say ‘Or that the Everlasting had not fixed His canon `gainst self slaughter? (1.2.131-132).
This supports TS Eliot`s view of the play because this could mean that he wants to commit suicide so he can get away from the sins of his mother, he wants to die to escape from himself aswell as his own ‘Oedipal’ emotions towards his mother. Another quote that supports This distress towards his mother is when he struggles on many occasions to complete his sentence and says “and yet within a month-Let me not think on`t”. This shows that Hamlet is obsessed with his mother because he cannot bear to think of his mother, Gertrude, even being close to Claudius let alone sleeping with him. TS Eliot would say that due to the speaking about not having the throne or even his own father`s death, this soliloquy would be about his mother and nothing else.On the other hand, Dover disagrees with this. He believes that Shakespeare had a particular interest in the subject of jealousy as he constantly included the subject in a lot of his work, especially in his Sonnets. John Dover Wilson also points out that TS Eliot doesn’t mention the fact that Gertrude`s relationship with Claudius is incestuous. At the beginning of Hamlet, Hamlet just refers to his mother as “so loving to my mother” (1.2.140) but later on goes on to talk about women as a whole, “Frailty, thy name is woman” (1.2.146), which would give the audience the impression that he has a problem with women in general, rather than just his mother, and some people could say he suffers from misogyny, which means that someone just hates women all together. Later on in the play, in the scene between Opehlia and Hamlet which is Act 3 scene 1, it is made clear, as stated by Dover Wilson, that Hamlet has a problem with women in general rather than just his mother. “You jig and amble, and you lisp, you nick-name God’s creatures” (3.2.146/7), this quote suggests that Hamlet has strong feelings on how women trick men with their charm and looks, rather than his feelings for his mother and her actions after his father’s death.The scene which follows Hamlet’s meeting with the ghost of Old Hamlet is similar to Hamlet’s first soliloquy, but Hamlet’s source of anger is different.Hamlet only mentions his mother once during this scene, “O most pernicious woman” (1.5.105). This suggests that he is more wooried about what the ghost has said to him about his father’s murder. This supports Dover Wilson’s agrument that Hamlet’s “antic disposition” is due to many factors not just purely his disgust with his mother. In Act 2, Scene 2 the “double entry” comes into the play. Dover Wilson and TS Eliot both have contrasting views on this section and both have enough evidence to agrue their view is correct. The question is whether Hamlet overhears Claudius, Gertrude and Polonius`s plan to set Hamlet up by secretly listening to Hamlet and Ophelia talking, when they will be behind a wall hanging called an arras or behind amirror which they can see out of but Hamlet cant see in, which is only in Kenneth Branagh`s film version of the play.

Polonius is trying to prove to Claudius that it is Hamlet’s love for Ophelia that is the cause of his madness, where on the other hand, Claudius is trying to show that Hamlet is only pretending to be “mad” and that there is more behind this uncharacteristic behaviour. We do not know when Shakespeare intended Hamlet to appear in this scene, but this would be crucial to find out whether the double entry is true or not. John Dover Wilson belives that the double entry in true and that Hamlet knows that he is being spied on. It could well be that Hamlet enters the scene when Polonious says “ You know sometimes he walks for hours together here in the lobby” (2.1.160). John Dover Wilson thinks this is true and that Hamlet knows to put up a smoke screen and pretend that is was Ophelia’s rejection that has led to his madness. The reason for this is that he knows he is using Ophelia for his own profit. It also relates back to Polonious when he says that he will “loose” his daughter to Hamlet. “Loose” refers to someone making a cow mate with a bull when the cow is in heat. This means that Polonious is comparing his own daughter, Ophelia, to a cow and that he is treating her like a piece of meat, which gives Hamlet a chance to call him a “fishmonger”. Hamlet then goes on to change the subject quite quickly from “sun breed maggots in a dead dog” (2.1.181) to “Have you a daughter” (2.1.184). This shows that Hamlet feels that what Polonious is asking his daughter to do with him is wrong and imoral. Hamlet also tells Polonious “ Let her not walk I`th’ sun” (2.1.184), which means that to not let Ophelia go down in society and the world by carrying out this plan, also when he says”sun” he also means “son” as in himself.

On the other hand, T.S.Eliot’s agruement against this is that, due to his state of mind, he is just making all of this up and has no meaning behind his words. Hamlet could appear appear on stage just before he starts talking, which would mean that he is not aware of the plan. Eliot believes that Hamlet is obsessed with his mother Getrude and that any sign of misogyny supports his view. If the double entry is is false, then T.S.Eliot says that Hamlet is insane and hateful towards Ophelia because he has a problem with women. First Hamlet says that “ I could accuse me of such things that if were better my mother had not brone me” (3.1.122/23). This shows that he is saying that if his mother had not givin birth to him then everything would have turned out better. He then goes on to say that “I am very pround, revengeful” (3.1.124). This means that he wants to get his own back on his mother for what has happened.

As John Dover Wilson has observed, much of the second and third acts of Hamlet are devoted to a double process of sifting. Hamlet is attempting to "sift" out Claudius, and Claudius is trying to assess Hamlet's state of mind. Thus, while Hamlet is trying to assess the validity of the ghost's story, a comedy is played out in which the King and Polonius, with the aid of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, try to evaluate Hamlet's 'antic disposition.' As we have seen, Polonius is the principal advocate of the theory that Hamlet's disposition is the result of unrequited love, and the meeting with Ophelia is set up as a laboratory to test that theory. The King's suspicions are more political, and he employs Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to look into the notion of thwarted ambition as a cause. They serve not only as his spies, but also give voice to his suspicions.
HAMLET: Let me question more in particular. What have
you, my good friends, deserved at the hands of Fortune
that she sends you to prison hither?
GUILDENSTERN: Prison, my lord?
HAMLET: Denmark's a prison.
ROSENCRANTZ: Then is the world one.
HAMLET: A goodly one, in which there are many confines,
wards, and dungeons, Denmark being one o' th' worst.
ROSENCRANTZ: We think not so, my lord.
HAMLET: Why, then 'tis none to you, for there is nothing
either good or bad but thinking makes it so. To me it
is a prison.
ROSENCRANTZ: Why, then your ambition makes it one; 'tis
too narrow for your mind.
HAMLET: O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and
count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that
I have bad dreams.
GUILDENSTERN Which dreams indeed are ambition; for the
very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow
of a dream.
HAMLET: A dream itself is but a shadow.
ROSENCRANTZ: Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy and
light a quality that it is but a shadow's shadow.
HAMLET: Then are our beggars bodies, and our monarchs
II.ii.242-270
With regard to the notion that frustrated ambition turns into melancholy, Hamlet ends by making a mockery of Rosencrantz' and Guildenstern's supposition.
ROSENCRANTZ: Good my lord, what is your cause of distemper? You do surely bar the door upon your own liberty, if you deny your griefs to your friends.
HAMLET: Sir, I lack advancement.
ROSENCRANTZ: How can that be, when you have the voice of the King himself for your succession in Denmark?
HAMLET: Ay, sir, but "while the grass grows" -- is something musty

In conclusion, I feel that John Dover Wilson’s arguments and point of view are more likely than those of T.S.Eliot. There are a few reasons why I have come to this conclusion. The first point is how Dover Wilson percieves the talk between Polonius and Ophelia. All the way through the play we can see that Dover Wilsons points seem to be more realistic and believable compared to T.S. Eliot’s views which seem one dimensional and that seem in some ways “wrong” to anyone in todays society.

10:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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]

T.S Eliot suggests that the cause of Hamlet’s madness, the explanation for his melancholy and motivation for his actions is his mother’s hasty marriage to his uncle Claudius. This leads him to suggest that the play is a failure because his mother’s actions are not sufficient to justify his subsequent actions and emotional turmoil. John Dover Wilson, on the other hand, believes that Hamlet’s anguish is the result of a combination of factors such as the death of his father, the fact that his uncle has stolen his crown and the trauma of seeing his dead father’s ghost, which rocks his protestant beliefs. Dover Wilson would then assume that Hamlet’s actions were, if not justified, then at least understandable to the audience and therefore the play is not a failure.
T.S Eliot hints at the fact that Hamlet is suffering from an Oedipus complex, although he would “not perhaps go to the length of the psycho analyst Dr Ernest Jones” [John Dover Wilson]. This means that Hamlet is sexually attracted and obsessed with his mother and therefore he is envious of Claudius’ relationship with her. Eliot justifies this view by looking at the way Hamlet calls his mother’s sheets “incestuous” in his first soliloquy and suggests that the incest is in fact his own feelings over his mother as, in modern eyes, the relationship between his mother and his uncle is not incestuous. The use of the word “sullied” suggests he is dirty and feels disgusted with himself in comparison to the purity of new snow, “O that this too too sullied flesh would melt, / Thaw and resolve itself into a dew” [1.2.129]. This can be interpreted as Hamlet feeling even more disgust for himself because he has romantic or sexual feelings for his mother. As this is deemed utterly wrong by modern day and Shakespearean society, Hamlet’s incoherence and hysterical anguish in this soliloquy is understandable. By repeating himself in “…too too sullied…” and again in “O God! O God!” Hamlet is again being incoherent – an indication of his mental turmoil.
Further on in the soliloquy, Hamlet makes brief reference of his father as a great King who was “so loving to my mother” [1.2.140]. He wants to believe that his parents had the perfect relationship. Here, Hamlet also could be trying to convince himself of his own father’s greatness so as to have a reason to hate Claudius and justify his own anguish. Lying to himself and being convincing enough to not realise it is an obvious sign that Hamlet could be heading towards a mental breakdown as normally it would not work to this extent.
On the other hand, Dover Wilson can argue that what Hamlet was feeling at the time was fully understandable to a Shakespearean audience as it was, in fact, incest at the time as Henry VIII had created the Church of England branch of the Protestant faith just 40 years ago on the basis that marrying your brother in law was a sin. This historical fact weakens Eliot’s whole argument considerably, as it becomes apparent that the Shakespearean audience would have agreed with Hamlet and therefore it seems obvious that he was only talking about his mother and Claudius’ relationship. Dover Wilson also disagrees that this Oedipal theme is a reflection of Shakespeare’s own incestuous feelings for his mother. Eliot believes that although his anger is mainly aimed at his mother and her sins, Hamlet also suffers from misogyny or the hate of women. This is because Hamlet treats two important women in his life extremely badly, his mother and Ophelia his girlfriend despite their seemingly small or insignificant “sins” and the fact that they are so close to him. If he treats his own mother and girlfriend so badly it would suggest that his treatment of other women would be even more disgraceful.
Overall, the soliloquy focuses more on Hamlet’s anger towards his mother getting remarried rather than the fact that he isn’t King or his father’s death. His anguish is apparent from the fact that he cannot finish any sentence concerning his mother’s incestuous sexual relationship with his uncle, for example “…and yet within a month-“ [1.2.145] as if the thought of it sickens him to the point that he can’t even think of it. This would indicate that Eliot is correct in saying that Hamlet is extremely emotionally disturbed by the fact that his mother has married so quickly and that this is a huge factor of his eventual breakdown. However, at this point Dover Wilson could argue that Hamlet isn’t even aware of his father’s murder by his uncle and therefore of course he hasn’t mentioned it and it is not at the front of his mind. In the scene immediately after the encounter with the ghost, Hamlet reveals his emotions, which mainly concentrate on the issue of his father’s murder. Although Hamlet was relatively incoherent in the first soliloquy, his increasing amount of repetition and emphasis on words here indicates that he is now more distressed after seeing the ghost than he was with his mother’s incestuous and hasty marriage to Claudius. This would mean that Dover Wilson was more accurate when he suggested that Hamlet’s madness was a culmination of factors such as his father’s death, his mother’s remarriage and his throne being stolen by his uncle. His mother is only mentioned in one line, “O most pernicious woman!” (1.5.105), which indicates that he has almost put it out of his mind at this point in the play. This again weakens T.S Eliot’s argument because it shows that it can’t have been that much of an issue for him.
There is also a lot of evidence to suggest that Hamlet was affected by a loss of faith after the appearance of the ghost as well. Dover Wilson would cite this as a major trigger for Hamlets emotional turmoil as it occurs just before Hamlet’s second emotionally charged speech. This also has nothing to do with his mother and therefore he is not dealing with the effect of his mother’s sins. As Protestants do not believe in ghosts, they see them as angels or demons playing tricks on them, Hamlet is deeply confused and troubled by his sighting of the ghost. We can clearly see that he is a religious man because at the start of the soliloquy Hamlet wants resolve and strength to help him in his time of need. He asks Heaven for help and then Earth, then even considers asking Hell, as he is so desperate for inspiration and help, “O all you host of heaven! O earth! what else?/ And shall I couple hell?” (1.5.92). This shows that he is slowly turning crazy because he is even considering going against his faith to help him in his time of need. He also wants to be completely focused on avenging his fathers death and therefore must wipe his memory clean of anything that is unimportant, such as his mothers relationship with his uncle, “from the table of my memory/ I'll wipe away all trivial, fond records/ All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past”. By clearing all his past issues with his mother he can properly take care of Claudius. This indicates again that Gertrude is not one of the biggest issues in his life and that T.S Eliot was wrong to suggest that it was his mother’s sins that caused his insanity if he can dismiss it this quickly and if his fathers murder takes prevalence.
This is reinforced by the second soliloquy, which again mainly focuses on his father’s death rather than his mother’s sins. Hamlet is clearly struggling with whether or not to kill Claudius, as although he has all the reason in the world to, he has a twisted respect for him. He sees himself as a coward because he hasn’t done anything yet, even though Pyrrhus killed Priam for less. Whereas he talked about his father with respect in the first soliloquy, it now appears that he can see flaws in his father’s warrior like character and sees himself in some way in Claudius. Dover Wilson would point out that when Hamlet asks, “who does me this?” (2.2.570) in reference to Claudius, he answers his own question with “ha!” (2.2.571) because he can’t say his name. This is the way he treated saying his mothers name and sins in the first soliloquy so this suggests that this is just the way he deals with things that are uncomfortable to him and that he doesn’t have any sexual feelings for his mother. This would rebuke the argument for Eliot given previously when I suggested that Hamlet’s incoherence in the first soliloquy was a direct reaction to his mothers sins alone. On the other hand, Eliot could say that Hamlet can’t talk about his mother at all and his reaction is more intense so he has more of an issue with his mother than Claudius.
His twisted respect for Claudius is also shown in the scene leading up to Hamlet’s 4th soliloquy. When Fortinbras marches through Denmark to invade a small, useless part of Poland, Hamlet reacts in a similar way to how Claudius would. He realises that the war is so pointless that the “Polack never will defend it” (4.4.23) and can’t see that Fortinbras is doing it for honour and glory, much like his own father would have done. Hamlet realises this in his subsequent soliloquy in which he says, “What is a man / If his chief good and market of this time / Be but to sleep and feed? A beast no more.” (4.4.33). The beast is Claudius as he is not a true man with honour like Old Hamlet in Hamlet’s eyes. This shows that he is trying to talk himself into being like Old Hamlet because he isn’t really a violent character and is trying to show his hatred for Claudius. This indicates that he is more concerned with Claudius’ sins than his mothers because he is deliberately trying to unlike him.
The theory of double entry during Act II Scene 2 can be interpreted to support either Dover Wilson or Eliot. The argument is whether Hamlet overhears the conversation between Ophelia, Claudius and Polonius or if he is angry and horrible to Ophelia in Act III Scene 1 for other reasons. During the conversation, the trio plot to find the cause of Hamlet’s madness, with Claudius and Polonius both having separate motives. If Hamlet does overhear, this is evidence for Dover Wilson as his treatment for Ophelia is not motivated by a hate or disgust for women. On the other hand, if he didn’t overhear, T.S Eliot could argue that he treats Ophelia disgracefully because he hates women and this relates back to his relationship with his mother. In my opinion, the evidence suggests that Hamlet did overhear the conversation, as he is witty and rude to Polonius after he fully enters the scene. He says, “You are a fishmonger.” (2.2.174) which suggests that Polonius is a “pimp” to his daughter who he is using to fuel his own motivation to gain more power. He also acts like he is losing his mind, switching from subject to subject like he does when he is genuinely crazy but in this instance cleverly and coherently, “…being a / good kissing carrion- Have you a daughter?” (2.2.181). This means that he is putting on a show for Polonius, he doesn’t want him to be aware that he knows about the murder or that he isn’t genuinely mad.
When Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enter, Hamlet admits that he has been miserable recently, “for there is nothing / either good or bad but thinking makes it so” but the reason for his misery is not the fact that he isn’t King, “I could be bound in a nutshell and count / myself a king of infinite space”. Eliot would suggest here that his motivation for his melancholy is his mother’s actions as he isn’t even sure if what the ghost has told him is true at this point. Hamlet asks his friends “what makes you at Elsinore?” because he wants them to admit their reasons for being there – to spy on him. This would indicate that Dover Wilson is again more correct in his assumption that it is a range of factors rather than just his mother that causes his depression. At this point, Hamlet is also showing that he has become a misanthrope because he has become tired of life and although he can see the beauty of man, he has realised that it all become nothing once you die. This is a classic convention of a tragic hero and again supports Dover Wilson because he has lost all love of life; it is not specifically because of his mother.
After the third soliloquy, Ophelia enters to return Hamlet’s belongings after their relationship has ended. The subsequent scene can be interpreted in two ways depending on whether the analyst believes the double entry theory is true. If the analyst does believe it is true, as in the case of Dover Wilson, Hamlets coarse and hostile language is a reaction to the fact that Ophelia is being used as a spy against him. On the other hand, if the analyst doesn’t believe the double entry theory, like TS Eliot, it could be interpreted that Hamlet’s cruel treatment of her is because of his hatred of women, which began because of his sexual obsession with his mother and her sins.
Hamlet also treats his mother badly during the closet scene because he hates her for her treatment of his father. Hamlet also believes that Gertrude was involved in the murder but Shakespeare writes Gertrude ambiguously so that the audience never really knows if she was. Each of her responses to Hamlet’s accusations can be construed differently- either as innocent bewilderment or as a guilty person trying to throw the scent of them. For instance, Hamlet says, “Almost as bad, good mother / As kill a King and marry with his brother.” (3.4.28) and Gertrude replies “As kill a King?” (3.4.30) which could either mean she is shocked and worried that he knows or that she is genuinely bewildered. Dover Wilson would like to believe that Gertrude is guilty because then her sins are enough to warrant Hamlet’s mental breakdown. TS Eliot stated that the play was a failure because Gertrude’s sins were not enough and therefore he must believe she was innocent in the murder.
During this scene he also accidentally murders Polonius, believing it is Claudius hiding behind the curtains. When Ophelia learns of her father’s death, this and the end of her relationship with Hamlet drives her crazy. This is a reflection of Hamlet’s own situation, where he slowly goes mad after the death of his father. Throughout the play there are many parallels similar to this, such as the characters of Fortinbras, Laertes and Hamlet. Both hamlet and Fortinbras have had their fathers murdered and their thrones stolen and both are named after their fathers whilst Laertes also has a murdered father and a whored mother, much like Hamlet. This was done to show that the play is about fathers and sons and less about mothers and sons as TS Eliot suggests. Another example of a parallel sub-plot is the Mousetrap play within a play. In this scene Hamlet sets up a play to repeat the murder of his father in order to see if Claudius experiences any recognition or guilt of the events. It would seem that Hamlet would need to be in a position to look at Claudius, but instead he tells Horatio to look at him and he himself looks at Gertrude to see her reaction. Hamlet also lays across Ophelia’s lap in a very inappropriate way in this scene and bombards her with sexual innuendos and gross images. In my opinion, this section of the play is Eliot’s strongest piece of evidence to suggest that Hamlet’s issue is with his mother mainly and other women as a result of his mother’s sins because he seems relatively unconcerned with Claudius’ reaction.
In my opinion, there is a lot more evidence to support Dover Wilson’s claim than Eliot’s. If the discovery about the incest between a widow and brother in law had not been made, I believe Eliot would have had a much stronger case but as most his arguments seem to be supported on Hamlet having sexual feelings for his mother his argument is weakened considerably. Although some of Eliot’s views do make more sense than Dover Wilson’s, Dover Wilson presents a much more varied argument, including a wider range of factors and is therefore less easy to dismiss with counter evidence. In this case I believe that Eliot was wrong in stating that the play is a failure due to a lack of Gertrude’s sins as it was a culmination of many factors that lead to Hamlet’s downfall.

ELLIE- I can't cut it down anymore, I've tried but I don't know what's more important and what's not. I don't know if you can suggest anything else to cut out? Thanks

Word count- 2858

11:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How far would you agree that Hamlet is “a play dealing with the effect of a mother’s guilt upon her son”? (TS Eliot, The Sacred Wood)

TS Eliot and John Dover Wilson both have differing critical standpoints on Hamlet’s motivations and for the causes of his madness and melancholy. TS Eliot’s maintains that Hamlet is appalled with his mother’s behaviour and that Hamlet is, in principle, “a play dealing with the effect of a mother’s guilt upon her son”; however, he goes on to argue that her hasty marriage to his uncle Claudius is not terrible enough to lead to his emotional turmoil, therefore the play is a failure. On the other hand, Dover Wilson has evidence for believing that Hamlet has adequate reasons for his state of mind and melancholy: Hamlet’s motivation can be seen as the net result of a number of factors, which do include the ‘sins’ of his mother - more precisely, the possible incestuous relationship between Claudius and his mother- but, significantly, a range of other reasons, such as the murder of his father, his encounter with the ghost, the subsequent questioning of his Protestant faith and the fact that Claudius is on the throne of Denmark and not him.

Dover Wilson argues that Hamlet’s issues with his mother and with women generally have their roots in simple jealousy, which appears in many of Shakespeare’s plays, rather than any Oedipal obsession. In his book What Happens in Hamlet, he asserts that Eliot, “would prehaps not go to the length of the psycho-analyst Dr Ernest Jones, who declares that Hamlet suffers from an Oedipus complex, because Shakespeare did also, but he seems to hint at such a solution.” He also comments on the fact that a Shakespearean audience would have seen Hamlet’s disgust for his mother as perfectly rational because it was considered incest if you married your in-law in the 17th century, because of the way Henry VIII used an obscure biblical reference to marriage between in laws being a form of incest. Shakespeare’s first audience’s would have been very disturbed by the relationship between Claudius and Gertrude and especially Hamlet’s first soliloquy, where the word “incestouous” is first used.

Hamlet’s first soliloquy (I.II.129) tends to favour TS Eliot’s arguments due to the fact that Hamlet’s main anger is focused on his mother’s “o’er hasty marriage”. The opening line, “O that this too too sullied flesh would melt”, suggests that Hamlet feels dirty, possibly because he has sexual feelings towards his mother. This is also evident when he struggles, on numerous occasions, to finish his sentences, for instance, “and yet within a month – Let me not think on’t –” (I.II.145/6). This implies that he is infatuated with her because he cannot bear to think of her with Claudius. TS Eliot would argue that, due to the lack of concern about not inheriting the throne and his father’s recent death, the first soliloquy shows that this is the main cause for his antagonism. However, Dover Wilson disagrees with this, “the strain, however, I associate, not with any mysterious complex, but with the more common-place derangement known as jealousy”. He believes that Shakespeare had a particular interest in the subject of jealousy as he repeatedly wrote about it, especially in the Sonnets. Dover Wilson also points out that TS Eliot doesn’t mention the fact about Gertrude’s relationship with Claudius being “incestuous” (I.II.157). At the beginning he just refers to his mother, “so loving to my mother” (I.II.140), yet goes on to generalize from his mother to all women, “Frailty, thy name is woman –” (I.II.146) giving the impression that he has an irrational disgust for women, pointing to an irrational disgust for his mother.

The scene directly after Hamlet’s interaction with the Ghost of Old Hamlet is similar to his first soliloquy, however the source of anger is different. Hamlet only mentions his mother once, “O most pernicious woman” (I.V.105) which suggests that he is more concerned with the recent information about his father’s murder. This supports Dover Wilson’s argument that Hamlet’s “antic disposition” is the result of many factors rather than purely disgust for his mother. Hamlet has other concerns at this point such as seeing his deceased father, finding out that his father was murdered by his uncle and the upsetting of his protestant faith.

Later on, in the scene between Hamlet and Ophelia (III.I), it is made apparent as stated by Dover Wilson, that Hamlet is indeed something of a misogynist rather than just having an uwholesome obsession with his mother. “You jig, and amble, and you lisp, you nick-name God’s creatures” (III.II.146/7) suggests that Hamlet has strong feelings about the way women trick men by using their femininity, leading Dover Wilson to believe that Hamlet is prehaps a misogynist. Equally, TS Eliot would argue that Hamlet’s misogyny is caused by problems in his feelings for his mother.

In Act 2, Scene 2 the “double entry” argument is brought into the play. TS Eliot and Dover Wilson have opposing views on the matter and adequate evidence so support their beliefs. The question is whether Hamlet overhears Polonius, Gertrude and Claudius’ plan to set him up by secretly listening to Hamlet and Ophelia having a conversation. Polonius is trying to prove that it is Hamlet’s love for Ophelia that is the root of his madness, yet Claudius is suspicious that Hamlet is only pretending to be mentally unstable and there is more behind his unusual behaviour. We are unsure when Shakespeare wanted Hamlet to enter the scene, which is the crucial point in determining the double entry argument true of false. It is possible that Hamlet comes on when Polonius says, “You know sometimes he walks for hours together here in the lobby” (II.II.160). Dover Wilson believes this to be so and that Hamlet knows to act as if it is Ophelia’s rejection that has led to his emotional turmoil. Other evidence that Hamlet is present when they are discussing the plan is that he calls Polonius a “fishmonger” (II.II.174). One reason for this is that he knows he is using Ophelia for his own profit. It also relates back to Polonius stating that he will, “loose” his daughter to Hamlet. The word “loose” refers to sending a cow to mate with a bull when she is in heat. Polonious is comparing his daughter to a cow and treating her like a piece of meat, giving Hamlet a means to call him a “fishmonger”. On the other hand, due to Hamlets state of mind, he could just be putting words together to form a sentence. In this case TS Eliot’s argument that the double entry is not true is favoured.

Hamlet changes the subject from, “sun breed maggots in a dead dog” (II.II.181) to “Have you a daughter?” (II.II.182). This implies that Hamlet feels that what Polonius is asking his daughter to do is disgusting. Hamlet also tells Polonius “Let her not walk i’th’ sun” (II.II184) meaning don’t let her go down in the world by carrying out the plan. On the other hand TS Eliot’s counterargument is that, due to his state of mind, he is just making it all up and has no meaning behind it. Hamlet could appear on stage just before he starts talking meaning he is unaware of the whole plan.

The result of the double entry argument comes in Act 3, Scene 1, just after Hamlet’s third soliloquy. This scene can be anaylised from two different perspectives, on being that Hamlet does know that he is being spied on and the other being that he is oblivous to Claudius and Polonious’ presense. Dover Wilson believes that Hamlet is aware of the plan and lays into Ophelia in order to trick them. When Hamlet says, “I loved you not” (III.I.118/119), in Dover Wilsons eyes, Hamlet doesn’t really mean it and is just doing it for Claudius’ benefit. However, TS Eliot’s counter argument would be that he is speaking the truth and is annoyed at Ophelia. Hamlet specifically blames his mother for his birth, “better my mother had not borne me” (III.I.124), giving TS Eliot reasoning for believing that it is still his mother that has effected him. It has been said that “where’s your father?” (III.I.130) is the line when Hamlet hears or notices Claudius and Polonious behind the arras. This would make sense as he carries on having a go at Ophelia. Hamlet makes a comment, that acts like a threat towards Claudius, which implies that he doesn’t know of Claudius and Polonius’ whereabouts, “those that are married already – all but one – shall live” (III.I.150). The repetition of the word “farewell” by Hamlet gives the impression that he keeps wanting to leave but still has more to get off of his chest. For TS Eliot this would resemble Hamlet’s true feelings towards Ophelia, yet Dover Wilson would prehaps agrue that he is attempting to trick Claudius and Polonius into thinking that it is Ophelia making him act this way by gradually getting more distressed.

When Claudius and Polonius come out of hiding after Hamlets exits, Claudius isn’t convinced that it is purely Ophelia that has angered him, he suspects he knows about the murder, “there’s something in his soul O’er which his meancholy sits on brood” (III.I.166/167). In this case he represents Dover Wilson because he thinks there are more reasons causing his unusual behaviour. On the other hand Polonius is confident that Ophelia is the cause of his madness and sets up the ‘closet scene’ between Gertrude and Hamlet, “after the play Let his queen-mother all alone entreeat him To show his grief, let her be round with him, and I’ll be plac’d, so please you, in the ear of all their conference” (III.I.183-186). Polonius, similarly to TS Eliot believes that women are the route cause of his lunacy.

When Hamlet finds out about the actors coming to Elsinore, he immediately takes this as his oppourtunity to prove whether Claudius is guilty of his fathers murder or not. In order to do this his adds a scene into the play that parallels the situation according to the Ghost. Hamlet also includes a link to his mothers hasty marriage, which could essentially be a point for TS Eliot. The main argument comes when the play is being performed, who is Hamlet watching for a reaction. For TS Eliots theory to be correct Hamlet needs to be observing Gertrude for her reaction to the hasty marriage in the play.

Dover Wilson, however, wants Hamlet to be watching Claudius to see his reaction to the murder. From the way that Hamlet talks to Horatio before the play, we would assume that he is going to be taking notes on Claudius, “For I mine eyes will rivet to his face, And after we will both our judgements join In censure of his seeming” (III.II.84-87). Arguably, Hamlet could be asking Horatio to keep an eye on Claudius enabling him to watch Gertrude, making her his first concern.

Evidence for TS Eliot is given when Hamlet says to himself, “If she should break it now” prehaps refering to Gertrude. This suggests that he is waiting for her reaction. Hamlet also asks his mother, “Madam, how like you this play?” (III.II.224). This implies that he is pricking at Gertrude’s conscience and see if it has affected her in any way. The way that Hamlet says, “O, but she’ll keep her word” (III.II.226) emphasises that Gertrude didn’t keep her word and Hamlet wants her to know how he feels about what she did. Equally, evidence for Dover Wilson comes in the part of the play when the murder is being acted out. The situation between Gertrude and Claudius is reiterated in the play, “You shall see anon how the murderer gets the love of Gonzago’s wife” (III.II.257). This possibly reveals that Hamlet is watching Claudius, as he is essentially talking about him.

Throughout the play, Gertrude’s character is very open to personal interpretation as she is presented with no psychological transparency. Her character can be played in two different ways, this is dependant on how Shakespeare wanted the play to be directed. In order to favour Dover Wilsons theory to be true, Gertrude would need to be played as if she knew about the murder and helped Claudius plan it all along. This would mean that Hamlet has a more valid reason to be anrgy at Gertrude. Good evidence for this is in Act III Scene 4, the ‘closet scene’ between Hamlet and Gertrude, “As kill a king?” (III.IV.29). Dover Wilson would agrue that Gertrude is worried that Hamlet knows she had something to do with the murder and is trying to hide the truth. Essentially, Gertrude could be oblvious to the fact that Claudius killed Old Hamlet, therefore is confused by Hamlets assumption. This would be TS Eliots side to the story. Similarly, “O speak to me no more. These words like daggers enter in my ears. No more, sweet Hamlet” (III.IV.94-96), could mean that Gertude cannot believe what she is hearing and is genuinly offended that Hamlet would think such a thing, TS Eliot’s point of view. Equally, Gertrude could be denying everything and praising Hamlet to get on his good side, as due to his recent act of violence she knows he is capable of murder. The ‘closet scene’ also provides a lot of evidence that Hamlet isn’t primarily concerned with his mother as he doesn’t fail to mention Claudius, “A king of shreds and patches –” (III.IV.104).

Both John Dover Wilson and TS Eliot make valuable, yet questionable arguments to demonstrate whether the statement made by TS Eliot that Hamlet is ‘a play dealing with the effect of a mother’s guilt upon her son’ is entirely true. After looking at both sides to the arguments I believe that Dover Wilson has a more valid explanation for Hamlet’s lunacy. This is because in most of the scenes where Hamlet comes across as aggressive and violent, it is not just directed at his mother as TS Eliot suggests in his book The Sacred Wood. Finally, it is hard to say that Hamlets anger is merely aimed at his mother, when he clearly mentions other factors in his soliloquies, such as his fathers murder and the disruption of his protestant faith. Hence, I believe that John Dover Wilsons arguments are more reliable and that there is significantly more evidence in the play that support his cases.

Word Count 2,385

Mallory

3:20 AM  

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