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TOPIC: Claudius' response to 'Gonzago'

Claudius' response to 'Gonzago' 6 years 11 months ago #777

The "anguished response" of Claudius to 'Gonzago' is open to question. It makes a huge assumption -- that Claudius does reveal his guilt. Horatio doesn't say so. The BBC production (Jacobi and Stewart) showed Hamlet breaking up the play, not Claudius. Claudius held a torch to Hamlet's face -- reversing the action in the Olivier film. See also Michael Pennington's 'A Handbook to "Hamlet"'
on this point. Who wrote these plot summaries? They need a professional overview and editing.
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Claudius' response to 'Gonzago' 6 years 11 months ago #778

So true. The play synopses are from Wikipedia and were only meant to serve as "placeholders" while we write & rewrite our own versions. In going through the other plays, there are so many blatant errors that they give new meaning to the word "anguish". :)

If you'd like to take a stab at one or more of them, feel free to do so with the understanding that everything on this site is free and user-contributed.
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Claudius' response to 'Gonzago' 6 years 11 months ago #779

That is entirely right - Wikipedia needs a lot of work on their Hamlet material. I wrote Wikipedia a synopsis of the play recently, to try to help get that much straightened out, and I wrote them an Ophelia article, but there's still a huge amount of work to do there.

And if you want to know the truth of Claudius leaving the play - if anybody can stand the truth - Claudius doesn't react to the 'Mousetrap' play. What Claudius reacts to, is Hamlet talking about Gonzago.

It was the Gonzago news story, which inspired the Player's Gonzago play, that also gave Claudius the idea of how to kill his brother. Claudius didn't think of the method himself (who would?) - he read about Gonzago in the news.

The Players read the same news about the Gonzago murder, and turned the news story into a play.

When Hamlet starts talking about Gonzago, he's unknowingly identifying - right out loud in public - the news story that gave Claudius the idea of how to kill his brother. Claudius can't take it, so he jumps up and leaves. He's afraid of what Hamlet might say next.

It's a fantastic irony in the play. Hamlet is sure the 'Mousetrap' play got to Claudius, since it looks that way to him, and he has no idea he did it himself.
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Claudius' response to 'Gonzago' 6 years 11 months ago #780

The synopsis I did for Hamlet on Wikipedia is in a flat "just the facts" style, as best I could manage that. So if that's what you want, it's already there, ready to copy 'n' paste.
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Claudius' response to 'Gonzago' 6 years 11 months ago #783

Willedever wrote:
And if you want to know the truth of Claudius leaving the play - if anybody can stand the truth - Claudius doesn't react to the 'Mousetrap' play. What Claudius reacts to, is Hamlet talking about Gonzago.

It was the Gonzago news story, which inspired the Player's Gonzago play, that also gave Claudius the idea of how to kill his brother. Claudius didn't think of the method himself (who would?) - he read about Gonzago in the news.

The Players read the same news about the Gonzago murder, and turned the news story into a play.

When Hamlet starts talking about Gonzago, he's unknowingly identifying - right out loud in public - the news story that gave Claudius the idea of how to kill his brother.

All right, this is a new one on me. A "news story"?! You're saying that The Murder of Gonzago was not actually a play, but the Players' interpretation of a recent event? I'm sure you have textual examples to back up this claim, and I would love to hear about them.

To have a thing like "the news" at all in Hamlet's time seems unlikely, but I guess you could argue that the action takes place in a more Elizabethan setting than a historical one.

I'd love to hear more about this. I have to say I am presently rather skeptical.
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Claudius' response to 'Gonzago' 6 years 11 months ago #785

We simply look at the exact dialogue. Then follow from there.

Hamlet says: "this play is the image of a murder done in Vienna."

He's telling us that there was an actual murder in Vienna. Then, the "Murder of Gonzago" play was written as a fictional portrayal of that real murder. The Vienna murder was the real event, the play is its "image" or fictional representation.

The Players' pre-existing play, that they already had in their repertoire when they arrived at Elsinore, "The Murder of Gonzago," is a fictional account of a real murder, that happened in Vienna.

When Hamlet then mentions the "Duke" he means the person in the actual murder. The actual murder, in Vienna, was the murder of a Duke.

When the players did their play, they must have "promoted" the Duke to be a King, probably just because a king sounds more important in drama. That kind of "promotion" happens all the time in fiction, to make it sound more important.

When Hamlet then says "the story is extant" he means that the news story, of the real murder of the Duke in Vienna, still exists (i.e. people could still read about it.)

So:

1. There was a real murder, in Vienna, of a Duke named "Gonzago."

2. The Players fictionalized that murder, to create their "Murder of Gonzago" play. They "promoted" the Duke to be a King, because it sounds more important.

3. Hamlet knew the Players had that "Gonzago" play, about the killing of a "king." He also knew where the play came from.

4. When Hamlet mentions the "Duke" he's showing off his knowledge of the original news story, that was adapted to make the play.

One reason the Players fictionalized the Vienna murder is because the method was so remarkable: the Duke was killed from poison applied to his ears. Weird. That was in the original news story, and they kept it in their play, for how the play "king" was killed.

But, is Hamlet the only person who ever read, or heard, the news in Europe? - no, of course not. Claudius can read. Claudius had also read the story, about the murder of the Duke in Vienna, using the strange method of poison in the ears. It inspired Claudius for how he might kill his brother - and get away with it - if he used the right poison.

When Hamlet talks about the Duke, and Vienna, he's just showing off that he knows where the play came from. However, Hamlet does not know that he's identifying, right out loud in public, the news story that inspired Claudius to commit murder. And it's that which gets to Claudius, and motivates him to leave.

They didn't have the London Times in those days, but people talked, and wrote letters, and so on. Interesting news got around then, same as now. Any European aristocrat would take a keen interest in the murder of another aristocrat in Europe. Including Claudius.
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Claudius' response to 'Gonzago' 6 years 11 months ago #786

It's also possible to go through the Gonzago-Mousetrap play, in detail, and show that Shakespeare wrote it so that Claudius won't react to the play, itself. That takes quite a long time, however (and is probably more than most people can stand.)

People have the vague notion that since Claudius is 'supposed' to react to the play, that he really does. However, that vague notion is not true. Claudius reacts to Hamlet.
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Claudius' response to 'Gonzago' 6 years 11 months ago #787

Thanks for walking me through it. I admit it's a very seductive notion. It does seem to explain more explicitly just why Claudius is suddenly so eager to get rid of Hamlet... there's actually more than mere suspicion at place; Claudius believes that Hamlet has completely found him out.

Agreed, it is a convincing idea. I should like an opportunity to evaluate some scholarly counter-arguments before accepting the notion whole-heartedly, though. But off-hand, it seems to hold water.
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Claudius' response to 'Gonzago' 6 years 11 months ago #789

Another question relevant to this thread: Which parts of the Gonzago/Mousetrap actually comprise the one and the other? (And also, which lines did Hamlet insert in it?) In my experience, scholars do not entirely agree. Where does the one end and the other begin? I'm sure you have answers readily at hand, and by all means present them.

Use the Arden edition for line reference (I have both the 2nd and 3rd Series editions). I have my own theory, too, of course, which I shall supply afterwards.
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Claudius' response to 'Gonzago' 6 years 11 months ago #791

You'll have a hard time finding any counter-argument. The books and articles you'll find will simply imagine that since Claudius is supposed to react to the play, that must be what he does.

Although I need to add, there are a few who discuss Claudius's departure in relation to Hamlet's "nephew" remark.
Last Edit: 6 years 11 months ago by Willedever.
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