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JIMMY HOFFA’S READING OF HAMLET 11 months 1 week ago #7363

  • David K Farkas
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Many years ago an English professor at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, taught a course in Shakespeare at the Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary. During the class on Hamlet, in walks the notorious gangster and Teamsters Union boss Jimmy Hoffa. All the inmates stood. When the class resumed, the professor asked, "Why did it take so long for Hamlet to kill Claudius?" Mr. Hoffa responded with his own question/comment: "Why did it take so long for Claudius to kill Hamlet? He could have squashed him like a bug with his thumb." Indeed, we should keep in mind that Claudius’ decision to send Hamlet to England with that letter for the English king was an indirect and ultimately disastrous course of action. Nothing could be clearer to Jimmy Hoffa than this: If you need somebody out of the way, best to do it yourself, do it quickly, and not worry about peoples' objections.

Hoffa’s comment on Hamlet was related to me by my cousin Norma Mandel during our recent visit. She and the Bucknell professor live in the same retirement community in Lewisburg.
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JIMMY HOFFA’S READING OF HAMLET 11 months 1 week ago #7366

  • Steve Minkin
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Cool story!

But of course the answer to the question of why didn't Claudius bump off Hamlet right away is that these were Danes attempting to give the appearance of regal civility, or at least plausible deniability. Hoffa would have been more at home with Lear or Macbeth, plays in which people don't necessarily need excuses to imprison, slander or murder.

Accountability. Slightly off topic, but intuitively related: my wife and I just saw the wonderful 2015 Broadway production of The King and I in San Francisco. Great show (and my first stage role -- probably about 1954, when I was ten -- I was the crown prince in a summer camp show)! In the closing scene the King gives up his throne to the crown prince. The Prince begins to make his new proclamations, including that the old way of crouching down like a frog before the king is no longer to be done. He has a crisis of confidence, turns to his father, asks if this is OK. His father says, You're the king, why are you asking an old man what he thinks, tell the people what the king wants.

It's this sense of accountability, being able to explain yourself to God, family, peers, country, etc. Hamlet has it in excess; but Claudius also has it, at least insofar as it allows him to legitimately rule.

Hoffa, Edmund, Iago -- accountability, not so much.
Last Edit: 11 months 1 week ago by Steve Minkin.
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