Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Hamlet Read-Along: Act IV, Scene 6

We have a very short scene with which to ease ourselves back into the read-along, eh?  And then only three scenes left!  I think I'm going to end up splitting the last two in half again, though, as they're lengthy and rich.

Anyway, this scene is just here for Horatio to read a letter and catch the audience up on what's happened off-stage.  Hamlet's returning!  He has evaded Claudius' machinations to have England kill him, as mentioned in IV, 3.  How?  Via pirates, of course!  I love the way he describes them:  "thieves of mercy" (20).  I've always wanted to write a pirate story with that as its title.  Maybe one of these days, I will.

I'm intrigued by Horatio's statement early in this scene, where he says, "I do not know from what part of the world I should be greeted, if not from Lord Hamlet (4-5).  No one else writes Horatio letters?  Not even pals from Wittenberg?  He really is a man apart, isn't he?  The loner, the observer, the reporter.  Anyway, off he goes to meet Hamlet, and that's the end of our scene for the day!

Possible Discussion Questions:

Horatio is supposed to be keeping watch over Ophelia, but she's not mentioned in this scene.  Any thoughts on that?

Do you think the pirates are a bit of a deus ex machina?  Does it matter if they are?

9 comments:

  1. Shakespeare must find a way to explain Hamlet, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern; Horatio is the plot device. Moreover, transitional scenes like this are essential to Elizabethan/Jacobean staging. Notice also the change in pace with this kind of scene. The play is a roller-coaster with alternating slow-and-fast scenes; Shakespeare is putting the pot on simmer until he brings it to a terrible boil.

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    1. R.T., yes, sometimes exposition is just necessary! And this scene gives actors time to change costumes and get scenery and props ready to change stuff out, etc.

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  2. This the scene that bothers me the most about Horatio.We know he was sent to
    watch over Ophelia at her first entrance/exit.But we don't get to know whether he was sent out in the second entrance/exit. OTOH, his duties at the court, were to "stand around til someone tells him to leave." Let's go with the probability that he was told to follow her. She was sitting on the ground beneath the willow, still singing, still sorting her flowers. She is oblivious to anything or anyone. Horatio gets his letter, then studies it,& then wants to go Hamlet.* And leaves Ophelia unattended.*I wonder whether after taking the letter for the king,he returns to where he left Ophelia -who is already dead. He takes the news to the queen, who relays it to Laertes. Hamlet and Horatio stroll around talking before coming upon the grave digger, and Hamlet is instantly intrigued by the the scene. He goes up on off questions and puns and the aftermath of death. Horatio answers in a few, noncommittal words, getting more terse, "I'twere to consider it to closely to consider it so." Now something I must have imagined because I've not found it yet: When Hamlet & Laertes are fighting in Ophelia's grave, the King& Queen are shouting for them to be separated. The attendants and Horatio pull them apart. Hamlet yells, "What is the reason that you use me thus? I have loved you ever, but it is no matter. Let Hercules do what he may, the cat will mew and dog will have his day." This is directed to Horatio rather than Laertes, who falls back.He pulls away from Horatio and leaves & the king orders Horatio to follow. (Horatio,go here, Horatio, go there.)
    Oh well. That's how I'Ill direct it.
    ~Kelda


















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    1. :^) In my Remember Me, Horatio is the youngest of six brothers. The family business can't quite be split 6 ways comfortably. His mother's widowed,childless brother has a bookbinding business which he'll give to his nephew. His uncle has given him everything: a business he loves, it's an education, and,a financee, Olivia,the youngest sister of a group 5 who has been rescued from her family who had already sent the the 4th to a convent. He gets occasional letters from them. Just too far away,

      ~Kelda


















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    2. This is for Kelda and whoever has already read the play -- if you don't want spoilers, don't read this comment!

      I don't blame Horatio for Ophelia's death, really, except that he left in a hurry to get to his dear friend Hamlet. Here's how I think it plays out:

      1. Horatio is watching over Ophelia.
      2. The sailors arrive with the letters. Horatio has left Ophelia in a safe place, maybe in the castle, and he leaves, heads down to meet Hamlet away from the castle, possibly out by the coast. Somewhere that takes like a day to get to. Otherwise, why would Hamlet send a letter, if he wasn't too far off to get to Elsinore quickly?
      3. Ophelia eludes whoever was watching her in Horatio's stead and drowns.
      4. Gertrude brings the unhappy news -- Claudius and Laertes have been in conference and so she's the one the guards or whoever tells about it. That's why there's the weird reference to "long purples" because the guards/soldiers/commoners called them that when they brought her the report.
      5. They get Ophelia ready for burial, and take her out to the graveyard.
      6. Horatio and Hamlet return. Horatio blames himself for abandoning Ophelia to go find Hamlet, which is why he gets so terse -- he's berating himself inwardly, but doesn't want to interfere with Hamlet's grief.

      Whatcha think?

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  3. Wow, pirates. That was rather unexpected. It does seem very convenient, but, yeah, it doesn't bother me. It's Shakespeare. ;) Well, considering how Hamlet is pretty much Horatio's only friend, I can see him dropping everything for anything that has to do with him. He probably was watching Ophelia right before entering the scene, and left because he expected it'd be news about/from Hamlet. :P

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    1. The biggest problem to me is the likehood that it Horatio had taken word to Gertrude...but he doesn't tell Hamlet. He knows Ophelia is dead, but says nothing. His answers just get more more terse.
      ~Kelda

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    2. Sarah, yes, pirates! That always makes me grin.

      I don't think Horatio informed Gertrude, or knew about Ophelia's death -- I think she died after he left, because he wasn't there to watch over her, and so he blames himself for her death, and maybe a little bit Hamlet too, for calling him away.

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    3. Sarah ~ Y'know, that makes sense! I've always been fixated on the depth of Horatio's devotion to Hamlet, but never see him interacting with the other characters excepting a few words to the queen. Wish I still had the little plain copy in which I had highlighted all of his speeches & what added up to and after them. Of course, whenever I get him home again in my wip there's lots of family to welcome him home. Regarding Horatio's culpability in Ophelia's death,with the added devastation of losing Hamlet he must have been near the limit of his Stoic training which teaches calmess in the face of death.
      ~Kelda































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What do you think?

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