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|digging up the sordid truth
Written by Elysha
(6/10/2003 2:51 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, GR: Hamlet rant, penned by Sheena
If bringing the truth to light is doing good, then Hamlet did good both in his staging of the play and in his discussion with Gertrude.
It brings to mind a situation in one of Dorothy Sayers' mysteries. The detective finds that in hunting down a forgotten and almost unimportant murder (the woman was terminally ill anyway), he motivates the culprit to murder a new series of people, indirectly causing their deaths by his curiosity. He wonders if he was right to probe originally, just on suspicion, or if he should have left the still waters unmoved.
I think that Hamlet's most effective action was his final discovery of Claudius' guilt by staging the play and watching the reactions of the audience. As soon as Claudius was aware that Hamlet knew, chaos erupted as Claudius took steps to secure his throne from the threat. Claudius took the following actions: Sending Polonius to spy on Hamlet's conversation with his mother (by rights, Claudius should have been the spy). Seizing the excuse of Polonius' murder to banish Hamlet from the country. Sending Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlet's old associates, to destroy Hamlet at a distance (am I remembering that right?). Inciting Laertes to kill Hamlet in a revenge duel. Claudius never works directly; however, every person that Hamlet kills, directly or indirectly, emotionally or with reason, is a person that Claudius has used to destroy Hamlet and thus destroy the arguably sole person who knows of Claudius' foul deed.
When the play made Hamlet sure, and let Claudius know that Hamlet knew, Hamlet's lonely quest for revenge became a fight to the death between two people. Claudius was a desperate killer.
Had Hamlet let well enough alone, Claudius might still have been a killer, but he would not have been desperate. He would probably have ruled well (although I found Cheryl's, or was it Laraine's, point earlier about how he allowed Fortinbras to march through his lands extremely provocative).
Does that mean that Hamlet shouldn't have tried to find out? Shouldn't have given Claudius the alarm? Should have stifled the truth in the interests of practicality?
The court is revealed to itself as entirely rotten at the end of the play. Of course, this revelation was purchased at the price of everyone's lives. I think the dilemma is very like the one Dorothy Sayers' detective faces -- except that in Dorothy Sayers' book, the victims are all innocent, whereas in Hamlet most of them are guilty of something.
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