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|Reading Hamlet with Willoughby
Written by Barbara
(9/14/2009 12:40 p.m.)
In ch. 16, Mrs. Dashwood remarks that they had been reading Hamlet with Willoughby, but had not finished it yet. I'm of the opinion that Jane Austen would not choose the name of a particular play by accident--why Hamlet out of all Shakespeare?
I like to amuse myself in wondering how far they got in their reading. Hamlet is dealing with the death of his father. You cannot get very far into the play (beyond the second scene) without encountering that topic.
I wonder how Marianne and her mother, especially, would have reacted to Gertrude questioning Hamlet about why he is still grieving so much for his father's death to which Hamlet replies:
Would they have thought anything about the idea of putting on the 'trappings and the suits of woe'? Not to say that their grief was not genuine over Mr. Dashwood, but they also did put on a real show of it.
Or how might they react to this reply of Claudius'?
He's saying that to persist in demonstrating grief to such a degree shows a weakness of heart and mind, rather than the reverse. Of course they could dismiss his speech because he's a villain and because they wouldn't care about being unmanly, but there is certainly some irony there, at the very least, in imagining them reading or hearing those lines read.
I wonder if they got as far as some of the discussions between Ophelia and her father and brother?
How would the group react and think when Laertes says this to Ophelia?
I can imagine Marianne scoffing at someone being unable to tell the difference between a love that is forward, not permanent and sweet, not lasting, vs. the real thing.
Or, if they got this far in the play, they may have read aloud Polonius advising Ophelia:
It's interesting to read the rest of what Polonius has to say to his daughter and imagine what people in Barton cottage might have been thinking if they read that part!
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