R & G are dead

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet : One Thread

What do we all think about Hamlet sending Rosencrantz and Guildenstern 'to't'?

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), March 09, 2002


Well, it wasn't very nice, that's for sure. It is also a pretty distant way to kill someone. All very neat, out of sight and not at your own hand.

Perhaps having killed Polonius sort of up close and personal (not that he actually looked him in the eye as he did it, mind you, but to feel the knife going in...), he couldn't do that to people he had once liked. Now, of course, they've betrayed him (to his mind, anyway, I seriously doubt that they would have gone along knowing what was in the letter) and his honor (and hurt feelings) demands that he do something about it.

Certainly, it would have been more politically astute to show them the letter and explain what has happened and let them know that they're on the wrong side. They could have contacted Horatio for validation and gone back to Denmark as a unified force. Would they have believed him? I don't know.

You know, he could have forged the letter to have them imprisoned rather than killed. Why kill them? I think that it goes back to his anger at how easily they were swayed by Claudius in the beginning. Why didn't they go to him and say, "You know, you've been acting mighty weird, lately. Your uncle wanted us to find out why, so here we are. Why are you so wierd?"

What an opening for them to become allies! If reading Shakespeare has taught me anything, it's that when people don't honestly communicate with eachother, someone's going to die.


-- Casey (mikken@neo.rr.com), March 12, 2002.

O, 'tis too true.

The problem is sorta Hamlet's 'they did make love to this employment ... their defeat/ Does by their own insinuation grow ...'. 'Make love' is pretty strong: he seems to think they knew what they were doing in taking him to England, or at least would have still done it if they had known, because of the ambition of which they, ironically, accuse him in II.ii. And III.iv.202-212 seems to back this up: he sees them as actually plotting against him with petards and mines.

They may not be, but he thinks they are. But then, he usually has pretty good instincts about people, yeah? And Horatio certainly doesn't berate Hamlet for arranging their deaths, only goes on to excalaim against Claudius, presumably for corrupting them.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), March 13, 2002.

True, but Horatio is a practical man. Ragging on Hamlet for it *after* the fact is pointless. No doubt he realizes that they are already dead whether they still breathe at that moment or not. He can't stop or change it, so he moves on. His feelings about it are not relevant right then.


-- mikken (mikken@neo.rr.com), March 14, 2002.

True again. Thanks Casey. And Horatio has very little to say about anything Hamlet does, which is probably a dramatic thing as much as a character thing. But it's probably also a major reason Hmalet likes him: Hamlet must get so sick of everybody interfering with and assessing and judging him and everything he does all the time.

It's probably also why Horatio is the right person to 'report [Hamlet] and [his] cause aright/ To the unsatisfied' at the end: he knows the facts but doesn't give opinions or make judgements. It goes with III.ii.47-67, and also Polonius' 'to thine own self be true/ And ... Thou canst not then be false to any man.'

I think now that R & G get hit with a kind of poetic justice - rough, yes, but then death was a much more common punishment back then.

They are sycophantic, but maybe more stupid than malicious - silly kiddies who, as Hamlet basically says, shouldn't play with the grown-ups ('Tis dangerous when the baser nature ...').

Your solutions are the rational ones for sure; but as you say, when does rationality win out against wounded pride and feelings. And maybe deep down Hamlet knows even if they believed him they would probably side with the more powerful force, the one who's likely to win and from whom they'll get more 'countenance, ... rewards, ...authorities' - Claudius.

And when Hamlet gets back in V.i he announces himself as 'Hamlet the Dane'. Of course technically he's not, but he's accurate to the extent that Claudius has no right to be King. So what R & G do, in functioning as Claudius' minions against the Prince, sort of amounts to treason.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), March 15, 2002.

I think in his craftiness, his ability to remove adversaries, his ability to “be cruel to be kind”, and his ability to lie convincingly to suvive, and achieve his ends and what he believes is a greater, common good (eg. asking his mother to give up Claudius and repent, the removal of the evil and corruptive Claudius), maybe Hamlet demonstrates his princely potential.

The following comes from Macchiavelli, THE PRINCE, trans. N. H. Thomson, Quality Paperback Book Club, New York, 1992, “The Qualities In Respect of Which Men, and Most of All Princes, Are Praised or Blamed”, pp. 53-54, and “Of Cruelty and Clemency, and Whether It Is Better to be Loved od Feared”, pp.56-59.

'... any one who would act up to a perfect standard of goodness in everything, must be ruined among so many who are not good. It is essential, therefore, for a Prince who desires to maintain his position, to have learned how to be other than good, and to use or not to use his goodness as necessity requires'


'A Prince should therefore disregard the reproach of being thought cruel where it enables him to keep his subjects united and obedient. For he who quells disorder by a very few signal examples will in the end be more merciful than he sho from too great leniency permits things to take their course and so to result in rapine and bloodshed; for these hurt the whole State, whereas the severities of the Prince injure individuals only. ...

'... the friendships which we buy with a price, and do not gain by greatness and nobility of character, though they be fairly earned are not made good, but fail us when we have occasion to use them. ...

'... a Prince should inspire fear in such a fashion that if he do not win love he may escape hate. For a man may very well be feared and yet not hated, and this will be the case so long as he does not meddle with the property or with the women of his citizens and subjects. And if constrained to put any to death, he should do so only when there is manifest cause or reasonable justification.'

Also, Hamlet knows he can't work alone, but he is very selective about who he has to aid him. As though following Castiglione’s advice in THE BOOK OF THE COURTIER for the courtier “To gete him an especiall and hartye friend to companye withall”, he selects Horatio. And following Macchiavelli, he seeks the help and advice of Horatio, whose wisdom, honesty and plain-speaking he respects, shunning the mediocre flattery of Rosencrantz, Guildenstern and Polonius. Yet he is wise and competent enough himself not to subdue his own will and judgement to Horatio’s when they do not agree, as in V.i.196-205, V.ii.205-220.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), April 19, 2002.

R and G have no free will. All they know to do is what the king tells them to. See the whole "You are a sponge that soaks up the kings countenece and so that he can squeeze you dry" speech in 4.2. I think it's wonderfully fitting that hamlet kills R and G by using their own mindless faith against them.

-- crystal (dickinsone@kent-school.edu), October 18, 2002.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ