Frederic N. Rajnish
30 January 2001
Final Thoughts on The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
In light of the biographical information that was recently presented in class, The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark has the potential to take on new meaning. Instead of just being a play that takes a closer look at honor, revenge and suicide, Hamlet turns into a canvas that gave Edward DeVere the opportunity to express himself without exposing himself at the same time.
Assuming that the role of Hamlet was based on DeVere, the query that plagues my mind is: DeVere or not DeVere? That is the question, indeed. As discussed in class, there are similarities between the character of Hamlet and DeVere, including: loss of a father at an early age, a quick re-marriage by the mother, being interested in the theatre and the pirate attack, just to name a few.
Something we did not discuss in class was the ending of the play and how that might correspond with DeVere's current anonymity when it comes to the works of Shakespeare. During the final scene in Hamlet, Prince Hamlet finds himself mortally wounded just after he has finally gotten his revenge on his uncle. As he dies, Hamlet asks Horatio to tell his story (V.ii.338-339). Horatio knows everything that has transpired since the beginning of the play, so he would be able to tell the Danes about how Hamlet figured out the horrible treason that had occurred with the foul death of his father, etc. In essence, Horatio's story would give Hamlet honor and seal his memory in the hearts of the Danish people (and possibly others) forever for his noble works.
The rest of Hamlet is so autobiographical that it does not make sense for the final scene to not represent something in DeVere's life. I think that DeVere wrote this scene as a will or instructions on how he wanted his dramatic works to be handled when he died. Once dead, he would have no need to fear persecution by the Tudor family, so his name could finally be associated with all of the plays and sonnets that he had been writing secretly. Essentially, his talent would be praised, and his legend would live on in the hearts of all who saw his dramatic works.
Unfortunately, whoever DeVere's Horatio was did not reveal his friend's accomplishments and the plays are credited to a grain dealer from Stratford. Forget all the rest of the theories on why Hamlet is a fabulous tragedy; I think this is the true tragedy behind Hamlet. While it is true that the Shakespeare works can be admired without regarding who actually penned them, there is something to be said for gathering more meaning through knowing [about] the author.
Frederic N. Rajnish
7 February 2001
Kate's Final Speech / Words from the Woman Formerly Known as Shrew
The Katherina that gives the final speech in The Taming of the Shrew is quite a departure from the Katherina we were introduced to in Act I. This new Kate is modest, quiet and obedient. All of these qualities were not present until Act V. Such a profound personality change prompts the questions how this happened and what purpose do her changes serve?
The answer to the first question, how did this happen, is simple to answer: Petruchio has tamed her. His taming tactics are comparable to that of a military officer and a patient mentor: He is ruthless and unwilling to bend the rules in order to make her learn, however, he is content to let her learn at her own pace. The text for his lessons is Kate's own temper, actions and words. By spewing her deeds back into her face at an unrelenting pace, she is forced to see how ridiculous she has been acting, and it is at this point that the transformation begins.
Due to the nature of Petruchio's teachings, The Taming of the Shrew can be seen as a rather sexist play, painting women as servants and possessions to be ruled over. I think that if one wants to see it that way, one can. However, I believe the opposite. This play makes a statement about shallowness, the partnership of a married couple and what virtues are truly valuable.
During the course of the entire play, all of the characters except Petruchio treat Kate with disrespect. Baptista, her father, is especially insensitive to his daughter's feelings. When Petruchio comes to inquire about Kate, he describes her as fair and virtuous woman. Her father neglects to acknowledge that it was possible that his daughter could have those fine qualities (II.i.42-63).
While teaching Kate, Petruchio's outbursts were directed at other people, not at her. When speaking to her, he was careful to be gracious and kind, even when the situation was seemingly humiliating. Overall, Petruchio was the only character who showed appreciation for Kate. I believe that she appreciated this, albeit begrudgingly at first, and that this appreciation is what led her to give her final speech.
In essence, all Petruchio did was teach Kate not to be so brash and rebellious. He showed her how awful her actions looked, and on her own, she made the decision to change her demeanor. She could have remained bitter and feisty, but it would have been in vain, and I believe that she realized that her actions had been no worse than the vanity and shallowness she witnessed in the people of Padua.
As Kate was taming herself, she could see the benefits to being a partner with her husband rather than a rival. In her speech, Kate says that "thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,/thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee,/and for thy maintenance" (V.ii.146-148), trying to explain to the other wives that their husbands have chosen to care and provide for them. A few lines later, she basically asks what is the nobility in waging war with someone who is trying to be nice to you? (V.ii.159-160). Take that one step further, and Kate's transformation makes perfect sense. Petruchio would treat Kate with respect if she did the same towards him, so the benefits to her changing her behavior were beneficial to both.
Personally, I see nothing sexist about mutual respect and good will. It is a proven fact even today that a relationship will not survive unless both parties respect each other, so it seems clear to me that Kate and Petruchio, as a team and individually, won in the end.