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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: February ::
Re: Shylock; Fortinbras
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0100.  Monday, 13 February 1995.
 
(1)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Thursday, 09 Feb 1995 22:18:14 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0093  Re: Shylock
 
(2)     From:   Charles Adler <
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        Date:   Monday, 13 Feb 1995 07:54:19 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0093  Re: Shylock
 
(3)     From:   Scott Shepherd <
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        Date:   Sunday, 12 Feb 1995 22:20:17 -0500
        Subj:   Re: Fortinbras
 
(4)     From:   Scott Shepherd <
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        Date:   Sunday, 12 Feb 1995 22:20:31 -0500
        Subj:   Hamlet
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Thursday, 09 Feb 1995 22:18:14 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0093  Re: Shylock
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0093  Re: Shylock
 
David Evett, after very carefully telling us that Shylock is merely a verbal
construct, goes on to tell us that his "text invites this kind of reading."
Note the metaphoric slip that Dave makes. He implies that he has an active text
that invites him to read in a certain way. As we all know, unfortunately, texts
do not read themselves, nor do they invite specific readings. What Dave sees as
an invitation in the text is in reality inside his brain.
 
Yours,  Bad Bill
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Charles Adler <
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Date:           Monday, 13 Feb 1995 07:54:19 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0093  Re: Shylock
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0093  Re: Shylock
 
While I agree that the text leaves little room for an ealier contrivance of
Shylock's bargain, I wonder why one would be less justified in inferring the
history of a dramatic character than a a real live person about whom one has
similar information?
 
Charles Adler
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Scott Shepherd <
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Date:           Sunday, 12 Feb 1995 22:20:17 -0500
Subject:        Re: Fortinbras
 
David Glassco writes
 
>I wonder if Chris Gordon would elaborate on exactly why or how Hamlet's
>soliloquay "How all occasions do inform against me..." was made so powerful in
>the production she's discussing. I have always been bemused by the fact that
>the occasion Hamlet has just experienced (Fortinbras going off to a pointless
>war) is precisely the sort of occasion that might lead to a recognition of the
>need for further thought _before_ action, rather than encouraging anything
>precipitous.
 
Alexander Smith answers this by defending the character of Fortinbras, which I
think is a side issue. It isn't necessary for us (or Hamlet) to think that
Fortinbras is a good man or that his attack on Poland is justifiable.
 
The point of the pointlessness of Fortinbras' excursion is strategic: intensify
the comparative effect. The same thing happens in "And all for nothing, for
Hecuba!" etc, the common idea being to contrast Hamlet with someone who
responds to his predicament definitively and with vehemence, and to exaggerate
that contrast by giving that person a flimsy excuse for their behavior, while
Hamlet's cause is indisputable: "What would he do had he the motive and the cue
for passion that I have?"; "How stand I then that have a father killed, a
mother stained, excitements of my reason and my blood, and let all sleep while
to my shame I see the imminent death of twenty thousand men who for a fantasy
and trick of fame go to their graves like beds...?"
 
The notion that Hamlet might learn a lesson from Fortinbras along the lines of
"further thought before action" is related to a general mistake about Hamlet,
viz that his procrastination is a matter of being shrewd or of making up his
mind on some sort of moral question--even though he is constantly saying the
opposite of this, notably "I do not know why yet I live to say this thing's to
do, sith I have cause and will and strength and means to do't." Certainly after
the Mousetrap there is no more decision-making to be done, and during the
Fortinbras speech it is unlikely that the audience will think that further
thought is what Hamlet's situation requires.
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Scott Shepherd <
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Date:           Sunday, 12 Feb 1995 22:20:31 -0500
Subject:        Hamlet
 
Continuing this "How all occasions" thread:
 
This part
 
>Rightly to be great
>Is not to stir without great argument
>But greatly to find quarrel in a straw
>When honor's at the stake.
 
has received some interpretive attention as either a corruption or a case of
Shakespeare not quite saying what he meant (not to stir = not to not stir), but
has anybody argued for the meaning as written?
 
I think the question "What is it about Fortinbras' expedition that impresses
Hamlet," more or less raised by Edward Glassco last week, hangs on what you
decide this passage means.
 
My suggestion is that honor = great argument, ie Hamlet's gist is "This attack
on Poland is an act of greatness because it is not a gratuitous display of
military machismo but unflinching commitment to a question of honor."
 
Well?
 

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