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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: July ::
Re: "To be or not to be" Speech
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0589.  Saturday, 29July 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Jul 1995 13:29:44 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0586 Re: "To be or not to be" Speech
 
(2)     From:   Pedro R. Doria <
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        Date:   Sunday, 30 Jul 1995 02:16:32 -0300
        Subj:   Re: "To be or not to be" Speech
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Jul 1995 13:29:44 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 6.0586 Re: "To be or not to be" Speech
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0586 Re: "To be or not to be" Speech
 
I'm surprised that no one has raised the ontological ramifications of this
speech.  Hamlet seems to be interpreting being as concurrent with earthly life,
something that (say) Thomas More would never do (check out "A Rueful
Lamentation," or the pageant verses).
 
This seems to place *Hamlet* at an interesting moment in history.  Instead of
placing being (*esse*) in the absolute like even late medievals and early
renaissance figures do, and attaching the stygma of creation (non-esse) to the
world, Shakespeare's creation places being in the present, thereby resurrecting
the problem of mutability.
 
By looking for transcendent being in the world, which consists of "the poor
man's wrong, the proud man's contumely" (quoting from memory), which consists
of things which are evidently wrong in other words, Hamlet dooms himself to
failure.  Marlowe's heroes to likewise, searching for the transcendent in
violence (Tamburlaine), money (Jew of Malta), love (Edward II) or science
(Faustus).  Ultimately, of course, they all fail.  This seems to be a time
still looking for transcendence to assure it of its own being, but looking in
the phenomenal for the noumenal (so to speak).
 
Why does Hamlet's failure lead him to inaction, though, while the failure of
Marlowe's characters leads them to fevered violence?  Any takers?
 
Cheers,
Sean.
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Pedro R. Doria <
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Date:           Sunday, 30 Jul 1995 02:16:32 -0300
Subject:        Re: "To be or not to be" Speech
 
>From:           Clark Bowlen <
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>
>Whatever else "To be...." is, it is a speech written for an actor.
>Interpretation starts with basic actor questions, including "Why am I here,
>What do I know?"
(...)
>I don't know about you, but if I were playing Hamlet (or even Forrest Gump) I'd
>have to play suspicious.  "To be...." would be a performance. With the given
>circumstances, a solitary contemplation of suicide is an awefully big stretch.
 
Well, Clark, you're talking about Stanislavski here. I'm not quite sure all
actors start interpretation with whys? and whats? That is 20th century western
interpretation. Although that's the sort of interpretation we are used to,
there are many other ways of doing it. I doubt Shakespeare's group acted
worried about that. They were probably trying to tell a story of princes,
kingdoms, revenge and murder. And people probably just loved it! Yes,
Shakespeare was probably conscious of what he was writing. Hamlet is all very
much ambiguous; that's the beauty of it. I mean, it's just ok. Let the director
decide!
 

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