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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: July ::
Re: "To be or not to be" Speech
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0593.  Monday, 31 July 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Robert Appelbaum <
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        Date:   Saturday, 29 Jul 1995 12:50:01 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0589 Re: "To be or not to be" Speech
 
(2)     From:   Paul Lord <
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        Date:   Saturday, 29 Jul 1995 12:57:50 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: To be or not to be
 
(3)     From:   W.L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Sunday, 30 Jul 1995 21:58:48 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0589  Re: "To be or not to be" Speech
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robert Appelbaum <
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Date:           Saturday, 29 Jul 1995 12:50:01 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 6.0589 Re: "To be or not to be" Speech
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0589 Re: "To be or not to be" Speech
 
In response to Sean Lawrence's post, I've noticed that a new full-length study
is out on the fear of annihilation as an important motive in Elizabethan drama.
 I believe it's by Robert Watson.  Anyone read it yet, and care to comment on
it? (I know, that's cheating on my part, but what else is the 'net for?)
 
If Hamlet is giving us a kind of post-scholastic version of *esse* perhaps this
is related to the growing influence of mortalist doctrine via Calvinism?
Although a previous poster gave a very convincing account of Hamlet's Roman
Catholicism, I can't rid myself of the suspicion that on the person of Hamlet
Shakespeare has inscribed a crossing of Roman Catholicism and Calvinism, with a
few shakes of Pyrhonnism thrown in for extra body. (Sorry for the mixed
metaphor.)
 
        --Robert Appelbaum
        English- UC Berkeley
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul Lord <
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Date:           Saturday, 29 Jul 1995 12:57:50 -0700 (PDT)
Subject:        Re: To be or not to be
 
Some years ago, a good friend of mine, Scott Stevens, made the following
observation about 'To be or not to be' which I must share.
 
        "Most people read it wrong.  They pause after 'mind' in the
        first line, but that can't be right.  If you pause after
        'nobler,' you end up asking 'which of these is better:'
 
                1. In the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of
                   outrageous fortune (17 syllables)
        or
                2. To take arms against a sea of troubles, and by
                   opposing end them (17 syllables)
 
        It can't be coincidence; it's Shakespeare at his cleverest,
        contrasting two phrases of equal length, one of thought,
        one of action, summing up the entire play in the middle of
        one of the central speeches.  Brilliant."
 
I haven't heard this interpretation elsewhere; is it familiar to anyone on
SHAKSPER?  I don't doubt that Scott is correct; I get an intense word-geek glee
imagining Shakespeare, chewing on his quill, trying to make the syllable counts
match.  Knowing all the while, of course, that nobody was ever going to count
them during the performance, but putting it in there anyway, just because.
 
paul
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W.L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Sunday, 30 Jul 1995 21:58:48 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0589  Re: "To be or not to be" Speech
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0589  Re: "To be or not to be" Speech
 
The question is not existential. To be or not to be WHAT?  We are breaking in
(or hearing) after the thought process has begun. I think the answer to the
WHAT is found in the next line: "Whether 'tis nobler in the mind" to suffer or
to fight. To be or not to be [noble] that is the question. And which is the
nobler stance to take? Suffering or fighting?
 
What think ye?
 
Yours, Bill Godshalk
 

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