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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: January ::
Re: Wilde: Individualism
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0028.  Thursday, 11 January 1996.

(1)     From:   Ron Macdonald <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 09 Jan 1996 16:25:43 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Oscar Wilde on _Hamlet_/Hamlet

(2)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 10 Jan 1996 14:39:40 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Individualism


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ron Macdonald <
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Date:           Tuesday, 09 Jan 1996 16:25:43 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Oscar Wilde on _Hamlet_/Hamlet

I'm grateful to Michele Crescenzo for identifying Oscar Wilde as the source of
the wholly characteristic remark about commentators on _Hamlet_ either being
mad or only pretending to be.  I'm reminded, in turn, that Wilde pretended to
be in no doubt about the status of Hamlet's own madness.  He said somewhere in
_The Decay of Lying_ that Shakespeare makes Hamlet say that art holds the
mirror up to Nature in order to make his madness plain to the dullest observer.

                                          --Ron Macdonald

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Wednesday, 10 Jan 1996 14:39:40 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Individualism

think Tom Bishop is certainly correct: the more we consider the amorphous
period termed the Middle Ages, the less we are likely to say that individuality
was not a value for medieval people. After all, I'm sure they didn't think of
themselves as "medieval," and therefore faceless and nameless.  Boethius,
Dante, Chaucer don't strike me as writers who are unaware of the glories and
hazards of individualism. Even Troilus's laughter at the human comedy is
individual laughter; it's not some kind of disembodied cosmic rejection of
human foolishness.

But consider *Beowulf.* Notice that individual distinction is worth dying for
in this epic. The characters are not nameless pawns of tribal warfare. The
whole idea of bragging is to set yourself off from the lesser warriors. Beowulf
does want to die and be forgotten with the rest; he wants to be remembered
right here on this earth.

And, if you take a glance at medieval history, you will see a chronicle of
individualist assertion.  The Papacy fights with the Empire; the Christians
invade the Holy Land, and so on.  The Popes take names and sign bulls. Thomas
Aquinas did not remain a nameless Benedictine monk.

Yours, Bill Godshalk
 

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