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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: April ::
Re: Subtext; Hamlet; The Past; Instructions; Stoic; WT
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0482.  Monday, 21 April 1997.

[1]     From:   Dale Lyles <
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        Date:   Saturday, 19 Apr 1997 09:27:32 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0478 Re: Subtext

[2]     From:   Steve Sohmer <
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        Date:   Saturday, 19 Apr 1997 12:19:52 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0477 Re: Hamlet

[3]     From:   Ben Schneider <
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        Date:   Saturday, 19 Apr 1997 17:31:14 +0000
        Subj:   Quotation

[4]     From:   Ben Schneider <
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        Date:   Saturday, 19 Apr 1997 12:53:21 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Error in downloading instructions

[5]     From:   Ben Schneider <
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        Date:   Sunday, 20 Apr 1997 11:52:45 +0000
        Subj:   Stoic Shakespeare

[6]     From:   Harry Hill <
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        Date:   Saturday, 19 Apr 1997 09:05:44 +0000 (HELP)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0476 Re: Ideology


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dale Lyles <
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Date:           Saturday, 19 Apr 1997 09:27:32 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 8.0478 Re: Subtext
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0478 Re: Subtext

Thank you Kurt Daw for outlining the very issues that had been buzzing
through my head while following the subtext debate.  We practitioners
often use terms in very specific ways which do not match our scholar
compatriots, and the result is tergiversation all round.

Your last comment, that actors are well-advised not to seek the Chekhov
alternative in early drama, puzzled me, though.  We have often found
that it is very helpful, especially in the "mood-painting" speeches, for
the actor to be delivering some character or plot issue through his/her
delivery of the "pretty words."  My understanding of the debate was that
the pretty words were simply that in early drama, and your dictum would
indicate to me that we are misguided in trying to give each speech some
impetus other than the surface meanings.

Have I misunderstood your comment?  Not that we are prepared to change
our minds or our practice, of course...

Your neighbor to the south,
Dale Lyles
Newnan Community Theatre Company

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Sohmer <
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Date:           Saturday, 19 Apr 1997 12:19:52 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 8.0477 Re: Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0477 Re: Hamlet

Dear Friends,

Ed Pixley closes his thoughtful and useful exegesis of Hamlet's entrance
with book and question with a prudent warning against reading a 17th
century document through 20th century eyes. Thirty-year-old schoolboys
were not unfamiliar in Shakespeare's England. A number of 16th century
illuminati, including the remarkable William Tyndale, were schoolboys at
Wittenberg at age 30. Adults who removed to Wittenberg to study
(Lutherism) were the 16th century equivalent of our '60s Flower
Children. Many died for their countercultural leanings.

At 3.1.56 Hamlet presents a tableau which would have been highly
suggestive to those members of Shakespeare's audience who were familiar
with formal dialectic. This peculiar form of education had been raised
to high art by the Scholastics. By Shakespeare's time Scholastic
dialectic had grown notorious for its obsession with doctrinal trivia
and its association with the via moderna.

When Hamlet was a student there were two great rival schools of
philosophy: the via moderna, and the schola Augustinia moderna, which
was in favor at Wittenberg. Both schools had English roots. The via
moderna, whose champion was the Englishman William of Occam, held that
good works were essential to salvation. The schola Augustinia moderna
held that works were indifferent to salvation. Its founders were
Englishmen, too: Thomas Bradwardine and the 14th century Oxford
movement. Which makes the question of the importance/indifference of
works a very English question.

Luther's acknowledged master of dialectic was Occam. However, the
reformer embraced the Oxonians' view of the indifference of works.
Consequently, a student who traveled from Henry VIII's England to
Luther's Wittenberg transited from a world in which works were essential
to salvation into a world where salvation was a free gift and works
indifferent. [After 1582, the two societies also lived by different
calendars-which explains why Hamlet is so uncertain about how long the
interval between his father's death and his mother's remarriage ("But
two months dead-nay, not so much, not two...within a month...a little
month....within a month...she married" 1.2.138-156).] Shakespeare's
Hamlet inhabits a world where two calendars, cosmologies ("Doubt thou
the stars are fire, etc."), and Christianities coexist in intense
rivalry.

Within days of returning to Elsinore, Hamlet is confronted by a Ghost
who demands he undertake a work (of revenge). Hamlet's dilemma is
Shakespeare's existential joke on the salvation debate: Hamlet must
decided to do, or not to do, an act of revenge. After encountering the
Ghost, Hamlet seeks justification for revenge through an elaborate plot
("The Moustrap").  Instead, he finds another kind of (Lutheran, Pauline)
"justification" when he recognizes "There is a divinity which shapes our
ends, etc." It has not been generally understood that this revelation
entails the indifference of works.  In the denouement, Hamlet kills
Claudius not with premeditation but in passion. Notwithstanding all
Hamlet has done-he's accountable for the deaths of Polonius, Ophelia,
Rosencrantz, Guildernstern, and Claudius- Horatio and the audience are
satisfied that Hamlet is sung into heaven by angels. This, I suggest, is
Shakespeare's testament that works are indifferent to salvation.

But Hamlet is a long way from his revelation about works when he enters
reading at 3.1.56. His engagement in a one-man dialectic might become
entirely transparent if we could identify the mysterious book. Luther
detested the "devil" Aristotle, but was a life-long devotee of Virgil,
and Cicero (he refers to Cicero in the note found beside his deathbed).
Virgil is prominently recalled in the play via the yarn of Priam,
Hecuba, and the fall of Troy, which is based Aeneid (2). My hunch is
that Hamlet's book is a work by Cicero, though I cannot say which. If
this notion rings a bell with a Ciceronian, I'd be glad to discuss it in
more depth.

All the best,
Steve Sohmer

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ben Schneider <
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Date:           Saturday, 19 Apr 1997 17:31:14 +0000
Subject:        Quotation

Dear Terence Hawkes,

If L. P. Hartley was right, as you affirm, that "The past is a foreign
country," then you must acknowledge that Shakespeare's country was
Stoic.  What other standard of behavior, outside of Christianity, could
it have followed?

Since Christianity and Stoicism were thought to harmonize during the
Renaissance (,e.g. both advocated turning the other cheek), and since
Stoicism, besides being more practical in application, promised rewards
in THIS life, it had a big advantage over Christianity in an age of
growing skepticism during which Puritanism was inventing the bourgeois
subject and giving Christianity a bad name. For undeniable evidence of
its popularity see Ruth Kelso's two bibliographies of conduct books-for
the gentleman (1929) and the lady (1956)--, especially the summary of
her whole project in the preface to the second.

Yours ever to command,     (another quotation)
BEN SCHNEIDER

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ben Schneider <
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Date:           Saturday, 19 Apr 1997 12:53:21 -0500 (CDT)
Subject:        Error in downloading instructions

In my posting of 17 Apr I erroneously gave the listserv instructions for
my article on Merchant:

It should read

Send a message to 
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Containing only the command  GET GRANVILL JEW_OF-V SHAKSPER

I reversed the filetype and filename

Very sorry for the inconvenience

BEN SCHNEIDER

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ben Schneider <
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Date:           Sunday, 20 Apr 1997 11:52:45 +0000
Subject:        Stoic Shakespeare

Dear SHAKSPERians,

Since apparently people don't care whether they get hardcopy or softcopy
of current versions of chapters from my book on Shakespeare's Morals,
I'm filing them in the SHAKSPER file server and you may download at will
whatever interests you.  It will take a few days to get them into ASCII
format, but when they are done, Hardy will announce their filenames on
SHAKSPER.

Yours ever to command,
BEN SCHNEIDER

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Harry Hill <
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Date:           Saturday, 19 Apr 1997 09:05:44 +0000 (HELP)
Subject: 8.0476 Re: Ideology
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0476 Re: Ideology

*WT* was directed here at the Centaur Theatre by Alexander Marin from
Moscow, and in the very last moment of the play when forgiveness seemed
all, and the light was bright, Mamillius' favourite toy fell from the
sky as a reminder, I joyfully supposed, of the difficult paradox that
mature happiness has to be tempered by living with the memory of shame.

        Harry Hill
 

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