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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: July ::
Re: Ophelia; Hamlet; Astrology
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0737.  Saturday, 5 July 1997.

[1]     From:   Andrew Walker White <
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        Date:   Thursday, 3 Jul 1997 17:33:29 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0734 Re: Ophelia

[2]     From:   Louis Marder <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 2 Jul 1997
        Subj:   Re: Hamlet's Madness

[3]     From:   H. R. Greenberg <
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        Date:   Friday, 4 Jul 1997 15:22:17 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0730 Shakespeare and Astrology


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew Walker White <
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Date:           Thursday, 3 Jul 1997 17:33:29 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 8.0734 Re: Ophelia
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0734 Re: Ophelia

Many thanks, Stuart, for your points.  I've frankly held my cards close
to my chest, on the Nunnery scene in particular, because I wasn't sure
how much was assumed on this list.  Apparently, I'll need to go back
further in the script to explain my interpretation:

When it is says "Hamlet has been sent for", I take it to mean that
someone has been sent to tell the Prince that there is someone waiting
for him in the lobby.  The meeting is not by chance, but "as if by
chance".  Who does Hamlet expect when he arrives?  Certainly not
Ophelia.  Claudius, Polonius, perhaps, more estranged friends from
Wittenburg, but definitely not her.

As for the chronology, I go by Ophelia's remark in the play scene that
it has been "twice two months" since the King's death, which puts it at
least 2 months after the events in Act I.  Hamlet's wordless
confrontation comes the day before the Nunnery scene, so far as I can
tell; so that means Hamlet has been playing madness, and by coincidence
been cut off from Ophelia for at least that long.

A good director's question for Ophelia is this: are her lines to Hamlet
her own, or entirely from the pen of her father?  You rightly point out
that Ophelia would never disobey her father-that is, in my opinion, her
tragic flaw, her love and trust for her father even when none is
warranted.  My personal take is that none of those words are hers; "rich
gifts wax poor" sounding to me too much like a Polonian one-liner, along
the lines of his advice to Laertes.

In conclusion:  After two months of returning his letters, denying
access to her person, and refusing to even speak to him when he breaks
into her sewing room, suddenly Hamlet finds Ophelia not only available
to his presence, but telling him that he has been "unkind" to her.  No
matter how flowery this speech of Ophelia's is interpretee, she is
accusing him of unkindness when clearly it is the other way around.  At
least Hamlet is smart enough to know that her father is behind all this,
hence his reference to him as a "fishmonger"-i.e., pimp, before.

He says "Soft you now"-correct me if I'm wrong, but I take this to mean
that he's stopped in his train of thought, and says 'wait a minute,
Ophelia?'.  And his "well, well, well", registers supreme surprise that
she is suddenly so solicitous of his health and well-being.

The response to her gift of old letters is short and telling-"ha".  He
is laughing, in the sort of shocked, nervous way one does when something
completely astounding has occurred.

I've already gone on too long, here. my apologies to the list, but this
has clearly been an obsession of mine for a while.

Cheers,
Andy White
(trying to type with inquisitive 4-month-old in lap)

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Louis Marder <
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Date:           Wednesday, 2 Jul 1997
Subject:        Re: Hamlet's Madness

Hamlet's needed proof:  If what follows here has been written anywhere,
I either haven't seen it or have forgotten it.  But I don't think I
would have forgotten such an unusual statement:  So much is made of
Ophelia and Hamlet's realizing that she is in on the plot against him:
Hamlet appears in the background and overhears the plotting of Polonius
and Claudius.  It occurs to me that a director of the play at 4.3.33
might have Hamlet come in as Claudius is confessing his sins and thus
have the auditory truth of his father's murder.  In any case,
Shakespeare almost always let's the audience in on the true state of
affairs before the protagonist knows.

While writing about unusual ideas in Hamlet, let me say that in my
classes when discussing Hamlet's hesitation I would give a couple of
dozen possibilities and then after a lot of discussion as to which is
right I would say that none of them are.  The only reason Hamlet doesn't
act after the Ghost gives him the evidence is that if Hamlet killed him
shortly thereafter, the play would be over in the middle of the third
act which would have transferred the tragedy to the box office - the
audience expected a five act play, not three and a half acts.  But then
I would throw out the final possibility - Hamlet know of his mother's
apparent infidelity.  How long has it been going on?  Can Hamlet be
thinking that Claudius might be his true father?  Hamlet might be
hesitating because he was thinking that he could be killing  his true
father,  There are ironies which I will not discuss such as the damnable
Ghost getting his revenge in an unusual manner.  Y'all can put this in
your pipe, but you don't have to smoke it - or me.  I'd use any idea in
class if I could generate a closer reading of the play.  Louis Marder,

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[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           H. R. Greenberg <
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Date:           Friday, 4 Jul 1997 15:22:17 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 8.0730 Shakespeare and Astrology
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0730 Shakespeare and Astrology

Re: the posting on the influence of astrology upon Shakespeare:

The fault, dear Brutus...
 

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