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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: June ::
Re: Various Questions Related to *Ham.*
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0710.  Wednesday, 25 June 1997.

[1]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 24 Jun 1997 08:18:00 -0700
        Subj:   RE: SHK 8.0705  Various Questions Related to *Ham.*

[2]     From:   Scott Crozier <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 25 Jun 1997 10:02:01 +1100
        Subj:   Polonius / Laertes

[3]     From:   Louis Marder <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 1 Jul 1997 12:59:33 PST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0705  Various Questions Related to *Ham.*

[4]     From:   Stuart Manger <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 25 Jun 1997 00:15:36 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0705  Various Questions Related to *Ham.*

[5]     From:   Andrew Walker White <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 24 Jun 1997 19:32:56 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Hamlet's Melancholy

[6]     From:   John Lee <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 25 Jun 1997 09:40:39 +0900 (JST)
        Subj:   Hamlet and Madness


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Tuesday, 24 Jun 1997 08:18:00 -0700
Subject: 8.0705  Various Questions Related to *Ham.*
Comment:        RE: SHK 8.0705  Various Questions Related to *Ham.*

>Is there an online bibliography of books/journals dealing with criticism
>of Shakespeare?

It isn't online, but most libraries have the series "Shakespeare
Criticism" from Gale.  It's a bit dated, but then again, the question of
Hamlet's madness seems to have enjoyed its zenith some time ago as
well.  I seem to recall my grandfather saying that his professor at
Trinity (a man named Macauley, I think) was always going on about the
issue.  One of the classical resolutions is A. C. Bradley's description
of Hamlet as "melancholic" (in _Shakespearean Tragedy_).

Cheers, and good luck with your essay,
Sean

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Scott Crozier <
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Date:           Wednesday, 25 Jun 1997 10:02:01 +1100
Subject:        Polonius / Laertes

Chris Clarke asks why Renaldo is sent to check on Laertes.  There is a
hint that Laertes enjoys a little dalliance in Ophelia's farewell to
him.  Maybe he does know the "primrose path" and is a "puffed and
reckless libertine"

Regards,
Scott Crozier

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Louis Marder <
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Date:           Tuesday, 1 Jul 1997 12:59:33 PST
Subject: 8.0705  Various Questions Related to *Ham.*
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0705  Various Questions Related to *Ham.*

Dear Chris:  You are apparently a young student.  Don't drive yourself
mad on the madness of Hamlet.  Hamlet is snots mad.  He doesn't
hallucinate, he does not rave,  he is not even irrational considering
the circumstances.  To believe in the Ghost is part of the play.  Had he
lived after the final duel he would have been rational, not mad.  You
may have fun playing with the subject, but regardless of your analysis
you will never be able to reach a conclusion.  The will always be a mad
scholar to argue with you.  All you can do is make a list of opinions
and count them up like a poll,  so many pros, so many cons, so many
can't make up their minds.  Making your annotated bibliography will keep
you busy for years.  I have about 75 books on Hamlet. I would be daunted
to even cull them for quotations on the subject.

Bernard Grebanier's The Heart of Hamlet has a chapter on Hamlet and the
Critics - about 85 pages.  See also: K. R. Eissler's Discourse on Hamlet
and _Hamlet_: A Psychoanalytic Inquiry.  Also C. H. Williamson, Readings
on the Character of Hamlet, compiled from  over 300 sources.  Enjoy
yourself.   When you finish your compilation, you can send it to the
Shakespeare Data Bank at my address for use of the students of the
world.

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stuart Manger <
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Date:           Wednesday, 25 Jun 1997 00:15:36 +0100
Subject: 8.0705  Various Questions Related to *Ham.*
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0705  Various Questions Related to *Ham.*

Or, Chris, that he's not mad at all? Having him mad simply does not work
on stage IMHO [In My Humble Opinion]. If the assessment of the role of
right reason, the quest for nobility, for honour is uppermost in Hamlet,
then how he deploys his intellect in circumventing patronising
triviality, unsubtle casuistry, blatant stupidity, and downright
machiaveliian manipulations, not to mention dealing with the appalling
weight of the ghost's demands, seems essential. so, we must see that
reason as subtle to shift its operational mode as the challenges it
faces. I can't go with Hamlet as mad at all, and his own words - those
you quote - sure cinch it/ he knows perfectly well what he's at, and I
for one am simply unconvinced.

As for the disgraceful Polonius / Reynaldo snooping mission, what's
strange? This is a man so steeped in the habit of surveillance, that he
is prepared to use the manifest distress and delicate young love doubts
of his own daughter in the service of the state, and spy on the queen in
private conversation with her son to probe for the king's sake - the
good of the realm, and HE is the one who suggested it too - no
reluctance, or very little. So the son of the Prime Minister / Chief
minister / Chief of Police goes abroad to university - are you telling
me that when the sons of the King of England go to university there are
no surveillance officers in the vicinity? Think what scams a young blade
might get up to in naughty Paris? I think there's quite a lot of
likelihood in Pol sending Reynaldo. Now if you are asking for textual
support...... don't think I can help. But the temper of the times was
for secret spying, paid informers - and who better than an actor in
Shakespeare's day to know that, given what we now know about Marlowe,
and perhaps Kyd and Greene?

Stuart Manger

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew Walker White <
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Date:           Tuesday, 24 Jun 1997 19:32:56 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Hamlet's Melancholy

If you look up certain scholarly editions of the play, you will find
several passages concerning the disease Melancholy appended to the
script.  It seems to me that a fruitful study of Hamlet's madness should
always begin with an attempt to understand it as his contemporaries
did.  After that, of course, you're free to speculate more deeply, but
IMHO many attempts to analyze Hamlet fall flat because they don't take
the nature of his disease into account.

The "Mad north by northwest" line is a case in point.  Melancholy (a
disease of the blood, as they saw it, involving shifts in mood we might
call clinical depression) was thought to be cured by, among other
things, a trip to a southern clime.  Hamlet's saying that, like all good
melancholics, he's especially vulnerable when the weather is cold.
"When the wind is southerly", i.e., when it's warmer and sunnier, his
symptoms abate.  This also explains one of Claudius' rationales for
sending Hamlet off to England-he is allegedly hopeful that the warmer
weather to the south (what, was he thinking of Brighton?) will cure the
Prince of his ills.

Laertes, in his dismissal of Hamlet's love for Ophelia, refers to "the
flash and outbreak of a fiery mind", which can be taken to imply that
Hamlet is not exactly a calm presence in the court.  His speeches are a
jumble of seemingly conflicting and unconnected thoughts, "Too, too
solid flesh" being an example.  One minute he's begging God to
understand why he just wants to disappear, the next he's flipping the
bird at the entire court ("Fie" is from the French "Fi, donc!", the
'fig' being the Renaissance equivalent of the middle finger).

As for his love of his father being extreme, I beg to differ.  It seems
to me that there is a tendency among modern theorists (and especially
among the likes of Michael Pennington, whose "User's Manual" was written
entirely from the Claudian perspective) to cut the Prince down, and
remove almost any trace of reason, honesty and responsibility from him.
There is a line that has been crossed many times this century, from that
of Hamlet being an anti-hero, to that of Hamlet being a non-hero.  If
you say that there's no reason for Hamlet to prefer his natural father
to his uncle, you're starting down that very slippery slope of making
Hamlet an utterly useless human being, and not worth the 3 hours'
watching.

Recently, Milosevich's Serbian National Theatre performed a Hamlet in
which the Claudian point of view was so thorough in its influence, the
Prince's death was cause for celebration-in the Serb's eyes, of course,
Hamlet is a counterrevolutionary, a traitor to the race.  So, tread
softly on the Dane.  He's been rather viciously bashed about of late.

Andy White
Arlington, VA

[6]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Lee <
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Date:           Wednesday, 25 Jun 1997 09:40:39 +0900 (JST)
Subject:        Hamlet and Madness

Oscar Wilde saw Hamlet's discussion of playing as holding the mirror up
to nature as the indisputable evidence of the Prince's madness.

John Lee
 

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