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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: March ::
Re: Shakespeare's Names
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0396  Monday, 8 March 1999.

[1]     From    Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Saturday, 6 Ma 1999 00:00:48 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0383 Shakespeare's Names

[2]     From:   Jack Heller <
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        Date:   Saturday, 6 Mar 1999 12:21:58 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0383 Shakespeare's Names

[3]     From:   Francois Laroque <
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        Date:   Sunday, 07 Mar 1999 13:18:27 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0383 Shakespeare's Names

[4]     From:   Maijan H. Al-Ruwaili <
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        Date:   Monday, 08 Mar 1999 01:15:57 +0300
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0383 Shakespeare's Names

[5]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Sunday, 07 Mar 1999 18:36:22 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0383 Shakespeare's Names


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From            Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Saturday, 6 Mar 1999 00:00:48 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 10.0383 Shakespeare's Names
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0383 Shakespeare's Names

Why is the father of Hamlet named Hamlet?  They share the same name in
none of the sources.  This is one of Shakespeare's own contributions to
this ancient legend.  Even Lacan who, it seems to me, could have made
much of this point in his essay failed to comment on it.

Gollanzs or Muir or both go to great lengths to demonstrate the
relationship of the ancient Scandinavian myth with either or both the
Greek Orestes myth and the Latin Brutus myth (the Latin name "Brutus"
evokes the fool as "Amlodi" (I'm working from memory) does in Icelandic
or something).  Sh obviously knew the Brutus story (eg Rape of Lucrece),
but Orestes is questionable.  In any case, this might in part account
for the names.

Clifford Stetner
CUNY Graduate Center
York College
C.W. Post College

> In Anatomy of Criticism, Northrop Frye quoted Ruskin's note on names
> (Desdemona = miserable fortune; Ophelia = serviceableness) and
> contrasted it with Arnold's condemnation of allowing names any
> prominence. Have members any thoughts on the subject, comments on
> particular names, or - perhaps inevitably - any way of linking this
> ancient controversy with the curious mixture of Scandinavian with
> Greco-Roman in Hamlet?

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Heller <
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Date:           Saturday, 6 Mar 1999 12:21:58 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 10.0383 Shakespeare's Names
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0383 Shakespeare's Names

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and sometimes it's not. Falstaff is an
obvious example of a name created to suggest something of the
character.  Most Sebastians in Renaissance drama (Shakespeare's and
others') seem to owe something to the effeminization and erotic appeal
of the partially nude St. Sebastians pierced with arrows so frequently
painted. Malvolio, Prospero, Caliban, and Hotspur are certainly names
whose suggestiveness must be intentional.

More difficult, however, may be the name Iago. However obliquely, is
anything being suggested about King James or any other James with this
European (Italian?) form of the name James? In Thomas Dekker's Whore of
Babylon, St. James Park becomes St. Iago's Park.

Unproblematic naming, of course, abounds: There's no hidden meaning in
the name Henry.

Jack Heller

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Francois Laroque <
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Date:           Sunday, 07 Mar 1999 13:18:27 -0500
Subject: 10.0383 Shakespeare's Names
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0383 Shakespeare's Names

Brian Haylett is here asking what seems to me an essential, far-reaching
question here.  Shakespeare's concern and constant punning with names
(see the 'Will' sonnets with the extra pun on "hate away"/Hathaway) is
running throughout the canon but it figures most prominently, I would
say, in the first half of his career. In the two tetralogies, name
punning is found everywhere (Poole and pool of blood, suffocating
Suffolk, plant Plantagenet, gaunt John o' Gaunt and so on and so
forth...).

In some cases, it turns into a very tricky and sophisticated 'game',
amounting to a form of authorial signature in anamorphic form as it
were, as in Holbein's Ambassadors. This may come from Greene's famous
attack against the "only shake-scene in a countrey", perhaps later
bitterly echoed in the lines "the public means which public manner
breeds./Thence comes it that my name receives a brand" (Sonnet 111)...

One hitherto little mentioned hypothesis is that Greene's attack might
not be only about plagiarism or upstart over-confidence, but on
Shakespeare's murky past or dark years, if we believe Honigmann's idea
(brilliantly taken up again recently by Richard Wilson in a number of
articles and in a book to come on Secret Shakespeare) that Shakespeare
was indeed Lord de Hoghton's player, William Shakshaft. Shake-shafte,
shake-scene, shake-speare... A declension that may have been brandished
as a secret signal or even as a warning to the budding playwright (=we
do know who you are and where you are coming from!). The name game is
indeed far from being an innocuous one, as it futher demonstrated in
*Romeo and Juliet*. This would pose the question of Shakespeare's
crypto-catholicism, especially in connection with Romeo's desire to be
'new baptiz'd', Montagues and Capulets being in that perspective
designations for Catholic and Protestant 'families'...

As to *Hamle*t, I do agree that  the Amleth-Hamnet connection is indeed
an intriguing one, as well as the idea that Hamlet apparently means in
Danish the same thing as 'Brutus' in Latin, i.e. a thick, slow-witted
character. So the connection with Lucrece and Julius Caesar would seem
to be of a linguistic, patronymic nature, as well as an obvious thematic
analogy and chronological proximity.

I would be happy to hear of other suggestions in this field of research
which sounds like a particularly rich one. Does any one know if there is
a really good book on the question. Levith's book Shakespeare's Names,
arranged as a dictionary in alphabetical order, never seemed to me to be
very relevant or even useful when I consulted it.

Francois Laroque

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Maijan H. Al-Ruwaili <
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Date:           Monday, 08 Mar 1999 01:15:57 +0300
Subject: 10.0383 Shakespeare's Names
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0383 Shakespeare's Names

The only one I know who gave the "name" a philosophical treatment is
Jacques Derrida. His "Aphorism Countertime" emphasizes how the "name" of
Romeo functions in the play; he also wrote extensively on the importance
of the "proper name." His three most important essays on the subject are
collected in a book titled On the Name, edited by Thomas Dutoit,
translated by David Wood, John P. Leavey, and Ian Mcleod (Stanford,
1995). "Signeponge/Singsponge" is an earlier essay on the name of the
French poet, Francis Ponge. I am not sure you find these pertinent to
your question, but I think the five together deserve a look.

Maijan

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Sunday, 07 Mar 1999 18:36:22 -0500
Subject: 10.0383 Shakespeare's Names
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0383 Shakespeare's Names

Has anyone considered the possible significance of the name "Polonius"?
It seems to me that the name is an obvious encomium, like Coriolanus,
awarded in recognition of military or political achievement over Poland,
which the play portrays as a traditional enemy of Denmark.  This makes
the character a little richer to my way of thinking:  Not a doddering
fool, but a doddering fool who once was a great man.  It may explain why
Polonius remains in high office despite his apparent diminution of
faculties.  (The possibility that he was rewarded with his office for
being instrumental in Claudius's election cannot be discounted; but I am
left with the feeling that he held the same position under the late king
as well.  His retention by Claudius may have been a reward for services
rendered, but it is unlikely that he would have had influence if he had
always been what we see.)

It may be that WS changed the character's name from Corambus in order to
give him this additional depth.
 

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