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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: May ::
Re: Ophelia, Hamlet, Names
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0863  Monday, 17 May 1999.

[1]     From:   Geralyn Horton <
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        Date:   Friday, 14 May 1999 11:33:01 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0858 Re: Ophelia

[2]     From:   Andy White <
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        Date:   Friday, 14 May 1999 20:45:39 -0400
        Subj:   Ophelia

[3]     From:   Lucia Anna Setari <
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        Date:   Saturday, 15 May 1999 10:05:19 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Hamlet's Hesitating

[4]     From:   Jack Keillor <
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        Date:   Monday, 17 May 1999 01:52:45 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Level of communication between Ophelia and Hamlet in Nunnery
scene

[5]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Friday, 14 May 1999 11:15:41 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0859 Re: Names


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Geralyn Horton <
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Date:           Friday, 14 May 1999 11:33:01 -0400
Subject: 10.0858 Re: Ophelia
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0858 Re: Ophelia

>When (Ophelia) offers to return his gifts (Hamlet)
>protests that they really were nothing.  She persists and Hamlet reacts
>only after she says "... for to the noble mind/ Rich gifts wax poor when
>givers prove unkind."  Hamlet's response-"Ha, ha!"-<snip> is an exclamation of awakening,
>an "Ah, ha" moment.  Do
>the quoted words sound like typical Ophelia to anyone, or more like
>something Polonius would teach her?

Well, "noble mind" is the same phrase Ophelia uses in soliloquy, so it
must be incorporated into her thinking process.  But yes, the rest
sounds exactly like the "precepts" Polonius inflicts on his children.  I
have always assumed that what Hamlet discovers here is that in spite of
all her lovable qualities, Ophelia's mind and conduct have been shaped
by her father-a man whose thought and conduct Hamlet hates.  It is the
hatred, the sudden murderous rage, that is shocking--- presumably when
he first courted Ophelia Hamlet tolerated Polonius, saw him as simply a
tedious old fool. But now he hates the man, and sees him in and behind
his daughter.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andy White <
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Date:           Friday, 14 May 1999 20:45:39 -0400
Subject:        Ophelia

Larry Weiss and I have independently worked toward the same conclusion
about the "nunnery" scene.  To which I can only add that Ophelia's
entire speech while returning the letters is a lie and both of them know
it.

Ophelia is accusing Hamlet of dumping her, which is exactly the opposite
of what has happened; she has been the one denying him her presence,
sending back letters, etc.  Hamlet's response can be read as coming from
a full knowledge of the situation, with a suspicion of who put her up to
it and why.

The minute Hamlet finds his access to Ophelia blocked, he knows her
father is behind it.  Why he's being kept away, he can easily suspect:
Polonius thinks Hamlet is in it for the sex-hence Hamlet's reference to
Polonius as a "fishmonger"-i.e., a pimp.

If we grant Hamlet a decent IQ, he doesn't have to lurk around court at
all to learn about the plots against him-he knows Polonius and Claudius
well enough to suspect them of anything.  He might be more surprised to
find Ophelia going along with their plans, hence his vicious reaction
(in the end) to her apparent duplicity.

Andy White
Arlington, VA

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Lucia Anna Setari <
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Date:           Saturday, 15 May 1999 10:05:19 -0700 (PDT)
Subject:        Hamlet's Hesitating

Clifford Stetner wrote re Hamlet:

>His hesitation at the door of the chapel is based on Christian
>principles.  So how come he never considers the unambiguous Christian
>position: turn the other cheek?  Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord and
>all that.  As some kind of Christianized pagan, a right move is
>offered him, but seems to be beneath his contempt.  He needs a dramatic
>rendition of the Trojan War to remind him that doing nothing is
>"inherently wrong."

Roger Schmeeckle replied:

>Hamlet's motive in hesitating is that he desires Claudius' damnation
>and killing him while he is praying might result in the salvation of his
>soul.  This might be dismissed as a mere rationalization, particularly
>if one takes the conventional view that Hamlet's delay in fulfilling
>the ghost's request is attributable to negligence.  I do not take that
>view.  I see this as an example of Hamlet's utter degradation.  ("O
>what a noble mind is here oe'rthrown.)   To wish another's damnation
>is the
>most extreme example imaginable of a lack of Christian charity.  This
>is evidence not that Hamlet is a Christianized pagan, but that he is a
>Christian whose soul has been corrupted by his desire for vengeance.

The <<an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth>> sentence,  that is the
very essence of the idea of revenge, surely is not Christian at all.
But we well know that, in spite of this, it was thought and felt by
almost all the people as a manly and noble way of doing, while "turn the
other cheek" was and still is considered as a nearly fool precept which
no one, though Christian, is expected really to follow. Look the wars:
though they do not seem  to fall within a "turn the other cheek"
behaviour, almost always they have been blessed by Christian Churches.
Hamlet would keep in his memory  old Hamlet's  ghost, who had emphasized
Claudius' guilt especially for sending him to his account with all his
imperfections on his head (O horrible! O horrible! Most horrible!).

Keenly to think that an equal "an eye for an eye" so-called justice had
not to send Claudius to heaven, seems to me a very Hamlet-like attitude
(and it rings also a bit ironic because of its overturning the odd
charity of Christian priests who, seeming to care more soul's than
body's salvation, do approve of death penalty).

His noble mind is working well: Hamlet is neither so fond of life to
think that the mere physical death would be really a punishment (it
could be a rest, after all), nor he is so hypocrite (I know not 'seems')
to conceal his own hatred (which, since it has some concern with politic
questions about legitimacy and usurpation and order to be restored,
might be considered by all the world justifiable and noble too).

On the other hand, to judge who deserved to be sent to heaven and who to
hell  has been for a long time among the most favourite sports of pious
people.

Hamlet's lack of Christian charity seems to me to fall fairly within the
customs of Christian people.

Nevertheless I agree that the expressed motivations of Hamlet's
hesitating  are (as many too keen reasonings happen to be) a
rationalization, because, though all his hating the king, the revenge
stuff does trouble him.

But his troubles seem to me to depend less on his Christian conscience,
than on his being aware that revenge would be useless for him. His
uncle's death very likely does not seem to him of any help in order  to
set the "out-of-joint-time" right.

So, both, his natural though not too much Christ-like hating and his
Wittemberg-like mistrusting that sometime order and innocence could be
restored through revenge, collaborate in making him (willingly) miss the
chance to kill the king.

After all, the meeting with his mother is far more important for
Hamlet's quest.

Best regards,
Lucia Anna S.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Keillor <
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Date:           Monday, 17 May 1999 01:52:45 -0500 (CDT)
Subject:        Level of communication between Ophelia and Hamlet in Nunnery
scene

In reading over Hamlet and studying the nunnery scene in particular, I
have come across critics who think that Hamlet is communicating his love
for Ophelia while at the same time pretending insanity for the benefit
of his other audience.  Has the play been performed in this way in any
key productions?  If so, how do they play the interaction between Hamlet
and Ophelia in the mousetrap scene?

        Jeremy Keillor

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Friday, 14 May 1999 11:15:41 -0400
Subject: 10.0859 Re: Names
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0859 Re: Names

Dana Shilling wrote:

>Maybe Corambis is his personal name and Polonius is a title, like
>Coriolanus, awarded when the
>old guy helped "smite the sledded Polacks on the ice." So no matter how
>sententious he is in the play, he was military hot stuff once.

I guess he *did* see my post on the subject.
 

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