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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: May ::
Re: Hamlet, the secret doctrine
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0884  Friday, 21 May 1999.

[1]     From:   Andy White <
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        Date:   Thursday, 20 May 1999 11:31:50 -0400
        Subj:   Hamlet, the secret doctrine

[2]     From:   Clinton Atchley <
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        Date:   Thursday, 20 May 1999 14:02:13 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.0879 Hamlet, the secret doctrine


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andy White <
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Date:           Thursday, 20 May 1999 11:31:50 -0400
Subject:        Hamlet, the secret doctrine

I have concerns about arguments of this sort, particularly when they
take so many remarks out of context.  In order for this "secret
doctrine" to stand, Dana Wilson would have to explain for us why many of
the more obvious meanings of those quotations cannot be true, to wit:

1.  When Polonius calls Hamlet mad, the irony is that Hamlet seems more
in possession of his wits than Polonius.  We're supposed to laugh at
this remark, since Hamlet is running rings around him.  Polonius is
called a pimp (for controlling access to Ophelia), and Hamlet's book
describes his decrepit, old-mannish appearance right down to the gum
oozing from his eyes.  Hardly mad, Hamlet is in charge of the scene it
seems to me.

2.  The Ghost is talking specifically about sexual matters when he talks
about traitorous gifts'-the gifts he refers to are the ones that won
Gertrude to Claudius' lust, not his political party.  This has precious
little to do with the likely contents of the letter to old Uncle Norway,
which very likely would have detailed the Danish forces Norway would
face if they ever threatened to rebel.  The military forces can be
detailed in number, but sexual by-play has yet to be properly
quantified, so far as I know.

3.  The terms 'number' and 'figure' have both a mathematical and
poetical meaning in this play, and context is the key to telling them
apart.  When Hamlet confesses to being "ill at these numbers" or when
Polonius says Hamlet's phrasings cut a bad 'figure' they are dealing
with poetic speech, not numerology; words, not ducats.

A study of the theory of humours might be more apropos, in terms of
discovering a secret doctrine.  Hamlet refers to his "melancholy" which
has been dubiously interpreted to mean "sad" all these many years.  It
might be more fruitful to cover the humoural side of this alleged
madness, to see if there really is any.

I think the Dane is stone-cold sober, myself.

Cheers,
Andy White
Arlington, VA

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clinton Atchley <
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Date:           Thursday, 20 May 1999 14:02:13 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 10.0879 Hamlet, the secret doctrine
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.0879 Hamlet, the secret doctrine

I have been thinking about act 3, scene 4 of Hamlet, the scene in which
Hamlet kills Polonius and berates Gertrude.  When Hamlet gets all worked
up, the Ghost appears again to Hamlet.  The stage direction for this in
the Riverside edition reads, "Enter Ghost [in his night-gown]".  Does
anyone know the history of this stage direction?  Has it always been
there?  Is it Shakespeare's?  Before this, the Ghost has always appeared
fully armed.  Would anyone like to comment on why, all of a sudden, he
pops up in his PJs?

Regards,
Clint
University of Washington

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