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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: November ::
Re: Apocryphal/"Gnostic" Gospels
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.2086  Monday, 29 November 1999.

[1]     From:   Judith Matthews Craig <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 24 Nov 1999 13:00:38 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.2077 Re: Apocryphal/"Gnostic" Gospels

[2]     From:   Graham Bradshaw <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Nov 1999 13:17:44 +0900
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.2077 Re: Apocryphal/"Gnostic" Gospels

[3]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Nov 1999 17:40:34 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 10.2044 Re: "Gnostic" Gospels


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Judith Matthews Craig <
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Date:           Wednesday, 24 Nov 1999 13:00:38 -0600
Subject: 10.2077 Re: Apocryphal/"Gnostic" Gospels
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.2077 Re: Apocryphal/"Gnostic" Gospels

Abigail Quart writes:

<Will retrieved Hamlet from Wittenberg, Luther's <stomping ground, and
<sends Laertes to Paris, happy home of the St. <Bartholomews' Day
<Massacre, whence he returns leading an army of <rebellion.

<Maybe he decided a church was not the nation, <and preferred to be an
<Englishman.

Maybe so, but I KNOW he preferred not to be a Gnostic.

Judy Craig

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Graham Bradshaw <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Nov 1999 13:17:44 +0900
Subject: 10.2077 Re: Apocryphal/"Gnostic" Gospels
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.2077 Re: Apocryphal/"Gnostic" Gospels

In commenting on Hamlet's Wittenberg (Lutheran) connection, Abigail
Quart teasingly suggests that "Maybe he [Shakespeare] decided a church
was not the nation, and preferred to be an Englishman."

Well, I'd think that one of the Prince of Denmark's grimmer jokes does
indeed bear on the English situation, in an unexpected and rather
alarming way.

When Horatio says, "There's no offense, my lord", Hamlet repies, "Yes,
by Saint Patrick, but there is, Horatio, / And much offense too"
(1.5.136-7). St Patrick was the patron saint of purgatory, and of course
Protestants rejected "Purgatory" as a papist invention-and as an
invention which, in terms of profit, might make Bill Gates swoon on
envy. But if the Ghost really is Hamlet's father, not a devil, and if he
is telling the truth about where he has come from, Protestants were in
deep trouble-in Shakespeare's England, as well as Hamlet's Denmark, or
Wittenberg.

I know, alas, this contribution is embarrassingly irrelevant to the
given subject of "Apocryphal/'Gnostic' Gospels". It would be more in
place, though still not quite in place, in the current discussion of
"Gertrude", since that discussion has sometimes involved the numerous
unanswered questions in the play: did Gertrude commit adultery, does she
sleep with Claudius after the closet scene, etc? I find myself wishing
we had a new subject heading, like "Questions that are seldom asked"-let
alone answered. "Why does Hamlet suddenly swear by St.  Patrick?" would
be one such question.

Here's another: why does Hamlet tell Gertrude that the Player Queen will
"keep her word"? After all, Hamlet knows, and the onstage and offstage
audiences also know, after the dumbshow, that she doesn't.

Another: why on earth does Hamlet send that extraordinary letter to
Claudius? Is it part of some plan, or is it an indication that he has no
plan-despite the mindlessly vengeful ending of his last (Q2 only)
soliloquy? Whenever I pick up a new edition of this play I look to see
whether the editor discusses this very puzzling question. But they
don't-or have I missed something?

Another, which returns to the question of whether the Ghost is a lying
devil, or a devil who is telling truths like the witches in "Macbeth"
(which Prince Hamlet unfortunately doesn't know), or Hamlet's truthful
father. Dover Wilson and later scholars like Roland Mushat Frye
maintained (I think, correctly) that even when the play ends, OUR doubts
about the Ghost's provenance have not been resolved. And yet Wilson and
Frye were both curiously untroubled by the way in which, after the
"Mousetrap" scene, Hamlet himself never again worries about whether the
Ghost is a devil. Why? Or, to recall the best line in Peckinpah's "The
Wild Bunch", why not?

Cheers,
Graham Bradshaw

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Nov 1999 17:40:34 -0500
Subject: 10.2044 Re: "Gnostic" Gospels
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.2044 Re: "Gnostic" Gospels

My guess is that people who were legally required to attend lengthy
sermons on Christianity as a source of consolation at least weekly would
not have paid good money to hear the same good news at the theater.
Elizabethan tragedy largely defined itself in opposition to the
Mysteries and Moralities it replaced.  Its model was a syncretization of
Roman with traditional native material, so it was more or less defined
from its origins as a literature alternative to the biblical (which
accounts for its opposition by Puritan factions).

A. D.Nuttall's recent book, THE ALTERNATIVE TRINITY: GNOSTIC HERESY IN
>MARLOWE, MILTON, AND BLAKE (Oxford University Press, 1998).

>Isn't it the case that in Shakespeare's tragedies Christianity often
>figures as a source of further terror, but never-ever-as a source of
>consolation? How do we explain that?
>
>Graham Bradshaw
 

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