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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: April ::
Re: Oxymorons
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0678  Monday, 3 April 2000.

[1]     From:   David Bishop <
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        Date:   Friday, 31 Mar 2000 15:53:57 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0648 Re: Oxymorons

[2]     From:   Judith Matthews Craig <
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        Date:   Sunday, 2 Apr 2000 23:35:28 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0648 Re: Oxymorons


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Bishop <
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Date:           Friday, 31 Mar 2000 15:53:57 -0500
Subject: 11.0648 Re: Oxymorons
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0648 Re: Oxymorons

Sean Lawrence asks if Hamlet could be too cowardly to be either for or
against God. This suggests that if he were brave enough to be for God he
would openly and consciously go against the ghost, refusing to take
revenge because it is wrong, and would lead to damnation, which he
rightly, nobly and faithfully fears. That fear of damnation would not be
cowardly, from the Christian point of view. On the other hand, if he
were brave enough to "dare damnation" and go against God, the "bravery"
of that course would be good, right and noble from the heroic point of
view, while at the same time, the fear of damnation which the brave hero
overcomes would imply a Christian knowledge that the heroic course is
wrong. That's why it's damnable. Would the heroic Hamlet somehow forget
about that wrongness?

To be too cowardly to go either way seems a third possibility. Hamlet
would be brave to act heroically, or brave to refrain from revenge
because of a Christian scruple. It would be brave to accept the heroic
reputation-the opinion of the ghost?--that he's a coward. He's cowardly,
then, because he refrains only from indecision. But what in this case is
the right, noble, brave course he should pursue? Either one would be
more admirable? Bravery for the sake of bravery? It seems hard to define
Hamlet as a coward merely for not acting, for not believing in one ideal
and excluding the other. If cowardice, from the heroic point of view,
plays a part in his indecision, so does nobility, from the Christian
point of view. It seems that Christian nobility can't be eliminated from
his motive for hesitating, so I can't simply call him a coward.
Obviously trying to think very precisely about this can twist your mind
into knots-knots compressed into Hamlet's oxymorons.

David

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Judith Matthews Craig <
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Date:           Sunday, 2 Apr 2000 23:35:28 -0500
Subject: 11.0648 Re: Oxymorons
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0648 Re: Oxymorons

Sean Lawrence writes:

<They were, the poet claims,
<too cowardly to be either for or against God and <are imprisoned with
<those who remained neutral when Satan rebelled <in heaven.  Hamlet's
<position for at least a couple of acts seems to <mirror theirs, at
least
<if Olivier is to be believed in saying that he was a <man who couldn't
<make up his mind.

I too, wish David Bishop good luck on his book and am grateful for his
insights.  However, I wonder, perhaps too sympathetically, if Hamlet is
not cowardly or even dithering, but genuinely young, idealistic, and
bookish.  Such men are revolted at the idea of revenge and murder, and
we praise them for it now.

I am may be betraying the "woman" in me, but if I were a man, I would be
horrified at the idea of murder and bloody revenge.  I think it may be
cruel to insinuate that men who are of the finer sort are cowards or
ditherers when they are simply revolted at murder and need proof before
they can act in such a heinous, vengeful way.  And surely one does not
become a hero overnight.

Judy Craig
 

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