Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: April ::
Re: Oxymora
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0821  Monday, 17 April 2000.

[1]     From:   Marilyn A. Bonomi <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 14 Apr 2000 09:30:53 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0803 Re: Oxymora

[2]     From:   Robin Hamilton <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Thursday, 13 Apr 2000 20:43:14 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0803 Re: Oxymora

[3]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 14 Apr 2000 09:32:49 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0803 Re: Oxymora

[4]     From:   Florence Amit <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Saturday, 15 Apr 2000 14:19:10 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0803 Re: Oxymora

[5]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Saturday, 15 Apr 2000 17:35:14 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0769 Re: Oxymora

[6]     From:   Judith Matthews Craig <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Sunday, 16 Apr 2000 15:37:57 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0803 Re: Oxymora


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marilyn A. Bonomi <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 14 Apr 2000 09:30:53 -0400
Subject: 11.0803 Re: Oxymora
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0803 Re: Oxymora

Ms? Professor? Amit wrote originally:

>The problem for him [Hamlet] had been that he wanted to be of the "elect" -
>Calvin's elect. And so to stain himself for partisan and pagan 'revenge'
>seemed to him a sure way to fall into temptation and lose the election

I pointed out that in Calvinist theology one cannot lose "election" no
matter what one does, because Grace (that is, being one of the elect who
will, exclusively, achieve the kingdom of heaven) comes before birth and
is irrevokable.

Amit rebutted that Hamlet's fear of "forfeit of his possible election in
the kingdom to come" is offered as one scholarly interpretation of the
hesitation to kill Claudius.

I have no problem with that statement; my only argument is that it does
NOT accord with specifically Calvinist theology which was the precise
theology she stated for that point.

She goes on to suggest that contemporary Calvinists might believe
"Probably the Grace that is mentioned by Ms. Bonomi is a way of naming
the revelation that finally occurs."  However, both contemporary and
original Calvinists call[ed] the Predestinated election of specific
individuals Grace-not a naming of a final revelation, but the naming of
a gift given before birth.

I am not convinced that "a great spiritual change occurs" in Hamlet, but
that concept certainly is worthy of spirited (pun intended) debate on
this list.

That this transformation can be called "a Lutheran literary
transfiguration" may be true; I know very little of Lutheran theology.
I do know, however, that Luther and Calvin, though they agreed on many
of the flaws of the Roman version of Christianity, did not agree on what
reforms the practice of faith required.  Hence, a "Lutheran . . .
transfiguration" is not a CALVINIST transfiguration, because to a
Calvinist one cannot possibly be transfigured from non-elect to elect.

Amit continues:

>Perhaps in the light of our hindsight knowledge of Puritans in power, not
>only Hamlet had this
>misunderstanding of the importance of Grace for a believer.

The current misunderstanding is not Hamlet's.  Believer or non-believer
(though of course Calvinists would not accept that a non-believer could
have the gift of Grace-Grace would essentially instill belief by its
very existence within the individual), Grace has importance in a
Calvinist sense separate from any deeds... because Grace is TOTALLY
unrelated to one's actions.  I'm not clear on what the misdeeds of
Puritans (Calvinists all) in power have to do with the discussion at
hand of Hamlet's hesitation.

Finally, Amit chooses a little ad hominem retort:  <I leave the question
open because it seems that you do not like a Jew to ask it - neither
Arthur
Miller or some one as insignificant as I am.>

From the weight of your posts to the list, Ms. Amit, you clearly are not
insignificant, nor did I ever say you were.  I merely challenged, as one
academic mind to another,  your misstatement of Calvinist beliefs, using
as my source a series of specific email discussions with an ordained
Presbyterian minister.  Your implication that I am an anti-Semite
strikes especially hard, as I am a Jew who grew up being taunted for her
beliefs and her "difference" by those who were too ignorant and too
bigoted even to know what those beliefs are, much less think past the
narrow teachings of their churches and/or parents to see who I am as an
individual.  Perhaps you fell into the trap many of my students do, of
assuming my ethnicity and belief structure from my surname, which I keep
only because it is my professional identity forged over decades, not
because it has any meaning of relationship (except with my daughter) or
belief system.

This is not a Miller list, so I won't spend time clarifying how Miller's
misunderstanding of Calvinism created one of the two most powerful
moments in his play, when Elizabeth lies to (as she believes) save her
husband- a moment of personal choice for the character that could not
have occurred in the real Salem in the manner it does in the play.  He
asked and answered a significant question, but he based his answer in
part on faulty information.  Nonetheless, he makes an enormous moral
point, one which is not vitiated by someone's knowledge of his fact
error.

Nor do I believe that Amit's essential points about Hamlet and his
spiritual crises are vitiated by her misunderstanding of Calvinism.  I
am sorry that she took my effort to correct one area which was built on
incorrect information as some sort of personal and/or religious
assault.  I can assure you, Ma'am, that I am neither a bigot nor
interested in questioning anything but the idea you present here on
SHAKSPER.

Marilyn A. Bonomi

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robin Hamilton <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 13 Apr 2000 20:43:14 +0100
Subject: 11.0803 Re: Oxymora
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0803 Re: Oxymora

> Sean's insistance that there is no evidence that Fortinbras seeks to
> revenge his father is curious.  Sean, put yourself in Fortinbras's place
> for a few minutes.  Your father has been killed by old Hamlet, and for
> some time (we don't know how long), you have wanted to regain the lands
> lost by your father and avenge his defeat at the hands of Denmark.

"Killed" would seem to be the operative word.  Since Fortinbras' father
has been killed in (fair) fight in the course of a war, there is nothing
to +revenge+.  Political or military retaliation or response is another
matter.  Furthermore, Fortinbras couldn't, even if he wanted to, revenge
his father since his father's killer is already dead.

It's this (among other things) which makes Fortinbras' response to the
situation (a killed father) one which (pace what he says himself at
points) Hamlet can't simply follow.  Hamlet's father (like Laertes') was
murdered, and the crime is still unpunished.  But of course, Hamlet's
father (unlike Laertes') was a king ...

The tripod of Hamlet/Laertes/Fortinbras rests on legs of unequal length.

Robin Hamilton

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 14 Apr 2000 09:32:49 -0700
Subject: 11.0803 Re: Oxymora
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0803 Re: Oxymora

Hi, Ed.

Perhaps we should take this off-line, on your cheery note of agreement!

Seriously, though, your ideas about what Fortinbras plans and Hamlet
realizes make perfect sense as characterological analysis, even empathic
projection, but that doesn't really prove them, only sort of suggests
them.  Let's put it this way-I wouldn't hinge a journal article on them,
but I might encourage an actor to imagine this as the history and
understanding between the two men if he wants to nail down a definite
motivation.

There are, though, other possibilities:  maybe Fortinbras isn't so much
trying to avenge his father as "pricked on by a most emulate pride", to
imitate him as a warrior.  He wants to prove himself, to move out from
under his uncle's shadow.  A long-dormant territorial dispute is a
sufficient excuse, and if the dispute with the Danes won't do, that with
the Poles might.  If you can't start a war over the Sudentenland, then
start one over Danzig, to mix my metaphors hopelessly.  Or less darkly,
we might think of all those early modern and medieval royals who spent
their time engaged in pointless wars more or less to prove themselves
and sometimes, in part, to keep themselves occupied.  I seem to recall
that the historical Bullingbroke (or was it Mowbray?) spent part of his
time in exile participating in the Lithuanian crusades.  Sir Francis
Bacon advises young men who are travelling to see the world to by all
means see or participate in a battle.  John Hales characterizes the
areas of endemic warfare as "schools".

On the way back, of course, Fortinbras makes a courtesy call on
Elsinore, finds the entire royal family dead, and making the not
unlikely recollection of his prior claims, satisfies his ambition and
duty simultaneously, winning the kingdom while saving it from the fate
of Somalia.  Hamlet approves him because 1. he admires him; 2. there
aren't any other surviving candidates.

Just because he seizes the throne when it becomes available doesn't mean
that Fortinbras was plotting to take it all along.  I don't seem to
recall (I could be wrong) James or Elizabeth plotting to overthrow each
other, or avenge their mothers, but they wasted no time in getting to
London when the job came open.

It might, of course, be Hamlet's empathic projection that Fortinbras,
like him, will be seeking revenge, but it needn't be.  Similarly, Hamlet
might already be finding the hand of Providence at work in the
world-certainly a number of Shakespeare's contemporaries kept diaries of
what the rest of us would consider coincidences-but there isn't any
particular reason to think this, and that he isn't, following the coup
of the play performance, just giddy with self-confidence.

But again, your reading might provide a reasonable way to play Hamlet.
In some ways, I think it would make him more attractive, faster moving
and more driven, like the Hamlet of Q1.  I can certainly put myself in
Fortinbras's place, insofar as I can put myself in any other person's
place, but that isn't the same thing as proving he has a particular plot
in mind, only imagining what it would be like to have such a plot in
mind.  Maybe he has no burning desire to avenge his father.  We don't
know anything about the relation of Fortinbras p

 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.