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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: September ::
Re: What's It All About, Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1835  Thursday, 28 September 2000.

From:           Kevin Rahimzadeh <
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Date:           Wednesday, 27 Sep 2000 15:04:16 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 11.1825 Re: What's It All About, Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1825 Re: What's It All About, Hamlet

Paul Doniger's thoughts on "external conditions" strikes me as an
interesting approach to what, exactly, the ghost is demanding of
Hamlet.  As for "Taint not thy mind," this directive is also the
completion of a rhetorical maneuver begun sixty lines earlier when the
ghost suggests that he could, if he wanted to, "unfold" a tale that
would "harrow up" Hamlet's soul.  Unfold it, however, he will not, the
ghost insists, but only because Hamlet is incapable of hearing whatever
the ghost has to say without risk to his (Hamlet's) soul.  If we assume
that the tale the ghost is refusing to tell is the story of his own
murder, then we see that he does indeed go on to tell all to Hamlet,
ending his narrative with the "Taint not thy mind" coda.  Between "I
could a tale unfold" and "Taint not thy mind," the ghost has thrown one
loaded word after another at Hamlet, all designed to press just the
right buttons of a young man trying to make sense of his father's sudden
death and his mother's o'erhasty marriage: revenge, unnatural, murder,
foul, serpent, incestuous, adulterate, witchcraft, traitorous, seduce,
shameful, lewdness, lust, sate, garbage, vile, loathsome, sin, horrible,
luxury, and damned incest.

In other words, the ghost bookends his call for revenge with a form of
paralepsis. This reading doesn't preclude Paul's argument that "Taint
not thy mind" is future-directed, part and parcel with the ghost's
demands for vengeance; it most certainly is that. My point is that this
line also serves to call our attention to what has just happened: to the
fact that Hamlet's mind has just been through the process of being
tainted--tainted by a ghost who assures him all the while that tainting
is the last thing he intends to do.

Kevin Rahimzadeh
Eastern Kentucky University
 

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