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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: February ::
Re: Hamlet and the Passage of Time
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0322  Monday, 12 February 2001

[1]     From:   Stephanie Hughes <
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        Date:   Friday, 09 Feb 2001 11:31:09 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0313 Re: Hamlet and the Passage of Time

[2]     From:   Kit Gordon <
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        Date:   Friday, 9 Feb 2001 12:15:07 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0313 Re: Hamlet and the Passage of Time

[3]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Saturday, 10 Feb 2001 08:46:21 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0313 Re: Hamlet and the Passage of Time

[4]     From:   Steve Sohmer <
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        Date:   Saturday, 10 Feb 2001 10:56:45 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0296 Re: Hamlet and the Passage of Time

[5]     From:   Paul E. Doniger <
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        Date:   Saturday, 10 Feb 2001 09:36:13 -0800
        Subj:   re: self-correction & clarification


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephanie Hughes <
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Date:           Friday, 09 Feb 2001 11:31:09 +0000
Subject: 12.0313 Re: Hamlet and the Passage of Time
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0313 Re: Hamlet and the Passage of Time

>I don't think severe psychological trauma is at all necessary to distort
>the perception of time.  When I worked as an interlibrary loan
>librarian, I found the usually precise engineers, who were my customers,
>were routinely mistaken about when a conference had occurred or when a
>journal article was published.

Perplexity has been expressed over Hamlet's hazy sense of time. I was
merely suggesting that it was perfectly solid psychology, and tossed in
that I didn't think such knowledge was available through books. No big
deal.

>Say I accept your assertion that trauma causes a loss of one's sense of
>time. Now I know it, and only because you told me so; it's not part of
>my personal experience. Why do you think an email discussion list can do
>this and books can't?

I don't expect you to accept it, not unless your personal experience
corroborates my "assertion." I don't believe a writer could get such a
true picture of this sense of time standing still as Shakespeare shows
so beautifully with Hamlet without either experiencing it or seeing
someone go through it. That's not a "theory," merely a personal
observation.

>because his model of
>communication tells him that you simply don't understand what he's
>saying". I suggest that Hughes's model (a community of personal
>experience) likewise posits an excessively impermeable boundary.

Impermeable for someone who hasn't seen or felt it. Not for someone who
has.

>Do you also claim that when he made time mistakes (actually, I think of
>them as paradoxes) in Othello, Merry Wives, Twelfth Night, and several
>other plays, that he was writing from personal experience?

That would depend on the context, of course.

A deeply moving piece might well be written on the trauma of losing the
bit of paper on which the due date for the return of a library book is
noted.  That's a model I think we can all permeate.

Stephanie Hughes

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kit Gordon <
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Date:           Friday, 9 Feb 2001 12:15:07 -0500
Subject: 12.0313 Re: Hamlet and the Passage of Time
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0313 Re: Hamlet and the Passage of Time

In his response, Larry Weiss mentions that after Hamlet:

>Interestingly, WS never wrote another major lead for a young man.

I would suggest that certain roles (Macbeth, Coriolanus) don't specify
an age, and could be played by (and as) men in their twenties.

Chris

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Saturday, 10 Feb 2001 08:46:21 -0500
Subject: 12.0313 Re: Hamlet and the Passage of Time
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0313 Re: Hamlet and the Passage of Time

Alex Houck asks:

>Has anyone seen a production of ROMEO
> & JULIET that was unedited and ran two hours?

Isn't it the case that, before the invention of accurate clocks, hours
were divided into twelve daylight and twelve night hours regardless of
the change of seasons, so that an hour of daylight in midsummer was much
longer than an hour of daylight in winter?

Paul E. Doniger observes that

> b) Regarding Hamlet's age, much has been written. Few critics have
> accepted the "thirty years" without comment or question. Hamlet is
> apparently much younger at the opening of the play

I have speculated on this list that Shakespeare the dramatist was a
psychoanalyst by temperament.  If so, the confusion regarding Hamlet's
age which, it seems to me, the text goes to some lengths to create, may
reflect the discovery that the neuroses emerging from unresolved Oedipal
conflicts constitute the unconscious conflation of traumas occurring at
much earlier ages with present conflicts.

Clifford Stetner
CUNY
http://phoenix.liu.edu/~cstetner/cds.html

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Sohmer <
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Date:           Saturday, 10 Feb 2001 10:56:45 EST
Subject: 12.0296 Re: Hamlet and the Passage of Time
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0296 Re: Hamlet and the Passage of Time

Dear Friends,

I don't know if I can contribute much to this very livelyand learned
discussion. But perhaps these few points would be useful:

1. It was not uncommon for students at Wittenberg to 30years old, having
turned to the Lutheran confession out of mature dissatisfaction with the
Catholic. William Tyndale was thirty or somewhat older when he
matriculated in Wittenberg in 1524.

2. Hamlet's time confusion is already present in 1.2.138ff when he can't
quite remember how long his father has been dead: "two months dead --
nay not so much, not two ... within a month ... a little month... within
a month . . . "I think one might attribute this to his recent return
from Wittenberg
(where the Julian calendar prevails) to Denmark (where the Gregorian
calendar prevails).

3. In 1.2 Claudius and Gertrude try to talk Hamlet out of mourning
longer for his father: "the survivor bound In filial obligation for some
term To do obsequious sorrow, etc." The familiar term to which a
survivor was bound was the Trental, i.e. "the month's mind." One might
conclude from
this that Old Hamlet has been dead at least 30 + 1 days. If Claudius is
seizing his first opportunity to disabuse Hamlet of his grieving, and if
this scene takes place on 2 November (see point 4 below), then Old
Hamlet was murdered on 2 October.

4. Granville-Barker noticed that "Hamlet" is divided into three
2-day-long sequences. These sequences are 1.1 to 1.5; 2.1 to4.4; 4.5 to
5.2.

Elsewhere I've suggest that Shakespeare links each of these sequence to
a Catholic holy day which was much diminished in importance (or altered
in focus) in post-Reformation England, respectively All Souls (2
November), Candlemas (2 February), Corpus Christi  (which fell on 2 June
in 1518 and 1602). I think this conjecture is supported by Ophelia's
insistence that Old Hamlet has been dead "twice two months" on 2
February. Four months before 2 February is 2 October.

Hope this helps.

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul E. Doniger <
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Date:           Saturday, 10 Feb 2001 09:36:13 -0800
Subject:        re: self-correction & clarification

I must correct something I recently posted to the list. I said that
Hamlet corrects himself in Act 3; scene 2 about the "twice two months"
since his father's death. Of course, it is Ophelia who corrects him.
What was I thinking!

This correction, I have to add, does not mean that I have changed my
opinion: I still do not think that Hamlet errs in his awareness of the
passage of time. He is corrected by Ophelia when he says that his mother
looks cheerful with his father less than two hours dead. He is clearly
in the "antic disposition" mode when he says that. His toying with
Ophelia, Gertrude, and Claudius throughout the inner-play is no
indication that his sense of time is faulty.

Paul E. Doniger
 

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