2001

Re: Hamlet and Oedipus

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0376  Thursday, 15 February 2001

From:           Clifford Stetner <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 14 Feb 2001 14:22:56 -0500
Subject: 12.0346 Hamlet and Oedipus?!?
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0346 Hamlet and Oedipus?!?

Andrew Walker White writes:

>Clifford Stetner refers to "unresolved Oedipal" issues Hamlet may have
>with Gertrude. . . frankly, I wonder that we still haven't gone beyond
>Dr. Ernest Jones' type of critique, which I find so willfully
>superficial and unscientific that it should have been ditched long ago.

I don't think that supposing that there are Oedipal issues treated in
the play has to involve some form of doctrinaire Jonesism or
Freudianism.  No more so than to suppose that Sophocles was exploring
related themes of male unconscious trauma in Oedipus Tyrannus

>Is Stetner saying that there can be no other reasons, dramatic or
>otherwise, for Hamlet's intemperate response to his mother's
>re-marriage?  Is he implying that the _only_ reason Hamlet lingers on
>the time it took for remarriage was because he lusts for his mom?  I
>should certainly hope not.

No.  Like the objects of scientific analysis, literature is not
constrained to single significations.  A chemist's analysis of a human
brain differs from a biologist's, but a poet is free to be chemist,
biologist and psychoanalyst.

>If we are going to apply a scientific model, and we need to consider
>Freud as a scientist (I know, that's a big if, but what can we do), then
>the only way to prove the Oedipal theory is to take into account the
>facts of the case, and come up with compelling reasons why other, more
>down-to-earth theories don't apply.  Here's my theory:

I also don't have much faith in the application of scientific models to
literature.  I don't see how you can get past textual scholarship and
bibliography in a purely scientific, quantifiable, verifiable analysis
of texts.  Poetry traffics in ambiguities of meaning, in connotative as
well as denotative meaning, and such things are not necessarily
quantifiable.

>It doesn't take Freud or Jones to realize that step-parents are rarely
>welcome.  And if the new dad happens to be a drunken bastard of an
>uncle, making the marriage not only ill-advised but _incestuous_ in the
>eyes of any Church in Hamlet's day, I fail to see any reason for Oedipus
>to intrude on the discussion

What intrudes is the question of Hamlet's "sanity."  This question is
not original to Shakespeare's treatment of the Hamlet myth.  Analogues
and sources from David in the Old Testament to Brutus to Saxo's Hamlet
have feigned madness to escape persecution.  Here's my theory:
Shakespeare paid an attendant at Bedlam asylum to be allowed to observe
the inmates on more than one occassion (perhaps the Earl of Essex's
eccentric behavior resulted from syphilitic psychosis and this initiated
or supplemented his interest).  His studies of various forms of human
"madness" are too accurate not to have been drawn from observation.  He
offers theories regarding the sources of the various psychoses and
neuroses (without, of course the benefit of these post enlightenment
terms) that he observed in characters like Hamlet, Ophelia, Macbeth and
his Lady, Lear, Kent and Tom of Bedlam and others.  He realized that the
mythological Hamlet's persistent tendency to speak in crypitc riddles
reflected the behavior of psychotics he observed and that the myth
probably arose from primitive attempts to explain this kind of psychotic
behavior.  So he departed from his sources in removing the unambiguous
feigning element from his treatment of the character in order to
emphasize the psychoanalytic implications.

>Hamlet's humiliation at his mother's
>conduct can be easily understood by anyone who looks the situation
>squarely in the eye.  The original legend makes clear that Hamlet is
>disgusted with the Queen's quick remarriage -- Shakespeare adds that
>touch of pathos that he is also embarrassed for her, and the
>embarrassment comes precisely because he remembers what a great
>wife/queen/mother she used to be.

>How simple humiliation and disgust can be twisted into carnal lust is
>beyond me, and has yet to be proven.

If you accept that something like a Freudian Oedipal complex indeed
accounts for the formation of the (male) subject, then it doesn't seem
strange that particularly perceptive and enthusiastic students of human
nature should discover the phenomenon.  Hamlet's melancholy at the
beginning of the play is presented to us as excessive, and his eccentric
behavior throughout the play is sufficient to raise the question of
insanity in those around him.  He claims that it's all a strategy (but
his melancholy is excluded: "I know not seems"), so the question is
forced as to where feigning ends and madness begins.

My theory is then that the question of madness and its sources is part
of the entire Hamlet tradition.  Shakespeare's adaptation of this
tradition brings this aspect of the story into prominence.  I don't hope
to make a scientific theory out of this reading.  Its validity must rest
on whether it succeeds in opening up insights into the author's methods
that illuminate other of his works.  It does so for me.

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

Re: Hamlet Spy Caught Spying

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0375  Thursday, 15 February 2001

From:           R. A. Cantrell <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 14 Feb 2001 12:56:19 -0600
Subject: Re: Hamlet Spy Caught Spying
Comment:        SHK 12.0356 Re: Hamlet Spy Caught Spying

The point that I seem to have failed to make is that Hamlet is, a la
George Burns and his cigar, in cahoots with the audience in a sense that
the rest of the players are not, a la Gracie Allen.  Hamlet views the
play with us, learns what we learn when we learn it, and soliloquizes to
us apart from his persona in the drama he is viewing with us.

Re: The Ambitious Norway

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0373  Wednesday, 14 February 2001

From:           Hardy M. Cook <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, February 14, 2001
Subject: 12.0301 The Ambitious Norway
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0301 The Ambitious Norway

I really hope that I will have some time in the near future to get back
to the reason I raised the questions in the "The Ambitious Norway"
thread.

Unfortunately, I am lucky that I even have the time to edit the digests.

Fifty-three and looking forward to retirement (or some other form of
relief),
Hardy

Re: green-eyed monster

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0374  Thursday, 15 February 2001

[1]     From:   Carol Barton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 14 Feb 2001 14:46:04 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0369 green-eyed monster

[2]     From:   Charles Frey <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 14 Feb 2001 12:17:01 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0369 green-eyed monster

[3]     From:   Hannibal Hamlin <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 14 Feb 2001 15:56:10 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0369 green-eyed monster

[4]     From:   Tom Bishop <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 14 Feb 2001 16:36:46 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0369 green-eyed monster

[5]     From:   Mary Bess Whidden <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 14 Feb 2001 14:39:44 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0369 green-eyed monster

[6]     From:   Kezia Sproat <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 15 Feb 2001 00:35:13 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0369 green-eyed monster

[7]     From:   Marti Markus <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 15 Feb 2001 07:27:29 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0369 green-eyed monster

[8]     From:   Werner Broennimann <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 15 Feb 2001 10:09:41 +0000
        Subj:   green-eyed monster


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Barton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 14 Feb 2001 14:46:04 -0500
Subject: 12.0369 green-eyed monster
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0369 green-eyed monster

Graham Bradshaw asks:

>Can anyone help with the idea of jealousy as a "green-eyed monster"?  I
>may have missed something, and I can't even find a copy of the old
>Variorum of Othello. I can at least say how far I've got, although I
>doubt that it's far enough.

I think, Graham, that it means nothing more than "green" (as in "sick")
with envy.

If you have ever seen a young boy after his first clandestine
rendez-vous with a cigarette, you will know where the "greenness"
(physiological, not experiential) comes from. It has nothing to do with
the green of the Green Man, nor with the inexperience of the green girl.
It is jealousy, greenish and livid -- and it's not easy bein' green.

Best to all,
Carol Barton
with jealousy.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Charles Frey <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 14 Feb 2001 12:17:01 -0800
Subject: 12.0369 green-eyed monster
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0369 green-eyed monster

Re "green-eyed" see Schmidt's lexicon?

Charlie Frey

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Hannibal Hamlin <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 14 Feb 2001 15:56:10 -0500
Subject: 12.0369 green-eyed monster
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0369 green-eyed monster

I haven't much to say on "greenness" per se, but as for the matter of
eyes, it seems to me that Othello's emphasis on "ocular proof" and the
need to see reflects his own naivety about jealousy.  It is after all
through his ear that Iago pours his poison (as it is though her ear,
ironically, that Othello wooes Desdemona).  By the time Othello is
storming about the need for visual confirmation, he is already
convinced.  It is, moreover, Iago who uses the phrase "green-eyed
monster," and might this not be a deflection away from the real monster,
"green-tongued" or "-eared"?  Could the green-eyed monster, if it is (or
is in) Othello, be "green" in the sense of naive, in the sense Iago uses
it in 2.1.244 -- "those requisites in him that folly and green minds
look after."  On the other hand, whose mind is it that is "green" here?
Not Cassio's, who seems the object of this looking.  From Roderigo's
perspective, I suppose, it is Desdemona's, who in her immaturity will
naturally be attracted to such as Cassio.  From Iago's perspective,
though, is this perhaps Othello's "green mind," immature in some ways,
but also, once again, susceptible to jealousy of such a one as Cassio
("handsome, young, etc.")?  Might the later "greenness" of Othello's
eyes (if indeed this monster is within him, looking out) be a sign of
their naivety?  The eyes' over-confidence in the importance of ocular
proof?

Hannibal Hamlin

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Bishop <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 14 Feb 2001 16:36:46 -0500
Subject: 12.0369 green-eyed monster
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0369 green-eyed monster

On the green-eyed monster:

Here is Golding's translation of Ovid, Metam.

There saw she Envie sit within fast gnawing on the flesh
        Of Snakes and Todes, the filthie foode that keepes hir vices fresh.
            It lothde hir to beholde the sight. Anon the Elfe arose
            And left the gnawed Adders flesh, and slouthfully she goes
            With lumpish laysure like a Snayle, and when she saw the
face
            Of Pallas and hir faire attire adournde with heavenly grace,
        She gave a sigh, a sorie sigh, from bottome of hir heart.
            Hir lippes were pale, hir cheekes were wan, and all hir face
was swart:
        Hir bodie leane as any Rake. She looked eke askew.
            Hir teeth were furde with filth and drosse, hir gums were
waryish blew.
        The working of hir festered gall had made hir stomacke greene.
           (...         livent rubigine dentes, pectora felle virent,
lingua est suffusa veneno)

The portrait is also behind Spenser's picture of Envie in the House of
Pride (FQ 1.4), and of Malbecco-as-Gealosie at the end of FQ 3.10.

The green of Envy seems to be esp. associated with biliousness and
excess of nasty green internal humours.  Shakespeare looks to have fused
this with the predominantly visual aspect of the etymology to produce
green eyes, that is bilious eyes.  Othello's later image of the "cistern
for foul toads", though in his case inflected sexually, seems to look
back directly to the traditional mythography of Envy, projecting the
experience of his own Envy-stricken and bile-churned guts ("there where
I have garnered up my heart", but the "there" is ambiguous) onto
Desdemona's body, trying no doubt thereby to expropriate and "discard"
it "thence". The presence of a humoral theory in the background is also
telegraphed in the same passage ("Turn thy complexion there"), as is the
distinctly hellish scene of Envy's Cave in Ovid ("I here look grim as
hell"), which may even pick up the language of blackness in the
description of Ovid's Envy ("all hir face was swart") and reinterpret
it, as this part of the play does all such languages. Through Ovidian
eyes, is Othello in danger of metamorphosing INTO Envy at this point in
the play, like Malbecco?

Tom

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mary Bess Whidden <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 14 Feb 2001 14:39:44 -0700
Subject: 12.0369 green-eyed monster
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0369 green-eyed monster

because they are not blue?  My apologies, Prof. Cook.  Mary Bess Whidden

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kezia Sproat <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 15 Feb 2001 00:35:13 EST
Subject: 12.0369 green-eyed monster
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0369 green-eyed monster

You might try looking at the "humours," the system of psychology
predominant in Shakespeare's time. Colors are associated with body
fluids, associated with behavior, with elements, etc. As in Burton's
Anatomy of Melancholy. I'm rusty on it.

Kezia Sproat

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Marti Markus <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 15 Feb 2001 07:27:29 +0100
Subject: 12.0369 green-eyed monster
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0369 green-eyed monster

> From:           Graham Bradshaw <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
> Can anyone help with the idea of jealousy as a "green-eyed monster"?
> [...]
>
> I am supposing that the eyes, not the greenness, are primary. In other
> words, I'm supposing that to be sexually "jealous" is NOT unrelated to
> being "jealous" in the other familiar and Shakespearean sense: being
> vigilantly watchful, especially in relation to other people's interests.

"green" seems to refer to the sharpness of the visual sense: "green
eyes" = "sharp eyes",  "an eagle's eyes":  Romeo and Juliet,
III.5.221ff: "An eagle has not so green, so quick, so fair an eye As
Paris has"; cf. Balz Engler's note in his bilingual edition of Othello
(englisch-deutsche Studienausgabe) and Ingeborg Heine's note to
III.3.110: "green-eyed jealousy", in her edition of The Merchant of
Venice (englisch-deutsche Studienausgabe) . Similar passage: Two Noble
Kinsmen, V.1.144

Markus Marti
University of Basel
http://www.unibas.ch/shine/home.html

[8]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Werner Broennimann <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 15 Feb 2001 10:09:41 +0000
Subject:        green-eyed monster

Balz Engler's note in his bilingual Othello edition (T


Re: Nunn's Twelfth Night

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0372  Wednesday, 14 February 2001

From:           Charles Weinstein <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday 14 Feb 2001 08:42:46 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 12.0325 Re: Nunn's Twelfth Night
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0325 Re: Nunn's Twelfth Night

Nunn's film was at least inoffensive, and it gave me some moments of
genuine pleasure.  But where was the transcendence, the feeling of
resolution and reconciliation that makes the endings of Shakespeare's
comedies seem almost a glimpse of a secular heaven (with, to be sure, a
few unreconciled angels staring sadly or hungrily or angrily in from the
margins)?  Imogen Stubbs is a sweet young woman, but no Judi Dench or
Dorothy Tutin:  her excessive diffidence banishes any trace of the
numinous or redemptive.  To say that we no longer believe in those
things is both untrue and a counsel to despair; for it would mean that
we can no longer do justice to Shakespeare.

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