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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: January ::
Re: Wittenberg and Paris
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0222  Wednesday, 31 January 2001

[1]     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Jan 2001 14:02:03 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0213 Re: Wittenberg and Paris

[2]     From:   Carol Barton <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Jan 2001 14:05:07 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0213 Re: Wittenberg and Paris

[3]     From:   William Proctor Williams <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Jan 2001 14:27:34 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0213 Re: Wittenberg and Paris

[4]     From:   Laura Blankenship <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Jan 2001 16:15:22 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0213 Re: Wittenberg and Paris

[5]     From:   Alex Houck <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Jan 2001 14:35:09 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.0213 Re: Wittenberg and Paris


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Jan 2001 14:02:03 -0500
Subject: 12.0213 Re: Wittenberg and Paris
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0213 Re: Wittenberg and Paris

The other notable early modern Wittenbergian besides Luther and Hamlet
was Dr. Faustus.

D. Evett

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Barton <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Jan 2001 14:05:07 -0500
Subject: 12.0213 Re: Wittenberg and Paris
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0213 Re: Wittenberg and Paris

Aimee Luzier asks:

>About Hamlet - Wittenberg and Laertes - Paris...  I have heard it said
>that the connection may have something to do with Paris being a
>particularly Catholic bastion and Wittenberg being a hotbed of
>Lutheranism/Calvinism, the latter being particularly interesting in
>light of Hamlet's questioning of all of his religious/spiritual
>assumptions. Off in the wilds of Oregon and far from my usual reference
>material, I cannot seem to remember which famous person it was who did
>most of his work from Wittenberg! (It may have been one of the early
>scientists).

Aimee, it was the bastion of philosophy, and if you recall, Marlowe's
Faustus studied there. It was also to the door of the church at
Wittenberg that Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses. Many other famous
persons did their work there, but I suspect that it is to these two
things that Shakespeare is most likely alluding, in this context. Luther
questioned the status quo, the received epistemology -- as Hamlet does;
Faustus was damned by "knowledge for its own sake," for asking too many
questions, for wanting to know more than he needed to know to function
in the world (to be "lowly wise," as Milton's Raphael calls it). Hamlet
is too, in a sense: "for conscience doth make cowards of us all . . . ."

I doubt very much that Shakespeare was exploring anything doctrinally
controversial between the Protestants and Catholics in this instance.
That the Ghost comes from Purgatory is significant, in that regard,
except that he can't come from anywhere else: if he is in Heaven, he
wouldn't be "doomed to walk the earth," and if he is in Hell ("be ye a
spirit damned . . .") he will not gain Hamlet's trust at all. (The young
prince is dubious enough about his "father's" pedigree as it is; I think
it is only Horatio's ability to see the Ghost that leads him to accept
it as Old Hamlet at all.)

Best,
Carol Barton

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           William Proctor Williams <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Jan 2001 14:27:34 -0500
Subject: 12.0213 Re: Wittenberg and Paris
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0213 Re: Wittenberg and Paris

Aimee Luzier says, "I cannot seem to remember which famous person it was
who did most of his work from Wittenberg! (It may have been one of the
early scientists)."  Luther.

It was, of course, a "new university" (1502) compared to the older
universities of Paris (12th cent.) and Oxford (late 12th cent.).

William Proctor Williams

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Laura Blankenship <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Jan 2001 16:15:22 -0600
Subject: 12.0213 Re: Wittenberg and Paris
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0213 Re: Wittenberg and Paris

> material, I cannot seem to remember which famous person it was who did
> most of his work from Wittenberg! (It may have been one of the early
> scientists).

Wasn't Faust from Wittenburg?

Laura Blankenship

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Alex Houck <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Jan 2001 14:35:09 -0800
Subject: 12.0213 Re: Wittenberg and Paris
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.0213 Re: Wittenberg and Paris

>Off in the wilds of Oregon and far from my usual reference
>material, I cannot seem to remember which famous person it was who did
>most of his work from Wittenberg! (It may have been one of the early
>scientists).

Martin Luther did work in Wittenberg, and Marlowe's Dr. Faustus is set
in Wittenberg where the legend of Faustus originated.  Aside from being
willing to do word play with anyone, Hamlet's Wittenberg education is
best exemplified in his "What a piece of work is man" speech.  Parisian
philosophy is much more indulgent, which is why Polonius asks that
Laertes be asked after.

In many ways this play can be related to the unfortunately common
occurrence of a a death in the family while one is away at school.  In
the time at school, processes of thought change and Hamlet still talks
like a frat boy with R & G but will only use it as a weapon of his
trapping logic.  Even Laertes has to come back from France to deal with
the death of Ophelia.  Might I suggest that both Hamlet and Laertes
return to court and realize that those who are in charge are either part
of the problem or are perpetuating the problem.

All this relates to Wittenberg by virtue of the harsh reality that
contrasts the lusty appearance of Paris.

Alex Houck
Santa Clara University
 

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