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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: July ::
Re: All may be well.
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1682  Tuesday, 3 July 2001

[1]     From:   Paul E. Doniger <
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        Date:   Monday, 2 Jul 2001 13:37:31 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 12.1674 All may be well.

[2]     From:   David Bishop <
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        Date:   Monday, 2 Jul 2001 14:41:08 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1674 All may be well.

[3]     From:   Philip Weller <
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        Date:   Monday, 02 Jul 2001 11:55:15 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1674 All may be well.

[4]     From:   Andrew W. White <
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        Date:   Monday, 2 Jul 2001 15:51:53 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1674 All may be well.

[5]     From:   John Velz <
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        Date:   Monday, 02 Jul 2001 15:16:20 -0500
        Subj:   All may be well


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul E. Doniger <
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Date:           Monday, 2 Jul 2001 13:37:31 -0400
Subject: All may be well.
Comment:        SHK 12.1674 All may be well.

Coleridge's comments on this line are interesting (see the Variorum,
Volume 1, page 280); he refers to Claudius's "self-flattering soul"
persevering in "religious duties" as a baffling struggle. Personally, I
always felt that the line was a continuation of Claudius's apostrophe
from the previous sentence: "Bow stubborn knees." Perhaps he is merely
trying to convince those joints that if the kneel in prayer, all may be
well.

I'd add that this sort of thing may be among the many reasons that
Richard Boleslavsky refers to this speech as "The most brilliant test of
the difference between 'Tempo' and 'Rhythm'" (_Acting: The First Six
Lessons_.  NY:Theatre Arts Books, 1933: 117-118). I've often felt that
the changes in this speech (they almost seem to roll over each other,
they come so fast) make it the most difficult soliloquy in the play ...
perhaps in all Shakespeare.

Paul E. Doniger

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Bishop <
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Date:           Monday, 2 Jul 2001 14:41:08 -0400
Subject: 12.1674 All may be well.
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1674 All may be well.

As Jacob Goldberg points out, Claudius's "All may be well" does seem to
contradict the heavy evidence Claudius himself has just assembled. I
think it expresses a last hope that if he can get his "stubborn knees"
to bend, and his heart "with strings of steel" to be "soft as sinews of
the newborn babe" he may nevertheless find it in his heart to repent.
All sinners, theoretically, can repent as long as they are alive.

Since Claudius himself presents the worst case, and also, eloquently,
the best case for himself--"Is there not rain enough in the sweet
heavens/To wash it white as snow"--he leaves the impression, after his
prayer fails, that his last option has been closed off and he is now
committed to villainy. In the meantime, that little moment of hope,
leading to his attempted prayer, provides Hamlet with the occasion for
his own reflection on the power of repentance. Claudius renews in the
audience's mind the picture of the afterlife that helps justify Hamlet's
reasoning, while his failure ends the scene on a note of irony: Hamlet
was mistaken in thinking that Claudius was repenting. He was only
trying, appearing to, but failing to repent.

Best wishes,
David Bishop

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Philip Weller <
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Date:           Monday, 02 Jul 2001 11:55:15 -0700
Subject: 12.1674 All may be well.
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1674 All may be well.

To me, it doesn't look like his mood has changed all that much, it's
just that he hasn't quite given up on the possibility of prayer.  "All
may be well" if the angels will help out and if he can get his knees to
bend and his heart to soften.  He continues the struggle with himself
until Hamlet leaves, then gives up, saying, "My words fly up, my
thoughts remain below."

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew W. White <
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Date:           Monday, 2 Jul 2001 15:51:53 -0400
Subject: 12.1674 All may be well.
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1674 All may be well.

Good question -- my first response is that this scene encapsulates the
faith vs. works debate; the "all may be well" referring, perhaps, to
Claudius' naive notion that somehow going through the motions of prayer
will give him the forgiveness he seeks.  Given the early literature on
pagan mimes converted to Christianity while satirizing (or even
rehearsing a satire) of Christian rituals, it would seem that there were
still those who believed that the motions or outward 'show' of piety
would count for something.

Here's a question for you:  what was the Elizabethan audience's attitude
towards these 'motions' of devotion?  Would this have created any
suspense, to the point where the audience, like Hamlet, isn't sure
whether Claudius might actually be forgiven?

Andy White

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Velz <
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Date:           Monday, 02 Jul 2001 15:16:20 -0500
Subject:        All may be well

Claudius is impulsively expressing a wild-eyed hope.  Not a rational
statement of the odds, but a wishful thought.

Cheers for thing that are well.

John
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