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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: July ::
Re: To be or not to be
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1681  Tuesday, 3 July 2001

[1]     From:   Brian Haylett <
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        Date:   Monday, 02 Jul Subject: Re: To be or not to be
        Subj:   Re: To be or not to be

[2]     From:   Andrew W. White <
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        Date:   Monday, 2 Jul 2001 15:42:58 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1667 Re: To be or not to be

[3]     From:   Edward Pixley <
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        Date:   Monday, 02 Jul 2001 21:29:35 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1667 Re: To be or not to be


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Haylett <
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Date:           Monday, 02 Jul Subject: Re: To be or not to be
Subject:        Re: To be or not to be

>It seems to me that "taking arms" against "a sea of troubles" is
>useless.  No one can fight a "sea" with armament.

Readers of Yeats will remember that the Irish hero Cuchulain fought the
sea. But he went mad.

Brian Haylett

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew W. White <
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Date:           Monday, 2 Jul 2001 15:42:58 -0400
Subject: 12.1667 Re: To be or not to be
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1667 Re: To be or not to be

Clifford Stetner writes:

"He [Hamlet] is a classic case of Melancholia as it was understood in
the English Renaissance, and suicidal thoughts have always been a
symptom of depression."

Excuse me, but what is the understanding of Melancholy here?  Melancholy
does not mean 'sad' and cannot be oversimplified as 'suicidal,' although
feelings of that sort do seem to be a part of the picture.  If we read
all of Hamlet's words and actions through this over-simplistic
framework, we do damage to the character and his creator.  There are
moments of high clarity in his thinking, moments of passionate
engagement with the here-and-now, and yes moments of despair.  But to
color this speech as if it's all about suicide is a disservice, IMHO.
It's about a great deal more.

Andy White
Arlington, VA

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edward Pixley <
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Date:           Monday, 02 Jul 2001 21:29:35 -0400
Subject: 12.1667 Re: To be or not to be
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1667 Re: To be or not to be

> Hamlet is contemplating suicide.  At the very least, he is doing so on a
> philosophical level.  He is a classic case of Melancholia . . . .>

> Clifford

Well, that's a reasonable and a defensible position to take, but when
one looks at the speech in terms of the progression of the dramatic
conflict (what has gone before and what follows and what objectives the
character seems to be consciously pursuing), alternative positions have
been far more convincingly presented by several others on this thread.
He is, one may safely say, contemplating death, but the introduction of
"death" in the speech is through "taking arms against a sea of troubles
. . . [to] end them," in short, through taking action.  That idea
(taking action) is finally ended in the last words of the speech, when,
after having "regard[ed]" the "something after death," such "deeds of
great pitch and moment [may we assume that means "taking arms. . .
etc.?] "lose the name of action."  Thus, he has answered the "question"
("that is the question") that seems designed to have nagged the audience
throughout Act II, and which he tried to answer in two different ways in
the final soliloquy of that act -- 1) I am a coward; 2) I don't trust
the ghost -- why have I [has he] not committed the revenge that he swore
to with such vehemence in I.v?

Ed Pixley

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