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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: July ::
Re: To be or not to be
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1790  Wednesday, 18 July 2001

[1]     From:   Vick Bennison <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 17 Jul 2001 12:29:34 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1767 Re: To be or not to be

[2]     From:   Evelyn Gajowski <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 17 Jul 2001 16:42:55 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1767 Re: To be or not to be


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Vick Bennison <
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Date:           Tuesday, 17 Jul 2001 12:29:34 EDT
Subject: 12.1767 Re: To be or not to be
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1767 Re: To be or not to be

Okay, I'll recant on the sword/dagger business.  But truly, did they
wear swords even indoors in their own homes in Shakespearian times?
Surely not in bed.  Was Claudius wearing a sword at his prayers?

So now I'm back with whoever it was who suggested that a bodkin wasn't a
very good choice of weapons.  Are we safe in assuming that Shakespeare
meant by a "bodkin" the smallest possible knifelike thing with which one
would likely cause fatal personal injury?  If so, then its use makes
somewhat more sense for a suicide, then for a murder.  Could one really
be that confident that he could end all these ills by murdering Claudius
using a bare bodkin?  It seems that there would be a largish chance for
failure if one set off to kill an able-bodied sword carrying man with a
bodkin.  But with a compliant victim, like one's suicidal self, it would
certainly be possible.  If one were thinking revenge why wouldn't he
think "I can end all these ills by simply running that bastard through
with this here sword which I always carry".

Andy White:  But "native hue or resolution" is easily the resolution to
kill oneself, and killing oneself is a (rather drastic) "action".
Suicide, after all, "loses the name of action", when one merely thinks
about it, but doesn't do it.  But all he is saying is that this fear of
what comes after death, that he is feeling while contemplating suicide,
is a very strong fear that causes people to become cowards like him and
abandon any action (even noble ones) that might lead to their deaths.
In fact, though my thoughts have swung this way and that during this
discussion, I have now firmly come back to the conviction that though
one can very cleverly interpret the speech as being about revenge, in
fact Hamlet is thinking about taking his own life.  This feels like
Occam's razor to me.  The easiest most straight-forward interpretation
of the speech is the right one.  Which only leaves the question, can one
make his own quietus with Occam's razor?  ;^)

- Vick

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Evelyn Gajowski <
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Date:           Tuesday, 17 Jul 2001 16:42:55 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 12.1767 Re: To be or not to be
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1767 Re: To be or not to be

> However, no one has as yet brought up the idea that Hamlet is speaking
> this speech specifically to be overheard by Ophelia (or even Claudius
> and Polonius, depending on when you believe he is aware of their
> presence).  But Ophelia has never actually left the stage after her
> father has ordered her to "walk you here."  I've always been intrigued
> by the idea that the whole speech is part of his feigned madness, spoken
> for Ophelia's benefit to overhear...

To Susan St. John (and others),

A couple of years ago a grad student in Theatre did an in-class
performance of "To be" which depicted Hamlet as aware of the fact that
Claudius and Polonius were spying on him.  I've mentioned earlier that
both the Branagh and the Zeffirelli cinematic texts do similar things
for different parts of 3.1 and that Hamlet addressed Ophelia in a Nevada
Shakespeare in the Park production here a couple of years ago.  I'd be
interested in learning of other theatre productions and cinematic texts
which do either, or both.

Evelyn Gajowski
University of Nevada, Las Vegas

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