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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: July ::
Re: To be or not to be
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1858  Wednesday, 25 July 2001

[1]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 24 Jul 2001 13:15:31 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1847 Re: To be or not to be

[2]     From:   Paul E. Doniger <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 24 Jul 2001 14:06:55 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 12.1847 Re: To be or not to be

[3]     From:   Takashi Kozuka <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 24 Jul 2001 19:33:27
        Subj:   Re: To be or not to be


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Tuesday, 24 Jul 2001 13:15:31 -0400
Subject: 12.1847 Re: To be or not to be
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1847 Re: To be or not to be

Andrew White astutely observes:

> As the audience is given to understand, Hamlet is elsewhere in the
> castle, perhaps walking and reading as is his wont, and Polonius sends a
> courtier to inform him that there's someone to see the Prince in the
> Lobby.  Hamlet goes there, and sees nobody but Ophelia -- the only
> person he has been denied access to systematically for quite some time.
> And she's alone.  In the Lobby.  For an intimate, private meeting?  Not
> bloody likely.

And, it seems to me that the most telling clue of all is Ophelia's
comment:

        ... for the the noble mind
        Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind.

This is hardly Ophelia's customary way of speaking, but it does smack of
Polonius.

Hamlet's immediate response is "Ha, ha!"

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Paul E. Doniger <
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 >
Date:           Tuesday, 24 Jul 2001 14:06:55 -0400
Subject: Re: To be or not to be
Comment:        SHK 12.1847 Re: To be or not to be

I agree with Andy white that Hamlet may very well be aware from the
start (in 3.1) that he's being spied upon. Such an interpretation could
have profound effects on how the "To be, or not to be" speech is to be
understood. There are, however, many difficulties to this
interpretation.  One must be careful not to jump to conclusions: There
is no evidence that Polonius sent for Hamlet to appear in the lobby. Mr.
White wrote:

> As the audience is given to understand, Hamlet is elsewhere in the
> castle, perhaps walking and reading as is his wont, and Polonius sends a
> courtier to inform him that there's someone to see the Prince in the
> Lobby.

First, we must remember that the exact location of the scene is not
certain.  Many editions simply indicate "a room in the castle" --
although, earlier we are told that Hamlet "sometimes ... walks four
hours together here in the / Lobby," there's no reason to assume that
this scene is in the same location.  Also, it is Claudius who says that
he (using a royal "we") sent for Hamlet.  Also, there's no suggestion
that Hamlet was told that someone was waiting to meet him. Claudius
simply says, "We have closely [i.e.c privately] sent for Hamlet hither,
/ That he, as 'twere by accident, might here / Affront Ophelia." That is
all the information we are given.

This would seem to indicate, as Andy suggests, an odd situation to
Hamlet when he arrives and nobody is there (Ophelia seems to have
wandered off to read her prayer book and give Hamlet scope for a
soliloquy). When Ophelia shows up, it could very well seem suspicious to
the Prince.

Paul E. Doniger

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Takashi Kozuka <
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Date:           Tuesday, 24 Jul 2001 19:33:27
Subject:        Re: To be or not to be

Andrew W. White <
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 > points out:

>There is some question as to when or how Hamlet realizes he is being
>watched, during his 'mating session' with Ophelia.

Yes, Andrew is right: this has been another classic debate for a long
time.  (I'm not sure if scholars are still debating, though...) One of
the famous interpretations in the past was John Dover Wilson's in his
Cambridge edition of Hamlet (1934), The Manuscript of Shakespeare's
Hamlet and the Problems of its Transmission (1934), and What Happens in
Hamlet (1935). (I don't agree with his argument, and he has been
challenged.) All three books listed above are available at the
Shakespeare Institute Library :-)

Best wishes,
Takashi Kozuka

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