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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: February ::
Re: Hamlet (Once More)
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0539  Monday, 25 February 2002

[1]     From:   Edmund Taft <
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        Date:   Friday, 22 Feb 2002 12:57:38 -0500
        Subj:   Hamlet (Once More)

[2]     From:   Brandon Toropov <
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        Date:   Friday, 22 Feb 2002 14:17:25 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0528 Re: Hamlet (Once More)


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
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Date:           Friday, 22 Feb 2002 12:57:38 -0500
Subject:        Hamlet (Once More)

Pasul Doniger writes,

>"To my ear, this sounds as if Hamlet has given up plotting and is waiting
> for a divinity to shape the outcome or his death. God will provide. The
> way you find out what God wants is by waiting."

"They also serve who only stand and wait": this is an attractive way to
look at the end of Hamlet, and I agree with it, in part.  But there's a
rub. Wait for what?  What sign or event tells Hamlet that it is time to
act and that he is acting according to God's Will?

What happens that convinces Hamlet at the end of the play that he can
effect revenge?  Or [leading question] is his killing of Claudius
justified on other grounds by play's end?

--Ed Taft

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brandon Toropov <
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Date:           Friday, 22 Feb 2002 14:17:25 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 13.0528 Re: Hamlet (Once More)
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0528 Re: Hamlet (Once More)

Chinese Taoism embraces the notion of wu-wei, sometimes translated as
"doing-through-not-doing," that seems to me to equate with Hamlet's
approach here. It's not passivity, precisely, but the kind of poised,
completely present attention to the moment in which all movement and
action is intuitive and inspired and utterly appropriate -- rather than
planned, debated, and justified rationally.

I'm not suggesting that Shakespeare was a Taoist, mind you -- merely
that he is describing the same state of purposeful, responsible
"inactivity" that manages to accomplish everything necessary without the
intervention of the conscious mind. Quite an accomplishment for our
prince, wouldn't you say?

Jesus Christ hit on the same idea, of course, in the gospel passage that
inspired the "special providence in the fall of a sparrow" line. The
point being, as I understand it: "God is, by definition, fully present
in *every* action and *every* phenomenon -- now what, precisely, do you
imagine is under your narrow personal control?"

In other passages that provide parallels with Hamlet's state of mind in
act V, Jesus asks rhetorically which of us, through anxious thought, can
add an inch to our height; and fails to upbraid Martha's sister for not
helping out with the housework. (The sister, attentive on Jesus only,
has, he announces, taken the better part.)

I'm not saying Jesus was a Taoist of course, only that ... hold on a
minute. Maybe I _am_ saying that Jesus was a Taoist.

Brandon


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