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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: October ::
Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.2066  Monday, 12 October 2002

[1]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Friday, 11 Oct 2002 14:45:23 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 13.2060 Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet

[2]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Friday, 11 Oct 2002 07:43:39 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2060 Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet

[3]     From:   Steve Roth <
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        Date:   Friday, 11 Oct 2002 07:53:24 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2040 Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet

[4]     From:   Steve Roth <
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        Date:   Friday, 11 Oct 2002 07:53:24 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2040 Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Friday, 11 Oct 2002 14:45:23 +0100
Subject: Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet
Comment:        SHK 13.2060 Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet

Thanks to Chris Whatmore for doing the legwork on "God" in the WS
concordance.

'In this, Much Ado seems to look forward to the late plays, where I
absolutely agree with David Bishop that "Shakespeare seems to be showing
Christian values emerging from human nature, or nature, rather than from
God's commandment or the fear of damnation."'

David Bishop used this point to suggest (if I recall correctly) that
Shakespeare therefore turns away from (doctrinal) Christianity to some
extent. But the statement would admirably sum up much of Hooker's Laws,
and the basically humanist tenor of quite a lot of clerical commentary -
Whtigift through Buckeridge, Cosin, Field, Montagu, Hall, Hammond,
Andrewes (above all, Andrewes!), Overall, Chillingworth and his
latitudinarian pals... We ought not to forget that before the world got
Godless, Christian faith was assumed to be eminently reaonsable, and as
a result it was often argued that its tenets emerged fully-formed from
Nature.

There is an outstanding example of what I mean in a sermon by Donne,
here cited from the edition prepared by George R. Potter and Evelyn M.
Simpson (10 Volumes. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California
Press 1953-1962):

Oportet accedentem credere; the Apostle seemes to make that our first
step, Hee that comes to God, must beleeve [Heb 11:6]. So it is our first
step towards God, To beleeve, but there is a step towards God, before it
come to faith, which is, to understand; God works first upon the
understanding. God proceeds in our conversion, and regeneration, as he
did in our first Creation. There man was nothing; but God breathed not a
soule into that nothing; but of a clod of earth he made a body, and into
that body infused a soule. Man in his Conversion, is nothing, does
nothing. His bodie is not verier dust in the grave, till a Resurrection,
then his soule is dust in his body, till a resuscitation by grace. But
then this grace does not worke upon this nothingnesse that is in man,
upon this meere privation; but Grace finds out mans naturall faculties,
and exalts them to a capacity, and a susceptiblenesse of the working
thereof, and so by understanding infuses faith. Therefore God begins his
Instruction here at the understanding; and he does not say at first,
Faciam te credere, I will make thee to beleeve, but Faciam te
intelligere, I will make thee understand... as there is a God, that God
must be worshipped according to his will, That therefore that will of
God must be declared and manifested somewhere, That this is done in some
permanent way, in some Scripture, which is the Word of God, That this
booke, which we call the Bible, is, by better reasons then any others
can pretend, that Scripture; And when our Reason hath carried us so far,
as to accept these Scriptures for the Word of God, then all the
particular Articles, A Virgins Son, and a mortall God, will follow
evidently enough. And then those two Propositions, Mysteria credenda ut
intelligantur, Mysteries of Religion must be beleeved before they be
understood, and Mysteria intelligenda ut credantur, Mysteries of
Religion must be understood before they can be beleeved, will all be
one; For God exalts our naturall facultie of understanding by Grace to
apprehend them, and then to that submission and assent, which he by
grace produces out of our understanding, by a succeeding and more
powerfull Grace he sets to the Seale of Faith.
(John Donne, Sermon 16, Sermons Volume IX, p.355)

m

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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 >
Date:           Friday, 11 Oct 2002 07:43:39 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 13.2060 Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2060 Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet

Chris Whatmore writes, "I actually had occasion recently to check the
occurrences of 'God' throughout the canon. The biggest surprise for me
was that Much Ado is one of the highest scorers with around 60 instances
- more than twice as many as any other comedy and indeed more than any
other play bar R3 (although 1H4 and H5 run it close).  Our heroes (and
Hero) can hardly open their mouths without invoking the deity, while
Dogberry is the very preacher in his enthusiasm for the "gifts that God
gives". In fact, every major character mentions God at least once, with
the interesting exception of the Friar! The bad guys, naturally, fare
less well: Don John manages 'God' only once, hollowly, as he lies to
Claudio about his bride-to-be, while Borachio can only muster a
reference to the heathen 'god Bel'. I guess all this piety is not out of
place in a play that ends with the raising of the dead; the twist, of
course, with the 'God-less' Friar engineering it all, is that it is
ultimately a very human miracle. In this, Much Ado seems to look forward
to the late plays, where I absolutely agree with David Bishop that
"Shakespeare seems to be showing Christian values emerging from human
nature, or nature, rather than from God's commandment or the fear of
damnation."

Is there an online flawless search engine wherein anyone can go to the
world of Shakespeare and type in the word "God" and verify the truth
about how many times Will S mentions the word?

Bill Arnold
http://www.cwru.edu/affil/edis/scholars/arnold.htm

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Roth <
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Date:           Friday, 11 Oct 2002 07:53:24 -0700
Subject: 13.2040 Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2040 Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet

David Bishop:

>the general
>structure of Christianity remains an important background assumption,
>and even an important theme, in many plays. In Hamlet, for example, if
>you don't understand that Christianity makes revenge, like suicide, a
>sin, threatens sinners with hell (at least for a time), and promises
>forgiveness to the truly repentant, you can't understand what's going on
>in the play.

Spot on, and supported unanimously in the most important studies
addressing these issues in Hamlet. Viz:

Prosser's Hamlet and Revenge (the central tenet is Bishop's above)
Fry's Renaissance Hamlet
McGee's Elizabethan Hamlet
Greenblatt's Hamlet in Purgatory

A few conclusions that anyone reading these books will find to be pretty
incontrovertible:

The ghost is evil, or would have been regarded as such by Elizabethans
(based on unequivocal religious teachings--both catholic and
protestant--, based on repeated statements in the text, and based on
revenge-tragedy theatrical conventions, which are themselves rooted in
morality-play conventions). Notwithstanding that it tells the truth
about the murder, and seeks to protect Gertrude. Canny demons use
exactly those techniques to lull their victims. The play gives repeated
indications of the ghost's hellish origins. And the call to
revenge--however emotionally satisfying/attractive any audience might
find that revenge to be--is a call to damnation.

Hamlet's grief is excessive (just as Gertrude and Claudius' actions are
unconscionable) by Elizabethan standards. His "customary suits of solemn
black" are appropriate two months after the King's death, but his "inky
cloak" is only appropriate to a funeral procession. That consuming
grief/melancholy, amplified to obsession by his (justifiable) feelings
about the hasty and unequivocally incestuous marriage and usurpation,
makes him the perfect gull for an Elizabethan revenge ghost.

This is not to say that the portrayal of the ghost or its injunction is
simplistic, or that the audience's reaction to it is/would have been
simplistic. Shakespeare makes incredibly complex play of the theatrical
conventions and underlying beliefs associated with revenge and ghosts.

Steve
http://princehamlet.com

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Roth <
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 >
Date:           Friday, 11 Oct 2002 07:53:24 -0700
Subject: 13.2040 Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2040 Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet

Clifford Stetner <
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 > writes,
>
>I recall reading somewhere that "that same star" is a reference to a
>meteor that appeared around the time of Hamlet's production.

You're probably referring to Olson, Olson, and Doescher's Sky and
Telescope article, The Stars of Hamlet (available for $2.95:
<http://skyandtelescope.com/search.asp?section=all&terms=olson+and+hamlet>.
It argues that Bernardo's star refers to the supernova that appeared in
Cassiopeia in early November of 1572, which was commented upon by both
Tycho Brahe on November 11 and later by Thomas Digges, among others.

>Is it
>possible that the ghost is in part merely a literary symbol for an
>uncanny experience shared by a number of night watchers (the School of
>Night)?

If that is what you're thinking of, it seems unlikely that the ghost
would reference a shared uncanny experience (one which continued for
months) that happened 28 years prior.

Steve
http://princehamlet.com

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