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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: October ::
Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.2118  Wednesday, 23 October 2002

[1]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 22 Oct 2002 17:41:26 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2107 Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet

[2]     From:   Steve Roth <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 22 Oct 2002 10:48:09 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2113 Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Tuesday, 22 Oct 2002 17:41:26 +0100
Subject: 13.2107 Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2107 Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet

"Sometimes the tip of an iceberg needs to be followed below the
surface.  Sometimes the tip is only a tip, without an iceberg, only
something you step on quickly as you run past", writes David Bishop. "To
tell the difference takes critical judgment, which, as the record of New
Historicism so richly demonstrates, historical erudition does not
necessarily impart."

I would suggest that telling the difference takes both critical
judgement and a modicum of historical erudition. Without the latter, how
are we to understand the semantics of a play written nearly four hundred
years ago?  William Shakespeare, I would hazard to guess, would have
been astonished to read this as a critical judgement on his work: "A
general set of Christian assumptions--what Catholicism and Protestantism
have in common--plays an important role in the play." He, like every
other Protestant living at the same time as him, would have scratched
his head at this egregious tautology, once he'd gotten over the
downright offence it would have caused him!

Besides, some of us are interested in Elizabethan and Jacobean theology
& eschatology, and it seems churlish to tell us off for treating a
contemporary drama as an historical source for discussion of these
points.

On separate but related issues:

Steve Roth objects that "[Richard] Field uses the anecdote rhetorically"
- a possibility I allowed in my post. He further objects that "His
straying from Protestant orthodoxy here, invoking a Catholic anecdote to
his own ends, could be viewed as hypocritical sophistry in the style of
John Ashcroft." No one would doubt that Field's Fifth Booke contains a
fair amount of "sophistry" (King James himself threw the thing across
the room at him because he thought it relied too much on "cunning" to
make its very valid points: Nathan Field, Some Short Memorials
concerning the Life of that Reverend Divine Doctor Richard Field, ed. J.
Le Neve (London 1717), pp.13-16). However it is just plain wrong to
suggest that this was a "[Roman???] Catholic anecdote" - he gets it from
Pico, as I pointed out (see earlier posts from more accomplished and
experienced scholars than I for where he fits into all this). Finally,
to say that this is "a pretty glancing piece of proof, in any case, that
Protestants embraced the idea of visitations" scandalously
underestimates the standing of Field's treatise in the early Stuart
Church - it was seen as almost the equal of Hooker's Laws, and is still
well-respected among theologians of the English Church today.

Bill Arnold writes, "First: we readers note that Hamlet the protagonist
invokes his 'immortal...soul' and cannot be accused of being in denial
about his personal views about the existence of the Soul and
Immortality".

I'm not certain that this is a response to the same Field reference, but
it looks like it. I can only reiterate that I did not mean to suggest
that his anecdote could be used as a critical tool with which to dissect
Hamlet's (or Shakespeare's) orthodoxy, merely that it demonstrated that
a respected, learned, orthodox English divine could happily invoke the
idea of good spirits walking the earth, at around the same time as
Hamlet was written. I accept that that makes me guilty of the
theological vagueness I have criticized in others (for a lot happened to
the English Church and its doctrines between 1598 and 1610, not least
the Canons of 1604), but I think the point is simple enough to stand.

I think Bill Arnold's post (21.10.02) got closer to the heart of the
matter than anyone else's, by the way.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Roth <
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Date:           Tuesday, 22 Oct 2002 10:48:09 -0700
Subject: 13.2113 Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2113 Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet

>Takashi Kozuka:

>I should be grateful if the contributor(s) can (1) itemise/list those
>'tests' one needs to carry out to find out whether a ghost is good or
>evil, and (2) clarify the sources.
>Could the contributor(s) please (3) present specific/concrete external
>evidence/proof to show in what 'particular ways' angels and devils >would act when someone is murdered in an unreasonable manner in the >early modern English context? (David Frydrychowski's suggestion may be >one.)

I would be more than happy to, except that Prosser has already done
exactly that. So instead of summarizing examples and (in my
incompetence) detracting from the value of her work, I refer interested
parties to her. Also to McGee and Frye. More tangentially, to
Greenblatt.

My original citation of these works is at:

http://www.shaksper.net/archives/2002/2074.html

I just summarized some of their conclusions--perhaps incompetently.

Steve
http://princehamlet.com

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