Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: October ::
Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.2126  Thursday, 24 October 2002

[1]     From:   Bill Arnold <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Wednesday, 23 Oct 2002 08:10:30 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2118 Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet

[2]     From:   David Bishop <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Wednesday, 23 Oct 2002 20:20:02 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.2118 Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, 23 Oct 2002 08:10:30 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 13.2118 Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2118 Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet

Martin Steward quotes me, "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".

Then Martin Steward writes, "I'm not certain that this is a response to
the same Field reference, but it looks like it...I think Bill Arnold's
post (21.10.02) got closer to the heart of the matter than anyone
else's, by the way."

Why, thank you very much for that praise, Martin.  Actually, my response
was to Hamlet's very words, cited in my post, below, from Will S.'s play
Hamlet, Act I, Sc IV:

HAM.   "And for my soul, what can it do to that, [66]
        Being a thing immortal as itself?

http://www.shaksper.net/archives/2002/2114.html

>From:           Bill Arnold <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
>Date:           Saturday, 19 Oct 2002 05:26:37 -0700 (PDT)
>Subject: 13.2101 Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet
>Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2101 Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet
>
>Annalisa Castaldo writes, "A more interesting question, in terms of this
>discussion of Hamlet's ghost, is whether or not this is meant to be an
>evil ghost...I would also like to thro[w] another ghost, or ghosts, into
>the mix...it is hard for me to believe that the audience sees them as
>necessarily evil.  Are they supposed to be angels instead, or does this
>use of ghosts suggest that theatergoers/Christians in the 16th century
>were more flexible in their perception of ghosts than we are giving them
>credit for?"
>
>On this matter of the "ghost" in Hamlet, et al., let's do some textual
>criticism, for a change, shall we?
>
>In the play HAMLET by Will S., Act I, Sc. IV, lines 39 and following:
>
>HAM. Angels and ministers of grace defend us! [39]
>     Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damned,
>     Bring with thee airs from heaven or blasts from hell,
>     ...
>     Thou comest in such a questionable shape  [43]
>     That I will speak to thee: I'll call thee Hamlet,
>     King, father, royal dane: O, answer me!
>     ...
>     To cast thee up again.  What may this mean, [51]
>
>     ...
>     Making night hideous: and we fools of nature [54]
>     So horridly to shake our disposition
>     With thoughts beyond the reaches of our souls?
>     Say, why is this?  wherefore?  what should we do?
>     ...
>     And for my soul, what can it do to that, [66]
>     Being a thing immortal as itself?
>
>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
>[capitalizations mine, intentionally, throughout].
>
>OK: we have in the opening lines referents to the fact that Hamlet sees
>this apparition as either from Heaven [again my capitalizations,
>throughout]: "Angels and ministers of grace defend us!  Be thou a spirit
>of health...Bring with thee airs from heaven...Be thy
>intents...charitable"
>
>" or else Hamlet sees this apparition as from Hell: "or goblin
>damn'd,...or blasts from hell...Be thy intents...wicked."
>
>Now, SHAKSPEReans, it IS Hamlet's dichotomy, not Bill Arnold's, as it IS
>HIS "Be thou a spirit of health [heaven] or goblin damn'd [blasts from
>hell." It IS indisputable, if we accept textual criticism: that Hamlet,
>in his first foray with the "spirit" of his dead and departed Father,
>the former King, who was usurped on the Throne of Denmark/aka England
>[which had a monarchy, and I think, still does], the young Prince of
>Good, questions the REALITY of a SPIRIT [his words] from either Heaven
>or from Hell.  Need we remind ourselves that Jesus in the NT also
>appeared as a GOOD SPIRIT, "after the stone was rolled away," what in
>Christian theology is referred to as "His Resurrection" from the dead,
>and was SEEN as a GOOD SPIRIT--and NOT an EVIL SPIRIT as the Devil which
>Jesus denounced on the Mountain Top.  So, here we have Hamlet in HAMLET
>on His FIGURATIVE Mountain Top, THE PLATFORM, and confronted by an
>"EITHER/Or" situation and the rest of the play is about that dichotomy:
>GOOD or EVIL?  Do I believe Hamlet, thus, to be a Jesus figure?
>
>Thus, it IS mostly a broad Christian doctrine which is being explored in
>the play, whether or not the departed Spirit IS GOOD or EVIL, and there
>is NO simple answer, and that is WHY Will S. made HAMLET such a complex
>play, with a complex Hamlet the protagonist at the center of the drama.
>In fact, Will S.  puns on those who doubt this as the central theme,
>thusly:
>
>HAM. It will not speak: then I will follow it. [63]
>     ...
>     Still am I call'd.  Unhand me, gentleman. [84]
>     By heaven, I'll make a ghost of him that lets me!
>
>I reiterate, that Will S. invoked Heaven [heaven: 41] in that pun on the
>"ghost" seen by his protagonist Hamlet, and did NOT invoke Hell [blasts
>from hell: 41].  Thereby: Hamlet, at the end of the first foray with the
>"spirit/ghost" goes to see if it will talk, explain itself, demonstrate
>whether or not it be from Heaven or from Hell, and thus this scene and
>the play HAMLET, itself, is quite Christian in the broad sense in the
>theme it sets out to explore.
>
>Bill Arnold
>http://www.cwru.edu/affil/edis/scholars/arnold.htm

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Bishop <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, 23 Oct 2002 20:20:02 -0700
Subject: 13.2118 Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.2118 Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet

Martin Steward tells me that good critical judgment requires a modicum
of historical erudition. Leaving aside the question of when knowledge
becomes erudition, I'm happy to agree. I never denied that. What I said
was that historical erudition does not necessarily impart critical
judgment, and that New Historicism provides a rich mine of examples of
great historical erudition used in the service of what I find rather
poor critical judgment.

This question has come up in discussion about the relevance to Hamlet of
the doctrine of Purgatory. If the ghost returns from a fiery place of
punishment from which he will be released when his sins are "burnt and
purg'd away", does that mean that Shakespeare was either expressing his
own secret Catholicism, or intentionally shocking the audience with
heresy? I contend that he was doing neither. This presumably Danish
ghost is portrayed as neither a Catholic ghost nor a Protestant ghost,
but simply--or not so simply--a ghost. Critics who blow up the ghost's
daytime abode into a contentiously doctrinal Purgatory seem to me to
misrepresent the play.  Stephen Greenblatt's recent book would be a case
in point. This does not mean, of course, that I think his history of
Purgatory uninteresting in itself, or that I wish people would not study
this history. Nor do I think history is unnecessary or without value in
the study of Shakespeare. The question is how it's used.

Martin Steward also says, "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!"

I wonder exactly what makes this an "egregious tautology" and why it
would so offend Shakespeare. Did Catholicism and Protestantism not share
the belief that personal revenge was a sin that could be punished by
damnation?  Or is the idea that Protestants take offense at any
suggestion that they have something in common with Catholics? If so,
Martin Steward must see Shakespeare as one of those easily offended
Protestants, a picture I find about as convincing as that of Shakespeare
the fiery Catholic heretic. But perhaps my problem is that I don't know
enough about history.

Best wishes,
David Bishop

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, 
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.