Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: September ::
Re: The Supernatural and Modernity
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1858  Monday, 9 September 2002

[1]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 6 Sep 2002 10:39:02 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1844 The Supernatural and Modernity

[2]     From:   Edmund Taft <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 06 Sep 2002 12:44:55 -0400
        Subj:   The Supernatural and Modernity

[3]     From:   Steve Roth <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 6 Sep 2002 10:00:44 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1846 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity

[4]     From:   D. Bloom <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 6 Sep 2002 13:21:51 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1846 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity

[5]     From:   Brian Willis <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 6 Sep 2002 11:50:09 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1846 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity

[6]     From:   John W. Kennedy <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 06 Sep 2002 19:09:10 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1846 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity

[7]     From:   Ted Dykstra <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 6 Sep 2002 20:56:27 EDT
        Subj:   Ghosts

[8]     From:   John Drakakis <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Sunday, 8 Sep 2002 14:55:44 +0100
        Subj:   RE: SHK 13.1844 The Supernatural and Modernity

[9]     From:   Chris Whatmore <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 09 Sep 2002 11:31:52 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1846 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity

[10]    From:   Edward Pixley <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Saturday, 07 Sep 2002 09:19:47 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1846 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 6 Sep 2002 10:39:02 -0400
Subject: 13.1844 The Supernatural and Modernity
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1844 The Supernatural and Modernity

>While psychotic hallucinations did not appear in pre-modern literature,
>there are plenty of "real:" ghosts in modern literature. Even art that
>claims to be naturalistic does not attempt merely to reproduce reality, but
>adds contrived elements to give an experience that is aesthetic but "feels"
>natural. To put in a "real" ghost, it's only necessary that the characters
>on stage believe in them, not the audience.

While the modern audience is prevented from dismissing the ghost as a
projection of Hamlet's fevered brain by the witnesses to its first two
appearances, representing a pre-enlightenment paradigm in which the
reality of ghosts was "officially" acceptable, the third appearance
during the Oedipal psychodrama in Gertrude's closet represents a
"modern" world in which ghosts are only visible to the insane. The play
therefore reflects the period of instability that characterizes the
transformation from stable pre-modern to stable modern epistemes.
Hamlet's madness occupies this same indeterminate space: according to
the premodern mythological tradition, Hamlet characters were wise fools
(without ghosts) whose apparent madness was really indicative of a
deeper method; the modern psychoanalytic paradigm makes them psychotic
victims of unresolved Oedipal conflicts. But the Early modern paradigm
can't rest securely on either side of the fence: the old paradigm is no
longer viable, but the new has not yet become hegemonic. Also reflected
is the parallel dramatic transition from premodern tragedy's "real"
Senecan ghosts to modern tragedy's psychological "ghosts." The
transition from the ramparts ghost to the closet ghost therefore
diachronically represents the transition from the premodern supernatural
to the modern uncanny while Hamlet's world synchronically represents the
anxiety of instability and indeterminacy.

Clifford Stetner
CUNY
http://phoenixandturtle.net

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edmund Taft <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 06 Sep 2002 12:44:55 -0400
Subject:        The Supernatural and Modernity

SS's question about the meaning of the ghost in _Hamlet_ is intriguing
and important. I always assumed that the objective reality of the ghost
is a given because others see it. If that's true, then perhaps the point
is that there IS another realm of being beyond the world we know, but we
have no way of understanding the nature of this other reality.

Such an idea could be either profoundly Christian or completely
un-Christian. In fact, by definition it only affirms that there is
SOMETHING after death.

Is such a view anti-modern?  I don't know. It may not even be
anti-scientific since it merely posits a realm that science cannot
investigate.

--Ed Taft

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Roth <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 6 Sep 2002 10:00:44 -0700
Subject: 13.1846 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1846 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity

The text goes to some lengths to impart the uncertain epistomology of
the age, in particular the mixed and contradictory beliefs regarding
religion and superstition. Horatio's "So haue I heard and doe in part
belieue it," (TLN 164) is only one example of many. It's that uncertain
epistomology, it seems to me, that makes the play seem so modern (and
also--depicting as it does humankind's true and eternal uncertainty--so
universal).

Steve
http://princehamlet.com

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D. Bloom <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 6 Sep 2002 13:21:51 -0500
Subject: 13.1846 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1846 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity

Robin Hamilton  writes:

[Sam Small writes (anent 'naturalising' the Ghost in _Hamlet_):

"The rest of the play is completely "natural".  A video tape of the
deceased father is not good enough because the Prince converses with
him"

-- how about an interactive computer program prepared by a pre-deceased
Elder Hamlet?]

I like this idea extravagantly, Robin. In fact, you might do the whole
play as a computer game (Hellsinore), where you play the role of Hamlet
and have to battle through levels of villains (Polonius, R & G, Laertes)
to reach Claudius. Your weapons would have to be wit and deceit, rather
than swords and fire-balls and that stuff, which might prove difficult
for software engineers, but if they could work it out, I'd buy one.

Alternatively you could do a movie (maybe worth two stars) of an
American teen-ager getting so lost in such a game that it becomes
"reality." Perhaps he could discover that the game had been written by
his father, who feared he was going to be murdered by a jealous brother
(and was). So he has to avenge his father -- but . . .

Alternatively, you could try a send-up a la Mel Brooks (two and a half
stars) or Monty Python (three).

If only I had the time.

don

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 6 Sep 2002 11:50:09 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 13.1846 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1846 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity

> > >The idea of contact with the spirit world is very
> >anti-Christian - which I'm sure Shakespeare was
> aware.

This is absolutely untrue. What is the soul but a ghost? Further, what
is prayer but interaction with a supernatural, spiritual being?

The Catholic Church for one, perhaps the most conservative of all the
Christian branches, believes in the existence and interaction of the
spirit world with the physical world. Catholics pray to saints for
intercession in their lives. Perhaps one of the best kept secrets of the
church is the existence, within each diocese, of an exorcist who
regularly performs exorcisms of demons.

I think the ghost in Hamlet is actually a very Christian element of the
play. He raises the issues of the undiscovered country, where a person
must face the consequences of their actions here on earth. King Hamlet,
in very vivid terms, paints the images of that afterlife and reveals the
corruption in the soul of Denmark. I don't think that it is an accident
that Hamlet gets so stuck on "conscience" in this play, and refers to it
as the agent that makes cowards of us all when we embark on enterprises
of great pitch and moment.

Brian Willis

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John W. Kennedy <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 06 Sep 2002 19:09:10 -0400
Subject: 13.1846 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1846 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity

From:           Gabriel Egan <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >

>Calling it 'incest' to marry a dead brother's widow is not 'natural',
>indeed there are cultures where it wouldn't even raise eyebrows the way
>it does 'here' and 'now'.

And a modern drama would have difficulty with the concept of monarchy.
But it is an important factor in Hamlet's case that, as the rightful
king, he has a moral duty to punish Claudius that a private citizen does
not.

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ted Dykstra <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 6 Sep 2002 20:56:27 EDT
Subject:        Ghosts

For God's sake people the ghost is real. Horatio, at least as defined by
the text and his actions, is not crazy, is he? Nor are the guards who
also witness the apparition. The real question is what was Hamlet's
relationship with his father. I suggest that he was terrified of dad and
not close to him at all. The text certainly supports Hamlet Senior's
disdain for his son's inaction. Hamlet speaks of his father's nobleness
like he WANTS to believe in it, but actually never understood him at
all. He's mama's all the way.

Ted Dykstra

PS: Ghosts are not really any different now in the collective
understanding than they were then: maybe true or maybe not. Laughed at
or taken seriously.  Christian or Satanic. To be feared or to be
embraced. Real or imagined. Everyone has an opinion, and no one has
proof either way.

[8]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Drakakis <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Sunday, 8 Sep 2002 14:55:44 +0100
Subject: 13.1844 The Supernatural and Modernity
Comment:        RE: SHK 13.1844 The Supernatural and Modernity

Perhaps we should let Sam Small into a litlle secret.... Shakespeare's
plays are not universal.

Cheers,
John Drakakis

[9]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris Whatmore <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 09 Sep 2002 11:31:52 +0100
Subject: 13.1846 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1846 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity

Responding to Sam Small's puzzlement over Hamlet's Ghost, R. A. Cantrell
reminds us that *Hamlet* is, above all, a stageplay. For me, it has
always been that 'stageiness' that has offered the main clue to the
Ghost's role - and, indeed, to much of the other weirdness that lies at
the heart of the play. Surely what we are witnessing here is a clash of
two realities: the first, a good old-fashioned, somewhat two-dimensional
revenge tragedy/murder mystery, in which (as Martin Steward points out)
a ghost is practically mandatory; and the second, a fully-realised,
three-dimensional human intelligence (Hamlet himself) who, having been
dropped into this strange world, has somehow to make the best of it. A
modern equivalent might be Mia Farrow's character in Woody Allen's *The
Purple Rose of Cairo*, who steps through a cinema screen into the world
of her screen idol and discovers what it actually means to deal with
'characters' rather than 'people'.

Hamlet's first encounter with the Ghost sets up this dichotomy
beautifully, allowing the Prince simultaneously to 'play along' with the
plot he finds himself in ("Speak, I am bound to hear"), and to stand
outside it and see the whole thing as a giant theatrical joke, told by
an all-too-physical actor blundering around in "the cellarage". For me,
it is this knife-edge balance between joining in (however absurd and
ghost-ridden the story may be) and cynically standing aside that
provides the central dynamic of the play. Equally, it is Hamlet's final
decision to take his role seriously and play it through to the end that
in my book constitutes his main claim to tragic heroism.

In this light, I think Marcia Eppich-Harris's idea of a dream sequence
makes a lot of sense. I would argue, though, that most of the play - not
just the Ghost scenes - could usefully be viewed as a dream/nightmare
sequence, since it so precisely parallels the dreamer's sense of being
there yet not being there, of trying to act yet not being able to move,
and of random yet somehow connected encounters with significant others
in a half-real, half-imagined world. I'd be interested to know of any
production that has played it this way, and whether it worked!

Chris Whatmore

[10]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edward Pixley <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Saturday, 07 Sep 2002 09:19:47 -0400
Subject: 13.1846 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1846 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity

<Imagine a modern re-write and imagine the Ghost.
<It just wouldn't work.  The rest of the play is completely "natural".

Some of the most powerful dramatic effects in the opening scene of
HAMLET are brought about by the skillful way that Shakespeare sets the
Ghost against the skepticism of those who see him.  Horatio seems to
have come to the battlements more to humor Marcellus and Bernardo than
with any real belief that he is going to see a ghost.  His skepticism
seems to me designed for me to identify with, and all of the audience
attention is focused on persuading Horatio that the soldiers really saw
something, when, unexpectedly, the Ghost appears where the audience
wasn't looking.  We've been looking toward "yon same star that's
westward from the pole." I have no trouble imagining college-age young
people of our time reacting in exactly the same way.  Nor do my
students.  As many times as I have taught this play and/or worked on
productions of it, I have never heard anyone question the believability
of the treatment of the Ghost.  Gertrude, on the other hand, assumes
that seeing ghosts is part of Hamlet's madness.  In short, I suspect
that most audience members of Shakespeare's time were just as likely as
today's audience to come to the play with the points of view shared by
the skeptics within the play.

Ed Pixley

_______________________________________________________________
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.