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 13.1866  Tuesday, 10 September 2002

[1]     From:   John D. Cox <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 9 Sep 2002 10:52:06 -0400
        Subj:   Supernatural and Modernity

[2]     From:   Whitt Brantley <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 9 Sep 2002 12:18:35 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1858 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity

[3]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 09 Sep 2002 13:58:04 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1858 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity

[4]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 09 Sep 2002 14:03:32 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1858 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity

[5]     From:   Martin Steward <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 9 Sep 2002 23:30:49 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1858 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity

[6]     From:   James McNelis <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 9 Sep 2002 19:08:25 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1858 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity

[7]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 9 Sep 2002 20:58:52 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1858 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity

[8]     From:   Sophie Masson <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 10 Sep 2002 08:52:37 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1858 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John D. Cox <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 9 Sep 2002 10:52:06 -0400
Subject:        Supernatural and Modernity

As long ago as 1917 W. W. Greg offered an extensive argument that the
ghost is a figment of Hamlet's imagination.  See "Hamlet's
Hallucination," Modern Language Review 12 (1917), 393-421.  John Dover
Wilson claims to have had an epiphany in reading this essay, and it
prompted his book-length response, What Happens in Hamlet.  One person
on this list who knows all this is Terence Hawkes, who commented on
Wilson's response in his essay, "Telmah" (Hamlet spelled backwards) in
Shakespeare and the Question of Theory (1985). Would those who are
commenting on this issue please read the works mentioned above before
continuing?  We're inventing the wheel on this issue.

John Cox

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Whitt Brantley <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 9 Sep 2002 12:18:35 EDT
Subject: 13.1858 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1858 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity

Interesting topic, so I did some searching on the web.

For Satan himself is transformed into an Angel of light. Therefore it is
not great thing though his ministers transformed themselves, as though
they were the

     ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their
works.


II Corinthians 11:14,15

     Let none be found among you that...asketh counsel of the
     dead...because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth cast
     them out before thee." (Deuteronomy 18:10-12)

An English Protestant, raised on the Geneva Bible and Reformation
doctrine would have understood Hamlet's serving the ghost as a dangerous
error.  He also would have known of  the Bible's warning that revenge
belongs only to God which was much used by Elizabethan writers to
reserve the execution of vengeance to God."

Instead of heeding these warnings, the seed planted in Hamlet's mind by
the ghost takes root. Hamlet avenges his father's murder but loses his
life and kingdom. Shakespeare's "Christian tragic heroes" each succumb
to a temptation, one that they recognize and that they know could have
terrible consequences. For Hamlet the temptation is listening to the
counsel of the "dead."

I do find one thing curious though.  How can a ghost come "from the
undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveller returns?"

Whitt Brantley

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 09 Sep 2002 13:58:04 -0400
Subject: 13.1858 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1858 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity

Ted Dykstra notes that ghosts are

>Real or imagined. Everyone has an opinion, and no one has
>proof either way.

Alfred Harbage used to say that, if the stage direction indicates the
entrance of a ghost, it's a real ghost. If the stage direction does NOT
indicate the entrance of a dagger, then the dagger is imaginary (in
terms of stage reality, of course).

And I seyde his opinion was good.

Yours, Bill Godshalk

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 09 Sep 2002 14:03:32 -0400
Subject: 13.1858 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1858 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity

John Drakakis opines that "Shakespeare's plays are not universal."

Absolutely, John, right on!  In certain parts of the Alpha Centauri
system, the locals know nothing about Shakespeare's plays -- let alone
Cultural Materialism.

Yours, Bill Godshalk

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 9 Sep 2002 23:30:49 +0100
Subject: 13.1858 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1858 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity

Hamlet, the scientist-humanist in-training at Wittenberg, does not
believe in Ghosts. He tells us, in his moment of greatest
self-revelation, that the traveller cannot return from the undiscovered
country of death.

"For God's sake people the ghost is real", exhorts Ted Dykstra:
"Horatio, at least as defined by the text and his actions, is not crazy,
is he?"

No, but he believes in ghosts, perhaps. Lots of people interpret
explicable natural phenomena as ghosts. If I witnessed those phenomena
alongside them, I would not be convinced they had seen a ghost, even if
they were; but that wouldn't stop me pretending I thought I'd seen a
ghost if it suited my interests at the time.

I rather like Chris Whatmore's reading, which says what I'm about to say
in dramaturgical terms:

"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."

Steve Roth also seems to get close to the nub of things.

The play is concerned with motivation and the nature of truth, among
other things. Hamlet refigures his empirical experience to meet the
necessity of moral action. This goes against his scientific training, of
course, it's a medieval way of thinking: but in the end, he does it,
after much soul-searching and hesitation. Or does he? One might examine
the way in which his eventual course of action violates the tenets of
Baconian induction in pursuit of a Thomist-Aristotelian world-view. Does
it attempt to strike a balance...?

m

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           James McNelis <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 9 Sep 2002 19:08:25 EDT
Subject: 13.1858 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1858 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity

It is extremely unlikely that the Catholic church has an official
exorcist within each diocese. The continuing (extremely occasional)
Catholic use of exorcism is not in fact much of a secret at all, having
been widely discussed since "The Exorcist"--including an ABC special
which showed the video of one such event. According to ABC, there are
now ten official Catholic exorcists in the US; the majority of the very
many exorcisms done today are, in fact, performed by Protestant
denominations. The link may be seen at
http://abcnews.go.com/sections/us/DailyNews/exorcism010911.html

Yours sincerely,
James McNelis
English, Wilmington College

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 9 Sep 2002 20:58:52 +0100
Subject: 13.1858 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1858 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity

Chris Whatmore wrote,

>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'.

I'm fairly confident you've misremembered: Farrow's character doesn't
enter the film, rather her screen idol comes out of his fiction ("The
Purple Rose...") into her 'reality'. More appropriate for your claim
would be Allen's short story _The Kugelmass Episode_ in which Kugelmass
employs the aid of the magician Persky to enter a copy of Flaubert's
_Madame Bovary_, to the surprise of literary critics. One professor
interviewed on the hitherto unremarked irruption of a middle-aged New
Yorker wearing a leisure suit into nineteenth-century France finds it
demonstrative of the principle that great literature reveals something
new on each re-reading

Gabriel Egan

[8]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sophie Masson <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 10 Sep 2002 08:52:37 +1000
Subject: 13.1858 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1858 Re: The Supernatural and Modernity

Re the responses on the likelihood of presenting a ghost in a modern
version of Hamlet as many correspondents have pointed out, there are
still more things on heaven and earth..

I ask the indulgence of SHAKSPEReans in relating the following story--an
event which really happened to me and which to this day I still cannot
explain. And it had witnesses too, like Hamlet's ghost did. It may give
you ideas, Sam, for a possible version. It's a very personal thing but I
have written about it in public before too.

It happened four years ago. I was away from home on a speaking tour and
was very tired, especially as after my speaking engagements I'd get out
my laptop in my hotel room and write, as I had a novel whose deadline
was fast approaching. One night, I had a strange dream, or rather a
nightmare: I was in a house, writing, it was dusk. Suddenly the door
creaked open and a vicious little beast, about the size of a rat,
hurtled through the air towards me, straight for my throat. I wake in
fright--glad it's just a dream. The following night I had another
nightmare--I was outside, now, walking in the woods with my husband. We
come to a pool in the forest--a beautiful, crystal clear one. My husband
walks towards it; I am rooted to the spot, but call out no, no, don't do
it, don't go in. He puts a hand in the water and as he does so, it leaps
up his hand and his skin starts to change, turning green, then metallic,
the water shoots up further and is transforming him into a terrible
metallic thing while I can only gaze in horror. I wake up in fright
again..

The third night, I am staying at my brother's place on the way home. I
wake up in the middle of the night, as the dogs are barking. I get up,
go to the window. Bright moonlight outside--and standing there, in the
vacant block next door, is a man, standing absolutely still. He is
bathed in moonlight, it makes him look colourless, but he looks like
he's dressed in ordinary clothes, jeans, a sweater. He is standing
staring straight at me, one hand is on his hip, the other hanging down
with two fingers outstretched, as if he's holding a cigarette. But
there's no cigarette in his hands. And he is totally still, staring at
me, I can see the whites of his eyes gleaming under the moon. For a
moment, I stare, transfixed; then rush to wake up my brother, and sister
in law, to tell them there's someone out there. My brother gets up,
stumbles to the window, does a double-take, and we discuss what to do.
Finally he says we'll shout at the dogs (who are still yelping, growling
and carrying on, all the while the man has not moved), and that'll make
him go away. We go to another window, shout at the dogs; then rush to
the window where I'd first seen him--and there, in the exact spot where
he'd stood, is a tree. A tree.

I still don't know what it was. I still have no explanation for it. I'm
making no claims for it. I don't know if my fragile, tired state was
part of the reason why I saw what I saw--but my brother saw it too, and
he wasn't in that state. Incidentally, he does not like to talk about
it. So what was it?  I've decided that I just don't know, but that it
lives inside me for always.  And since that time, I know that I've
written even better, and deeper, than before. And I remember a Chinese
saying, 'a fish is the last to know it lives in water.'

Sophie Masson



_______________________________________________________________
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.