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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: April ::
Re: Bloom on Horatio
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0781  Friday, 25 April 2003

[1]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Thursday, 24 Apr 2003 11:53:03 -0300
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.0777 Bloom on Horatio

[2]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Thursday, 24 Apr 2003 10:31:56 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0777 Bloom on Horatio

[3]     From:   Arthur Lindley <
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        Date:   Friday, 25 Apr 2003 09:46:13 +0800 (SGT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0777 Bloom on Horatio

[4]     From:   Tue Sorensen <
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        Date:   Friday, 25 Apr 2003 03:53:36 +0200
        Subj:   Bloom on Horatio


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Thursday, 24 Apr 2003 11:53:03 -0300
Subject: 14.0777 Bloom on Horatio
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.0777 Bloom on Horatio

Gerald Downs suggests that

>Clowns were crude, visual, and unencumbered by modern niceties. During
>Hamlet's and Horatio's otherwise pointless commentary they would not
>have stood by with thumbs in bungholes.

In most productions I've seen, only the gravedigger is still on stage
(the clown has been sent off for liquor) and he goes back to digging.
Since he's in a hole at the time (I'm sure you'll find a way to pun on
that) there wouldn't be many ways to indicate how he smelled.  Finally,
Hamlet and Horatio's commentary isn't pointless.  It addresses questions
of fame, mortality, and the materiality of existence.  One doesn't get
much deeper than that.

More broadly, one can always find a crude possibility by inquiring too
curiously, then imagine possible stage action to realize it.  Macbeth's
"tale told by an idiot" is hot air, for instance.

Cheers,
Sean.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Thursday, 24 Apr 2003 10:31:56 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 14.0777 Bloom on Horatio
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0777 Bloom on Horatio

I have to agree that Bloom does not plumb the depths enough. I was
dissatisfied with The Invention of the Human. I found most of the
commentary shallow and some of it irresponsible. His preoccupation with
Falstaff, initiated by his boyhood crush on Ralph Richardson in the
role, is apparent throughout the book. The very last word of the book is
Falstaff! He devotes scant pages to Merry Wives and claims, with no
evidence or with very poor wit, that Shakespeare did not write the play
or was forced to write very bad work for the queen. He bases all of this
on his own preference for the history play Falstaff, not what he sees as
a pale imitation in Merry Wives. Often, he quotes passages ad nauseum
with little commentary. I'm sure the man has fine ideas, but I thought
he missed the point entirely on several of the plays in Invention. And
he misses the point entirely on Horatio as well.

Brian Willis

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Arthur Lindley <
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Date:           Friday, 25 Apr 2003 09:46:13 +0800 (SGT)
Subject: 14.0777 Bloom on Horatio
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0777 Bloom on Horatio

In the passage Gerald Downs cites, Horatio's 'curiously' could also
suggest one of the sins to which Hamlet is particularly prone:
curiositas.

Arthur Lindley

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tue Sorensen <
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Date:           Friday, 25 Apr 2003 03:53:36 +0200
Subject:        Bloom on Horatio

Jerry Downs interpreted the gravedigger scene and asked:

>Is there too much "Art" in this? Would Shakespeare have been unaware of
>the ambiguities? He and Hamlet lived on equivocation. If he was aware;
>if he wrote them, he intended the jokes.

Although I've never looked at this scene (nor seen it played) quite like
that, I think you're right that this scene *can* be (and originally
perhaps were, at least in some stagings) played as a protracted fart
joke. And of course, as with all the other overt and covert bawdry, that
is one of Shakespeare's intentions. But keeping in mind that 'tis most
sweet when in one line two crafts directly meet, we shouldn't forget
that Shakespeare is having us on, dispersing double meanings everywhere.
And not just in single lines, but in entire scenes and soliloquies as
well.

The true critical challenge is to discern which meanings take precedence
over the others. Some meanings are clearly more frivolous than others,
and personally I would pursue the most complex and difficult meaning
that can be extracted. Others seem to sometimes want to reduce all
Shakespeare to bawdry, as if the high drama interpretations were somehow
superseded by a bawdy meaning which is admittedly also present.

But surely Shakespeare used bawdry primarily for the (very effective,
since most people's minds *are* in the gutter) purpose of letting more
profound deliberations piggy-back on it. It was a literary strategy
serving a higher cause. I believe the resolve and ability to write in
such a manner must be the reason that his works appeal so broadly, both
across time and social classes. He included things that everyone,
regardless of perspective and inclination, could gloss to their own
satisfaction and be raucously entertained by. But unlike the pluralists
who believe that no one meaning is necessarily of more import than
another, I do believe that his whole poetic modus operandi was oriented
towards one over-arching poetic purpose, which comprises the heart of
his mystery. To me, the exciting thing about Shakespearean criticism is
to find out more about this purpose, in which bawdry really only plays a
subservient role.

- Tue Sorensen

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