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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: May ::
Re: Hamlet and Belleforest
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0931  Wednesday, 14 May 2003

[1]     From:   Claude Casper <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 13 May 2003 10:00:01 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0918 Re: Hamlet and Belleforest

[2]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 14 May 2003 05:27:47 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0918 Re: Hamlet and Belleforest [Grebanier]


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Claude Casper <
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Date:           Tuesday, 13 May 2003 10:00:01 -0400
Subject: 14.0918 Re: Hamlet and Belleforest
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0918 Re: Hamlet and Belleforest

>>Claude Casper quotes Wilde,
>
>>. . . Where, if not from the Impressionists, do we get those
>>wonderful brown fogs that come creeping down our streets, blurring the
>>gas-lamps and changing the houses into monstrous shadows? To whom, if
>>not to them and their master, do we owe the lovely silver mists that
>>brood over our river, and turn to faint forms of fading grace curved
>>bridge and swaying barge?  The extraordinary change that has taken place
>>in the climate of London during the last ten years is entirely due to a
>>particular school of Art.
>
>Good, good. This clarifies everything. And we can further see that the
>people who died in the great "killer smogs" of the 40's were not done in
>by poisonous coal smoke mingling with a naturally dank and swampy
>climate but rather by a handful of painters.
>
>If this happened in America, the heirs of the victims would immediately
>file suit against the museums where these paintings are hanging and
>collect several million dollars in damages. The museums' insurance
>carriers would then insist the painting be taken off display and also
>increase their liability insurance ten-fold. However, it would all work
>out for the best: the museums could sell the paintings overseas and use
>that money to pay their insurance bills.
>
>Cheers,
>don

When I was in India my guru was asked why after several thousand years
Indians were still not all enlightened.  He said that when a sage points
to the moon, in India, being poor & hungry, the peasant sees a chapati,
not the symbol meant, not even the moon itself.  The play between the
literal & metaphoric is central to understanding. This doesn't mean that
we have to choose, but in many places Shakespeare meditates on their
relation, Art & Nature.

ON PARABLES

Many complain that the words of the wise are always merely parables and
of no use in daily life, which is the only life we have. When the sage
says;
"Go over," he does not mean that we should cross to some actual place,
which we could do anyhow if the labor were worth it; he means some
fabulous yonder, something unknown to us, something that he cannot
designate more precisely either, and therefore cannot help us here in
the very least. All these parables really set out to say merely that the
incomprehensible is incomprehensible, and we know that already. But the
cares we have to struggle with every day: that is a different matter.

Concerning this a man once said: Why such reluctance? If you only
followed the parables you yourselves would become parables and with that
rid of all your daily cares.

   Another said: I bet that is also a parable.
   The first said: You have won.
   The second said: But unfortunately only in parable.
   The first said: No, in reality: in parable you have lost.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Wednesday, 14 May 2003 05:27:47 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 14.0918 Re: Hamlet and Belleforest [Grebanier]
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0918 Re: Hamlet and Belleforest [Grebanier]

Annalisa Castaldo writes, "I think Kenneth Chan has pointed out the
major flaw in the idea that Hamlet doesn't delay. Whether or not he
jumps to his revenge, Hamlet himself clearly feels he is slacking (and
so does the Ghost "thy almost blunted purpose") and talks about it
endlessly...But what is confusing is that, as the first quote by
Grebanier points out, if one reads carefully, 2 months seem to have gone
by between 1.5 and 2.1. Shakespeare does not appear to want to make a
big deal of this, and yet he keeps mentioning it in offhanded ways. Like
the fifth act specification of Hamlet's age (a move which only confuses
the picture), I can't help but wonder why the references to a gap exist
at all, if we are not supposed to pay attention?"

Well, with all due respect, Grebanier did pay attention, and dealt with
the concerns you have in detail and resolved the question, at least to
my mind.  Have you read Grebanier?  He certainly would not have agreed
with you that "Hamlet himself clearly feels he is slacking (and so does
the Ghost 'thy almost blunted purpose') and talks about it endlessly."

Again, as stated before, my whole point in introducing this thread was
to resolve what for me is the main question about Hamlet, was he insane
or not?  Was he feigning insanity or not?  Was he the embodiment of
Reason, with a dash of rashness thrown in as a youthful man, to be sure,
or not?  Of scholars I have read so far, only Grebanier answers this
pivotal question about the play Hamlet and the character Hamlet to my
personal satisfaction.  Sorry about that, that I am into this Hamlet
question, for my personal satisfaction.  But I do awake nights and am
confronted by the ghost of Hamlet who is annoyed with the scholars take
on him :)

Grebanier, not a matador to duck the horns of the bull, wrote: "The
truth is--why should we long hesitate to say so?--that in Hamlet as
Shakespeare wrote it, the hero is neither mad nor feigns insanity at any
time.  He is perfectly sane and never pretends to be otherwise.  Of this
the evidence will be presented hereafter [page 80: ergo, his book: The
Heart of Hamlet: The Play Shakespeare Wrote]."

Now, as a reader of Shakespeare's Hamlet, I submit that that is as
precise a statement from a Shakespeare scholar as one can get about the
sanity question of our hero Hamlet, is it not?

Grebanier also wrote: "At the very outset of this study, then we are
confronted with a basic issue; what is the function of the
interpreter?...The average reader would much rather tell you his
reactions to Hamlet than study the play for what Shakespeare meant...
It is not out of keeping with the times, therefore, that public
interpreters should rarely penetrate beyond their own feelings when they
take upon themselves the performance of a masterpiece.  It is a
forgotten concept that an actor or a musician ought to be the humble
servant of the creator's purposes.  (Certain of the New Critics go so
far as to maintain that the creator's purposes are irrelevant.) [pages 9
and 10]."

OK: having said all this, it seems that interpretation is key to this
question.  So, we either agree with Grebanier's premise or not, and that
is that what SHAKSPEReans should be interested in is, as per his title
and sub-title: The Heart of Hamlet, The Play Shakespeare Wrote.

Bill Arnold
http://www.cwru.edu/affil/edis/scholars/arnold.htm

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