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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: October ::
no spirit dares stir
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1973  Thursday, 9 October 2003

[1]     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 8 Oct 2003 10:34:42 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1945 no spirit dares stir

[2]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 8 Oct 2003 07:30:18 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1966 no spirit dares stir [spirit vs. ghost]

[3]     From:   Dana Wilson <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 8 Oct 2003 08:11:08 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1939 no spirit dares stir


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Wednesday, 8 Oct 2003 10:34:42 -0400
Subject: 14.1945 no spirit dares stir
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1945 no spirit dares stir

In early modern English, the term "closet " means a small room for
privacy or retirement (OED 1), for activities such as reading,
meditation and prayer, discreet conversations like those between Hamlet
and his mother or Richard-not-yet-III and Buckingham.  The
characteristic plans of medieval and most early modern houses, with
rooms opening into other rooms without corridors to channel internal
traffic and many rooms having multiple functions, meant that domestic
life was mostly a pretty public business; a small room from which casual
interruptions by other dwellers could be excluded was a real luxury.
And since they were easier to heat than the other, larger chambers,
closets were especially attractive in the winter.  They were distinctly
not bedrooms; productions of *Ham* that give Gertrude and her son a bed
on which to confront each other are ahistorical. A fine instance is the
King's Closet at Knole, a room perhaps 8 x 10 feet just off the Cartoon
Gallery, but many other houses of the periods have them.

David Evett

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Wednesday, 8 Oct 2003 07:30:18 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 14.1966 no spirit dares stir [spirit vs. ghost]
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1966 no spirit dares stir [spirit vs. ghost]

Marcus Dahl writes, "We don't know that the play wasn't read - certainly
it may have been at least once by at least one audience member prior to
one performance - ref. the sequence of different published Hamlet 'Q'
texts which are extant and may have been read and accessible prior to
their performance (I won't argue the order here)."

OK: it matter not to me that we have the cart before the horse or the
horse before the cart.  this is *not* a scholarly issue.  Either the
play was staged as written, or it wasn't.

My point ought to be *clear*: and apparently it was not.  Will S wrote
the opening two scenes of Hamlet the play with direct referents to the
New Testament dichotomy of "flesh" vs. "spirit" and did not invoke the
"GHOST" in the words *heard* by an Elizabethan audience.  Can I make it
any clearer than that?  We are *not* talking about a Senecan Ghost
transported by Will S to his play ala Kyd or Marlowe or any other
Elizabethan playwright.  What Will S did was what Will S did, and
Grebanier aside, we must deal contextually with the words of the play as
the audience saw and heard it as a drama.

If--and I make this repetitive for *effect*--if Will S had had the
characters referring to the "spirit" as the "GHOST" in the two opening
scenes, then we would *not* be having this delectable discussion.  But
we are!  And SHAKSPEReans ought to wonder WHY?

So, imagine you are a member of the Elizabethan theatre in those first
performances watching the opening two scenes of Hamlet, and you have
just witnessed the *hook* opening.

Then, you see and hear the pomp and ceremony of the state scene with the
pompous King Claudius and Hamlet's snide asides!  You understand that
Hamlet invokes the reported "spirit" up-in-arms, no doubt his dead
father, dressed to the 9's in armor with his "beaver up" and as Horatio
says, it *IS* him!  In fact, Will S *designed" all this, did he not?
And scene II ends, Hamlet exclaiming:
"My father's spirit in arms! all is not well."

Note: for the textual record, Hamlet said "spirit" and did not say
"GHOST."

Hamlet adds: "I doubt [suspect] some foul play: would the night were
come! / Till then sit still, my soul...."

Now: does anyone doubt that "spirit" equates with "soul" in this
instance?  It is obvious that "GHOST" is inappropriate, at this point,
and Will S by omission has made that clear to the audience.

Is it classic Will S irony that Prince Hamlet like his father's spirit
is also up-in-arms, in his mood, his attitude, and his words?

The *tension* of the play Hamlet at this point, at the end of scene II
is sprung as tight as a playwright can make it.  The audience is wound
like a spring ready to come undone with a snap!

Then, after the pomp and ceremony scene of the *Hypocrite* King, who in
hindsight is as pompous as it gets, we have the pompous Laertes
lecturing his sister; and the pompous Polonius lecturing her brother;
and then the same pompous Polonius re-lecturing the poor sister again.
Is it not classic Will S irony, once again, that the Prince Hamlet is
depicted as the shallow dude with ill intentions? and the lovely Ophelia
is equally depicted as shallow in her relenting to brother and father?
and yet she proclaims that Prince Hamlet has behaved totally honorably?
What a scene of New Testament *hypocrisy* enacted at its best!  The
Elizabethan audience must have been wondering if SCENE III were not
comic relief--and if Polonius were not the classic *fool*?  What's that
make Laertes, but the son of a fool?

So, now we have SCENE IV and the *hook* of the play is *set* as we say
of a good mystery story, with the hook set in the hearts of the
Elizabethan audience members.  Remember: I am not willing to concede the
point that Will S passed out texts to his audience members to be
lip-synced in the darkened Globe!  Forget that most dreadful thought.

And what *IS* the mystery?  If you ask me, and you haven't, but I will
tell you anyway: the mystery is *WHY* is the spirit of Hamlet's father
walking on the battlements of his old castle armed to the teeth?

You have to *forget* that you were taught the play in high school long
before you ever saw it acted upon a stage as a compelling drama!

You *think* you know the play Hamlet!  What *IF* this was your first
taste of this drama Hamlet, and you saw it as an Elizabethan member of
the audience in the seventeenth century?

Here's my point, spelled out: no one can come to Will S's play Hamlet
anymore with a *tabula rasa* and watch the play unfold by itself and
enjoy it without all the preconceived baggage we bring to it.  We think
we are smarter than Will S's play, unfortunately.

So let's back off: because it is taught in schools by teachers and
professors with all their preconceptions hanging on the drama like so
many trappings and medals of honor.  Who cares about our little cares
and our professors little cares?  Get to the play Will S gave us!

I dare say I have met people who vehemently defend their views of Hamlet
and admit they have *never* sat through a production of the drama in
classic costume on the stage.

'Tis a pity none dare deal with the cards Will S dealt.

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

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dana Wilson <
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Date:           Wednesday, 8 Oct 2003 08:11:08 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 14.1939 no spirit dares stir
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1939 no spirit dares stir

Bill wrote:

>Dana Wilson writes, "I suggest that a 'sensible
>ghost' is more than a
>mote of trouble for a sensible eye, to say nothing
>of aethyreal ghost."
>
>Excuse me?  Who said anything about "ghost"?  Not
>Horatio!
>...Not once,
>not *even* once by the characters of Will S's
>Hamlet, is this vision
>called a ghost!

A touch, I will confess a touch.;)
D-

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