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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: October ::
no spirit dares stir
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1983  Friday, 10 October 2003

[1]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Thu, 9 Oct 2003 05:02:05 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1973 no spirit dares stir

[2]     From:   Rolland Banker <
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        Date:   Thu, 9 Oct 2003 05:32:11 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   SHK 14.1945 no spirit dares stir

[3]     From:   Robin Hamilton <
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        Date:   Thursday, 9 Oct 2003 15:15:08 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1973 no spirit dares stir

[4]     From:   David Crosby <
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        Date:   Thursday, 9 Oct 2003 10:33:52 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.1973 no spirit dares stir

[5]     From:   Thomas Larque <
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        Date:   Thursday, 9 Oct 2003 17:25:49 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1973 no spirit dares stir

[6]     From:   John Ramsay <
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        Date:   Thursday, 09 Oct 2003 16:52:42 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1973 no spirit dares stir


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Thu, 9 Oct 2003 05:02:05 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 14.1973 no spirit dares stir
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1973 no spirit dares stir

Bill Arnold writes:

"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."

What is "classic" costume? And how is it absolutely essential to our
understanding of the text of the play?

     Brian Willis

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Rolland Banker <
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Date:           Thu, 9 Oct 2003 05:32:11 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: no spirit dares stir
Comment:        SHK 14.1945 no spirit dares stir

 Bill and all--how about this one about the spirit:

"What has this thing appear'd again tonight?" Ham.1.1.24

"The play's the thing /wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King."
Ham.2.2.633-34

"'It' faded on the crowing of the cock." Ham.1.1.157

"The thing" is the ever-ambiguous creative open range that we encounter
as usual with Will S the author.

'It' "This spirit, dumb to us, will speak to him."[Hamlet] Ham.1.1.171

When the players perform, Hamlet is deeply moved by the speaking of the
'broken voice' of the actor and recognizes his own 'cue for passion'
from the 'fiction, in a dream of passion'. Ham.2.2.577-87

Hamlet finds a cue for theatrical PASSION--not noble action or Christian
inspiration or biblical determinism.

Is it a revelation, or a deception? Is it working its designs on me, or
I am working my designs on it? The play, the play--the wild regulation
of nature and understanding of repressed feelings all are absorbed in
the ghost and the spirit of each Shakespearian play.

It's the real open range with Will S. and we can go as far and as wide
as our little mind can take us,-- Or we can stay in the corral at the
dude ranch.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robin Hamilton <
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Date:           Thursday, 9 Oct 2003 15:15:08 +0100
Subject: 14.1973 no spirit dares stir
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1973 no spirit dares stir

>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.

Well, there *is* another possibility, that the use of the term "spirit"
early in the play with reference to the Figure isn't to call-up an
opposition to the flesh, but to present a non-material figure in a
neutral term.

OED2[3]  -- SPIRIT n Def. 3.d:

d. In generalized sense: A being essentially incorporeal or immaterial.

(First citation 1340)

As I've written elsewhere:

"At the end of the scene, Horatio and the others seem prepared to accept
the figure they have seen as a "spirit" [i.e. not a fantasm], but
exactly what kind of spirit, good or evil, angel, demon, or human ghost,
is left open.  Perhaps at this point, Horatio's definition of it as
"this present object" (I,1,157), in its neutrality and ambiguity, is the
best resolution of the nature of the image which can be reached thus
early in the play."

"Spirit" is chosen because it makes no assumptions -- not "flesh",
certainly, but more importantly implying the possibility of a range of
immaterial beings.  Just *which* the Figure is is what Hamlet has to
figure out.

[By the time we get to "spirit", one initial doubt *has* effectively
been resolved -- whether the "thing" (the first term applied to the
Figure in the play) is objective or merely fantasy.]

Robin Hamilton

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Crosby <
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Date:           Thursday, 9 Oct 2003 10:33:52 -0500
Subject: 14.1973 no spirit dares stir
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.1973 no spirit dares stir

Bill Arnold writes: 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.

I have suspected for a long time that if Bill Arnold did not exist,
Hardy would have needed to invent him.

Dave Crosby <
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[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Larque <
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Date:           Thursday, 9 Oct 2003 17:25:49 +0100
Subject: 14.1973 no spirit dares stir
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1973 no spirit dares stir

Bill Arnold's theory, even restated to remove his failure to notice
multiple ghost references within the play after the first two scenes (he
originally said that "Not once, not *even* once by the characters of
Will S's Hamlet, is this vision called a ghost!" - not once in the first
two scenes is rather different, especially since the first person to
converse with the ghost in any detail - the main character of the play,
no less - immediately calls it a ghost to its face, and continues to do
so after he considers himself to have confirmed its true nature), seems
to have a major flaw.

Not only does Shakespeare seem to have called this character a "Ghost"
in his mind at all times - such that he writes the name in the stage
directions from its first appearance, and does not reserve the label for
later in the play - but an Elizabethan audience would be watching the
play with a long string of dramatic precursors in its mind, such that
seeing the figure of a dead man - perhaps with white face make-up or
alternative Elizabethan trappings to show a dead man's spirit walking -
would say to themselves "This is a ghost, just like the one in Spanish
Tragedy" (or wherever else), or even "just like that one in the other
play about Hamlet we saw" since there clearly was a Hamlet play before
Shakespeare's (in which the "ghost" - note Nashe's description, despite
the fact that he had presumably not read a script either - cried
"Hamlet, revenge").

Although none of the characters say "Look at that ghost" in the first
two scenes, this would not stop the audience knowing that it was a
ghost.  The word "Ghost" is never used in dialogue to describe Banquo's
ghost in "Macbeth", although the Folio stage directions are clear enough
"Enter the Ghost of Banquo, and sits in Macbeth's place".  I wonder
whether Arnold would be foolish enough to claim that this means some pun
is being made here about "spirit" and "flesh", since Macbeth tells
Banquo on his second appearance "thou art too much like the spirit of
Banquo", and the word "ghost" is never used to describe Banquo's
apparition anywhere in the dialogue of the play (unlike in "Hamlet").
Audiences, however, despite not having access to the script will have
known perfectly well that an actor appearing in the role of a dead man,
and presumably made-up or costumed in a ghostly fashion, is playing a
ghost and the word "Ghost" would have been beating at the forefront of
their minds, just as Shakespeare intended (or he would not have used the
label in his stage directions).

Arnold seems really just to be trying to force Shakespeare's play into
the very small bottle of his theory, and ignoring the bits that fall
off.  The ghost of old Hamlet is called a ghost in Shakespeare's script
from its very first appearance, it is called a ghost in the dialogue
during its first major scene (the first in which it actually speaks and
is spoken to in detail), it is called a ghost repeatedly throughout the
rest of the play.  It would have been costumed and made-up to look like
a ghost, so that the audience watching it - without any need for any
sort of cue - would have been thinking "This is a ghost" in exactly the
same way that seeing a man wearing a crown, they would have thought
"This is a King" so that any theory Arnold develops about Claudius not
being a King in Shakespeare's mind because nobody calls him by that name
in the first two scenes except himself (the guard's "Long live the King"
being formulaic and not a directly personal reference, and perhaps being
directed to the true King - young Hamlet?) would be nonsense.

Arnold seems very vociferously to be demanding that we accept his rather
weak theory as an obvious fact and Shakespeare's own unquestionable view
of the play (fools that we all are to doubt it!), unfortunately for
Arnold all the clues within the play itself and our knowledge of how
Elizabethan audiences would have reacted to it, suggest that he is
wrong.  People who claim to be commuting with the spirit of Shakespeare
and belittle those who disagree with them as abusers of the Bard's
memory (reading his play wrong!) are almost invariably barking up the
wrong tree, so this is not much of a surprise.

Thomas Larque.
"Shakespeare and His Critics"       "British Shakespeare Association"
http://shakespearean.org.uk           http://britishshakespeare.ws

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Ramsay <
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Date:           Thursday, 09 Oct 2003 16:52:42 -0400
Subject: 14.1973 no spirit dares stir
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1973 no spirit dares stir

>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.

Note: for the textual record, Hamlet says: 'Touching this vision here,
It is an honest ghost...' and, 'I'll take the ghost's word for a
thousand pound.'

Is he using the term inappropriately, or just synonymously?

Likewise in JC, the posthumous appearance of Caesar is alternately
classified as 'ghost' and 'spirit'.

John Ramsay

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