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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: October ::
no spirit dares stir
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.2109  Friday, 31 October 2003

[1]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Thursday, 30 Oct 2003 07:44:33 -0600
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.2096 no spirit dares stir

[2]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Thursday, 30 Oct 2003 08:37:08 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.2096 no spirit dares stir

[3]     From:   Jay Feldman <
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        Date:   Thursday, 30 Oct 2003 18:57:17 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.2096 no spirit dares stir


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Thursday, 30 Oct 2003 07:44:33 -0600
Subject: 14.2096 no spirit dares stir
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.2096 no spirit dares stir

Edmund Taft writes:

"Terence Hawkes writes that the Ghost in Hamlet presents a "direct and
unanswerable challenge to the sort of discursive logic we inherit."
That's right.

"It's worth noting that Hamlet never solves the question of whether Old
Hamlet's command represents "the will of heaven." He can't; no one can.

"But there are ways of interrogating the text that raise grave doubts
(so to speak) about the Ghost. For example, what loving father would put
a son in the position that old Hamlet puts young Hamlet in?"

I am inclined to agree here, but I think that Ed implicitly answers his
own question. If the Ghost is doing "the will of heaven" then it is
irrelevant what a loving father might wish to do or not do. You may
question what a loving Father is up to with such a command, but the
answer would tend to be based not on scholarly reasoning but on whether
you go to church o' Sundays, and if so, where.

Now you can assume that the Ghost is not so doing, but then you have
some difficult alternatives. Is it doing "the will of Hell" (something
Young Hamlet certainly worries about)? But if so, it is still not a
"loving father" that we have to worry about. If neither, then how does
it happen to be there?

This last question suggests that it should be regarded as an independent
agent with a will of its own. But then we have to concoct a theory of
spirits of the dead who are connected with neither Heaven nor Hell, and
who can, at their own whim, return to the world of the living and
communicate with them in the fashion described.

There is nothing innately wrong with such a theory, but the text seems
to support (rather strongly) the first thought -- that the spirit is not
free, but imprisoned in Purgatory (the Hell of the Heaven-bound) and
given a kind of pass in order to require Hamlet to do "the will of
Heaven" and purge Denmark of regicide, fratricide, and incest in the
monarchy.

I realize that this is a dreadfully traditional reading, but the Ghost
keeps talking about Heaven and Purgatory, and Hamlet about Heaven and
Hell, and Claudius about Heaven. They may all be lying or loony, of
course, but once more it seems to me that the simplest explanation of
what is going on is best, no matter how obvious and superficial.

Cheers,
don

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Thursday, 30 Oct 2003 08:37:08 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 14.2096 no spirit dares stir
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.2096 no spirit dares stir

Edmund Taft writes, "It's worth noting that Hamlet never solves the
question of whether Old Hamlet's command represents 'the will of
heaven.' He can't; no one can.  But there are ways of interrogating the
text that raise grave doubts (so to speak) about the Ghost. For example,
what loving father would put a son in the position that old Hamlet puts
young Hamlet in?"

Well: for one, I am not willing to over-throw several millennia of
western culture for the nonce.  I thought *T-R-U-T-H* was/is the mandate
or "the will of heaven"?  Isn't that why in western cultural *law*
settings, a Bible [mind you *all* I am not making this up; even though
conflicted levels of our American court system finds it *necessary* to
take the OT ten commandments out of the lobby of court house in the Deep
South] is produced, and the TRUTH-seekers are asked to *SWEAR* as the
spirit of Hamlet's father invoke innumerable times: "the whole truth,
nothing but the truth, so help me God!"?

And: wasn't the spirit of Hamlet's father, in the context of the play by
Will S, a *witness* to the crime?  And aren't those in on ACT ONE's
*T-R-U-T-H* or "the will of heaven" so asked to "Swear!"?  I see *no*
grave doubt, your pun acknowledged, but the *Will* of Will S* and the
mandate of Heaven invoked by the end of ACT ONE.

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

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jay Feldman <
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Date:           Thursday, 30 Oct 2003 18:57:17 EST
Subject: 14.2096 no spirit dares stir
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.2096 no spirit dares stir

Ed Taft asks:

>But there are ways of interrogating the text that raise grave
>doubts (so
>to speak) about the Ghost. For example, what loving father would
>put a
>son in the position that old Hamlet puts young Hamlet in?

The ghost is conversant with past and present events, but apparently has
difficulty predicting the future. Had he been properly prescient to
foresee the end results of his charge to Hamlet, he might have provided
more precise instructions. Instead, he relied on his son's intelligent
initiative, as indicated in part by his: "I find thee apt..."

On the other hand, if you wish to use this instance as evidence that the
visiting spirit was indeed a devil assuming a pleasing shape to damn
Hamlet, you'll get no argument from me.

Jay Feldman

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