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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: June ::
Re: Hamlet and Grebanier
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1022  Saturday, 31 May 2003

[1]     From:   Edward Brown <
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        Date:   Friday, 23 May 2003 10:05:14 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1018 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

[2]     From:   Claude Casper <
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        Date:   Friday, 23 May 2003 10:58:29 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1018 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

[3]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Friday, 23 May 2003 08:04:00 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1018 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

[4]     From:   Richard Kennedy <
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        Date:   Friday, 23 May 2003 08:13:59 -0700
        Subj:   Hamlet

[5]     From:   Tony Burton <
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        Date:   Friday, 23 May 2003 12:10:33 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1018 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

[6]     From:   Kenneth Chan <
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        Date:   Saturday, 24 May 2003 10:26:08 +0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1018 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

[7]     From:   Bill Lloyd <
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        Date:   Friday, 23 May 2003 23:20:11 EDT
        Subj:   Re: Hamlet and Grebanier


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edward Brown <
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Date:           Friday, 23 May 2003 10:05:14 EDT
Subject: 14.1018 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1018 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

Rafael Acuna raises a serious and interesting point about the fencing
match. I'm most interested to see your worships take on it.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Claude Casper <
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Date:           Friday, 23 May 2003 10:58:29 -0400
Subject: 14.1018 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1018 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

>Gertrude does not see the ghost. What do we make of Gertrude? Of Hamlet?

This central yet often ignored question was subject of a recent thread I
instigated you may find in the archives, though not very illuminating.
For me, it remains the [Greek] chora, [Freudian] navel, or just plain
linty bellybutton of Hamlet, its true heart. It is artistically a
masterstroke.  Those who doubt the ghost are countered by the
soldier/Horatio witnesses; those who believe in it are challenged by
Gertrude's mysterious inability to see it. No matter how one
rationalizes it, e.g., was Hamlet delusional in the bedroom scene?, it
remains to haunt the play. I don't think it is merely an artistic
contrivance to bait & switch the audience, a mere premeditative
[Danish?] red herring, a trick. It seems to be a crucial piece of the
theological puzzle of the time, a time of religious upheaval, when to be
Catholic was almost as dangerous as being Jewish, because, Old Hamlet's
ghost, the spirit of the last generation, seems to be suffering the fate
of lapsed Catholics (he is often referred to as the only Catholic in the
play), haunting the play as it haunted current Protestant political life
in England & throughout Europe. So, why Gertrude is blind to what we in
the audience witness as a "real" apparition, whatever we interpret it
represents, remains, for me, the heart of Hamlet: this womb (Plato
likened chora to a womb in his cosmology- literally, just as Freud says
that dreams resolve themselves into a knot beyond which we cannot
fathom, Plato, in the Timaseus, saw the heavens beyond the Ideas as a
womb we cannot penetrate [with our patriarchal/phallic minds] beyond the
awe of the dark cleft in the knowable universe) is the portal, literally
& figuratively, the feminine route, to the meaning of the play, a
velleity withheld. If I was writing a thesis it could very well be, "The
Tantric Hamlet."  We live on the other side of Hamlet.  In those days
most people believed; in our times, the majority of "us" don't.  The
stakes are no longer in Pascal's favor.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Friday, 23 May 2003 08:04:00 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 14.1018 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1018 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

Rafael Acuna writes, "How does Grebanier respond to these questions by
Weston Babcock (pp. 24-25) from *Hamlet: A Tragedy of Errors*?  'Did
Claudius realize that Hamlet knew his father had been murdered? Every
study of the play with which I am familiar assumes that he did. But
there is not a line in the play that shows that he did realize it.'

Well, Grebanier points out that at some point in the play, which he
clearly identifies from Shakespeare's Hamlet text, Claudius comes to the
conclusion, as you put it, that "Hamlet knew his father had been
murdered."  Thus, I find Grebanier still right on and, obviously,
Babcock wanting.

Rafael Acuna also writes, "The fifth question concerns Hamlet's
willingness to play the fencing  match with Laertes. Why did Shakespeare
make Hamlet, who had been suspicious of nearly all about it, and despite
'the mind of gain-giving that would perhaps trouble a woman' (V, ii,
226-228), agree to fence with the son of the man he had killed and to
try to win a wager for his mortal enemy?"

That is, indeed, a VERY strange way of putting a question: "Why did
Shakespeare make Hamlet [do X and Y and Z]?"  In answer, I would say,
that, yes, Shakespeare wrote the play Hamlet, to the best of my
knowledge, but the character Hamlet in the play Hamlet reacted in
accordance with his CHARACTER.  And, again, I might add, Grebanier does
expend PAGES to expand on an answer to the question, and you really
OUGHT TO READ the REST of Grebanier, the Shakespearean scholar.  I am
only a humble reader.  Besides, I might misinterpret his remarks.  And I
could NOT quote him at length without violating his copyright, although,
yes, for scholarship purposes I could quote SOME of him.  But haven't I,
in good faith, already done SOME of that?

Rafael Acuna also writes, "I've read part of Grebanier's book, and this
is what he wrote prior to p. 80: 'four attitudes are the only
possibilities on the question of Hamlet's insanity: (1) Hamlet is
insane, or (2) Hamlet feigns insanity, or (3) Hamlet feigns insanity at
times and is actually insane at others, or (4) Hamlet is perfectly sane
and never pretends to be otherwise. All but the last have been stoutly
upheld.' (65) Grebanier also wrote: 'Unhappily, a vast bulk of
Shakespearean commentary is nullified by the predilection of scholars to
base their theories on things said. They take a passageout of context
with the action, and build upon a single passage (sometimes a single
line or two) their interpretation of the whole play, and then squeeze
the entire work into the theory, no matter how bad the fit.  These
Procrustean habits require lopping off entire sections of the action; if
any given scene proves inconvenient to the theory it is ignored as if it
were not there.' (134) I'd like to go against Grebanier's advice and
take an action (not a passage) out of context.  What do you make of
this: Hamlet's friends see the ghost of elder Hamlet. It's possible,
then, that Hamlet isn't insane or that Hamlet and his friends are
insane.  Gertrude does not see the ghost. What do we make of Gertrude?
Of Hamlet?"

Well, I would rather NOT go against Grebanier's advice.  It is just NOT
good scholarship to take anything OUT OF CONTEXT.  With all due respect,
if you can READ Grebanier up to page 80, and parts following, then you
OUGHT to be able to finish his book and find his commentary on the very
question you ask.  Look in the INDEX!  If you DISAGREE with Grebanier
therein, in the appropriate passages, go ahead and ask me.  I believe
Grebanier answered all your questions above, carefully and thoughtfully,
and contextually.  Grebanier quotes Chapter, Verse and Line.

If you find a FLAW in his answer, I would love to hear about it.

Mari Bonomi writes, "I have been biting my metaphorical tongue on this
discussion as I'm not addicted to Hamlet (R&J and MoV being my primary
Shakespeare drugs of choice)."

Please, do not bite even your "metaphorical" tongue over anything I
might write on SHAKSPER :)  As said many times, I am not a Shakespearean
scholar, only a humble student of the bard.  Yes, I was a professor of
classics.  But I only taught Shakespeare as one of many works required
to cover in my courses.  And I do truly want to find out the FLAW in
Grebanier's take on Hamlet, if you or anyone can find it.

Mari Bonomi also writes, "But what has been troubling me more and more
is the polarity that has developed in this thread: Grebanier *must* be
right versus *can't* be right.  To Bill Arnold I would say this: No one
has it all right about Hamlet or any other work of great art. *No one*."

To which I respond, cogently, I did NOT say NOR imply that Grebanier
MUST be right about Hamlet.  I said he WAS right, as in right on.  Now,
there is a big difference!  And I also ASKED: wherein is the FLAW in
Grebanier?  I seek an answer, and have only championed Grabanier since I
read him, and NO ONE has PROVEN his take on Hamlet wrong, to my
knowledge.  His take is contextual, as in CONTEXTUAL!

I say it, again: Hamlet sane and/or Hamlet insane are
mutually-exclusive!  Grebanier, as a Shakespeare scholar, expended a lot
of energy on Hamlet the play and Hamlet the character, a far lot more
than I can or care to do: he wrote a BOOK: The Heart of Hamlet: The Play
Shakespeare Wrote.  To misquote the Donald, "Show me the FLAW!"

Mari Bonomi also also writes, "Does Grebanier's analysis satisfy all
your questions? Quite obviously it does."

Again, cogently, I have said, unless you or any other Shakespearean
scholar, or even student of the bard, can show me the FLAW: I answer
yes, so FAR.  I await your analysis of the FLAW!  If you choose to
respond, contextually.

Mari Bonomi also also writes, "Oh by the way-not all of us are
affiliated with a University and can say 'Order me up this text on
interlibary loan, please.'  My local public library looked at me
blankly."

To which I reply, cogently, say WHAT?  I went to the local public
library and ASKED, not ordered, a copy of the book before BUYING a copy
online, by filling out an Interlibrary Loan Request Form.  PUBLIC, as in
non-college affilated!  Try it!

I am a GREAT believer in our American library system which expands from
the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.  I am stunned that college
professors suggest they do not KNOW that public libraries are mandated
to the procedure of interlibrary loan.  Maybe a librarian on SHAKSPER
list would care to inform those in doubt about Interlibrary Loan
Procedures in America.

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

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Kennedy <
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Date:           Friday, 23 May 2003 08:13:59 -0700
Subject:        Hamlet

When Claudius, before God and all, dropped the poison and offered Hamlet
the cup, what if Hamlet had not put it off, but drank it down and
dropped dead?  Claudius would then be an obvious murderer, it was a
quick poison. I say it was stupid of Claudius.  A secret aside would
have made sense: "There, into the cup, and let the poison mingle-he'll
drink it down."

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tony Burton <
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Date:           Friday, 23 May 2003 12:10:33 -0400
Subject: 14.1018 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1018 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

Rafael Acuna re-raises two questions drawn from Babcock's book *Hamlet:
A Tragedy of Errors*?

"Did Claudius realize that Hamlet knew his father had been murdered?
Every study of the play with which I am familiar assumes that he did.
But there is not a line in the play that shows that he did realize it."

and

"The fifth question concerns Hamlet's willingness to play the fencing
match with Laertes. Why did Shakespeare make Hamlet, who had been
suspicious of nearly all about it, and despite 'the mind of gain-giving
that would perhaps trouble a woman' (V, ii, 226-228), agree to fence
with the son of the man he had killed and to try to win a wager for his
mortal enemy?"

Without knowing of Babcock, I have written articles that address both
these questions and offer answers.  The last question was covered in my
"Hamlet, Osric, and the Duel" in the Shakespeare Bulletin of July/August
1984.  The gist of my argument is that Hamlet of course should not have
agreed to the duel, but that he was lured into it by a clever bit of
Latinizing wordplay from Osric, all turning on Virgil's story of the
Giants' attempt to overthrow the gods by piling Pelion on Ossa and
assaulting the gods' home on Olympus (the Gigantomachia).  That myth is
the point of Claudius's characterization of Laertes's rebellion as
"giantlike," meaning impious and doomed to failure.  It reappeared later
as the subject of Laertes's ignorant rant at Ophelia's grave ("pile your
dust. . . till. . .you. . .o'ertop old Pelion), thinking he was
describing some act of noble bravery, and that incited Hamlet to a near
tantrum of rage and mockery in the same vein of Gigantomachia reference
("Let them throw millions of acres on us. . . make Ossa like a wart").
Osric's verbose and Latinized invitation to the duel was designed to
disguise his real intent, to reignite Hamlet's blind rage, which he did
by describing Laertes's wager as having been "impon'd" on the king's
offer of a prize if Laertes defeated Hamlet at the given odds.
"Imponere" is the Latin verb Virgil uses in his telling of the
Gigantomachia story, to describe the "piling on" of Ossa on Pelion; and
Hamlet's attitude changes precisely when Osric explains what he means by
it and that Laertes is repeating the same irritating presumptuousness
that made Hamlet lose his cool in the first place.  Osric succeeded in
distracting Hamlet from the danger of trusting anything involving both
Laertes and Claudius, through his irritatingly precious language, thus
imitating and earning comparison with the deceitful lapwing.  So Hamlet
agrees to the duel because he loses his cool a second time, a clear
blunder, which the audience was meant to recognize as such. The details
are worked out more carefully in the article (which I would now write
somewhat differently), but the point is that Claudius realized that the
tussle at the grave ruined his chances that Hamlet would remain
"generous, and free from all contriving" in trusting Laertes, and that
only a new device-entrusted to Osric-would keep his plans on track.

The first question is answered only indirectly in my series of articles
in The Shakespeare Newsletter (Fall 2000, Winter 2000/2001, and Fall
2002, showing that what Claudius feared from Hamlet is all completely
explained, not by the matter of murder (which of course he never thought
could have Hamlet known), but the matter of his plunder of Hamlet's
inheritance through his overhasty marriage to Gertrude (see the articles
for the whys and wherefores).  That was a more than sufficient reason
for Claudius to fear Hamlet and for Hamlet to require the madness ploy
to buy time, and-I don't think I bothered to make this point-explains
Claudius's behavior without any need to suppose that he thought the
secret of his crime was known.

Hope this helps someone out there.  And yes, it would be nice if people
knew of and took the time to read all those hard-won insights (of mine,
others on this list, Grebanier, and more) that some editors once thought
worth publishing, but are apparently past their academic sell-by date
and thus safe to ignore without damage to one's grade-point average.

Tony B

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kenneth Chan <
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Date:           Saturday, 24 May 2003 10:26:08 +0800
Subject: 14.1018 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1018 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

Regarding this quote from Grebanier's book:

"four attitudes are the only possibilities on the question of Hamlet's
insanity: (1) Hamlet is insane, or (2) Hamlet feigns insanity, or (3)
Hamlet feigns insanity at times and is actually insane at others, or
(4)Hamlet is perfectly sane and never pretends to be otherwise. All but
the last have been stoutly upheld." (65)

Grebanier has already missed something here. There is one other option
which he has not considered, one which, I believe, may prove to be the
correct one. And that is this:

Shakespeare has deliberately kept the question of Hamlet's madness vague
for a very good reason. He is deliberately blurring the line between
sanity and insanity. And this is particularly pertinent in the play.
Shakespeare is, in fact, questioning whether some of the other
characters in the play should also be considered mad. For example,
should we not consider Claudius mad for what he did, and for what he
continues to do? Where do we draw the line between sanity and insanity?

Indirectly, Shakespeare is also posing us this question: Should we also
not consider ourselves mad for some of the things we do?

Kenneth Chan

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Lloyd <
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Date:           Friday, 23 May 2003 23:20:11 EDT
Subject:        Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

For those who are interested, a quick check of Bookfinder.com reveals at
least 4 copies of Bernard Grebanier's The Heart of Hamlet all priced
between $10.00 and $12.50. Put your $50 bills away.  I hesitate to point
it out but [among many others] Grebanier also wrote a book called The
Truth About Shylock.

I have a copy of The Heart of Hamlet-for better or worse it was I who
identified it when the query was first made about Hamlet the
non-procrastinator-but I simply don't have time to drop everything and
re-read it. What I seem to remember from reading it in [I believe] the
mid-1970s was that it was very clever and bore me along with it as I was
reading it, but in the end I was not convinced. On reflection I think
its fundamental flaw was that it purported to tell THE truth about
Hamlet.

THE truth, THE answer... but this is Shakespeare we are talking about,
not Ben Jonson or John Calvin. Was Hamlet mad? Yes and no and maybe. Did
he delay? yes and no... Keats called it Shakespeare's "negative
capability...  when man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries,
doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason".  This, it
seems to me, is a central characteristic of Shakespeare's genius. Henry
the Fifth is simultaneously a genuine nationalistic hero-king AND the
deconstruction of such a king.  Hamlet consciously decides to pretend to
be mad [I don't see how that can be denied] but sometimes we are made to
wonder if he may not be edging into real madness-but we can never be
certain. Hamlet is indeed a man of action, impulse even, but we hear him
chide himself for delaying.  Yes and no...

We can see Bill Arnold is taken with Grebanier's arguments. But many of
us don't have the time or money or access to a copy that we can hop to
and read or re-read the book. Surely Bill can give us a boiled-down
version of Grebanier's arguments [not just his conclusions- we know
those]. How does Grebanier dispose of Hamlet putting an antic
disposition on; how does he explain that Claudius seems to think Hamlet
at least partly mad ["though this be madness yet there is method in't"];
and Polonius referring to his madness in the "very like a whale"
encounter";  and Ophelia lamenting that his noble mind is o'erthrown;
and his mother wanting to ascribe his violence to madness in the closet
scene?  Was it carelessness, or did Shakespeare purposely make the ghost
visible to others in the first act but to no one but Hamlet in the
closet scene?  Is it possible he wanted us to be in uncertainties,
mysteries and doubts as to whether Hamlet was mad or not? [No wonder we
can't decide.] How does Grebanier explain the 'How all occasions do
inform against me' soliloquy and other occasions when Hamlet sure seems
to be chiding himself for delay. If that's not what Hamlet means when he
says these things, what DOES he mean?

For the record, I don't believe that Peele or Middleton or any other
stage-poet other than Shakespeare wrote any part of Hamlet. {Mr. Paris,
what does Robertson think?]  Even the cutting and slight revision that
occurred between the version behind Q2 and the version behind F1 seems
to have been carried out by Shakespeare.

Bill Lloyd

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