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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: June ::
Re: Hirsh and "To Be"
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1027  Saturday, 31 May 2003

[1]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Friday, 23 May 2003 21:09:23 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0991 Re: Hirsh and "To Be" [Coleridge and Grebanier?]

[2]     From:   Kenneth Chan <
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        Date:   Sunday, 25 May 2003 20:01:28 +0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1004 Re: Hirsh and "To Be"


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Friday, 23 May 2003 21:09:23 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 14.0991 Re: Hirsh and "To Be" [Coleridge and
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0991 Re: Hirsh and "To Be" [Coleridge and
Grebanier?]

Harry Keyishian writes, "Followers of the recent discussion of
soliloquies on the Shakespeare Electronic Conference may want to know of
the publication this week of the following book: James Hirsh,
Shakespeare and the History of Soliloquies (Madison NJ: Fairleigh
Dickinson Press, 2003). 470 pp.  This volume provides the first
systematic and comprehensive account of the conventions governing
soliloquies in Western drama from antiquity to the twentieth century.
For details, check www.aupresses.com or call 609-655-4770.  Harry
Keyishian, Director, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press."

Does Hirsh cite Grebanier and, ergo, Coleridge on Hamlet's "To Be"
soliloquy?

Grebanier devotes no less than a full query-and-answer paper within his
book The Heart of Hamlet: The Play Shakespeare Wrote on the famous
soliloquy question, pages 203-12, perforce adding elaboration of the
preceding dramatic scene and subsequent dramatic scene [adding even more
pages to his analysis and presentation] as part-and-parcel of his
extensive and prescient exegesis!  To Doubting Thomases of Grebanier's
take on Hamlet's sanity and reasons for delay, how can anyone, let alone
me, summarize Grebanier and not omit his extensive scholarship on the
way to explication?

If, indeed, Hirsch's exegesis is an elaboration of Coleridge and
Grebanier, I would be much interested in his thoughts and would consider
purchase.  Might you consult his Index, Footnotes or Bib.?

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

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kenneth Chan <
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 >
Date:           Sunday, 25 May 2003 20:01:28 +0800
Subject: 14.1004 Re: Hirsh and "To Be"
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1004 Re: Hirsh and "To Be"

Here are some points which, I feel, argues against Hirsh's contention
that the "To Be" speech is a feigned soliloquy.

A major basis for Hirsh's argument that Hamlet was aware of being spied
upon, at this time, is the statement by Claudius: "We have closely sent
for Hamlet hither." From this, Hirsh concludes that Hamlet would
certainly suspect a set-up upon finding Ophelia at the appointed place
instead of the King. And so, Hamlet decides on a feigned soliloquy to
mislead Claudius.

The problem with this argument is that we have now to accept that
Claudius, with all his Machiavellian cunning, had made such an
elementary blunder as to plant Ophelia at exactly the place where he
himself is to meet Hamlet.  This, I feel, is rather unrealistic. So the
line "We have closely sent for Hamlet hither" should really be
understood as Hamlet having been sent for in this direction. It would be
far more logical to assume that Claudius would plant Ophelia somewhere
along the route that Hamlet would have to take, and not at the actual
appointed destination.

If this is so, there is then no reason to assume that Hamlet was aware
of being spied upon at the time of his "To Be" soliloquy.

Another point against this soliloquy being feigned, lies in Hamlet's
later statement to Ophelia: "Those that are married already, all but
one, shall live". If Hamlet's soliloquy and dialogue, at this time, was
aimed at misleading Claudius, he would surely not make this statement,
since it would practically unravel all his previous efforts at fooling
Claudius. It is unlikely that Claudius would miss this statement as a
possible veiled threat.

Thus, it is far more likely that Hamlet was not actually aware of being
spied upon at this time. He is not concerned about making this statement
to Ophelia, since Ophelia would not have a clue as to its meaning.

On top of all this, we must remember that Shakespeare never gave any
clear indication that Hamlet was aware of being spied upon.  Why would
Shakespeare not do so, if that was his intention? This would have been
so easy for Shakespeare - a single line would have sufficed. But there
is no such line. It is far safer then to work on the basis that that was
not Shakespeare's intent at all.

Kenneth Chan

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