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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: June ::
Re: Hamlet and Grebanier
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1052  Monday, 2 June 2003

[1]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Sunday, 1 Jun 2003 19:31:18 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1022 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

[2]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Monday, 2 Jun 2003 08:53:14 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 14.1022 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

[3]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Monday, 2 Jun 2003 06:46:07 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 14.1022 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

[4]     From:   Kenneth Chan <
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        Date:   Monday, 02 Jun 2003 19:46:11 +0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1022 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

[5]     From:   Edward Pixley <
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        Date:   Monday, 2 Jun 2003 08:53:16 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1022 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Sunday, 1 Jun 2003 19:31:18 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 14.1022 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1022 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

Bill Lloyd writes, "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."

True.  I noticed that myself, and bought a copy inscribed, for the same
modest cost: "For Bert Glanz, with my best wishes, Bernard M.
Grebanier, March 1960."

Bill Lloyd also writes, "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."

I appreciate your candor.  And I have said all along to SHAKSPEReans
that IF any one reader of Hamlet who reads this message board is
interested in the BEST take on Hamlet by a scholar, in a full length
treatment, viz.: a book, then they ought, in my humble opinion, to READ
Grebanier.  So, Bill Lloyd, I certainly do not quibble with your memory
of three decades ago.  That is WHY I am re-READing it, to refresh mine.
I stand by my memory and the WHOLE BOOK AND NOTHING BUT THE BOOK: THE
WHOLE TRUTH OF GREBANIER'S BOOK ON HAMLET.

Bill Lloyd also writes, "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."

To which I reply: say WHAT?  Then, you and such readers of Hamlet do not
CARE about the BEST scholarly treatment of Shakespeare's play Hamlet and
the character Hamlet.

Is there a better BEST book?  I have yet to READ it.  Name it!

Bill Lloyd also writes, "Surely Bill can give us a boiled-down version
of Grebanier's arguments [not just his conclusions- we know those]."

Clever, but NO cigar :)

Let me say this for the umpteenth time!  Grebanier ANSWERED all the
critics of Hamlet's character on the crucial questions, in Chapter III:
"CONFUSION WORSE CONFOUNDED: Hamlet and the Critics."  That chapter goes
from page 55 to page 133.  In his careful analysis and exegesis of
walking the cracks between these various points of view, Grebanier
answered FOREVER all the points I have READ on SHAKSPER, and elsewhere.
Of course, Grebanier then expends another forest of pages on his own
take, apart from the critics!

It would be unbecoming of little ole ME to translate Grebanier when he
IS available to any READer who cares.  For those who do NOT care I say,
OK.  That is YOUR choice.  But Grebanier's take is contextual, and that
is the key, and the only methodology which will work, is it not?

What seems to bother me about critics and the play, and the character,
Hamlet, is that most are tilting at windmills.  They overlook the BIG
PICTURE, something Grebanier does NOT do.  Will Shakespeare has created
a play which is ostensibly a trial of the character of Hamlet, and most
readers get lost in the details.  Grebanier sorted that all out, and
from the contextual he expands to the one and TRUE Hamlet, play and
character.  Remember: if a director or actor must DO the play, then they
must UNDERSTAND it.  That is why most dramatized versions of the play
Hamlet are wanting in their execution.  The director and the actor did
NOT understand the play and the character of Hamlet.  Again, I conclude
Grebanier has the BEST book out there on the subject.  Any director or
actor wanting to DO Hamlet ought to check it out!

In conclusion I would remind ALL that I still hold to the ground and
circle the wagons on the sacred question: was Hamlet insane or not, and
I am on the ground that argues that the two answers are mutually
exclusive.  To all the peripheral areas of gray answers, believe me,
Grebanier separates out those GHOSTS :)

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

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Monday, 2 Jun 2003 08:53:14 +0100
Subject: Re: Hamlet and Grebanier
Comment:        SHK 14.1022 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

Claudius cannot know that Hamlet knows that his father was murdered,
because Hamlet does not know that his father was murdered. The
procrastination is all about "catching the conscience of the King" ("the
King", mind you! odd thing to call someone if you question their
legitimacy beyond reasonable doubt). Because, as has been pointed out on
this list several times, Hamlet does not know if the "Ghost" is really
the spirit of his father or just a conniving devil. We can see that
Hamlet suspects it might be a devil from the first time he sees it, and
this suspicion is reinforced when he talks about how audience-members in
the playhouse have sometimes mistaken player-devils for the real thing
(recalling the infamous Marlowe Dr. Faustus episode?). Clearly a
metatheatrical moment (among many).

Hamlet is made paranoid by this visitation. Claudius, guilt-ridden
because of his "over-hasty" marriage with Gertrude (his own words, I
seem to recall; and we can tell that he truly loves Gertrude in the
final scene, I think - this was no Machiavellian play for power but a
genuine - and probably long-suppressed - love-match), slowly comes to
recognize that Hamlet's natural jealousy has soured into the suspicion
that he has murdered Old Hamlet. Is there a shred of evidence for his
guilt on this charge? Hamlet's increasingly brazen accusations become a
dire threat to the state (in time of impending war), and so Claudius is
forced to consider ever more drastic measures to deal with him -
ultimately murder, although take note of how careful he is not to be the
direct cause of Hamlet's death, an odd precaution for someone to take if
they were so immediately the cause of Old Hamlet's death as the "Ghost"
suggests.

Hamlet is, like so many of Shakespeare's political plays, about Rumour
and suspicion, that eats away at the heart of the state like a canker.
Its context - similarly impending war with Spain, similarly
self-destructive back-biting, accusation, putting on plays to "catch the
conscience" of a monarch (Essex? how do the conjectured dates work out?)
- ought to make all of this clear. Quit asking the wrong questions about
Hamlet and his "madness". The Romantic obsession with the great
character of Hamlet has obscured the dramatic and political contexts in
which he is situated. His "madness" is the madness of the "rotten"
state, of Denmark and of England: political and economic jealousy;
perverted family loyalties; and uneasiness at new definitions of
"conscience"  in a Protestant universe. I suppose we might ask, is this
madness, or just politics as usual?

m

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Monday, 2 Jun 2003 06:46:07 -0400
Subject: Re: Hamlet and Grebanier
Comment:        SHK 14.1022 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

Bill Arnold writes,

"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."

This is certainly the basic flaw (sorry, FLAW) in his argument, let
alone Grebanier's: the unargued presupposition that Shakespeare wrote
realistic plays and that these function, in the main, as portrait
galleries for realistic 'characters'. The truth is that absurd
speculations concerning the inner emotions, thoughts, motivations,
ambitions, fears, desires etc.  of these unlikely creatures form the
substance of much of the self-congratulatory waffle that has passed as
criticism since Bradley. Its aim is to impose the sort of simple-minded
consistency that realism exists to promote. In fact, Hamlet's
now-you-see-it- now -you-don't- 'insanity' is a good example of the more
complex inconsistency characteristic of art in the emblematic mode. The
question of Lady Macbeth's children is another. E.  E. Stoll named this
device 'episodic intensification'. It ranks as a deliberate strategy,
not a mistake, and confirms once more that the play's the thing, not the
characters.

Terence Hawkes

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kenneth Chan <
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Date:           Monday, 02 Jun 2003 19:46:11 +0800
Subject: 14.1022 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1022 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

The question of Hamlet's delay is probably the one critical action in
Shakespeare's play. Note that the earlier versions of the tale by both
Saxo Grammaticus and Belleforest did not contain the slightest hint of
procrastination by the avenger. The equivalent of Hamlet there was
genuinely biding his time and waiting for the chance to pounce.

It was Shakespeare who dramatically changed the tone of the play by
introducing the delay. Not only that, Shakespeare deliberately
highlighted it by having Hamlet bemoan it over two long soliloquies, and
by making it the central focus of Hamlet's second encounter with the
ghost.

While Shakespeare's Hamlet does share many similar events with the
earlier versions by Grammaticus and Belleforest, they are nonetheless
dramatically different. Even without considering its poetical
brilliance, Shakespeare's play is a far improved version. And it is
largely the question of Hamlet's delay, and his painful struggle with
it, that transformed the play from a conventional revenge tale to a
tense psychological drama with deep philosophical implications.

If we are now to deny the fact of Hamlet's delay, I fear we may well be
undermining the wishes of the playwright, and may then be at serious
risk of missing Shakespeare's point altogether.

Kenneth Chan

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edward Pixley <
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Date:           Monday, 2 Jun 2003 08:53:16 -0400
Subject: 14.1022 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1022 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

Bill Lloyd <
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 > writes,

>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...

Thank you, Bill Lloyd, for bringing some perspective to this
discussion.  Why do some of us forget that one of the chief techniques
of great drama is ambiguity?  But to resolve the sane/insane question,
perhaps it would be helpful to quote Hamlet on his own "HEART":

"Why look how unworthy a thing you make of me, you would play upon me,
you would seem to know my stops,     you would PLUCK OUT THE HEART OF MY
MYSTERY, you would sound me from my lowest note to the     top of my
compass; and there is much music, excellent voice in this little organ,
yet cannot you make it speak.          'Sblood do you think I am easier
to be play on than a pipe.  Call me what instrument you will, though you
can fret me, you cannot play upon me.

Hamlet is a mystery -- even to his own character. "Why do I live to say
'this thing's to do'?"  That is perhaps the single most important fact
about him that has kept audiences, actors, and scholars fascinated by
him for centuries.  Any audience member can find sympathy with someone
whose privacy is threatened by people constantly prying to explain and
predict and control him.  Even the Ghost tries to control him from
beyond the grave.  One of the traditional popular symbols of Hamlet is
the "arras," behind which the spies are found out.

Though I have long admired Grebanier's scholarship, as well as his
critical methodology, he sometimes "frets" a point, without attention to
the ambiguities that enrich the subject.  And that, I would say, is the
"fault."

Ed Pixley

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