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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: June ::
Re: Hamlet and Grebanier
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1064  Tuesday, 3 June 2003

[1]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Monday, 2 Jun 2003 09:37:18 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1052 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

[2]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Monday, 2 Jun 2003 10:06:51 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1052 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

[3]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Monday, 02 Jun 2003 17:57:17 -0300
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1052 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

[4]     From:   John V. Knapp <
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        Date:   Monday, 2 Jun 2003 19:07:45 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Response to Re: SHK 14.1052 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Monday, 2 Jun 2003 09:37:18 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 14.1052 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1052 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

Ed Pixley writes, "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.'"

Why, thank you, Ed Pixley.  But in my READ of Grebanier, I note in his
311 pages in toto that he has emphasized the ambiguity dichotomy you
suggest.  Have we READ the same book?

I might summarize: Grebanier argues contextually that Hamlet was not
insane, NOT at all; although the richness of the characterization comes
about from what OTHERS say about him within the play ["Hell is the other
people," to paraphrase the ultimate existentialist].  The richness of
the play itself comes from the doubt overhanging the play, as we observe
it; NOT necessarily in reflection [wasn't it another great Englishman,
WW, who said something about reflecting/recollecting in tranquility?]
Grebanier clearly makes an overstatement that Hamlet was not insane and
he DID delay to "catch the conscience of the King" but the statement is
made in "reflection/recollection, the essence of scholarship."  I defy
anyone to enjoy Hamlet as a play as Shakespeare wrote it in which the
main character is juiced up to be a campy version of Blazing Saddles!  I
have seen such plays but they are NOT the play Shakespeare wrote: the
thesis of Grebanier's book!

My God, SHAKSPEReans, there IS the play, and there IS the character,
Hamlet, and the words of the play create a delicious AMBIGUITY when we
first READ it and first VIEW it.  But it does not change the words, this
stuff called "reading in reflection;" only the view is SUSPECT if the
director/and or the actors have NOT come to grips with the play Will
Shakespeare wrote.  Sure, I am of the Old School of Critics, and do NOT
believe that anyone can READ anything into the play the way THEY want
it, the way some schools of New Criticism would have it.  Let us stick
with the text, and deal with it contextually, and for the best
take--there is still Grebanier.  I await the better BEST book if it can
be so named?  I want to READ it, too.  Until then, Grebanier Rules :)

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

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Monday, 2 Jun 2003 10:06:51 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 14.1052 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1052 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

Thanks for the tip. I notice that he wrote another book, entitled:

Then Came Each Actor: Shakespearean Actors, Great and Otherwise,
Including Players and Princes, Rogues, Vagabonds, and Actors Motley,
From Will Kempe

Thank God for that. Someone needs to take note of a comprehensive study
of the Shakespearean actor, and not just the privileged or the "great".

Brian Willis

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Monday, 02 Jun 2003 17:57:17 -0300
Subject: 14.1052 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1052 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

Terence Hawkes writes that,

>Its aim [criticism's since Bradley] 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.

Hamlet is most like the people I know when his character is
inconsistent.  Real people aren't medieval allegories, and literary
characters most resemble real people when they surprise us with their
inconsistencies.

Yours inconsistently,
Sean.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John V. Knapp <
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Date:           Monday, 2 Jun 2003 19:07:45 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Re: SHK 14.1052 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier
Comment:        Response to Re: SHK 14.1052 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

Dear Terence Hawkes --

Indeed, how does one tell the dancer from the dance?  About a decade
ago, the following was written by Bruce Robbins regarding "realism" in
the novel, but his argument could relatively easily be transposed to the
theater in any discussion of mimetic "character."

>"Those of you who belong to literature departments may have asked
>yourselves, as I have asked myself, why is it that the construction
>of an argument in our discipline so often relies on using
>"naive realism" as a negative or scapegoat that a given author,
>text, period, or genre can be shown to rise sophisticatedly and
>self-consciously above? ... Realism is not any old subject for
>criticism; it's what we have told ourselves we exist by not being.
>Every time a text is triumphantly shown to transcend
>realism, therefore, the demonstration is only partly about the text;
>it is also a pious exercise in disciplinary self-corroboration, a
>demonstration that the discipline or literary criticism is justified
>in its distinctness and autonomy. [Yet the] issue is not between
>representation and non-representation ... but between differing
>representations. ... If the project of realism can be conceived
>as ... community building in this shared but unequally shared space,
>then there's still plenty to do."
>
>Bruce Robbins, in *Realism and Representation,* ed. George Levine,
>225-31. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1993

Correct me if I am wrong, but your opposition of the "simple-minded
consistency that realism exists to promote" with "the play" seems
incoherent if not just plain wrong.  A good character study does not
have to create "simple minded" analyses as opposed to "complex
understandings of the play." A good character study always proceeds from
the idea that a character is a piece in a much larger mosaic, but in
many cases, the two have reciprocal and complementary foci.  While one
can disagree with Harold Bloom's overblown idea that *Hamlet* IS the
character Hamlet, it strikes me that your refusal to look at "realistic
motives" since "the play's the thing" merely errs in the opposite
direction.

Cheers,
JVK

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