Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: June ::
Re: Hamlet and Grebanier
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1113  Friday, 6 June 2003

[1]     From:   Annalisa Castaldo <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Thursday, 5 Jun 2003 11:26:01 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1103 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

[2]     From:   Rafael Acuna <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Thursday, 5 Jun 2003 23:58:28 +0800
        Subj:   RE: Hamlet and Grebanier

[3]     From:   Michael Shurgot <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Thursday, 5 Jun 2003 09:18:43 -0700
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.1103 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

[4]     From:   Bob Rosen <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Thursday, 5 Jun 2003 12:22:07 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1103 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

[5]     From:   Colin Cox <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Thursday, 05 Jun 2003 10:01:22 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1103 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

[6]     From:   Don Bloom <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Thursday, 5 Jun 2003 12:20:14 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1103 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

[7]     From:   C. David Frankel <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Thursday, 5 Jun 2003 13:23:19 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.1103 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

[8]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 6 Jun 2003 04:57:39 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 14.1103 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Annalisa Castaldo <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 5 Jun 2003 11:26:01 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 14.1103 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1103 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

"What are we on SHAKSPER doing then?  You mean to tell me we are not
reading [Hamlet], analyzing it, and writing exegeses about parts of it?"

I'm not sure how doing any of this contradicts or negates the idea that
we can never absolutely reclaim the exact version that Shakespeare
wrote. In fact, if it were possible to do so, scholars would be pretty
stupid if, after over 400 years, they hadn't figured it out.

"My only complaint is that the BIG PICTURE of Hamlet the character in
the play Hamlet is overlooked, and each scholar or student of
Shakespeare is stuck in a narrow mindset without disclosing his or her
mindset.  Well, was Hamlet insane or not?"

Hamlet is, as you say, a character, a DRAMATIC character. "His" sanity
or insanity really only exists when a director and an actor bring him
and the play to life. So it is perfectly possible for him to be insane
in some productions and sane in others. The few stage directions we have
say things like "Enter Hamlet, reading on a book" not "Enter Hamlet,
insane."

"If someone is insane, how can he also be sane?  It is either one or the
other, is it not?"

Even in real life it is perfectly possible for one person to be both
insane and sane, to shift between the two, or to be insane but convince
those around him that he is insane (or vice versa). Even those who do
not have someone close who is mentally unbalanced should be able to see
that in the difficulty the courts have in deciding who is fit to stand
trial. In fiction, it is usually much clearer, and I think that Hamlet
is such a powerful play because Shakespeare (quite possibly by accident)
tapped into that quality of ambiguity in other people's actions and
thoughts.

Annalisa Castaldo

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Rafael Acuna <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 5 Jun 2003 23:58:28 +0800
Subject:        RE: Hamlet and Grebanier

Professor Arnold writes, "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."

My guess is that you are referring to pages 289-291, where Grebanier
states that Claudius asks Polonius to spy on Gertrude and Hamlet.
Grebanier probably refers to III.3.28 onwards. If you connect Polonius'
last lines during that scene with Claudius' soliloquy, then such a
conclusion can be made. But if there is no connection at all between
Polonius intent to spy on the two and Claudius' soliloquy...

Next, Professor Arnold writes, "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?"

My question is "Why do Hamlet and his friends see the ghost, but
Gertrude does not?" Grebanier hints at an answer on pp. 234-5, where he
writes, "Nothing in the play is more touching than the loving concern
for this unworthy woman which the Ghost has carried even beyond the
grave.  Ironically, even with his superterrestial wisdom, the spirit
knows little about Gertrude. She is indeed in a fit of amazement, but
not (as the Ghost supposes) because of contrition over her past guilt."

Is Grebanier implying that only those who sympathize with elder Hamlet
(such as Hamlet and his friends) can see the ghost, but those who don't
(such as Getrude) cannot?

Finally, Professor Arnold writes, "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."

What is that context? What Elizabethans believed about ghosts? The text
of the play? Let's apply this argument to Grebanier's view of insanity.

Grebanier claims that Hamlet is not insane. How is that possible when,
using the context of Elizabethans, the idea of clinical insanity had not
yet appeared? Given that, we can say that Hamlet is certainly not
insane. It's just those darned humors acting up once more.

Finally, Professor Arnold writes, "If you find a FLAW in his answer, I
would love to hear about it."

What happens when we restrict ourselves to the context, i.e., the play
itself and its original audience? For example, are there other ways of
describing not only Hamlet's behavior but different definitions of
"madness"? For example, how do we imagine Hamlet's posture in I.i, or
his reaction in I.v? I am not referring to textual evidence but to
non-verbal ones.

Ultimately, does Grebanier study the play solely as a written work?

Rafael Acuna

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Shurgot <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 5 Jun 2003 09:18:43 -0700
Subject: 14.1103 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.1103 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

Dear Colleagues:

I hesitate to join this Hamlet/Grebanier debate because it seems to be
spinning rapidly into outer space, and really all we are doing is
reflecting--mirror-like--the myriad possible reactions to the script.
However, I would like to suggest one possible interpretation of the
"script" by a superb actor that in performance made perfect sense. We
have all seen the BBC Hamlet, and in that nunnery scene Derek Jacobi at
one moment grabs Ophelia, pulls her close to him, and screams "It HATH
made me mad." This moment seemed brilliant to me; here was an
"intelligent" actor seeing in the script a moment where he could
clarify, for his interpretation of the character, a dilemma that haunts
the script and that an actor must deal with. Jacobi's emphasis on "Hath"
clarified for his Hamlet that he had been, if not insane, certainly
distraught to the point that his emotions in this scene overwhelmed him
and he caught himself, perhaps most clearly at that precise moment, as
he screams at and abuses Ophelia, going mad. The past tense in the line
"hath made me mad" could mean that his (the character's) brilliantly
self-aware mind has just caught himself, in the immediately previous
instant, losing rational control and succumbing to an unbearable rage
against a time suddenly thrown out of joint over which he has little
control but which he must nonetheless confront in all its complexities.
Ophelia and her possible duplicities becomes the immediate catalyst that
hurls his mind temporarily into real madness.

Often, I believe, actors, who must work with a script, really do create
intriguing solutions--because they have to put the damn thing on stage,
and they do not have the luxury of endless debate and speculation.

Just a thought.

Regards to all, and enjoy the weekend.

Michael Shurgot

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bob Rosen <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 5 Jun 2003 12:22:07 EDT
Subject: 14.1103 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1103 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

>Well,
> was Hamlet insane or not?  If someone is insane, how can he also be
> sane?  It is either one or the other, is it not?  So, which is it?

It is possible to rationally come up with insane alternatives of action
if you're thinking in an open-ended way. It seems to me that Hamlet is
contemplative in that mode of thought. He acts out those alternatives,
one after another, hoping to find a solution to his dilemma. The tragedy
is that he can't undo his denken experiments when he tests them against
reality.

bob rosen

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Colin Cox <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 05 Jun 2003 10:01:22 -0700
Subject: 14.1103 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1103 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

>If someone is insane, how can he also be
>sane?  It is either one or the other, is it not?  So, which is it?

There is not a character in history who during the course of their
insanity has not also shown great moments of lucidity, and vice versa.
Caesar, Napoleon, Newton (no one was weirder than Newton!) Indeed,
genius and madness are often bedfellows. And, in some of these cases
'the madness' today would be diagnosed as epilepsy. Simon Winchester's
fabulous book The Madman and the Professor is a wonderful example of the
duality of us all.

As to the various 'madness' theories, Shakespeare gives the clue; it's
in the name. In the original Icelandic saga, from which Saxo Grammaticus
took the tale, Hamlet's name is Ameleothi. My Icelandic sources tell me
that Amele is a common name like Fred or Joe, the clue is in the -othi-.
Othi in Icelandic means 'the one who feigns madness'. Just food for
thought.

PS. Claudius' name in the original is Feng! Will knew well when to leave
alone and when to change!

Colin Cox
Artistic Director
Will & Company

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Bloom <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 5 Jun 2003 12:20:14 -0500
Subject: 14.1103 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1103 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

Bill Arnold writes

>Terence Hawkes writes, "What Bill Arnold fails to grasp is that however
>strong our resolve to 'stick with the text, and deal with it
>contextually' (whatever that means), there is absolutely no chance that
>we will be able, as a result, to come into contact with 'the play Will
>Shakespeare wrote'. The past, and its art, are just not available to us
>in those simple terms."
>
>Excuse me?  What are we on SHAKSPER doing then?  You mean to tell me we
>are not reading it, analyzing it, and writing exegeses about parts of
>it?  And seeing it, no matter how well or poorly staged?  Isn't the play
>which purports to be that by Will Shakespeare called Hamlet as Grebanier
>calls it "The Play Shakespeare Wrote"?

TH is perfectly capable of defending himself, of course, but I will jump
in to clarify the matter (I hope).

What we are doing on this list is discussing a set of documents that for
convenience' sake we identify as the plays of WS. The Oxford-bozos
aside, we do not have any absolute idea just what was actually written.
For example, is "Hamlet" the Second Quarto or the First Folio? Or is it
our favorite modern editor's version, conflating the two? And where does
the First Quarto fit in? What did WS write, and what did he or some one
else rewrite or tinker with?

More recent texts are relatively more stable, of course, but even there
you find troublesome cases: which is the "Great Expectations" that
Dickens wrote, the first version or the second? which is the real
"Clarissa"? If you'd really like to go mad, try tracking certain of
Auden's poems that he tinkered with all his life.

Likewise, without going all Derridean, we have to admit that the same
words don't mean the same thing to you as to me, or as they did to
Coleridge, or Johnson, or Dryden, or Jonson.

Keeping these provisos in mind (which, unfortunately, we sometimes
don't) we can discuss what happens in "Hamlet," and thus what we judge
Hamlet to be like. But what I'm discussing is always "my" edition of
Hamlet, which is taken from some editor, or from a facsimile of an early
printed version, and processed through my, admittedly peculiar,
sensibility. You, of course, discuss your edition. We mustn't mislead
ourselves with a kind of literary fundamentalism.

I don't think that's what you meant, but I suspect that's the drift that
TH wished to stop.

Cheers,
don

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           C. David Frankel
 <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 5 Jun 2003 13:23:19 -0400
Subject: 14.1103 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.1103 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

It seems to me that this, and many other discussions, often tend to
cross purposes because of the various ways that people talk about
plays.  Although it might be simplistic, it does seem to help to
recognize at least three different kinds of discussion:

Hamlet as a "person." -- Discussions that turn on whether Hamlet is
insane, sane, or sometimes one or the other look at the fictive world as
if it were real.

Hamlet as a character. -- Discussions about character, in this sense,
focus on the dramaturgy of the play -- how is it constructed,
structured, designed, and so on.  In other words, what function does
this element ("Hamlet") have in the play.

Hamlet as role. -- Discussions about the role focus on the theatrical
manifestations of Hamlet, each one different and dependent on the
specifics of production.

Sometimes, people just like to talk about one of these things or
privilege it over the others.  All three, though, I think, are necessary
to understanding the play -- and the understanding (and the way we talk)
of all three changes over time.

cdf

[8]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 6 Jun 2003 04:57:39 -0400
Subject: Re: Hamlet and Grebanier
Comment:        SHK 14.1103 Re: Hamlet and Grebanier

Bill Arnold writes,

"Excuse me?  What are we on SHAKSPER doing then?  You mean to tell me we
are not reading it, analyzing it, and writing exegeses about parts of
it?  And seeing it, no matter how well or poorly staged?  Isn't the play
which purports to be that by Will Shakespeare called Hamlet as Grebanier
calls it "The Play Shakespeare Wrote"?

Of course it isn't. I thought you were a fan of close reading.

T. Hawkes

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, 
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.