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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: February ::
Hamlet Survey?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0382  Tuesday, 10 February 2004

[1]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Monday, 9 Feb 2004 07:14:28 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0347 Hamlet Survey?

[2]     From:   Dan Smith <
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        Date:   Monday, 9 Feb 2004 15:41:11 -0000
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.0347 Hamlet Survey?

[3]     From:   W. Brantley <
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        Date:   Monday, 9 Feb 2004 12:17:12 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0347 Hamlet Survey?

[4]     From:   David Bishop <
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        Date:   Monday, 9 Feb 2004 14:21:36 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0347 Hamlet Survey?

[5]     From:   Sam Small <
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        Date:   Monday, 9 Feb 2004 21:35:38 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0347 Hamlet Survey?

[6]     From:   Edward Pixley <
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        Date:   Tue, 10 Feb 2004 08:38:11 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0347 Hamlet Survey?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Monday, 9 Feb 2004 07:14:28 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 15.0347 Hamlet Survey?
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0347 Hamlet Survey?

Ken Steele writes, "But perhaps I misunderstand-perhaps Bill Arnold is
speaking as a cultural anthropologist interested in tracking Hamlet's
reputation in contemporary society.  Then, certainly, a survey might
provide some relevant data, if the survey instrument was very carefully
constructed and the sample obtained through valid scientific methods."

OK: Exactly my point.  You get kudos for better expression.  Now, let us
see if others see *our* point!

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

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dan Smith <
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Date:           Monday, 9 Feb 2004 15:41:11 -0000
Subject: 15.0347 Hamlet Survey?
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.0347 Hamlet Survey?

I like Richard Eyre "The key to Hamlet is that there is no [single]
key".  Surely all of Shakespeare's most interesting characters are
interesting because they are two irreconcilable characters welded together.

Sometimes Hamlet sounds like an intelligent angry teenager and sometimes
like an acquiescent old man.  Sometimes you can think he is an embryo
tyrant at other times you might believe that he dies at the point at
which he would have made a great king. A good actor can leave me
thinking that Hamlet is mad and sane in consecutive minutes.

I have also observed that the wind can blow southerly for "mad" people
in the real world (and a North wind can madden the sane). Whether
someone is "mad" (however you define that) is often a difficult question
to decide even when the subject is not fictional. Is someone "mad" if
they might have been "sane" in other surroundings? Prior to the death of
Polonius, Claudius might struggle to get Hamlet compulsorily sectioned
under the mental health act but after the murder he shouldn't have any
problem; he is certainly a danger to himself and others. Nowadays, mad
or sane, he would be tucked up safely in Broadmoor rather than attend
the fifth act.

Dan Smith

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. Brantley <
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Date:           Monday, 9 Feb 2004 12:17:12 EST
Subject: 15.0347 Hamlet Survey?
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0347 Hamlet Survey?

 >He knows a hawk from a handsaw.

I've always heard that this particular line and "mad north-northwest"
was a snub to Marston and the children's troupe at St.Paul's.  Hawk from
a handsaw was a comparison of the Shakespeare's Coat of Arms and
apparently Marston's, who had a coat of arms, the edges of which looked
like a handsaw had down the cutting?

Anyone else heard of this?  Where did this bit of information originate?

W. Brantley

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Bishop <
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Date:           Monday, 9 Feb 2004 14:21:36 -0500
Subject: 15.0347 Hamlet Survey?
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0347 Hamlet Survey?

Though if I had to choose one answer I would tend to agree with Hardy,
any one answer, including that of intractable ambiguity, seems to me to
close off some reasonable responses to the play. If everything is open
to interpretation, how do you ever say an interpretation is wrong? Hardy
says one answer is wrong, but does not argue the point.

The problem involves trying to distinguish differences in the portrayal
of Hamlet, to tease apart layers of suggestion. Sometimes, for example,
he seems to be putting on madness with some calculation, or with pointed
anger-as in the play scene, or the fat king-lean beggar speech. At other
times he seems genuinely upset, or enraged, in a way that could come
close to madness: "A rat!" Before he plans to put on an antic
disposition he speculates about how some men are subject to a
disposition that breaks down the pales and forts of reason, and Horatio
warns him that following the ghost may deprive his sovereignty of
reason. The melancholy that grows along with his self-criticism for
delay also suggests how faking madness may somehow express a
vulnerability to it, and lead him closer to the edge. And so on.

Just saying it's ambiguous doesn't take us very far. How, where and why
are the harder questions.

Best wishes,
David Bishop

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sam Small <
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Date:           Monday, 9 Feb 2004 21:35:38 -0000
Subject: 15.0347 Hamlet Survey?
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0347 Hamlet Survey?

Snobbish tosh from Ken Steele, I believe.  "Particularly where theatre
and literature are concerned, we (of all people) should be conscious
that popular opinion has brought us Roman gladiator fights, wrestling,
reality TV and America's Funniest Home Videos-but precious little work
with the depth or grace of Shakespeare."

Popularity is opinion - it is neither the truth nor a fact.  The
difference between a fact and opinion is that a fact is indisputable -
opinion is always disputable.  I could find a brilliant and well
regarded scholar who thought Hamlet was as mad as a hatter and another
who thought that he was not.

Neither opinion could possibly be regarded as a final fact of truth.  If
I say that Hamlet was a good man trying to be good in a bad world, it
would be stacked against all other opinions and gather well deserved
dust.  I could site Sonnet 66 as a fourteen line Hamletian rant, but it
would prove nothing.

In my opinion (I cannot bring myself to say that it is humble) is that
popularity is profound.  It is, after all, the foundation of our
democracy.  Upon it rests the stability of our future.  Robert McKee
remarked in his excellent book "Story" that modern film audiences are
very intelligent.  That is to say that they become a large corporate
intelligence with a vast film memory that deem movies to be good or bad.

I am a democrat through and through and have great respect for the
common opinion, even if sometimes I am at odds with it.  Those who have
little regard for that common opinion are flirting with notions of
political tyranny where a be-suited meritocracy decides all and
represents nothing.

Ken's sneering at the above public events misses one pure thought.  In
all the gaudy goings-on there is a classic storyline of good triumphing
over evil forces.  What Ken deplores is that there is no intelligent
structure supporting the same framework that all great writers have
employed - including Shakespeare.  I have even likened "The Jerry
Springer Show" to Shakespeare on more than one occasion.  What I mean is
that bad guys usually get some sort of comeuppance on Springer to
complete the classic storyline which audiences all over the world always
clamour to watch.

But Ken, like others, should beware berating the common populous.  For
the most popular writer of all time - even to this day - is none other
than William Shakespeare.

SAM SMALL

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edward Pixley <
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Date:           Tue, 10 Feb 2004 08:38:11 -0500
Subject: 15.0347 Hamlet Survey?
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0347 Hamlet Survey?

It seems to me that anyone who wants to respond to Bill Arnold's Hamlet
survey ought to do it privately to Bill and not clutter up the list with
what, to list members, is trivia, even though Bill, himself, may have
some serious scholarly intention with his findings.  When he has put
together his data, I would be happy to learn about his findings.

Ed Pixley

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