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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: May ::
The Murder of Gonzago
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1008  Tuesday, 4 May 2004

[1]     From:   Peter Bridgman <
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        Date:   Monday, 3 May 2004 15:44:10 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0997 The Murder of Gonzago

[2]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Monday, 3 May 2004 11:15:44 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.0997 The Murder of Gonzago

[3]     From:   David Cohen <
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        Date:   Monday, 3 May 2004 16:02:19 -0500
        Subj:   Fwd: SHK 15.0997 The Murder of Gonzago

[4]     From:   Jack Heller <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 4 May 2004 09:02:10 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0997 The Murder of Gonzago


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Bridgman <
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Date:           Monday, 3 May 2004 15:44:10 +0100
Subject: 15.0997 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0997 The Murder of Gonzago

Bill Arnold writes...

 >Will S. knew full well these *Will* words in their totality in the KJV
 >as referenced by his myriad thousands of literary allusions to the text.

Thousands of allusions?  The KJV was published in 1611.  The only
(non-collaborative) play to appear after its publication was The Tempest.

Peter Bridgman

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Monday, 3 May 2004 11:15:44 -0500
Subject: 15.0997 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.0997 The Murder of Gonzago

Bill Arnold writes.

 >"Will S. knew full well these *Will* words in their totality in the KJV
 >as referenced by his myriad thousands of literary allusions to the text.
 >  They culminate in the KJV, Matthew, C 6, Vs. 9-13, also known as the
 >Lord's Prayer, especially, V. 9-10, 'Pray ye: Our Father...Thy kingdom
 >come.  Thy will be done on earth, as *it is* in heaven.'"

I have no objection to Bill's over-all point (though my acceptance of it
would rest on reading his case in detail). But I am puzzled by the
reference to the KJV, which could hardly have had any impact on the bulk
of S's writing. Are we talking here about the earlier English
translations, the ones Shakespeare would have grown up with and heard
read in church up through 1611? These, or one of these, could be said to
have influenced his choice of words, and especially his punning on his
own name. But the KJV would have to be considered as derivative of these
as (one would assume) Will's own work.

Cheers,
don

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Cohen <
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Date:           Monday, 3 May 2004 16:02:19 -0500
Subject: 15.0997 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        Fwd: SHK 15.0997 The Murder of Gonzago

Regarding the following snips from Bill Arnold <
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 >In previous posts, which can be searched in Hardy's SHAKSPER, I have
 >made reference to my detailed study of Will S. and the KJV in my book
 >*JESUS: The Gospel According To Will*, so I will not duplicate my
 >remarks.

Thanks for that, but surely a few choice bits of text from Hamlet,
specifically from 4.4 to the end of the play, as Ed Taft indicated,
would suffice as concrete evidence contra my questioning of Ed's
specific point that, "ascertaining God's Will is the central
intellectual problem in the play . . . what I think the play from 4.4 on
is primarily about.'  Even better, how about some additional evidence,
namely that there are no quotes supporting what you call the nihilist
hypothesis about Shakespeare's true feelings about the ultimate scheme
of things.  My comment was more generally about the plays, not the
sonnets, but evidence pro and contra Ed's inference about Hamlet, 4.4 +
would be more to the point.
 >I praise David Cohen for his lucid post . . .

Thanks for saying so.

 >. . . but I would like to
 >take issue with his seemingly nihilistic conclusion.  My point is:
Will S. was, in my scholarly >opinion, a "Christian" in his
 > theology . . .

But in his beliefs?  Why put quotes around Christian unless you mean
that he only appeared to be a Christian in his many allusions to
Christianity-that he should spout theology with the best of them, not to
mention punning circles around them.  If so, you quotation marks seem to
fit my hypothesis that, regardless of his prodigious knowledge, and
regardless of church figures or Christian allusions in his plays, S did
not embrace Christianity as a true believer.  Given the politics of the
time, it would have been prudent to say and characterize things
Christian without believing in any of it.

 >. . .  as it appears in his writings; and the essence of the words of
 >Jesus on this "Will" point . . .

Do you mean the influence of the words of Jesus on, well what?  I don't
know what a "Will' point is.  Do you mean free will, which is what I was
suggesting might be considered as part of any consideration of Ed's
provocative point.

 > . . . comes from the multiple "Will" referents by
 >Jesus throughout the New Testament.  Will S. knew full well these
*Will* words in their totality >in the KJV
 >as referenced by his myriad thousands of literary allusions to the text.

"Myriad thousands" seems like a lot.  Anyway, just a few specifics would
be helpful as evidence regarding Ed point-we ARE discussing Ed's point,
I hope-that,  from Hamlet 4.4, "ascertaining God's Will is the central
intellectual problem in the play . . . what I think the play from 4.4 on
is primarily about.'  So, (a) there is much mention of God's will in the
Bible, (b) S surely knew his Bible, given the "myriad thousands of
literary allusions." But how does (a) plus (b) get you to (c)
Shakespeare was a believer-that given his Christian knowledge,
allusions, and characterizations in his plays, it was the God of the New
Testament that Shakespeare was fundamentally concerned about in
Hamlet-Ed's point.  I don't see it. A zillion allusions does not a
believer make, it seems to me.

By the way, if Ed's point is about the Ghost's meaning and by inference,
God's, okay-Ed wasn't clear about this-but is this the CENTRAL POINT of
the play?  That is what I was wondering about-if you had to pick one
central point of Hamlet, would it be that one?

 >They culminate in the KJV, Matthew, C 6, Vs. 9-13, also known as the
 >Lord's Prayer, especially, V. 9-10, "Pray ye: Our Father...Thy kingdom
 >come.  Thy will be done on earth, as *it is* in heaven."
 >
 >I have refrained from *italizing* all the *Will* words, but I would
 >remind all that Will S., as noted and detailed in my book, made
 >extensive usage of puns on his *Will* name . . .

I can't see that any of this has relevance to the intriguing point Ed
raised.

 > . . . and might well have been doing the same in the play *Hamlet*.

What does "might well have been doing" mean.  Either puns are in the
text of Hamlet or they aren't.  Again, just a few examples would be
properly instructive.

 >In summation: Hamlet the character seems to be doing the Lord's Prayer,
 >as it invokes: accomplishing th[y] *Father's Will* so that *Thy will be
 >done on earth, as **it is** in heaven."

How does he accomplish this-by killing lots of people?  I don't get it.

If Shakespeare was a believing Christian rather than, as I suspect, an
intellectual with much knowledge and appreciation of Christianity, why
this observation of Samuel Johnson in his 1765 Preface to his edition of
Shakespeare's works

[Shakespeare's] first defect is that to which may be imputed most of the
evil in books or in men.  He sacrifices virtue to convenience, and is so
much more careful to please than to instruct, that he seems to write
without any moral purpose.  From his writings indeed a system of social
duty may be selected, for he that thinks reasonably must think morally;
but his precepts and axioms drop casually from him; he makes no
distribution of good or evil, nor is always careful to shew in the
virtuous a disapprobation of the wicked; he carries his persons
indifferently through right and wrong, and leaves their examples to
operate by chance.  This fault the barbarity of his age cannot
extenuate; for it is always a writer's duty to make the world better,
and justice is a virtue independent of time and place.

If you don't care for Johnson or his view of a writer's duty, how about
the following that I recently wrote on this question of Shakespeare's
view of human nature and the ultimate scheme of things:

I've often had a sense from experiencing the plays that beneath the
surface there is darker mood in Shakespeare than is usually recognized,
something darker even than implied by what I have been calling his
tragic view-and a suspicion that he could not have written such plays
and believed in a Christian God.  I have since come across the following
from Shakespeare critic Arthur Sewell that seems consistent my
suspicion, which makes me more convinced.

Sewell says that Shakespearean tragedy reflected a shift from medieval
to Renaissance thinking, "by which men came to feel themselves separate
from God; by which, indeed, the idea of God receded from men's habitual
certitudes and became no more and often less than an intellectual
construction, a mere credible hypothesis, a Being remote and not
certainly just or beneficent, perhaps the Enemy."

This sentiment is searing and personal for a Lear broken by life at the
end of the play, when he cries out to an unresponsive Cordelia (and Heaven):

Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,
And thou no breath at all?

     LEAR
     King Lear, Act 5, scene 3, 306-307

A likely answer to Lear's mournful cry, says Shakespeare critic J.
Stampfer, is that the covenant we all make with Heaven is nugatory
because our supposed partner to the contract will prove to be "neither
grace nor the balance of law, but malignity, intransigence, or chaos . .
. [in other words that we inhabit an] imbecile universe," our illusions
to the contrary notwithstanding.  It's not a pretty vision but it seems
to have been Shakespeare's.  How remarkable that it paralyzed neither
his professional productivity nor artistic creativity.  How remarkable
that a man who may have seen so little point to life brought so much
meaning to lives-ours as well as his characters'.

David Cohen

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Heller <
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Date:           Tuesday, 4 May 2004 09:02:10 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 15.0997 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0997 The Murder of Gonzago

Listmembers:

I've been looking again at Act 3, scene 2 of HAMLET, the scene with "The
Murder of Gonzago." I am now interested in these lines: "For anything so
overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first
and now, was and is, to hold, as 'twere, the mirror up to nature, to
show virtue her feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body
of the time his form and pressure."

Once again, Hamlet's language seems to work against its stated
intentions.  With this passage, should we consider the basics of optical
science-that a mirror reverses the orientation of the thing reflected?
In this passage, if Virtue is indeed virtuous, why should she scorn her
own image-or is the problem in the image, that which a mirror and the
performance reveals? By reversing the orientation of the object
reflected, do the mirror and the performance create an opposite effect?

Jack Heller
Huntington College

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