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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: December ::
Real Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.2037  Wednesday, 1 December 2004

[1]     From:   Jack Heller <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Nov 2004 08:01:21 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.2030 Real Hamlet

[2]     From:   John Briggs <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Nov 2004 13:12:34 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.2030 Real Hamlet, or Variorum Edition

[3]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Nov 2004 06:55:11 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.2030 Real Hamlet

[4]     From:   Kathy Dent <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Nov 2004 15:29:12 +0000
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.2030 Real Hamlet

[5]     From:   Will Sharpe <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Nov 2004 16:29:46 +0000
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.2030 Real Hamlet

[6]     From:   Scott Sharplin <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Nov 2004 11:26:25 -0700 (MST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.2030 Real Hamlet

[7]     From:   Duncan Salkeld <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Nov 2004 20:08:18 +0000 (GMT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.2030 Real Hamlet

[8]     From:   Stephen C. Rose <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Nov 2004 16:50:12 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.2030 Real Hamlet

[9]     From:   Colin Cox <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Nov 2004 20:09:45 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.2030 Real Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Heller <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Nov 2004 08:01:21 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 15.2030 Real Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.2030 Real Hamlet

Dr. Swilley writes:

 >2) We cannot know precisely what Shakespeare or any other writer
 >intended (After the fact of writing, I doubt that they themselves
could say
 >exactly), we know only our interpretation of it, and that must suffer and
 >survive the examination of consistency of argument.

I would suggest a case study to illustrate this point: trace Arthur
Miller's comments on Death of a Salesman in his collection of theater
essays, spanning decades since he completed its writing. At times, his
intention seems sociological, other times theological, always transforming.

I'll ask again a question I raised earlier: Does anyone know when there
was any general awareness that Thomas Kyd had written a version of
Hamlet, and particularly when it was lost?

Heller

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Briggs <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Nov 2004 13:12:34 -0000
Subject: 15.2030 Real Hamlet, or Variorum Edition
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.2030 Real Hamlet, or Variorum Edition

Edward Brown wrote:

 >In an earlier post, Bill Arnold seems to equate and confuse Variorum
 >(various) with
 >veritas or verus (true), implying that a variorum edition is a "true"
 >edition, rather than merely a collection of editions and notes from
 >various editors.

This seems to be a suitable opening for my riff on 'Variorum':

The term 'variorum edition' is used to describe an edition that gives
the variant readings (variae lectiones) from previous editions or
manuscripts. Such an edition is an 'editio cum variis lectionibus'
(edition with various readings).

The term 'Variorum' derives from the description (by booksellers,
mostly) of the editions of Shakespeare of 1803, 1813
(Johnson/Steevens/Reed) and 1821 (Malone/Boswell) as the First, Second
and Third Variorum, and hence also the "New Variorum" series (1871-).
It was thought at the time that the Unique Selling Point (USP) of those
editions was not, in fact, the variant readings, but the notes by the
various editors and commentators that had been gathered together.  Such
an edition is an 'editio cum notis variorum' (edition with notes of
various people [i.e. editors]).

History has decided that their significance lay elsewhere, but the name
has stuck.

John Briggs

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Nov 2004 06:55:11 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 15.2030 Real Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.2030 Real Hamlet

Edward Brown writes, "In an earlier post, Bill Arnold seems to equate
and confuse Variorum (various) with veritas or verus (true), implying
that a variorum edition is a 'true' edition, rather than merely a
collection of editions and notes from various editors."

Well, "seems" is the operative word in your response, and I refer you to
that. Actually, once the *variorum editions* are done and in cement,
then in fact the *TRUTH* is out.  As Emily Dickinson put it, so aptly,
in Poem 1455:

"Opinion is a flitting thing, / But Truth, outlasts the Sun--"

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

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kathy Dent <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Nov 2004 15:29:12 +0000
Subject: 15.2030 Real Hamlet
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.2030 Real Hamlet

Bill Arnold seems to have come a full circle.

His original question was:

"... what IS Hamlet and how do we know which Hamlet is in which Hamlet?
Can anyone really know?  Unless we decide upon THE TEXT of Hamlet then
it does seem meaningless and fruitless to argue about Prince Hamlet
unless we can attribute which words to him."

But now he is asserting this:

" As scholars, we ought to be able intellectually discover the "real
Hamlet" in the text."

If Bill has not arrived at a solution to his original question of WHICH
text, then which "real Hamlet" is he referring to?  And I'm not sure how
he's going about analysing the collective unconscious to which he so
casually refers.  I don't have access to it, so I'm afraid I have no
idea how Hamlet is configured there --- most likely a figure in black
smoking a cigar, holding a skull and murmurring 'to be or not to be..'
Hamlet didn't do this in ANY of the texts, so any appeal to popular
notions about Hamlet is surely a bit doobey doobey dubious, Bill.

Kathy Dent

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Will Sharpe <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Nov 2004 16:29:46 +0000
Subject: 15.2030 Real Hamlet
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.2030 Real Hamlet

Bill Arnold writes:

"As scholars, we ought to be able intellectually discover the "real
Hamlet" in the text."

How can the act of intellectual discovery not automatically result in a
personal appropriation of anything? Somewhere along the line of
objective inquiry into the text (and God knows, we've all tried) one has
to develop an opinion, which will always be different from the 'real
Hamlet', as there is no such thing. The only alternative is to defer to
the endlessly regenerative and autoreflexive universe of signs
(apologies to John Freccero for stealing his term), which also doesn't
get us anywhere, unless we say that the 'real' Hamlet is 'no' Hamlet.
This would be a perfectly reasonable thing to do, but I don't see how
it's any more or less valid than Colin Cox's Hamlet. It seems to me that
there can never be an empirical Hamlet that exists outside of the
individual imagination; he/it certainly doesn't exist in the collective
imagination, as proved by the very fact that we're arguing about it
right now. I usually stay out of discussions like this, but was faintly
disgusted by the tone of Bill Arnold's rebuttal of Colin Cox's post, as
it bore the tacit implication that a scholarly opinion will always
outweigh an actorly one (this reflects no personal bias, as I come at it
from the scholarly side myself), and read simply like a high-handed put
down. That, combined with the tactic of selective capitalisation of
certain words, which is extremely disrespectful to the intelligence of
your interlocutor, forced this email out of me.

Tentatively,
Will Sharpe

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Scott Sharplin <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Nov 2004 11:26:25 -0700 (MST)
Subject: 15.2030 Real Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.2030 Real Hamlet

Bill Arnold is making an egregious error when he dismisses all actors'
interpretations of Hamlet. Not only are his comments elitist, they are
self-restrictive as well. Mr. Arnold could do well to learn from the
professionals who invest more time, energy and personal risk in
understanding Shakespeare than academics ever will.

To state that "Your Hamlet and Fred's Hamlet and Mel Gibson's Hamlet and
Bill's Hamlet and Annalisa"s Hamlet have nothing to do with Will
Shakespeare's Hamlet" suggests that theatre and performance have nothing
to do with Shakespeare. It is a declaration of academic snobbery that
even elementary school children would recognize to be untrue.

Mr. Arnold's anecdote about the writer of "Flowers for Algernon" only
demonstrates how far from reality his interpretation of Shakespeare's
works must be. Dan Keyes was upset when his short story was adapted to
FILM, ie. into a totally new medium with which the source text was
scarcely compatible. Besides, Keyes' text is PROSE, not drama. It was
never meant to be performed in any context.

Shakespeare wrote his plays to be performed. Period. Of all the
mysterious aspects of the man's aesthetics, this is one which we can say
with total confidence. He didn't care whether the plays got published or
read; he wanted them to be performed. By actors. Which is to say,
interpreted by actors.

I grant that many productions of Hamlet are bad, and fail to capture the
spirit (or the sense) of the script. Likewise, many essays, books and
theses fail to locate "the Real Hamlet". But surely, if nothing else, we
can regard these two time-honoured disciplines as equally worthy
endeavours to discover and represent that truth.

One further point of contention: Mr. Arnold makes reference to the
"zillions" of "readers" who nurture Hamlet in their collective
unconscious, and attributes that to having read, not seen the play.
Actually, the "collective unconscious" (or pop-culture) perception of
Hamlet comes from late 19th/early 20th century PRODUCTIONS of the play -
you know, John Barrymore or Gielgud as the thin, pale, melancholy Dane.
I think you will find a larger portion of the unwashed zillion to have
had exposure to Hamlet in this way-through images based upon productions
-- than through readings or critical interpretations.

Actor, Director, and Scholar
Scott Sharplin

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Duncan Salkeld <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Nov 2004 20:08:18 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: 15.2030 Real Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.2030 Real Hamlet

It seems a pity that the interesting and helpful posts in this thread by
Jack Heller and Kathy Dent haven't yet received any comment, despite
raising fascinating questions and offering important further reading.
I'd like to add that on the Ur-Hamlet, Kyd and Shakespeare, Harold
Jenkins (Arden 2, 1982, 97 passim) and George Hibbard (Oxford, 1987, pp.
12-14) both offer valuable discussions.

On Jack Heller's question regarding early signs of an awareness that Kyd
may have been responsible for a lost 'Ur-Hamlet', there is no evidence
(that I know of) quite of that kind prior to the printed versions of
Shakespeare's play.   Much later, Richard Farmer, in 'An Essay on the
Learning of Shakespeare: Addressed to John Craddock, Esq', (1767)
pointed out that Lodge's 'Wits miserie' (1596) refers to 'the Visard of
ye ghost, which cried so miserably at ye Theatre, like an oister-wife,
Hamlet reuenge'.   This fact Farmer took as proof that Shakespeare wrote
the play prior to 1596, a claim that seems somewhat startling today.
But there is no doubt that at least one pre-1600 version of the play did
exist.  The facts are pretty well-known:

Nashe's Preface to Greene's Menaphon (1589) seems to refer to Kyd who
will over-night 'afford you whole Hamlets - I should say handfuls - of
tragical speeches'.  Five years later, Philip Henslowe recorded a modest
8 shillings taken for a performance of Hamlet by both the Lord Admiral's
and the Lord Chamberlain's men on 9 June 1594 at Newington Butts.
Dekker's Satiromastix (1601) has a character named Tucca assert, 'My
name's Hamlet revenge: thou hast seen it at Paris Garden, hast not?'  It
is thought that Chamberlain's played at the Swan in the autumn of 1596.
   So it seems that by 1596, someone's version of Hamlet had been played
by Shakespeare's company at Newington Butts, the Theatre and the Swan.

Harold Bloom (1999) wasted no time in arguing, after Peter Alexander,
that this lost Ur-Hamlet was Shakespeare's, and that Shakespeare
continued to revise it all the way through to the versions printed in
1604 and 1623.  Yet, we simply don't know who authored the text(s)
hinted at in these early allusions. Nashe's remark would suggest Kyd.
It might be worth adding one point: the anonymous play Locrine, written
probably in the 1580s, registered by Thomas Creede in 1594 and published
the following year, was advertised on its title page as 'Newly set
foorth, ouerseene and corrected, by W. S.'.   Locrine belongs among the
so-called 'Shakespeare Apocrypha' and has some affinities with King
Lear.   Yet it contains two ghosts, young Albanact who declaims
"Reuenge! Reuenge for blood!' (III.vi.41) and Corineius whose daughter
Guendoline reports that 'My father's  ghoast still haunts me for
reuenge, / Crying Reuenge my ouerhastned death' (V.iv.168-9).   Shortly
afterwards, the young woman Sabren drowns herself.  I don't suggest that
Locrine is any kind of 'source' for the Hamlets we more familiarly
associate with Shakespeare.  But if Shakespeare did 'oversee' Locrine,
as some (not all) believe he did, then he was quite capable of
'overseeing' and eventually re-writing Kyd's, or anyone else's, Hamlet,
and then re-writing it again.  The title page of Q2 bears the following
statement: 'By William Shake-speare.  Newly imprinted and enlarged to
almost as much againe as it was, according to the true and perfect
Coppie.' The words 'as it was' in that statement are usually taken to
refer to Q1 (almost certainly a memorial reconstruction - hence the
phrase 'according to the true and perfect Coppie'), but could also
allude to an 'authorised' version by Shakespeare of similar length.
What, we might ask, did Shakespeare enlarge?  Clearly, not Q1 since it
wasn't really his.

Duncan Salkeld

[8]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephen C. Rose <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Nov 2004 16:50:12 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 15.2030 Real Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.2030 Real Hamlet

Annalisa's statement "I can have any text I want" interests me because I
am presently doing some work with Nietszche and I feel it is almost
essential to know if texts are his or not. If I followed that rubric, I
could end up deciding that spurious texts published by N's sister
Elisabeth suited my purpose and join in tarring and feathering N. as a
precursor of Reich 3.

I am at pains to not only choose texts I want to use but to have some
scholarly indication that they came from his pen.

I can see the rubric in some situations but not in all.

Best, S

[9]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Colin Cox <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Nov 2004 20:09:45 -0800
Subject: 15.2030 Real Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.2030 Real Hamlet

Bill Arnold writes:

 >So, can you NOT understand that not all readers and scholars see
 >Shakespeare as drama or a movie or a TV drama: but they do READ the
 >text[s] and there is a "real Hamlet" which a lot of actors and directors
 >BUTCHER, regardless of their type-casting, age, sex, whatever.

I would be mightily surprised if there are two readers of the text of
Hamlet that after a first read, without any prodding from profs such as
Bill, could ever agree upon a 'real' Hamlet. You have as much chance of
finding the 'real' Hamlet as putting an army of monkeys into a roomful
of typewriters, though I guess today it should be powerbooks, and
waiting for them to come up with War and Peace!!

Colin Cox

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