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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: October ::
The Meaning of Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1876  Saturday, 9 October 2004

[1]     From:   Martin Steward <
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        Date:   Thursday, 7 Oct 2004 19:33:03 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1854 The Meaning of Hamlet

[2]     From:   Peter Bridgman <
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        Date:   Thursday, 7 Oct 2004 20:11:06 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1854 The Meaning of Hamlet

[3]     From:   R. A. Cantrell <
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        Date:   Thursday, 07 Oct 2004 14:40:47 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1854 The Meaning of Hamlet

[4]     From:   Markus Marti <
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        Date:   Friday, 08 Oct 2004 02:05:08 +0200
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1854 The Meaning of Hamlet

[5]     From:   Kenneth Chan <
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        Date:   Friday, 08 Oct 2004 09:21:30 +0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1854 The Meaning of Hamlet

[6]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Thursday, 7 Oct 2004 20:02:45 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1854 The Meaning of Hamlet

[7]     From:   Ken Campbell <
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        Date:   Thursday, 7 Oct 2004 23:31:03 -0700
        Subj:   The meaning of Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <
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Date:           Thursday, 7 Oct 2004 19:33:03 +0100
Subject: 15.1854 The Meaning of Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1854 The Meaning of Hamlet

Cheryl Newton on Hamlet, contra Cantrell:

"a well written fictional character cannot be "made" to do anything.
S/he has to have a consistent cluster of behaviors to be believable. Or,
quoting someone whose name escapes my memory: "If the character is
inconsistent, he must be consistently inconsistent."

T S Eliot was the first to use the phrase objective correlative, with
reference to Hamlet, pointing out that there wasn't one: "this is
precisely what is deficient in Hamlet."

m

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Bridgman <
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Date:           Thursday, 7 Oct 2004 20:11:06 +0100
Subject: 15.1854 The Meaning of Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1854 The Meaning of Hamlet

Don Bloom writes ...

 >Hamlet has a sword in his hands because he's (a) the prince and (b)
 >crazy. We can assume that it will be taken from him at the king's order
 >(or Polonius's backed by the king) once things calm down.

This quote from Michael Wood's book might put Hamlet's sword wearing in
context ...

"Shakespeare wore a sword and not just for show: some of his fellow
playwrights and actors - Knell, Spencer and Porter - were killed in
duels, and several - Towne, Day, Marlowe and Ben Jonson - killed other
people".

Peter Bridgman

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           R. A. Cantrell <
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Date:           Thursday, 07 Oct 2004 14:40:47 -0500
Subject: 15.1854 The Meaning of Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1854 The Meaning of Hamlet

 >R. A. Cantrell <
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 >
 >>No, Hamlet is a fictional character who can be made to do anything at
 >>all; could then, can now.
 >
 >No: a well written fictional character cannot be "made" to do anything.
 >S/he has to have a consistent cluster of behaviors to be believable.

There is no incumbency acting upon fictional charters to be believable,

 >Or, quoting someone whose name escapes my memory: "If the character is
 >inconsistent, he must be consistently inconsistent."

nor must a fictional character . . .anything, ever.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Markus Marti <
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Date:           Friday, 08 Oct 2004 02:05:08 +0200
Subject: 15.1854 The Meaning of Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1854 The Meaning of Hamlet

 >After accidentally killing Polonius, Hamlet is hardly in
 >a position to confront Claudius and kill him. Hamlet might not even know
 >where Claudius is at that time.

Quite true, Mr. Chan. Killing Polonius does not score many points
anyway. We know where Claudius is, but Claudius has to be killed at the
very end. And do not go to the churchyard afterwards, if you are Hamlet.

Try
http://www.robinjohnson.f9.co.uk/adventure/hamlet.html

Cheers,
Markus Marti

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kenneth Chan <
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Date:           Friday, 08 Oct 2004 09:21:30 +0800
Subject: 15.1854 The Meaning of Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1854 The Meaning of Hamlet

John W. Kennedy writes:

 >>"In his own words: "I do not know why yet I live to say this thing's
 >>to do, Sith I have cause, and will, and strength, and means to do't."
 > ...
 >>So if Shakespeare means to convey the idea that Hamlet delayed
 >>because of lack of proof, why would he write this line?
 >
 >Because he is a subtler artist than that."

Isn't it far more likely, though, that Hamlet's delay was simply not
caused by the problem of proof? The line Shakespeare wrote directly
contradicts this "lack of proof" idea. There is a difference between
being subtle and being inconsistent.

If we interpret Shakespeare correctly, he can be shown, in fact, to be
remarkably consistent in conveying his meaning. And this consistency
appears not just over the delay issue; it covers the entire play. In
other words, we can demonstrate that Shakespeare has meticulously
crafted the entire play to consistently convey a specific message.

This brings us to the question of whether or not there is a
"correct/incorrect" way to interpret Shakespeare. I believe there is
this difference in how we interpret his plays and it can be
demonstrated; it is simply not a "laissez faire" situation where we
interpret Shakespeare any way we want to.

All this revolves around the question of consistency. If we interpret
his meaning correctly, Shakespeare is extremely consistent, not just
over one aspect of the play, but over the entire play. If we interpret
him wrongly, all sorts of inconsistencies and contradictions appear, so
much so that Hamlet can end up being labeled an "artistic failure." We
must realize that this is not Shakespeare's fault; it is our own fault
for reading him wrongly.

L. Swilley writes:

 >"I cannot defend it, but I like to believe that Hamlet delays because he
 >does not have public evidence of Claudius' crime - without which his
 >killing of Claudius will throw the state into turmoil and shatter his
 >own claim to the throne - until the last scene, where that crime is
 >defined surprisingly as one against Hamlet himself, not against his
 >father."

The problem with this argument is that Hamlet actually did not delay
until he had public evidence against Claudius. He already set out to
kill him after the play-within-a-play scene. Hamlet rejected his first
opportunity to do so because he did not want to send Claudius to heaven.
He certainly took what he thought was his second opportunity (only he
ended up killing the wrong man behind the arras). All this suggests that
Hamlet was not at all concerned about public evidence.

Regards,
Kenneth Chan
http://homepage.mac.com/sapphirestudios/qod/index.html


[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Thursday, 7 Oct 2004 20:02:45 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 15.1854 The Meaning of Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1854 The Meaning of Hamlet

D Bloom writes, "Hamlet has a sword in his hands because he's (a) the
prince and (b) crazy. We can assume that it will be taken from him at
the king's order (or Polonius's backed by the king) once things calm
down...His hope that the man he has stabbed through the arras is his
uncle causes a different problem...On the other hand it may have been
done consciously as an irony: Hamlet strikes wildly and, instead of
resolving his problem, kills the wrong man...Of course, Hamlet does not
think carefully. But why should we expect him to?"

Well, I think you as a reader are "crazy" to suggest that Prince Hamlet
the character is "crazy."  You have your whim in your allegation, and no
evidence.  In fact, recently in another thread, someone suggested that
Polonius was "The First Minister of State" and I queried the truth and
certainty of that statement.  Where are the Shakesperean scholars on
this query?

If Polonius were, indeed, "The First Minister of State" then he is a
minion of his father's murderer, Claudius the king, and a whole
different spin is placed upon this scene in "his" mother's bed-chamber.
  In the same light, Laertes and Ophelia become victims of Claudius and
Polonius and their evil deed, assuming Polonius is an accessory to the
murder before the fact.

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

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ken Campbell <
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Date:           Thursday, 7 Oct 2004 23:31:03 -0700
Subject:        The meaning of Hamlet

I know I am poking a hornets nest with too short a stick and I am about
to get flamed unmercifully but as an actor who has done 28 of his plays,
I have always gone with my instincts if I can justify them in the text
so here goes.

I have always been intrigued by the drink.

"O that this too too sallied flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew.

Like Brick in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof looking for the click. If I could
just drink enough to numb this unbearable pain.

Then the first thing he says to his friend Horatio.

  "But what is your affair in Elsinore?

We'll teach you to drink[deep] ere you depart."  as we do when sober
people catch us pie-eyed in the afternoon.

Also why just before the Ghost reveals himself to Hamlet does Hamlet say

"But to my mind,-though I am native here
And to the manner born,-it is a custom
More honour'd in the breach than the observance.

This heavy-headed revel east and west
Makes us traduc'd and tax'd of other nations;
They clepe us drunkards, and with swinish phrase
Soil our addition; and indeed it takes

 From our achievements, though perform'd at height,
The pith and marrow of our attribute.
So, oft it chances in particular men,
That for some vicious mole of nature in them,

Then later "Well said old mole

As, in their birth,-wherein they are not guilty,
Since nature cannot choose his origin,-
By the o'ergrowth of some complexion,
Oft breaking down the pales and forts of reason,

Or by some habit that too much o'er-leavens
The form of plausive manners; that these men,
Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect,
Being nature's livery, or fortune's star,

Their virtues else, be they as pure as grace,
As infinite as man may undergo,
Shall in the general censure take corruption
 From that particular fault: the dram of [ev l]

Doth all the noble substance of a doubt,
To his own scandal.
Isn't he talking about himself.

All the behaviors of an alcoholic are exhibited in Hamlet.  Depression,
indecisiveness, impulsivity...

The scene with his mother in her chamber seems to me as drink sodden as
any scene out of O'Neill or Albee

I believe Polonius is stabbed in an alcoholic rage.

Why does Claudius believe Hamlet will not be able to turn down a drink.

Then there is the training Hamlet refers to after he accepts Leartes
challenge.

I believe he returns from England sober because he seems like a
completely different guy.   Yes, he does jump into Ophelia's grave but
only after Leartes does the same. He seems much more rational for the
most part upon his return.

  Is there significance in Gertrude's carousal to Hamlet. "The drink the
drink I am poisoned."  Alcoholism is a congenital form of mental
illness. They say insanity is the repetition of mal-adjusted self
defeating acts and in a society of heavy drinkers someone who is not a
sloppy drunk and who is seemingly functional might appear crazy.

So set your wits to the grind stones and I'll gird my loins for the
coming vivisection.

J. Kenneth Campbell
Bardline Academy
visit at bardlineacademy.com

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