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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: October ::
The Meaning of Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1918  Wednesday, 20 October 2004

[1]     From:   Stephen C. Rose <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Oct 2004 12:00:26 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1910 The Meaning of Hamlet

[2]     From:   Colin Cox <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Oct 2004 12:48:58 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1910 The Meaning of Hamlet

[3]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 19 Oct 2004 18:23:13 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1910 The Meaning of Hamlet

[4]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Oct 2004 07:24:10 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 15.1910 The Meaning of Hamlet

[5]     From:   Kenneth Chan <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Oct 2004 09:20:17 +0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1910 The Meaning of Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephen C. Rose <
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Date:           Tuesday, 19 Oct 2004 12:00:26 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 15.1910 The Meaning of Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1910 The Meaning of Hamlet

Are Ophelia's suggestive songs when she is allegedly acting crazy a
gloss either on the K and Q's relationship, or on her's with Hamlet --
and, if the latter, to an implicit loss of virginity?

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Colin Cox <
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Date:           Tuesday, 19 Oct 2004 12:48:58 -0700
Subject: 15.1910 The Meaning of Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1910 The Meaning of Hamlet

 >>Burleigh was well reputed for his pithy aphorisms as reflected in
 >>Polonius' advice to his offspring. Also the fishmonger comment can be
 >>attributed to Burleigh.
 >
 >Is there documentary evidence for this attribution?

The tradition that Polonius (or Corambis (Cabbage served up twice is
death), if we go with Q1) is a parody of Burghley first arose, I
believe, with a connection between the advice scene and Burghley's own
'Precepts' to his son Sir Robert (I'd love to see Laertes as a
hunchback!). Now it is true this was somewhat of a tradition. Raleigh
wrote 'Instructions to his Son' and the 9th earl of Northumberland wrote
'Advice to his Son.' There is also a letter that Sir Philip Sidney
received from his father with a slew of 'listen to dad' stuff.

And of course a fishmonger can easily be understood to be a 'bawd' and
Polonius certainly is 'selling' his daughter, but Burghley was very
closely tied to an number of attempts to pass a law making Wednesday's
the other Friday! (I have no Oxfordian intent here!)

Further to this, and this would be a hefty discussion, I believe William
to be very closely linked to both Essex and Southampton and would have a
host of reasons to want Burghley 'lambasted.'

All food for thought, and certainly has helped all the actors I have
directed in the role.

Note to Bill Arnold: yes I do think it makes Will's intention as a
dramatist clearer; certainly as an actor. I like your notion of the
rhymes. But then we get into that age old conundrum, 'what's in a name?'
- if anyone knows it's William.

Colin Cox

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Tuesday, 19 Oct 2004 18:23:13 -0400
Subject: 15.1910 The Meaning of Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1910 The Meaning of Hamlet

 >I agree that Shakespeare definitely highlights Claudius's alcoholic
 >indulgence. There is no dispute that Claudius has this problem.

No dispute?  There is no evidence he does have this problem.  Claudius
celebrates with drink; but don't most of us?  Are we all alkies?  At no
point does Claudius appear to be other than in complete control of
himself  -- yes, even at the end of The Mousetrap, after intolerable
provocation and on an occasion when drink would be flowing.

When Hamlet says he more honors the breach of the drinking custom, even
though he is "to the manner born," I take him at his word.  But what
does he mean?  Surely not just that he was born in Denmark where
drinking is common, for then the statement would be redundant:  "I am
native here and to the manner born."  It seems to me that Hamlet is
saying that at least one of his parents was addicted to drink.  There is
nothing to suggest that Hamlet pere was, so that leaves Gertrude unless
we accept T. Hawkes's speculation that Claudius was Hamlet's natural
father.  Even then, "to the manner born" could nor refer to Claudius
unless Hamlet was aware of his bastardy, and the entire plot belies that.

Gertrude as a lush makes a lot of sense in the context of other scenes,
such as her narration of Ophelia's death.  It makes her death
particularly poignant:  "The queen carouses to thy fortune, Hamlet. ...
Gertruide, do not drink./  I will my lord; I pray you pardon me."  It
sounds like the sort of echange that might have been commonplace in the
royal apartment if this interpretation is correct.  And, that would be
even more reason to believe Claudius is not an alcoholic.  He is not
even an enabler.

I have posted on this subject before, so I will not repeat all I have
said.  I refer anyone who might be interested to the archives.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 Oct 2004 07:24:10 -0400
Subject: The Meaning of Hamlet
Comment:        SHK 15.1910 The Meaning of Hamlet

Kenneth Chan's revelation that

 >"a key message in Hamlet is exactly that we should be true to
ourselves and
 >face up to reality"

is nothing short of stunning. Could the same 'key message' possibly
appear in works by other great artists? I've just had a letter from the
Inland Revenue that contains a strikingly similar injunction.

T. Hawkes

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kenneth Chan <
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Date:           Wednesday, 20 Oct 2004 09:20:17 +0800
Subject: 15.1910 The Meaning of Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1910 The Meaning of Hamlet

John Reed writes:

 >"So, Kenneth, you're not approaching this from a Humanist point of view,
 >it seems.  What is your point of view?  Is it your own idiosyncratic
 >one, or does it have something in common with somebody else's?"

John, I guess you are basically asking me which school or religious
doctrine I am following. We can, of course, also pose a similar question
regarding Shakespeare, i.e. what school or religious doctrine does
Shakespeare subscribe to? I will address these questions, but perhaps
not in the usual way.

Let me first pose another question. In order to be spiritual, does one
have to follow a particular religious doctrine or a particular religious
text, and intellectually study what that text says? In other words, must
the spiritual path be based on some kind of belief system?

Let me now state unequivocally here what I hold to be true: Blind faith
can be dangerous and harmful. If we are lucky, we may end up believing
in something beneficial; if we are not so lucky, well ... I think you
can figure out some possible dire consequences.

If there is one message I would like to propagate, it would be exactly
this: Blind faith can be potentially dangerous and harmful; the true
spiritual path is based on verification, just as any scientific
discipline is based on verification.

The only difference is that spiritual principles cannot be publicly
demonstrated and proved to everyone in the way a scientific principle
can. It is not like a scientific experiment we can conduct in a lab and
openly demonstrate to others; in order to verify a spiritual principle,
each of us has to experience it for ourselves. In other words, we each
have to take the spiritual path ourselves and verify the truth for
ourselves. There is no other way.

What needs to be done is actually simple to put in words, but
unfortunately rather difficult to implement. What is required on the
spiritual path is essentially this: Each of us has to transform
ourselves, step by step, towards the higher spiritual ideal that each of
us can perceive. It is based on what we KNOW (not believe) we have to do
to become a better person.

Every one of us knows at least one thing we can do to transform into a
better person. This then is the next step we have to take. We must act
on it. We have to take every next step that we each KNOW is required to
transform into a better person. When we have achieved that step
immediately before us, we will always know the next step following that.
The process is akin to climbing a mountain - the view gets clearer with
each new height we reach. And if we continue this process, we will reach
the very summit. Unfortunately, if we refuse the next step before us,
that is where we stop. We have to cross every threshold we know we have
to cross, for there is no other way to progress.

As we transform ourselves in this way, the spiritual principles will
unfold before us. We will verify them because we will experience them
directly. There is no need then for the intellectual study or belief in
any written dogma. We will already have verified for ourselves which
teachings are correct. Make no mistake, I am not asking anyone to
believe this. What I am saying is that we can each verify all this for
ourselves. The only question we have to ask ourselves is this: Are we
prepared to make the commitment and do it?

I consider Shakespeare to be a highly spiritual being because the
messages in his plays do not appear to be derived from a mere
intellectual interpretation of any particular religion's scriptural
doctrine. The nature of the messages strongly suggests that they are the
direct realizations of an advanced mystic who has actually undertaken
the arduous task of transforming his life and personality towards the
spiritual ideal. True aspirants of the spiritual path - the saints and
the bodhisattvas - attain their realizations from direct experience.

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

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