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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: October ::
The Meaning of Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1927  Thursday, 21 October 2004

[Editor's Note: I would appreciate it if contributors to this thread
would make an effort to bring it to a conclusion soon.]

[1]     From:   Colin Cox <
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 >
        Date:   Wednesday, 20 Oct 2004 08:37:35 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1918 The Meaning of Hamlet

[2]     From:   Kenneth Chan <
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 >
        Date:   Thursday, 21 Oct 2004 02:44:26 +0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1918 The Meaning of Hamlet

[3]     From:   Kenneth Chan <
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 >
        Date:   Thursday, 21 Oct 2004 03:09:16 +0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1918 The Meaning of Hamlet

[4]     From:   Kenneth Chan <
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 >
        Date:   Thursday, 21 Oct 2004 21:50:55 +0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1918 The Meaning of Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Colin Cox <
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 >
Date:           Wednesday, 20 Oct 2004 08:37:35 -0700
Subject: 15.1918 The Meaning of Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1918 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?

I think from "to have seen what I have seen" onwards Ophelia is crazy,
and yes I would agree with the loss of virginity notion.

Colin Cox

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kenneth Chan <
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 >
Date:           Thursday, 21 Oct 2004 02:44:26 +0800
Subject: 15.1918 The Meaning of Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1918 The Meaning of Hamlet

Larry Weiss writes:

 >>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."

Larry, I essentially agree with you. I did not mean to say that Claudius
was an alcoholic, but merely that he has the propensity to avoid facing
up to reality by indulging, instead, in drunken revelry. He certainly
has control of himself at other times.

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

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kenneth Chan <
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 >
Date:           Thursday, 21 Oct 2004 03:09:16 +0800
Subject: 15.1918 The Meaning of Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1918 The Meaning of Hamlet

Terence Hawkes writes:

 >"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? "

My reason for making the statement is largely given in my article at
<http://homepage.mac.com/sapphirestudios/qod/article2.html>so I won't
repeat myself here. Professor Hawkes, if you would like to elaborate
more on why you find it so stunning, I would be happy to discuss it further.

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

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kenneth Chan <
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 >
Date:           Thursday, 21 Oct 2004 21:50:55 +0800
Subject: 15.1918 The Meaning of Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1918 The Meaning of Hamlet

John Reed writes:

 >"... maybe it is a characteristic of the scholarly milieu he
 >is coming from?  What is that milieu?  It seems to be a Buddhist one,
 >but that is just a guess.  If it is, why not just say so, and put the
 >book up on the shelf: Hamlet, from a Buddhist Perspective, ..."

John, after my initial response to your post, I was informed by a close
friend privately that I was unduly didactic and that I did not
appropriately address your query. My apologies for that. Please allow me
now to offer another response which I hope would be more appropriate.

You have correctly deduced that much of the meaning in Hamlet would
concur well with Buddhist philosophy. However, the meaning in Hamlet
actually transcends the doctrinal and cultural boundaries of the various
spiritual traditions. This is evidence of deep spiritual insight, and
recognition of this would mark an important step in the appreciation of
Shakespeare's brilliance. The intriguing universality and transcendent
nature of the spiritual message in Hamlet is, in fact, striking.

A good example of what I mean can be found in Act III, Scene 1 of the
play. In Hamlet's "To Be" soliloquy, we find definite elements of what
would conform closely with The First Noble Truth in Buddhism - the truth
of suffering. In the second part of the same scene (in the dialogue
between Hamlet and Ophelia), however, we encounter definite elements of
what would conform with the teachings of Christianity. Here Hamlet goes
into a diatribe on the sinful nature of man that essentially agrees with
the Christian doctrine of man's fall from Grace and his need for redemption.

Thus, within one scene, Shakespeare has presented us with the central
teachings of two different spiritual traditions. While the Buddha's
teachings are based more on the suffering nature of our mundane
existence, Jesus' teachings are based more on the sinful nature of man
and his need for redemption.

In Hamlet, Shakespeare thus offers us both perspectives. Furthermore, he
weaves both of these perspectives into one of the central themes of the
play - our tendency to hide from the truth and to artificially beautify
reality. We generally avoid facing up to the reality of both these
truths offered by Buddhism and Christianity. We artificially beautify
the reality of our mundane existence to hide from the truth of its
suffering nature, and we also beautify the attributes of man (and
ourselves) to hide from our sinful nature.

The spiritual messages in Shakespeare's plays generally transcend the
doctrinal boundaries of the different spiritual traditions. This is what
prompts me to comment that Shakespeare's messages do not appear to be
derived purely from the intellectual interpretation of any one
religion's scriptural doctrine. The messages appear to be derived more
from the inner realization of a true mystic who has actually undertaken
the arduous task of transforming himself to meet the spiritual ideal.

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

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