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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: September ::
The Meaning of Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1690  Thursday, 9 September 2004

[1]     From:   R. A. Cantrell <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 08 Sep 2004 07:42:27 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1681 The Meaning of Hamlet

[2]     From:   D Bloom <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 8 Sep 2004 08:21:06 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.1681 The Meaning of Hamlet

[3]     From:   Kenneth Chan <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 08 Sep 2004 21:31:40 +0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1681 The Meaning of Hamlet

[4]     From:   Cheryl Newton <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 08 Sep 2004 12:45:23 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1681 The Meaning of Hamlet

[5]     From:   Dan Smith <
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        Date:   Thursday, 9 Sep 2004 09:30:43 +0100
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.1647 The Meaning of Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           R. A. Cantrell <
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Date:           Wednesday, 08 Sep 2004 07:42:27 -0500
Subject: 15.1681 The Meaning of Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1681 The Meaning of Hamlet

 >The profundity of Shakespeare's message lies not

I suppose that if K. Chan has his way, Hamlet and a few other of the
canon will become known as "The Essay Plays."

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           D Bloom <
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Date:           Wednesday, 8 Sep 2004 08:21:06 -0500
Subject: 15.1681 The Meaning of Hamlet
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.1681 The Meaning of Hamlet

Kenneth Chan responding to T. Hawkes:

"The profundity of Shakespeare's message lies not in the mere
intellectual acknowledgement of the way we waste our lives chasing after
irrelevancies. The profundity of the message hits us only when we come
to a deep realization of it within us, and when we stop behaving in that
way and actually face up to the profound."

To borrow from Daffy Duck, I have a pronoun problem here. What is the
referent of "it" in "a deep realization of it"? If "profundity" then the
sentence is circular: we realize the profundity only when we realize the
profundity. I am confident that's not what's meant, but "message" as a
referent also leaves me perplexed. Since "profound" means "deep" we
would appear to have another circular sentence: "the depth of the
message hits us only when we come to a deep realization of the message."

I have a similar problem with "that way" which I guess refers to the
process of wasting time by chasing after irrelevancies. I have no idea
what are the irrelevancies (money? women / men? power? fame? your
disobedient dog?), nor in what way they are irrelevant, nor why we
mustn't chase them.

I won't go into my problems with "face up to the profound."

Cheers
don

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kenneth Chan <
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Date:           Wednesday, 08 Sep 2004 21:31:40 +0800
Subject: 15.1681 The Meaning of Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1681 The Meaning of Hamlet

Gabriel Egan writes:

 >"Kenneth Chan refers repeatedly to the "message" of Hamlet:
 >>. . . an integral part of Shakespeare's spiritual message . . .
 >>. . . The message is conveyed through what the action . . .
 >>. . .Because Shakespeare conveys his messages in this way . . .
 >>. . . we may well miss the message of the play . . .
 >
 >Only because the SHAKSPER archive appears to indicate that no-one has
 >mentioned it before, I recommend Brendan Behan's response to a question
 >about the message of one of his poems: "The message? I'm not a fucking
 >postman"."

Suffice to say that Brendan Behan is not William Shakespeare, and cannot
speak on his behalf.

Perhaps Gabriel Egan would like to elaborate why he seems so sure there
is no message in Shakespeare's plays (...please correct me if I am
misreading his post). I would certainly be interested to hear the
evidence for this.

I can, on the other hand, offer plenty of evidence that Shakespeare did
meticulously craft Hamlet to convey a specific message. Perhaps we
should compare notes then. Otherwise we may be doing Shakespeare a great
injustice.

Regards
Kenneth Chan
http://www.hamlet.vze.com

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Cheryl Newton <
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Date:           Wednesday, 08 Sep 2004 12:45:23 -0400
Subject: 15.1681 The Meaning of Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1681 The Meaning of Hamlet

Larry Weiss writes:

 >Then you (Cheryl) must know the difference between hypomania and mania.  I
 >have  often seen Hamlet played as if he were in the hypomanic phase
 >(especially in the closet scene), but never in the throes of full mania.
 > If he were played that way, it would be so far over the top that it
 >would be laughed off the stage.

Ah, that brings back a memory of disappointment!  I saw a butchered
version by the National Shakespeare Co, & Hamlet was played in wildly
exaggerated terms.  Among other behaviours, he spent part of the
production crawling around pretending to be a dog, lifting his leg to
"urinate" on people.  Any self respecting actor *would* have let the
laughter drive him off the stage.  The cast consisted of 3 women & 3
men, obviously involving doubling & tripling of roles, with only minimal
costume adjustments.  Audience members not familiar with the play were
having a hard time following it, as I could tell from whispered comments
going on all around me. At the intermission, two coeds asked me if the
play was over.  It got so bad that the audience started to laugh in
anticipation whenever Hamlet would come on stage.

You're right.  The character is much more believable as
hypo("lesser")manic rather than manic.  That interpretation also leaves
room for his voluntary antic disposition.  And, so the medical pro's
tell me, it much harder to Dx a person with hypomania v. full mania.
The behaviours are more open to interpretation.

Cheryl

John Reed <
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 >

 >Could the Ghost have appeared (as itself, as perceived by the audience)
 >when Polonius thinks it is Reynaldo?  How about the Gravedigger?

The Ghost as the Gravedigger!  Now there's an interesting bit of action.
  I'd love to see a director try it.

In the Campbell Scott production, the Ghost makes occasional appearances
other than those scripted.  Claudius sees the Player King transform
briefly into Old Hamlet.  Hamlet, dying, looks to the various assembled
court members & sees the Ghost standing among them.

Cheryl

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dan Smith <
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Date:           Thursday, 9 Sep 2004 09:30:43 +0100
Subject: 15.1647 The Meaning of Hamlet
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.1647 The Meaning of Hamlet

At a recent Shakespeare Birthplace trust study day I was able to ask the
current RSC Gertrude, Sian Thomas whether Gertrude's inability to see
the ghost had been discussed in Michael Boyd's production. She said that
it was discussed. Sian Thomas felt that the most interesting analysis of
Gertrude's part is that she starts the play as a cloistered and
superficial character who was unaware of the plot to murder Hamlet Sr.
During the course of the play she is increasingly required to face
gruesome reality (in this production she is convinced by Hamlet of
Claudius' murder in the closet scene) until she knowingly drinks the
poison to commit suicide herself and perhaps aid her son. This seems a
more interesting reading of the part than some I have seen in which
Gertrude is simply unaware of what is going on because she is constantly
sloshed and hence dies because she drinks anything to hand! Sian Thomas
felt that it therefore makes sense that she cannot see the Ghost - she
just isn't ready to see him. However some of the stage business has
Gertrude mirroring actions of the Ghost on stage and this put me in mind
of the neurological condition blind sight in which people with
unimpaired eyesight and visual processing are not conscious of any
functioning vision. Yet when asked to guess what objects are placed in
front of them they do this better than chance revealing that they are
subliminally able to see despite lacking conscious awareness
(http://www.psyjournals.com/abstracts/hh/sjp/2003/03/body-sjp6203159.html).

Sian believed that a production by John Barton (I forget the actress)
had made it clear that Gertrude could see the ghost (Gertrude fainted)
but that this was contrary to the sense of the text.

If you pursue the visibility of the ghost question further in the light
of what works as drama - if the ghost appeared to the entire court and
all the secrets were revealed (like the ending of an episode of Scooby
Doo) then the play would surely be eviscerated. I think it would also be
inevitably diminished if Gertrude could see and talk to the ghost.

Dan Smith

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