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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: June ::
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The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1233  Thursday, 10 June 2004

From:           Reg Grouse <
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Date:           Thursday, 10 Jun 2004 11:12:45 +1000
Subject: 15.1162 Feedback Requested
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1162 Feedback Requested

Norman Hinton writes:

 >'in case anyone here thinks that
 >Olivier, with or without Freud, made up the idea that Hamlet 'could not
 >make up his mind' -- in 1905 A.C. Bradley noted that this very typical
 >piece of Hamlet criticism can be traced to Schlegel and to Coleridge
 >(both of whom died before Freud was born).'

Yes, the statement was a little naive but it had some basis if you
consider Hamlet's psychological characteristics.  His first soliloquy
gives us an indication not only of his mental state but how he thinks
about himself. It is introspective and sensitive to his condition.  We
saw the beginnings of Shakespeare's introspective soliloquies in Richard
II. In Hamlet, Shakespeare takes a  further step.  It tempts us to ask
what the characteristics of  introverts are.  We know that they do
consider deeply before they take action.  They do have trouble making a
decision if they have time to do so. We also know that they can react
quickly to situations when they have no time to think. The special
quality they have, one could call it their golden quality, is
sensitivity.  On the other hand the extrovert, who obviously has a less
worrysome life, acts first and thinks afterwards.  He enjoys his
mistakes as much as his successes.  He is not particularly sensitive to
his own or others problems. If problems arise he deals with them
immediately.

In Hamlet, Shakespeare contrasts these characteristics in the three
princes in the play.  Laertes hears of his father's murder and
immediately returns to Denmark collecting supporters on the way.  He
breaks the doors and enters the King's chambers:  IV v 109 - 136
(Arden).  There is no hesitation or careful consideration before his action.

In Hamlet's 'How all occasions do inform against me,' soliloquoy, Hamlet
contrasts his own inaction with Fortinbras' action:

'Witness this army of such mass and charge,
Led by a delicate and tender prince,
Whose spirit, with devine ambition puff'd,
Makes mouths at the invisible event,
Exposing what is mortal and unsure
To all that fortune, death, and danger dare,
Even for an eggshell. . . .'  and:
                                   'How stand I then,
That have a father kill'd, a mother stain'd,
Excitements of my reason and my blood,
And let all sleep, while to my shame I see
The imminent death of twenty thousand men
That, for a fantacy and trick of fame,
Go to their graves like beds, fight for a plot
Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause,
Which is not tomb enough and continent
To hide the slain? O, from this time forth
My thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth.'

Hamlet is quite aware of his shortcomings in decision -making. He makes
this point in his soliloquy, 'O what a rogue and peasant slave am I!'

In this sense Hamlet was a man who could not make up his mind.  In
contrast to his delay in making a decision to kill the king, he manages
to leap into action (or reaction) when he is surprised by Polonius and
when the pirates attack his ship.

Cheers, R.

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