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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: December ::
Shadowplay
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.2002  Monday, 5 December 2005

[1] 	From: 	Jim Blackie <
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	Date: 	Friday, 2 Dec 2005 07:45:53 -0800 (PST)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1993 Shadowplay

[2] 	From: 	Frank Whigham <
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	Date: 	Friday, 02 Dec 2005 10:09:48 -0600
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1993 Shadowplay

[3] 	From: 	Donald Bloom <
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	Date: 	Friday, 2 Dec 2005 11:18:42 -0600
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 16.1993 Shadowplay

[4] 	From: 	Debra Murphy <
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	Date: 	Friday, 2 Dec 2005 09:32:44 -0800
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 16.1993 Shadowplay

[5] 	From: 	Larry Weiss <
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	Date: 	Friday, 02 Dec 2005 14:24:28 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1993 Shadowplay

[6] 	From: 	Peter Bridgman <
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	Date: 	Friday, 2 Dec 2005 23:44:56 -0000
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1993 Shadowplay

[7] 	From: 	John W. Kennedy <
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	Date: 	Friday, 02 Dec 2005 23:24:25 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1993 Shadowplay

[8] 	From: 	Bob Linn <
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	Date: 	Saturday, 03 Dec 2005 01:19:55 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1993 Shadowplay


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Jim Blackie <
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Date: 		Friday, 2 Dec 2005 07:45:53 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 16.1993 Shadowplay
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1993 Shadowplay

From: Bill Arnold - "Indeed, to praise me is acceptable but to misuse me 
is not. What do I mean? Well, my point was that pervasive in English 
literature was Catholicism prior to the Shakespearean Age. And English 
literature, surely, knew of Dante's masterpiece: The Divine Comedy, 
agreed? So, every Protestant knew of the concept of Purgatory."

Bill, I had no intention on misusing you, but your argument spoke to me 
directly for the reason I VERY briefly gave in my post. Perhaps this 
speaks to the nature of human perception and how preconceived ideas lead 
one down a road that, while obvious for one reader/audience, is absent 
to another and perhaps was never even intended by the author. Isn't that 
what makes WS great and allows his plays to live on?

"Not everyone is a strict fundamentalist in applying their knowledge to 
what they read or view and know. I do not believe that the Shakespearean 
audience thought just because the voice of the Spirit of Hamlet's father 
came from below the stage that ipso facto the Spirit was necessarily bad 
nor that it emanated from Purgatory. More like, in the Dantean sense, 
that the Spirit was in Limbo! Limbo is neither in Hell nor in Purgatory. 
  After-all, Purgatory was a creation in all its detail of Dante, was it 
not? At least in so far as it affected literature after its emergence 
upon the scene. It follows, that *all* knowledge of the Purgatory 
Concept was influenced by the *details* of Dante's Purgatorio, agreed?"

Sorry, but "no." I think that though literature may influence readers, 
the religious concepts that "everyman" heard in church (with enforced 
attendance, from what I read) would probably be the most familiar. So if 
EVERYONE goes to church, while SOME read Dante, I have to disagree that 
"*all* knowledge of the Purgatory Concept" points to Dante. Did 
groundlings read Dante? Merchants or lawyers? I have to admit I don't 
know... but surely not everyone.

That's why, TO ME, the issue of purgatory/ghost was an important one. To 
me, there were probably only 2 possibilities, that the ghost was having 
its sins burned away in a Catholic afterlife, or the ghost was a devil 
(Protestant). Debra Murphy did a much better job of explaining my 
thoughts that I did or am doing... (Do I dare chance another "Bravo?" 
Yeah -- BRAVA, Debra) I was happy to see that this interpretation is 
shared by others. I must have picked it up in my readings, but for the 
life of me I can't recall where!  Most likely Dover Wilson's explanation 
of why the voice came from the cellarage - to frighten Marcellus into 
keeping his vow with a supposed visitor from hell

Again, sorry if I misunderstood your point, Bill, no harm intended.

     Jim Blackie

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Frank Whigham <
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Date: 		Friday, 02 Dec 2005 10:09:48 -0600
Subject: 16.1993 Shadowplay
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1993 Shadowplay

What does your reading make of the way that Hamlet repeatedly moves his 
men around the stage when he swears them to silence and the ghost 
beneath the stage also says "swear!"? Most of the readers I know think 
he's moving them away from the ghost, in fear or wariness. "Hic et 
ubique? Then we'll change our ground" (1.5.164 in Jenkins, whose LNs on 
this are subtle and apt).

 >I do not believe that the Shakespearean audience thought just because
 >the voice of the Spirit of Hamlet's father came from below the stage
 >that ipso facto the Spirit was necessarily bad nor that it emanated from
 >Purgatory.
 >
 >Bill Arnold

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Donald Bloom <
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Date: 		Friday, 2 Dec 2005 11:18:42 -0600
Subject: 16.1993 Shadowplay
Comment: 	RE: SHK 16.1993 Shadowplay

Two points.

1. While I don't generally disagree with Bill Arnold on this subject, I 
think his reference to Limbo is incorrect ("More like, in the Dantean 
sense, that the Spirit was in Limbo!  Limbo is neither in Hell nor in 
Purgatory."). On the one hand, limbo is definitely in Hell, though 
outside the punishments of it. On the other, when I checked the Catholic 
Encyclopedia, I found only a Limbus Patrum (for the holy who died before 
the Incarnation) and a Limbus Infantium (for unbaptized babies), neither 
of which King Hamlet would qualify for. I will, of course, gladly defer 
to those more learned in Roman Catholic theology (of whom there must be 
multitudes) if I have missed something.

2. I think this Protestant / Catholic business tends to lose its way. 
The context of the play is clearly Medieval and thus Catholic, that is, 
clinging to a number of traditions which the Reformers swept away. 
Shakespeare was fully capable of writing in a Catholic or 
pseudo-Catholic context no matter what his personal religious beliefs 
were. His audience was capable of understanding it in that context, 
whatever *their* beliefs were.

The issue is, thus, not a sectarian one, but a moral one which the 
author is at pains not to resolve. Like Hamlet, we have to decide 
whether the ghost is telling the truth, and then, if so, whether he 
should act on that information to exact revenge for the murder of his 
father. In the main, such revenge is forbidden: "Vengeance is mine, 
saith the Lord. I will repay." But what if the Lord's medium of 
repayment for Claudius's "foul murder" is Hamlet?

Certainly it is an "honest ghost" that tells Hamlet the truth, but 
beyond that we are walking in the same murky, nightmare region as the 
prince. At what point do you allow what may or may not be a messenger of 
God to persuade you to violate a commandment? The story of Judith may be 
relevant here, but by and large you make your choice based on aspects of 
your own character.

Cheers,
don

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Debra Murphy <
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Date: 		Friday, 2 Dec 2005 09:32:44 -0800
Subject: 16.1993 Shadowplay
Comment: 	RE: SHK 16.1993 Shadowplay

I guess I am one who is not following Bill Arnold's argument.  However 
much influence Dante had on people's imagination of Purgatory, Purgatory 
*was* a religious concept, and long before Dante.  And no, I can't 
imagine any Elizabethan audience, Protestant or Catholic, imagining 
Hamlet's Ghost being in Limbo.  Limbo has always been a theoretical 
place (i.e., not taught, so far as I am aware, as defined dogma in the 
Catholic Church) where the souls of unbaptized infants go.  King Hamlet 
was not an unbaptized infant, and I can't imagine any Elizabethan, 
Protestant or Catholic, suspecting that he might be there.

The idea of Limbo was that an unbaptized infant could not see the face 
of God (heaven) because it still had Original Sin; but that because it 
had committed no sins of its own, it didn't deserve the pains of hell, 
either.  So the idea of a naturally happy but not beatific place was 
proposed to solve the theological problem.  Purgatory, by the way, has 
always been considered a rather nasty place-one is being purged, by 
spiritual fire as it were, of one's sins, so one didn't want to go 
there, either, if one could avoid it by living a saintly life.  In fact, 
the only thing separating it from hell, per se-I thought Dante made this 
clear, but I, too, am many years away from the text-is its lack of 
permanence.  A soul in purgatory knows its horrible sufferings are at 
least temporary, etc.

Debra Murphy
www.bardolatry.com

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Larry Weiss <
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Date: 		Friday, 02 Dec 2005 14:24:28 -0500
Subject: 16.1993 Shadowplay
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1993 Shadowplay

I don't think it is necessary to assume that WS was a closet Catholic 
just because he gets Catholic theology right in a play set in a Catholic 
period.  He also depicts Diana, Jupiter and Apollo as real deities in 
Per, Cym & WT.  Are we to conclude that he was a recusant pagan?

WS had remarkably few religious anachronisms in his plays.  Plays set in 
pagan times assumed the accuracy of pagan religious notions; Greek and 
Roman gods were real in those plays but mythological figures in the 
plays set in Christian times.

The one significant exception is WT, in which Apollo and his oracle are 
to be accepted as divine, but, at the same time, Polixenes alludes to 
Jesus and Judas, and there are two instances of oaths taken on swords 
(cruciform objects).  I suspect that this might have been deliberate, to 
convey the notion that the play was set at no time and all times.  The 
shift of locales from those in Pandosto, requiring Bohemia to have a 
seacoast, might have served a similar purpose of setting the play in a 
neverland.

There is much n WT that I find to be revolutionary.  It is almost as if 
WS set about creating an entirely new form of dramatic entertainment. 
Consider that it is a court play that suddenly becomes a pastoral after 
a 16 year gap in the action.  WS never paid much attention to the 
unities, but 16 years is a bit much.  It is a "comedy" (at least it ends 
happily with two weddings and three reconciliations), but two likable 
characters die and the protagonist loses the best sixteen years of his 
life.  Above all, WS intentionally deceives his audience.  Can anyone 
think of any pre-restoration play in which that was done?

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Peter Bridgman <
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Date: 		Friday, 2 Dec 2005 23:44:56 -0000
Subject: 16.1993 Shadowplay
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1993 Shadowplay

Bill Arnold writes ...

 >I do not believe that the Shakespearean audience thought just because
 >the voice of the Spirit of Hamlet's father came from below the stage
 >that ipso facto the Spirit was necessarily bad nor that it emanated from
 >Purgatory. More like, in the Dantean sense, that the Spirit was in 
Limbo!
 >Limbo is neither in Hell nor in Purgatory.

As from this week, Limbo is in neither.  It has officially disappeared ...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1653708,00.html

Up to last week however, Limbo was definitely at the outer edge of Hell 
('limbo' is Latin for 'hem' or 'edge').

 >After-all, Purgatory was a creation in all its detail of Dante, was it 
not?

The image of Purgatory as a mountain might have been Dante's, but the 
idea of Purgatory itself is ancient.  Eleven hundred years before Dante, 
Origen (182-251 AD) wrote that if a person left this life with lighter 
faults (i.e. not quite deserving of hell), they were condemned to a 
"purging fire" which "destroys the wood of our transgressions and then 
returns us to the reward of our good works".  In The City of God, St. 
Augustine (354-430 AD) states that there are "some who have departed 
this life, not so bad as to be deemed unworthy of mercy, nor so good as 
to be entitled to immediate happiness". Augustine says these souls will 
eventually gain happiness, having "gone through those pains to which the 
spirits of the dead are liable".

While Dante's Purgatory was a rather cosy place where sinners chanted Te 
Deums all day, Shakespeare's Purgatory is clearly a much tougher place, 
and much closer to Origen's "purging fire" ...

I am thy father's spirit,
Doom'd for a certain term to walk the night,
And for the day confined to fast in fires,
Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature
Are burnt and purged away.

 >It follows, that *all* knowledge of the Purgatory Concept was influenced
 >by the *details* of Dante's Purgatorio, agreed?

Not agreed.  Dante's Purgatory was a mountain; in the British Isles, 
Purgatory was believed to be underground.  And the pilgrimage site known 
as St Patrick's Purgatory in Northern Ireland was believed to be the 
actual entrance to this underground Purgatory.  Shakespeare clearly has 
the British idea of Purgatory in mind.  Old Hamlet lives underground, 
and young Hamlet swears by St Patrick.

Peter Bridgman

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		John W. Kennedy <
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Date: 		Friday, 02 Dec 2005 23:24:25 -0500
Subject: 16.1993 Shadowplay
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1993 Shadowplay

Bill Arnold <
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 >

 >Indeed, to praise me is acceptable but to misuse me is not.  What do I
 >mean?  Well, my point was that pervasive in English literature was
 >Catholicism prior to the Shakespearean Age.  And English literature,
 >surely, knew of Dante's masterpiece: The Divine Comedy, agreed?  So,
 >every Protestant knew of the concept of Purgatory.  Not everyone is a
 >strict fundamentalist in applying their knowledge to what they read or
 >view and know.  I do not believe that the Shakespearean audience thought
 >just because the voice of the Spirit of Hamlet's father came from below
 >the stage that ipso facto the Spirit was necessarily bad nor that it
 >emanated from Purgatory.  More like, in the Dantean sense, that the
 >Spirit was in Limbo!  Limbo is neither in Hell nor in Purgatory.
 >After-all, Purgatory was a creation in all its detail of Dante, was it
 >not?  At least in so far as it affected literature after its emergence
 >upon the scene.  It follows, that *all* knowledge of the Purgatory
 >Concept was influenced by the *details* of Dante's Purgatorio, agreed?
 >Does that make Purgatorio a religious concept or a literary concept, if
 >you follow my argument?  In any event, Purgatorio was a mountainous
 >terrain, as a I recall and not to be confused with Hell or The Inferno
 >of Dante.  By the way, if I err in all this, I will stand corrected, as
 >I have not taught Dante in eons.  But my point is that if apples are
 >religion and oranges are literature, they are not to be easily confused
 >as they often are by students of both, and, yes, scholars, as well.

You are right about Dante, but wrong about 16th-century RCism. The 
popular impression of the time, encouraged by the Church, was quite 
different from Dante's green and pleasant penitentiary for sinners 
knowing and regretting their sins, and willing accepting the working out 
thereof while looking forward to Heaven. On the contrary, it was 
frequently described as simply a suburb of Hell, and it was even 
suggested by some that the pains of Purgatory were so great as to make 
the soul forget God (I rather fancy the modern Church would denounce the 
last, at least, as outright heresy). It may well have been this, as much 
as the commercial scandal, that led to the denunciation of Purgatory by 
the Reformers.

"The Romish doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and 
Adoration as well of Images as of Reliques, and also invocation of 
Saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty 
of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God."
         -- Articles of Religion (1563)

[8]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Bob Linn <
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Date: 		Saturday, 03 Dec 2005 01:19:55 -0500
Subject: 16.1993 Shadowplay
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1993 Shadowplay

Bill Arnold writes, "Limbo is neither in Hell nor in Purgatory." 
Actually, Limbo is in Hell.  It is the First Circle of Hell, a special 
place for virtuous pagans and unbaptized babies, but most definitely in 
Hell.

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