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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: December ::
Gertrude-Ophelia Pemultimate
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.2028  Thursday, 8 December 2005

[1] 	From: 	Jim Blackie <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 7 Dec 2005 07:48:37 -0800 (PST)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.2012 Gertrude-Ophelia

[2] 	From: 	Todd Lidh <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 7 Dec 2005 11:55:22 -0500
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 16.2021 Gertrude-Ophelia with IMPORTANT Editor's Note

[3] 	From: 	John Briggs <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 7 Dec 2005 17:00:00 -0000
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.2021 Gertrude-Ophelia with IMPORTANT Editor's Note

[4] 	From: 	Joseph Egert <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 07 Dec 2005 20:08:20 +0000
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.2012 Gertrude-Ophelia [5]

[5] 	From: 	Philip Tomposki <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 07 Dec 2005 16:44:16 -0500
	Subj: 	Gertrude-Ophelia

[6] 	From: 	John Reed <
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	Date: 	Thursday, 08 Dec 2005 04:35:29 +0000
	Subj: 	Re: Gertrude-Ophelia 12-7


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Jim Blackie <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 7 Dec 2005 07:48:37 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 16.2012 Gertrude-Ophelia
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.2012 Gertrude-Ophelia

Annalisa Castaldo: "My second problem is simply why? Why would Gertrude 
murder Ophelia? Why would Shakespeare concoct this elaborately shielded 
way of telling us? Why would he throw in an extra murder by the person 
who has recently sworn to keep Hamlet's secret and be on his side? Why 
would he do this, and then never bring it up again? I just don't see why 
anyone--director, actor, scholar, reader--would find this idea added to 
the understanding of the characters or the play."

Exactly! This is the crux of the issue, I think. Would Shakespeare imply 
as important an accusation, shroud it in obfuscation, reflect it in no 
part of the text clearly, have this accusation exist with NO 
reconciliation, no consequence for no reason?  Dover Wilson is my guide 
and most respected critic of this play, and while I think there may be 
reason to suppose a scene is lost, I disagree.

I also see that Dover Wilson, in his 1932 work "The Manuscript of 
Shakespeare's Hamlet and The Problem of its Transmission" notes that (I 
paraphrase) the Q2, while suffering from many flaws of misspelling and 
the omissions of letters, words, and even passages, was *most likely* 
composited using the bard's own autographic copy of the play. The 2 
volumes of this works give great detail to this and other theories about 
which Dover Wilson the bibliographer is equaled only by WW Greg of that 
same time, in my opinion. If the "lost scene" answer were substantive, 
it would have been noted in this publication, I believe.

Long story short, I think Dover Wilson was mistaken, that he was not 
wedded to this theory but offered it as an answer to a perceived problem.

Last note- even as DW shows lost passages in the Q2, nowhere is there 
mention of the loss of an entire *scene* -- And with as many "versions" 
of Hamlet that we have, how is it that not ONE of these has even the 
hint of such a thing? I find the suggestion unsupportable. But that's me.

Jim

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Todd Lidh <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 7 Dec 2005 11:55:22 -0500
Subject: 16.2021 Gertrude-Ophelia with IMPORTANT Editor's Note
Comment: 	RE: SHK 16.2021 Gertrude-Ophelia with IMPORTANT Editor's Note

All right, enough reading in amazement and bewilderment.

John Reed <
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 >said:

"You stumbled into a den of vipers.  A trial by fire."

and

"Ordinarily I wouldn't respond twice to the same poster in the same 
post, but for rude virgins I will graciously make an exception."

Do I even have to address the "viper" comment? If I do, I'm merely 
striking out...like a viper. If I don't, I tacitly accept Mr. Reed's 
characterization. Instead, I merely thank the SHAKSPER community at 
large for properly and rigorously questioning someone who posits that 
his speculation should be considered as learned merely because he said 
it...or, better, because he said it within a group that is defined 
(apparently) by its rigidity, lack of imagination and venom.

Mr. Reed also unduly takes to task a first-time poster who was certainly 
far less rude than his most recent posting shows him. His inconsistency 
(actually responding to another poster twice in this same post) doesn't 
speak well for his rigor of thought, either. But be that as it may.

What has confused me the most about Mr. Reed's approach is that he is so 
willingly to argue for something that simply cannot be argued for. 
Granted, anyone is free to speculate on and even produce such a vision 
of HAMLET on stage-a murdering Gertrude might be fascinating to watch 
for even the most experienced of audiences. So, Mr. Reed, why are you 
not satisfied merely with raising this particular performance notion 
(all it is, let's be honest here)? To "go to the wall" seems excessive. 
What others here have shown is that you cannot support your 
interpretation textually; you argue that text is not the only area of 
support. You are correct. However, you cannot then say that we do not 
have access to the "original staging" of the play and, therefore, we are 
free to insert whatever interpretation we wish merely because there is 
no proof otherwise. You are free to do whatever you wish with the play 
because you are a free, thinking human being. Such a condition does not 
empower you to dismiss academic scholarship merely because it doesn't 
jibe with your beliefs. You can dismiss it, yes, but to argue against it 
merely undermines your credibility and your idea-which is hardly 
ground-breaking, you should know. Perhaps some of the response you've 
gotten here is generated by fatigue.

Surely you can agree that a reinterpretation of a major character in 
terms of performance coupled with textual support is a much stronger 
argument, yes? I did so recently with Prospero as having no magic, but I 
wouldn't have dreamed of proposing such a notion if I didn't feel I 
could actually provide evidence to support my stance. Your subsequent 
complaints remind me of how children often respond to parents when told 
"no": "But why not?" "Because of [this], [this] and [that]." "But I 
still want to." "No, and here's why." "But I don't like it." "I'm sorry, 
but that's the way it is." "But why?" Eventually, the parents just give 
up because the child is being unreasonable -- not using reason. We can 
accept children acting that way...

Todd M Lidh

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		John Briggs <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 7 Dec 2005 17:00:00 -0000
Subject: 16.2021 Gertrude-Ophelia with IMPORTANT Editor's Note
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.2021 Gertrude-Ophelia with IMPORTANT Editor's Note

Tom Krause wrote:

 >Check any edition of Measure for Measure and you will see that
 >the editors are unanimous in their view that Shakespeare repeatedly
 >punned Angelo with the "Angel" gold coin, and that these references
 >often occur hand in hand with testing imagery.  There is no lack of
 >textual support for the theory, and I've never supported it by saying
 >that "the text is missing."

I hesitate to test Hardy's patience, but "unanimous" is a strong word, 
and I would offer N.W. Bawcutt.  In his Oxford edition of 1991 he is 
generally sceptical about the coin imagery.

John Briggs

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Joseph Egert <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 07 Dec 2005 20:08:20 +0000
Subject: 16.2012 Gertrude-Ophelia [5]
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.2012 Gertrude-Ophelia [5]

In her maiden offering, Sara Trevisan writes: "you cannot make such a 
generalized sweeping statement as 'all the swans are white'..."

Yes you can, Sara, if "whiteness" is a definitional minimum for "swanness."

Sara goes on: "Indeed, that statement cannot be falsified, which is 
against [Popper's] principles of science, research and literary criticism."

Not so, Sara. Popper's idol of falsifiability has long been discredited. 
Science, for the most part, progresses by tentative hypothesis and 
theory, where falsifiability plays a significant, but, by no means, 
primary or paramount role.

Welcome, Sara, to Hardy's battlements!

Joe Egert

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Philip Tomposki <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 07 Dec 2005 16:44:16 -0500
Subject: 	Gertrude-Ophelia

John, I believe you have made a good point in a bad cause.  Of course a 
play is more than the words on the page.  The script is merely a 
blueprint for the performance.  The staging of the director and the 
performance of the actors ultimately determine the interpretation.  But 
acknowledging that does mean that you have license to construe the play 
in a way not supported by the text.  Those of us who demand textural 
evidence for an interpretation are not insisting on overt declarations 
of motives or actions within the play, simply that there must be some 
textural evidence for that interpretation.

For example, in the nunnery scene, Hamlet suddenly asks Ophelia "Where's 
your Father?"  This is non sequitur, and leads to what appears to be a 
more belligerent Hamlet and a clearly more distraught Ophelia.

The way this is traditionally played, always, in fact, in my experience, 
is that Hamlet has at this point receives some indication that he is 
being spied upon.  (A movement in the arras, a shadow, a sound, etc.) 
Naturally he views this as a betrayal, particularly after Ophelia lies 
to him by answering "At home, my Lord."

Now, Shakespeare doesn't have Hamlet say "What's that behind the 
arras?", but it doesn't take much imagination to see how this can be 
played, or why is should be.  This is not the only interpretation, of 
course, by it is clear, logical, and actable and can be inferred from 
the text.  More important, this adds, in a meaningful and logical way, 
some value to the play.  It changes the relationship between the two 
characters and influences their future actions.

John, you've yet to tell us, as far as I can see, how your 
interpretation would be staged, or what it adds to the plot or theme of 
the play.  You have, quite belatedly, promised to provide the latter, 
rather too late to get much of a response with the Friday deadline 
looming.  In this I fear you have done an injustice to this list.  Had 
you stated your thesis early on, it may have lead to an interesting and 
profitable discourse.  Instead, we've had a debate that has generated 
more heat than light, needless taking up the time and effort of our 
esteemed editor, and adding to the frustration of those of us who have 
seen, of late, a degeneration of the quality of these discussions.

Philip Tomposki

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		John Reed <
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Date: 		Thursday, 08 Dec 2005 04:35:29 +0000
Subject: 	Re: Gertrude-Ophelia 12-7

Hamlet was, and is, a play written by a Christian author, and was a play 
originally received by a Christian audience.  On that basis one might 
expect it to be concerned with certain issues - issues the original 
audience would have been attuned to, and other audiences (such as more 
modern ones) might not be.  One such idea is the Theory of the 
Progression of Evil.  Here are three statements of it:

"Evil men go from bad to worse."  St. Paul, 2 Timothy 3:12-14.  ca. 65

"Through his specious temptations Satan leads men to worse and worse 
evils, till utter depravity and ruin are the result."  Ellen White, The 
Desire of Ages, 1898.

"And wrong behaviour (if it is really wrong on universal principles) is 
progressive, always: it never stops at being 'not very good', 'second 
best' - it either reforms, or goes on to third-rate, bad, abominable." 
J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 49, to C.S. Lewis, 1943.

Tolkien wrote a certain very long novel where this principle was 
central.  For instance he has Gandalf observe, "Nothing was evil in the 
beginning, even Sauron was not so."  And later, "Alas for Saruman, he 
has withered altogether."

This is also something I see in works by Shakespeare, especially in the 
tragedies.  The character Macbeth in the play Macbeth might be the 
holotype.  Of course he is a main character and his relation to the 
principle is obvious.  Hamlet, and Claudius, seem to me to be two more 
examples.  To the extent that this is a general characteristic, or 
tendency, of this kind of story it might also apply to other characters 
in this very play, even ones where it might not be so obvious on the 
surface.  Such as Gertrude.

Gertrude very probably realizes Claudius has usurped the throne by the 
end of her interview with Hamlet.  She also no doubt realizes she is an 
accessory, at least on some level.  In other words, she has an 
anagnorisis.  Well then, a decision is required.  Does she "reform," 
does she, in a word, "repent?"  It doesn't look like it.  For instance 
she apparently does not follow Hamlet's advice about distancing herself 
from Claudius.  In that case we may presume the audience, the original 
audience - without being told in so many words - would expect that the 
Theory of the Progression of Evil would apply (she's not going to stay 
the way she is, to remain neutral, as it were), and consequently that 
Gertrude might go on to third-rate, bad, abominable.  At any rate their 
ability to fill-in this kind of attribution would have been greater than 
that of a modern audience, and a playwright writing then could get away 
with indicating it with less obviousness than a modern playwright could, 
and still count on the audience getting it.

The way the play is constructed, indicating Gertrude's guilt to a 
theater audience would be quite easy to accomplish with action.  She 
could enter soaking wet, perhaps spattered with mud, and with scratches 
on her arms and face.  You don't need dialogue.

The key (or rather stumbling block, if you are so inclined) to this 
interpretation rests on Claudius and Gertrude perceiving Ophelia as a 
threat.  Ophelia's mad scene might be where this is indicated.  Although 
we no longer believe in such things, the original audience recognized 
that demon possession was a variety of madness.  It could be that 
Ophelia actually is afflicted with this kind of madness - how atrocious 
would that be?  When she is talking about tumbling and wedding, it might 
be the demon, through Ophelia, is quoting dialogue that Gertrude and 
Claudius exchanged before the start of the play.  They recognize their 
own dialogue, and are worried.  Very worried.  I guess if you're an evil 
spirit it's no fun just to kill people; that would be like killing 
flies.  But to defile someone with temptation, that's the funniest thing 
there is.

So Gertrude could be in the identical situation that Macbeth was in - 
concerned about maintaining her own power, pleasure, and privilege, and 
having this notion threatened through the tempting action of some evil 
agency.  The agency in Macbeth was the witches, and the demon-possessed 
Ophelia in Hamlet.  And this is in a play, someone may observe, where it 
is already the minority opinion that the Ghost is an evil spirit, 
tempting Hamlet.

It might be said that "Through his specious temptations the Ghost leads 
Hamlet to worse and worse evils, till utter depravity and ruin are the 
result."  Or:

"Through his specious temptations the demon-possessed Ophelia leads 
Gertrude and Claudius to worse and worse evils, till utter depravity and 
ruin are the result."

Someone imaginative might go so far as to equate the Ghost with the 
agent of demon-possession.

There is a certain "poetic justice" in all of this, is there not? 
Whatever the cause, Ophelia apparently died in the water.  Gertrude 
suffers a death conveyed by water.  Another waterdeath.  Does she choke? 
  And she might be drinking excessively already in order to numb her 
conscience.  Claudius, cleverly attending to his own problems, fails to 
foresee how Gertrude's drinking might work do her undoing.  And his. 
Claudius corrupts Gertrude, but Gertrude probably corrupts him as well. 
  Evil destroys itself.

The Christian world view and the Enlightenment Philosophy world view are 
quite a bit different in numerous particulars, and we might expect the 
drama emanating from each to have different concerns as well.  Perhaps 
the biggest difference is that the Christian side claims a spiritual 
dimension for Man, whereas Enlightenment Philosophy, for the most part, 
and particularly its scientific subset of psychology, does not.  So in 
Christian drama there is the possibility of what might be called the 
flesh:spirit conflict.  In modern psychological drama this would not be 
expected as a concern.  Further, an anagnorisis involving spiritual 
discernment might occur; this could be followed, or might not be, by a 
repentance.  But if there is an anagnorisis of this kind, one or the 
other must follow.

It might be opportune to utilize comparative dramatics at this point. 
The Song of Bernadette could be a story where we have an analogous 
situation to that faced by Gertrude: it featured a strong anagnorisis in 
a secondary character: Sister Marie Therese (Gladys Cooper).  This was 
communicated by way of film editing - a close-up -- and facial 
expression (action).  Immediately following there was an equally clear 
repentance, supported by a fair amount of on-the-nose dialogue.  This 
dialogue, however, was not absolutely necessary.  The repentance could 
have been conveyed with much less dialogue, or none at all.  If it had 
been directed by someone else, such as John Ford, Sister Marie Therese 
might have entered the chapel, uttered merely her own name 
contemptuously, and then perhaps have broken down sobbing.  At any rate 
in the next scene, Sister Marie Therese enters, carrying Bernadette 
(something she never would have done before her anagnorisis/repentance). 
  If we were trying to reconstruct the flow of Sister Marie Therese's 
mental condition some hundreds of years in the future, and we were 
working with a script resembling a play by Shakespeare, and a version of 
the story where her repentance was not clearly indicated by dialogue, 
then we might be hard-pressed to recognize either occurrence.  The 
facial expression, since it is action, might not be there.  The editing 
direction (cut to close-up) might not be either.  The business of her 
carrying Bernadette might not be; it could be just, "Enter S. Mar., 
Bern."  Therefore we shouldn't be so obligately focused on just the 
dialogue when evaluating Hamlet, especially since it is written in a 
"foreign" religious context.

Another thing: the idea that everything important in a story should be 
clearly represented in the dialogue (or by anything else that would 
communicate that importance) is just one point of view, and it might not 
always be an advantage.

Stanley Kubrick wrote:

"I think that for a movie or a play to say anything really truthful 
about life, it has to do so very obliquely, so as to avoid all pat 
conclusions and neatly tied-up ideas. The point of view it is conveying 
has to be completely entwined with a sense of life as it is, and has to 
be got across through a subtle injection into the audience's 
consciousness. Ideas which are valid and truthful are so multi-faceted 
that they don't yield themselves to frontal assault. The ideas have to 
be discovered by the audience, and their thrill in making the discovery 
makes those ideas all the more powerful. You use the audience's thrill 
of surprise and discovery to reinforce your ideas, rather than reinforce 
them artificially through plot points or phony drama or phony stage 
dynamics put in to power them across."

The original audience of Hamlet might have formed the impression that 
Gertrude killed Ophelia later, without even seeing it depicted on the stage.

I have written my own version of Hamlet, which can be viewed at: 
http://www.angelfire.com/falcon/starwoman/Hamlet.html

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