Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: September ::
Shylock, Hamlet, et al.
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1463  Monday, 5 September 2005

[1] 	From: 	Larry Weiss <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
	Date: 	Saturday, 03 Sep 2005 14:35:55 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1456 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

[2] 	From: 	Kenneth Chan <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
	Date: 	Sunday, 04 Sep 2005 02:38:16 +0800
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1456 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

[3] 	From: 	M Yawney <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
	Date: 	Sunday, 4 Sep 2005 18:15:27 -0700 (PDT)
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1456 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Larry Weiss <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date: 		Saturday, 03 Sep 2005 14:35:55 -0400
Subject: 16.1456 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1456 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

Mr. Chan, who tells us he channels Shakespeare --

"Shakespeare goes to so much trouble to impart his messages to us. It is 
to encourage us to take this path; he knows that it will make a huge 
difference to our lives.

"That is also why I persist in trying to inform people of Shakespeare's 
intent."

-- attempts to distance himself from friends Amit and Basch:

 >With all due respect to Basch and Amit, the evidence I
 >am referring to is very different from those presented by them.
 >
 >For example, this evidence (that I am referring to) does not rely,
 >in any way, on speculations as to what certain terms may be
 >secretly alluding to, or on any need to read between the lines,
 >or on any need to speculate on hidden actions. The evidence is,
 >instead, all based on exactly what Shakespeare openly presents
 >to us in his script.

To be sure, there is a significant difference between thematic 
interpretation that depends on the entire scope of a play and either (1) 
a conclusion that the play is "based on" an Old Testament book because 
they share some sophomoric philosophical notions here and there, or (2) 
biographical speculations about the author spun from the gossamer of a 
perceived correspondence between the syllables of a character's name and 
words in a long dead language.  But in this case, the difference is more 
superficial than real.

I do not believe that Mr. Chan is making an historiographical point that 
Hamlet evidences Shakespearean recusancy because it contains elements 
such as acceptance of the reality of purgatory.  Rather, it appears that 
he is arguing that Shakespeare gave us sermons in the forms of plays, 
and sermons containing particular spiritual theses at that.  Even that 
might be a legitimate subject of scholarly discourse (although I don't 
believe it would be a lengthy debate) if Chan approached the subject 
from the standpoint of a literary critic rather than as an adherent to a 
particular brand of godliness.  Were he to announce that he is a 
confirmed atheist and still finds that the plays reek with religiosity, 
then we might be inclined to consider his thesis.  But that would be no 
more believable than if Amit or Basch were to tell us that they are 
fervent antisemites.  The point of view we start with colors what we 
see.  Amit, Basch and Chan did not stumble over their "evidence"; they 
were looking for it.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Kenneth Chan <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date: 		Sunday, 04 Sep 2005 02:38:16 +0800
Subject: 16.1456 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1456 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

David Basch writes:

 >"I gave numerous parallels between Hamlet and Ecclesiastes
 >in earlier postings. I will give a few others.
 >
 >A confident Hamlet is warned by Horatio that he will lose the
 >wager with the king in his sport with Laertes. Hamlet disregards
 >Horatio's warning. What have we here?
 >
 >Horatio is a poor man, identified as one who has "only his good
 >spirits to feed and clothe him." So when he advises Hamlet and
 >his advice rebuffed, it is right out of Ecclesiastes, who observes
 >that "the wisdom of the poor is despised and his words are not
 >heard." <End of quote>

David, I am afraid that this appears rather contrived. We have to really 
stretch our imagination to see any parallelism here. Which begs the 
question: If Shakespeare really meant these lines as a parallel to the 
passage in Ecclesiastes, wouldn't he have made a better job of it?

While I agree that Shakespeare's plays contain spiritual messages, this 
kind of interpretation actually confuses the whole issue. Shakespeare 
does not operate in this manner; he is actually very direct and very 
dramatic in conveying his message. There is simply no mistaking the 
point he is making. Let me give an example from Hamlet, where he says:

"Your worm is your only emperor for diet: we fat all creatures else to 
fat us, and we fat ourselves for maggots. Your fat king and your lean 
beggar is but variable service - two dishes, but to one table. That's 
the end."

We may cringe when we hear this, but there is no mistaking the meaning; 
it is about the reality of death and about how our station in life makes 
no difference in the end. Shakespeare is very direct in conveying his 
message. It is often us who choose not to see it. In fact, at times the 
words may be so painful that we would rather look for some other hidden 
meaning than accept what they directly say.

One of the key points in the spiritual message in Hamlet is that we 
artificially beautify our world to hide from our own mortality. 
Shakespeare is very dramatic in making this point, and he does so 
repeatedly in the play. Let me give an example:

In a poignant moment at the graveyard scene, Hamlet holds in his hand 
the skull of Yorick, the very symbol of death (and a symbol that belongs 
to a close companion from his childhood). Hamlet says:

"Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be 
your gibes now, your gambols, your songs, your flashes of merriment, 
that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one now to mock your own 
grinning? Quite chop-fallen? Now get you to my lady's chamber and tell 
her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must come. Make her 
laugh at that."

Can Shakespeare be any more dramatic and direct in making his point? 
There is no need to look for any subtle parallelism, secret allusion, or 
hidden action lurking in the background. The point is clear and direct. 
That is how Shakespeare operates; he makes no attempt at all to conceal 
his message. Again, it is often us who choose not to see it.

Another example of the dramatic artistry in Shakespeare's method of 
conveying his message can be found in the famous description of 
Ophelia's drowning:

There on the pendent boughs her coronet weeds
Clamb'ring to hang, an envious sliver broke,
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide,
And mermaid-like awhile they bore her up,
Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes,
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and indued
Unto that element. But long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pulled the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death.

With the drowning of Ophelia, Shakespeare provides a brilliant imagery 
of our own state of denial. The meaning is unmistakable and fits 
perfectly with the overall theme of the play.

Even as she is sinking into the muddy waters, Ophelia refuses to 
recognize the truth of her situation; instead, she continues singing 
blissfully. This is a striking analogy to our own continued blissful 
denial that we are all in the process of dying, that every day brings us 
one day closer to death. In a cultivated state of ignorance designed to 
beautify the stark reality, we indulge in mundane pleasures and petty 
pursuits, even while we are inexorably sinking beneath the waters. If 
Ophelia is mad, so are we, and our vain attempt to live in our 
fantasized (i.e. artificially beautified) world will not hold us up 
anymore than the muddy waters can keep Ophelia afloat.

Shakespeare's method of conveying the messages in his plays is thus 
direct and dramatic. He does not conceal his meaning. So there is no 
need for us to dig for vague and hidden allusions or to read too much 
between the lines.

This is the nature of the evidence I am referring to, in my request that 
we look at the evidence that  Shakespeare meticulously crafted his plays 
to convey deep spiritual messages. Shakespeare is extremely dramatic and 
direct. The reason why we often miss his messages is because they hurt, 
or because we simply do not want to accept them.

Please, at least, accept that Shakespeare did intend to say something 
significant with his plays. If we would accept the meaning that they 
convey, Shakespeare's plays will reveal a level of artistry far beyond 
what we had previously imagined. They are close to artistic miracles, 
reflected both in their poetic brilliance and in their profound meaning.

With best wishes,
Kenneth Chan
http://homepage.mac.com/sapphirestudios/qod

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		M Yawney <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date: 		Sunday, 4 Sep 2005 18:15:27 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 16.1456 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1456 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

Kenneth Chan and David Basch express displeasure with those who are not 
interested in their claims for Shakespeare as a philosopher.

Basch also expresses contempt for those who note the practical concerns 
(money, employment, etc) as motives for Shakespeare's writings. I 
suspect Mr. Chan might feel the same.

However, their concerns seem to be 19th century Bardolotry in new dress. 
By removing Shakespeare from the mundane world and practical concerns 
and claiming he was only interested in supposedly "higher" things they 
straightjacket Shakespeare and limit "true" understanding of his work to 
one "correct" view.

Does philosophy make a great writer? Does religious fervor make a 
dramatic genius? Obviously not. The reason most of us are not interested 
enough to delve deeply into Chan's and Basch's ideas is because they are 
reductive and limiting. If they were true, I suspect Shakespeare work 
would be far less rich and exciting.

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, 
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the 
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the 
editor assumes no responsibility for them.
 

Other Messages In This Thread

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.