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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: August ::
Shylock, Hamlet, et al.
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1339  Thursday, 18 August 2005

[1]     From:   Jim Blackie <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 17 Aug 2005 13:59:41 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

[2]     From:   Kenneth Chan <
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 >
        Date:   Thursday, 18 Aug 2005 08:28:43 +0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 16.1329 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jim Blackie <
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Date:           Wednesday, 17 Aug 2005 13:59:41 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Re: Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

John-Paul Spiro wrote:

 >One thing I have learned from reading SHAKSPER is that,
 >of all of  Shakespeare's works, "The Merchant of Venice"
 >and "Hamlet" attract the most commentary and the least insight.
 >
 >W. R. Elton always used to say to me, "400 years and we still
 >don't have one good book about 'Hamlet'!"  He was right.  It
 >seems near-impossible to say anything even sensible about the
 >play.  Why is this?

Hello-I have been following these postings in silence for a few weeks,
awed by the expertise and authority exhibited herein. I have, however,
with this message been nudged from my audience seat and now must raise
my hand to ask a question.

I do understand the myriad interpretations of Hamlet's character and
rationale for his near torportude. But my recent reading of John Dover
Wilson's writings, currently "What Happens in Hamlet" seems a rational,
analytical study of the play and Hamlet the character, finally resolving
for me the reason behind Hamlet's reluctance to act. Wilson seems to
have applied Occam's razor to the play and established a reasonable,
rationale explanation that surely must have been embraced before now. I
won't even attempt to run through the lengthy questions he poses and
them answers, as they are many and rather detailed, and I trust at least
several of you have read this and are familiar with his arguments.

My question, therefore, concerns his authority. Is the book not
recognized for the sensible thesis for which I take it? I am still
reading through it my first time and am hi-lighting nearly every page
for the clarity it brings to the play for me.

Thanks,
Jim B.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kenneth Chan <
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 >
Date:           Thursday, 18 Aug 2005 08:28:43 +0800
Subject: 16.1329 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1329 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

John-Paul Spiro writes:

 >"If the plays stimulate so many possibilities for interpretation, it's
 >probably because they were supposed to.  Perhaps Shakespeare meant them
 >as puzzled to be solved if you find the right clues, but I don't think
 >so.  There are many dark spaces in these two plays; shedding light on
 >them means they're not dark spaces anymore, which means the plays aren't
 >what they are anymore."

Why would Shakespeare deliberately set out to write plays that cater to
multiple conflicting interpretations? What purpose can this serve? Life
itself and history provides more than sufficient material for multiple
interpretations. Too much material, in fact. So why do we need a play,
as well, to provide a foil for indulging in multiple and contradicting
interpretations? This does not make sense.

Thus we should hesitate before rashly leaping to the conclusion that
Shakespeare intended his plays as mere fodder for multiple conflicting
interpretations. It may well be that we have simply not seen the light yet.

Kenneth Chan
http://homepage.mac.com/sapphirestudios/qod

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