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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: August ::
Shylock, Hamlet, et al.
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1358  Monday, 22 August 2005

[1] 	From: 	Colin Cox <
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	Date: 	Friday, 19 Aug 2005 09:10:55 -0700
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1349 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

[2] 	From: 	Larry Weiss <
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	Date: 	Friday, 19 Aug 2005 12:32:53 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1349 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

[3] 	From: 	Jim Blackie <
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	Date: 	Friday, 19 Aug 2005 13:09:56 -0400 (EDT)
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 16.1339 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

[4] 	From: 	Kenneth Chan <
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	Date: 	Saturday, 20 Aug 2005 08:33:09 +0800
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1349 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

[5] 	From: 	Kenneth Chan <
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	Date: 	Saturday, 20 Aug 2005 08:55:21 +0800
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1349 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

[6] 	From: 	Florence Amit <
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	Date: 	Sunday, 21 Aug 2005 02:57:29 +0300
	Subj: 	Subject: 16.1339 Shylock, Hamlet, et al


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Colin Cox <
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Date: 		Friday, 19 Aug 2005 09:10:55 -0700
Subject: 16.1349 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1349 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

"I still admit to textual discussion as a necessary good/evil when 
considering Shakespeare as the Brit Bard."

I have no doubt that Bill, the director, and Burbage, the actor, had 
many a discussion on text,

"Hey Bill, James is in the audience next week, we got to get this thing 
down to two hours."

"Then cut one of the bloody soliloquies, Richard, you have seven of the 
damn things."

"Right you are, Bill."

Colin Cox

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Larry Weiss <
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Date: 		Friday, 19 Aug 2005 12:32:53 -0400
Subject: 16.1349 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1349 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

 >If anyone had told me ten years ago that my finding that the play Hamlet
 >is Shakespeare's version of the Bible's Book of Ecclesiastes, I would
 >have laughed in their face.

It might be a hopeful sign if your condition is of recent onset.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Jim Blackie <
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Date: 		Friday, 19 Aug 2005 13:09:56 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 16.1339 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.
Comment: 	RE: SHK 16.1339 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

John-Paul Spiro wrote :

"J. Dover Wilson's book is fine, but if you think he has "resolved" the 
issue, you need to read the play again."

I have, indeed, read the play again. And again. And have listened to 
audio renditions and the BBC TV production (which seems the closest to 
what WS intended if I were to be asked) and Olivier's film and even Mel 
Gibson's. I have read essays from A.C. Bradley, T.S. Elliot and others.

The theories and principles of John Dover Wilson hold together best for 
me. I am not proposing that anyone join me in agreement, as there are 
some stretches in the interpretations, but I thought, on the whole, he 
did a nice job of proving just what had been said here elsewhere, that 
WS knew what he was doing, that it all holds together and it all makes 
rationale sense if seen in perspective.

In brief, as I noted earlier, Wilson asks that we consider the play 1) 
as acted, as if we never saw the play before nor knew the outcome, 2) in 
the context of Elizabethan knowledge and sensibilities (Wilson kindly 
includes in his volume's appendices various essays from that period that 
support his positions), and 3) not impose post-Elizabethan (I think he 
points to Romanticism and Historicism as the most prevalent positions) 
thought processes or interpretations upon the work in any attempt to 
discover what WS meant.

With all due respect, perhaps what is needed is not for me to read the 
play again, but for you to read Wilson again. My copy is heavily hi-lighted.

Jim Blackie

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Kenneth Chan <
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Date: 		Saturday, 20 Aug 2005 08:33:09 +0800
Subject: 16.1349 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1349 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

V. K. Inman writes:

 >"There is a hermeneutics principle at work here that is invalid.  It is
 >that Shakespeare makes sense.  Certainly, if anything can be gleaned
 >from centuries of Shakespeare criticism, it must certainly be that his
 >plays are largely beyond our ability to reduce then to sensible
 >aphorisms. To say that perhaps Shakespeare intended this is hardly,
 >"rashly leaping to the conclusion that Shakespeare intended his plays as
 >mere fodder for multiple conflicting interpretations."   On the other
 >hand if there is a single, simple, interpretation intended which has not
 >come to light yet, perhaps Shakespeare intended this be the case-that it
 >should long be undiscoverable.  In either case looking for a single,
 >simple, aphoristic interpretation of a Shakespeare play in extremely 
naive."

Actually, Shakespeare does make sense. Practically all his plays, 
including Hamlet, are meticulously crafted to convey specific profound 
messages for humanity. Why then, you ask, have these messages been 
missed over the centuries?

The answer is surprisingly easy to state. We miss Shakespeare's messages 
because we do not wish to hear them. They hurt. Why?

Shakespeare's messages are aimed squarely at us, the average population, 
and that is why they hurt. Most other literary writers aim messages at 
those with weaker or less-than-average morals. The "more moral" majority 
then readily grasps their meaning, partly because the message is 
actually not applicable to the majority - we do not require it, and 
hence there is no need for us to adjust our lives to conform.

Shakespeare's messages, on the other hand, do apply to the average 
population, but to fully accept the message requires us to change our 
perspective, and even our lifestyle, and change generates resistance. 
The message hurts, and we do not wish to hear it. So, consciously or 
subconsciously, we may simply refuse to accept what Shakespeare wants us 
to feel.

Shakespeare is actually very dramatic in conveying his meaning. He does 
not try to conceal his meaning at all. Instead, he continually repeats, 
in very dramatic fashion, what he is trying to convey throughout his 
plays. It is simply us who refuse to take in the meaning.

Take Hamlet for example. One of the key messages in Hamlet is this: 
"death is inevitable but we refuse to take that reality to heart." What 
this means is that while we readily admit that "everyone dies," we tend 
to behave as though we will live forever. Thus we have not actually 
realized we will die.

This failure to confront our own mortality is one reason why we have 
missed the meaning of Hamlet for so long. We miss it because the message 
hurts and we do not wish to hear it. The play, however, reveals that it 
is Shakespeare's intent to make the denial of mortality a key issue. No 
other Shakespearean play comes even remotely close to Hamlet in the 
number of references to death and its reality.

So it is perhaps worth repeating this again: 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.

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

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Kenneth Chan <
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Date: 		Saturday, 20 Aug 2005 08:55:21 +0800
Subject: 16.1349 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1349 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

John-Paul Spiro writes:

 >"To paraphrase your questions: "Life is complicated.  Why would
 >Shakespeare make his plays like that?"
 >Hmm.  Why would Shakespeare want to write plays that are like life?  I
 >have no idea."

Actually, you have paraphrased my meaning wrongly. Shakespeare does 
write plays that are like life. However, he does not deliberately set 
out to cater them to multiple conflicting interpretations. Shakespeare, 
instead, makes very specific points in each of his plays, and he repeats 
these points continually throughout the play.

John-Paul Spiro writes:

 >"I do not, however, think the plays are like Rorschach tests or open to
 >any given interpretation.  There are good interpretations (i.e., based
 >on what's actually in the texts) and bad ones.  Some people isolate a
 >few points in the texts and erect a large theory based on those few
 >points and then say that theory explains everything.  Some people take a
 >phrase or sentiment from Shakespeare and find a similar phrase or
 >sentiment in another text and therefore conclude a relation.  Some
 >people compare an event in a text to an event outside of the text (often
 >taking place after the text was written)--which can be interesting,
 >perhaps, but not particularly insightful about the text itself."

I couldn't agree more. When we interpret any play of Shakespeare, we 
must find the meaning that fits in with every part of the play, and not 
just some selected portion of it. Shakespeare generally conveys his 
meaning via the experience of the play in its entirety. For this reason, 
he carefully crafts practically every part of the play to fit the 
intended meaning. So if our interpretation can only fit part of the 
play, and not the whole thing, we have probably interpreted it wrongly.

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

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Florence Amit <
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Date: 		Sunday, 21 Aug 2005 02:57:29 +0300
Subject: 	Subject: 16.1339 Shylock, Hamlet, et al

David Basch is amazed that he has found "Shakespeare's version of the 
Bible's Book of Ecclesiastes", in "Hamlet". Yet if one takes into 
account the "Prophetic soul" of the prince that appears in 
transfiguration after transfiguration including Jesus and the Hebrew 
prophets, until it climaxes with Luther than the references have their 
due place in a long list of allusions from holy writings and events of 
self-revelation.

The Lutheran example shows Hamlet a Reformation Protestant, to be under 
siege on two fronts: externally by the Catholic church and its 
materialism (allegorically his mother) and internally by the attack upon 
his soul dealt by doctrine that is applied too severely: However no 
matter how faulty his orientation it was a necessary prelude to the 
truth, for " If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets they will 
pay no heed even if someone should rise from the dead" Luke 16:3 . 
Hamlet's "sweet religion" includes the Calvinistic anticipation of 
'election'.  It is this that makes Hamlet's loath to stain himself by 
what is perceived as pagan 'revenge', a sin. But his father's, the 
king's injunction is really based upon scripture:   "... if a man has 
the presumption to kill another by treachery you may take him even from 
my altar to be put to death" Ex. 21: 12. It can only be Hamlet who has 
that authority. But he is paralyzed and his searing doubts cause him to 
weep, before the image of Pyrrus (pyrrhonism: a word for scepticism ). 
Only Horatio is there for him (transfigured from Sebastian Castellio, an 
"antique Roman") with his requirements of reason and judgment. Hamlet's 
confusion reaches a climax when he plots to commit the real sin of 
supplanting God's judgment by wanting to execute Claudius at a time that 
will damn his SOUL, rather than obeying the commandment quoted above. 
However Hamlet is saved. The Lutheran epiphany takes place in Gertrude's 
closet when after killing Polonious unintentionally, he begs for 
forgiveness, and so acknowledge his own sinfulness. He then is free to 
do what he must do.

Florence

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