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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: August ::
Shylock, Hamlet, et al.
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1380  Wednesday, 24 August 2005

[1] 	From: 	Stuart Manger <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 23 Aug 2005 23:47:35 +0100
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1369 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

[2] 	From: 	Kenneth Chan <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 24 Aug 2005 09:26:35 +0800
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1369 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

[3] 	From: 	Kenneth Chan <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 24 Aug 2005 09:28:41 +0800
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 16.1369 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Stuart Manger <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 23 Aug 2005 23:47:35 +0100
Subject: 16.1369 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1369 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

Does it matter who the hell Hamlet's father is / was? If so, why does it 
matter?

It is a PLAY, a construct, a thesis, not an Agatha Christie genealogy 
mystery with a maze of back stories?

Come on, Joe!  You are being mischievous - you know full well what is 
going to happen now you have started these bizarre hares.

A weekend in Basra would be quieter.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Kenneth Chan <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 24 Aug 2005 09:26:35 +0800
Subject: 16.1369 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1369 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

V. K. Inman writes:

 >>"Kenneth Chan writes:
 >>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.
 >
 >>V. K. Inman responds:
 >This sounds like a personal attack.  Are you saying since you are able to
 >confront your own mortality and I am not, you understand Hamlet and I 
do not?"

Dear V. K. Inman. I apologize if this sounded like a personal attack. 
Let me assure you that it is definitely not intended as one. I wrote 
practically the same thing in my book "Quintessence of Dust," which was 
definitely not addressed to any one person in particular. Actually you 
can read for yourself, practically these same words in my article at 
http://homepage.mac.com/sapphirestudios/qod/scene2.html

I am trying to make the important point that Shakespeare's messages are 
directed squarely at us (including myself), the average person. These 
messages are usually of a deep spiritual nature, and because we 
generally do not live in accordance with these principles, the messages 
make us uncomfortable. That is why they are often missed. This, I 
believe, is a valid point and applies to all of us.

V. K. Inman writes:

 >>"Kenneth Chan writes:
 >>rashly leaping to the conclusion that Shakespeare intended his plays as
 >>mere fodder for multiple conflicting interpretations.
 >
 >>V. K. Inman responds:
 >This is an egregious overstatement.  No one is 'rashly leaping' and no 
one
 >has even remotely implied that Shakespeare intended his plays as 'mere 
fodder'!
 >Such statements belong in the realm of Madison Avenue advertising and 
Washington politics."

My apologies for using the word "rashly." Again, this meaning was not 
meant to be personal. It is actually not rash to come to such a 
conclusion after the failure to find consistent meaning in Shakespeare's 
plays for four centuries. That would be reasonable.

The word "rashly" was used (in my mind anyway) for those who would 
continue to insist that Shakespeare meant his plays as nothing more than 
material for multiple interpretations, when sufficient evidence had 
already been provided to them that that is simply not the case. Such 
blind insistence denigrates Shakespeare.

Shakespeare's plays are an invaluable gift to humanity because of the 
profound messages contained in them. It is therefore important that this 
strife-ridden world hears his messages and acknowledges them.

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

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Kenneth Chan <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 24 Aug 2005 09:28:41 +0800
Subject: 16.1369 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1369 Shylock, Hamlet, et al.

Alan Pierpoint writes:

"Kenneth Chan writes:  "Why then, you ask, have [Shakespeare's] messages 
been missed over the centuries?  The answer is surprisingly easy to 
state.  We miss [them] because we do not wish to hear them.  They hurt."

 >Point taken.  But I think there remains the danger that an interpreter 
of, say, Hamlet, may >fearlessly embrace such a "message" and miss the 
larger point, or points.  I have in mind Olivier, >whose interpretation 
perhaps reflected the disrepute into which hand-wringing inaction in the 
face >of crisis had fallen, post holocaust and WWII.  As I recall, his 
film begins with the "So oft it >chances in particular men" speech in 
voiceover and proceeds to state, baldly, that the play is about >a man 
who can't make up his mind.  That view once had currency and has textual 
support >throughout the play.  But it led, I think, to a reductive 
interpretation of the role, and an >unsatisfying film."

Thank you for making this point. It is certainly possible to miss the 
actual meaning that Shakespeare intended by focusing too much on only 
one aspect of the play. One way to guard against such an error is to 
ensure that our interpretation fits in with every part of the play, and 
not just a portion of it.

To use the example you provided, Olivier's interpretation actually does 
not fit a significant part of the play. Laertes certainly made up his 
mind to take revenge quickly enough, and practically acted without 
hesitation. Now, if anything, Laertes fared even worse than Hamlet. In 
rushing to act without sufficient forethought, Laertes unwittingly ended 
up as a mere tool for the evil intentions of Claudius, the real villain 
himself. This, in the end, led to the demise of both Hamlet and himself. 
So Olivier's interpretation actually does not fit this part of the play.

Shakespeare conveys his message via the audience's emotional experience 
of the play in its entirety. So he meticulously crafts every part of the 
play to fit his message. It is important to keep this in mind when 
interpreting Shakespeare.

Even those parts of the play that do not move the action along are 
designed for this purpose. (In Hamlet, scenes of this nature include the 
long swearing ritual in Act I, the dialogue between Polonius and 
Reynaldo, the Trojan War speech, Hamlet's instructions to the players in 
Act III, the graveyard scene, and the long dialogue between Hamlet and 
Osric.) These scenes, in fact, now serve as the most important clues to 
the meaning of the play. If they do not contribute to the action of the 
play, in all likelihood, they contribute to the message.

In the end, I believe we would be more likely to interpret Shakespeare 
correctly if we accept that he did intend to convey profound messages, 
and that he did carefully craft his plays for this purpose. An awareness 
of this would then restrain us from reading too much between the lines, 
and from over-interpreting any portion of his play out of the context of 
the entire play.

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

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