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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: June ::
Eight Hamlets
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1079  Friday, 10 June 2005

From:           David Bishop <
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Date:           Friday, 10 Jun 2005 02:53:26 -0400
Subject: 16.1070 Eight Hamlets
Comment:        Re: SHK 16.1070 Eight Hamlets

I think Grebanier is generally considered a crank. Years ago I started
his book, and thought it was going pretty well, with some good summaries
of previous criticism. Then it seemed to go off the rails, saying too
many things easily refuted by looking at the play. Now I can't remember
the details, and maybe I'm wrong about him, and his reputation, but
that's my impression.

Empson's essay is long and rambles around. I don't think it's read much
today partly because of its wandering. He's an interesting writer, not
only valuable but enjoyable to read. He can also miss the mark badly, as
when he says that Hamlet apologizes to Laertes not for killing Polonius
but for his behavior at Ophelia's grave. This sounds like something
Terence Hawkes might say.

C.S. Lewis, another elegant writer, takes a view of almost Jamesian
etheriality. It's a good reminder to attend to the poetry and not let
bare abstract, or oversubtle, ideas overgrow the experience of the
play--of our responses to the story as it unfolds. But I think he swings
too far in the other direction, responding to bad criticism with an idea
of death-haunted mystery that also becomes unfaithful to the play, which
does have something to do with the question of revenge.

Incidentally, it's interesting to see the death-haunted Hamlet in Lewis
and then in Bloom. Empson also mentions Shakespeare excising motives, a
la Greenblatt.

Best wishes,
David Bishop

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