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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: April ::
Dumbshows?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0363  Thursday, 27 April 2006

[1] 	From: 	Kenneth Chan <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 26 Apr 2006 04:51:06 +0800
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0354 Dumbshows?

[2] 	From: 	Jeffrey Jordan <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 25 Apr 2006 18:39:34 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0345 Dumbshows?

[3] 	From: 	Elliott Stone <
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	Date: 	Wednesday, 26 Apr 2006 16:32:47 -0400
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0318 Dumbshows?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Kenneth Chan <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 26 Apr 2006 04:51:06 +0800
Subject: 17.0354 Dumbshows?
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0354 Dumbshows?

David Bishop writes: "Kenneth Chan says I suggested that "Claudius does 
get disturbed by [the dumbshow], at least at a subconscious level." I 
said nothing about Claudius's subconscious. No doubt Kenneth Chan's 
subconscious supplied the reference."

I am sorry. David certainly did not mention the word "subconscious." 
Actually, that whole line with the word "subconscious" can be deleted 
from my post without changing its key point.

Please note that the psychological studies I was referring to are not 
merely hypothetical theories about the subconscious that some 
psychologist dreamt up; they are actual observations of real human 
behavior. Also, I was trying to address a very serious alleged problem 
concerning the play itself.

Recall here that W. W. Greg, J. Dover Wilson, and Terence Hawkes all 
considered Claudius's nonreaction to the dumb show as a problem that 
threatened the consistency of the play. This is a serious charge, but it 
is one that can be readily resolved. All that is required is that we 
consider Claudius as a person who behaves in a way that is consistent 
with what observational psychological studies reveal. Then we will find 
that this episode in Shakespeare's play has no inconsistency at all. 
Shakespeare was simply displaying his uncanny insight into human behavior.

Furthermore, this behavior of Claudius - in denying what the dumb show 
means - actually fits in perfectly with the theme of denial that 
reverberates through the entire play. Shakespeare is being remarkably 
consistent in crafting the play as a cohesive whole. The evidence for 
this can be found at 
http://homepage.mac.com/sapphirestudios/qod/article2.html

Kenneth Chan

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Jeffrey Jordan <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 25 Apr 2006 18:39:34 -0500
Subject: 17.0345 Dumbshows?
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0345 Dumbshows?

Replying to Donald Bloom.

 >3) The lack of an initial reaction from Claudius need
 > not be a problem ...

Obviously Shakespeare considered it no problem, since he didn't write 
any lines for Claudius to react.  It's essentially a discussion about a 
"given" from the author.  No doubt there's some dramatic consideration 
involved, since if Claudius did react to the Dumb Show, there would be 
no Mousetrap to follow, and if Claudius confessed as Hamlet hoped, 
that's the end of the play, of course.  A person can't entirely dismiss 
the dramatic practicalities, in any complete discussion.  But Hamlet has 
such wonderful philosophical and psychological elements that an argument 
of practicalities is never going to satisfy people, because it's 
impossible to believe it would have satisfied Shakespeare.  And I don't 
personally believe it would have.  The whole thing would be more 
understandable, in a paradoxical way, if Claudius had fled the room 
"pursued by a bear." :)  The motivation, at least, would be clear.

A point I don't think has been mentioned so far is Claudius's earlier 
reaction, in the "Nunnery Scene," in response to Polonius's remark. 
Claudius says, "How smart a lash that speech doth give my conscience." 
Polonius inadvertently gives Claudius some "rehearsal" at dealing with 
his conscience, before the Dumb Show.  It has to be viewed as 
significant in the flow of events, that Claudius is given some 
"rehearsal" before his "performance" at the Dumb Show.  Rehearsal always 
helps.  I think Claudius's earlier reaction, where Polonius caught his 
conscience, deserves more attention than it usually gets, in 
understanding Claudius's non-reaction to the D.S.  The well-established 
"second tooth theory" does deserve some attention.

A full theory of Claudius and the Dumb Show would be probably dramatic 
practicality + second tooth + "something else," with the something else 
eternally debatable.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Elliott Stone <
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Date: 		Wednesday, 26 Apr 2006 16:32:47 -0400
Subject: 17.0318 Dumbshows?
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0318 Dumbshows?

It always seems to me that the purpose of the "dumb show" was to allow 
Hamlet to make a move on Ophelia. I don't think the Prince would have 
wanted to interrupt the action of his Mousetrap Play with this side 
event when he had a very specific purpose in mind for that play.

Best,
Elliott H. Stone

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