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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: December ::
Soliloquies - Truth or Lie...or Overheard?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0819  Saturday, 8 December 2007


[1] 	From:	Scott Newstok <
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	Date:	Tuesday, 4 Dec 2007 22:57:34 -0600
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0812 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie...or Overheard?

[2] 	From:	Donald Bloom <
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	Date:	Wednesday, 5 Dec 2007 11:15:28 -0600
	Subj:	RE: SHK 18.0812 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie...or Overheard?

[3] 	From:	Joseph Egert <
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	Date:	Thu, 6 Dec 2007 18:07:53 -0800 (PST)
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0787 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie...or Overheard?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Scott Newstok <
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Date:		Tuesday, 4 Dec 2007 22:57:34 -0600
Subject: 18.0812 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie...or Overheard?
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0812 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie...or Overheard?

Raymond Williams makes a fine series of gradations about different 
modes of single-speaker addresses and audiences in: "Monologue in 
Macbeth," _Teaching the Text_, ed. Susanne Kappeler and Norman Bryson 
(London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983): 180-202.

Yet these gradations, as fruitfully schematic as they are, end up 
feeling somewhat preliminary to the critical analysis he promises but 
never quite delivers.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Donald Bloom <
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Date:		Wednesday, 5 Dec 2007 11:15:28 -0600
Subject: 18.0812 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie...or Overheard?
Comment:	RE: SHK 18.0812 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie...or Overheard?

I think we also need to consider "Hamlet" 3, 1. The king, queen, 
Polonius, Ophelia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are on-stage. R & G are 
questioned by the king and queen and then dismissed. Gertrude is 
likewise asked to depart and does so. Polonius places his daughter in 
some strategic position, and then he and the king hide themselves 
(presumably behind the arras, per 2, 2).

So, when Hamlet walks on stage to mull over death and self-destruction, 
who is listening to him besides the audience?

Traditionally, he later knows or suspects the presence of the hidden 
listeners, leading him to ask Ophelia where her father is. When does he 
come to this realization? Clearly, this is a director's choice, 
determined by what he or she wants the audience to get out of the scene 
besides the familiar words. But what scholarly or dramaturgical evidence 
should guide this director?

You may, for example, want Hamlet to move as far downstage as possible, 
making it clear that he does not see Ophelia, sitting upstage and to the 
other side from where he enters. He would then deliver the lines solely 
to himself and the audience, and would only notice Ophelia's presence 
just before he says, "Soft you now, the fair Ophelia," and crosses to 
greet her.

I believe this is the standard version, but it is also a trifle 
unlikely: he would have to pretend that she is invisible or else never 
look at that part of the stage. It can be done, of course, but it 
stretches things a bit.

A very different effect would be given if you assumed that Hamlet saw 
all of them and made no effort to keep what he was saying from their 
ears. If he was onto their game, he would then be "acting," one of his 
favorite occupations, playing a part and playing with their minds. 
Notably, unlike most soliloquies, he would also be playing with the 
audience's minds, since it would be guessing just what was truly a 
soliloquy and what a part of Hamlet's whole game with the royal court.

Just a thought,
don

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Joseph Egert <
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Date:		Thu, 6 Dec 2007 18:07:53 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 18.0787 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie...or Overheard?
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0787 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie...or Overheard?

On the steward's "recounting" Helena's "soliloquy", Arnie Perlstein asks:

"1. Does Helena intend to be overheard by the steward, who perhaps has
been watching Helena closely for some reason?

"2. If Helena does intend to be overheard, does she speak what she
actually feels, or does she present a false front of humble, hopeless,
but true love, as opposed, say, to a more cynical attempt to marry up?

"3. If the steward is reporting the same soliloquy quoted above, he
presents the Countess with a "translation" that seems to stray widely at
some points from what Helena actually said, as in the children's game of
Telephone. Or is the steward giving a reliable report, given that he has
observed Helena's nonverbals?"

Arnie, check out James Hirsh's SHAKESPEARE AND THE HISTORY OF 
SOLILOQUIES(2003). In it he argues for feigning, going so far as 
accusing Helena of using or bribing the steward to enlist the Countess' 
support. Hirsh is known for finding feigned soliloquies at the drop of 
an eaves. See Marcia Eppich-Harris' review of Hirsh on Hamlet's "To Be" 
soliloquy(?) at SHK 14.0804.

I find most intriguing when a soliloquy might involve so-called 
self-deception or rationalization. Can one truly seek to deceive oneself 
at a conscious level?

Puzzled,
Joe Egert


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