Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: October ::
Soliloquies - Truth or Lie
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0730  Tuesday, 30 October 2007

[1] 	From:	R. A. Cantrell <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
	Date:	Monday, 22 Oct 2007 09:08:09 -0500
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0722 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie

[2] 	From:	Carol Barton <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
	Date:	Monday, 22 Oct 2007 11:16:37 -0400 (GMT-04:00)
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0722 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie

[3] 	From:	Larry Weiss <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
	Date:	Monday, 22 Oct 2007 12:14:26 -0400
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0722 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie

[4] 	From:	Helen Whall <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
	Date:	Monday, 22 Oct 2007 12:28:31 -0400
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0722 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie

[5] 	From:	Carol Morley <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
	Date:	Tuesday, 23 Oct 2007 09:08:59 +0000
	Subj:	RE: SHK 18.0714 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie

[6] 	From:	Lynn Brenner <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
	Date:	Tuesday, 23 Oct 2007 17:24:01 -0400
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0722 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie

[7] 	From:	Scott Shepherd <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
	Date:	Tuesday, 23 Oct 2007 18:56:31 -0400
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0722 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		R. A. Cantrell <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:		Monday, 22 Oct 2007 09:08:09 -0500
Subject: 18.0722 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0722 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie

 >See
 >Hamlet's soliloquy in Act 3, Scene 3 when he decides against killing
 >Claudius while the king is kneeling "at prayer." The lines from
 >3.3.72-96 only reveal Hamlet's reaction to what he thinks is happening.
 >As an audience, we have just had the privilege of hearing Claudius
 >remark about his inability to pray because he is unwilling to act by
 >giving up his queen and his crown and so we know that part of what
 >Hamlet says is most certainly not true. Hamlet says he will not "take
 >[Claudius] in the purging of his soul, / When he is fit and seasoned for
 >his passage" (3.3.85-6). While this represents the "truthful" reaction
 >on the part of Hamlet, it is not the "truth" of what is really happening
 >with Claudius.

It has long been my view that Prince Hamlet, when not in the action of 
the play, is seen by the audience as watching the play with them. He 
steps in and out of the play; in to take his part, out to either watch 
or to deliver his soliloquies directly to those who have shared his view 
of the action. There are many passages in the play such as the one above 
quoted that can be best explained in this manner.

All the best,
R.A. Cantrell

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Carol Barton <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:		Monday, 22 Oct 2007 11:16:37 -0400 (GMT-04:00)
Subject: 18.0722 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0722 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie

Nicole Coonradt is correct. I think your friend may have 
misinterpreted--or misrelated?--the professor's meaning. A soliloquy 
reflects the "truth" as the speaker *perceives* it--that is, he or she 
is thinking private thoughts, and is not being duplicitous or 
disingenuous or otherwise masking his or her true feelings and beliefs. 
But that is not to say that the speaker *knows* the truth: Othello 
believes that Desdemona has been unfaithful to him, Gloucester believes 
that Edgar has betrayed him, and Romeo believes that Juliet is dead, but 
that doesn't mean in any of those cases that what the speaker *thinks* 
is true reflects truth in the empirical sense. Thus when Othello says

OTHELLO
It is the cause, it is the cause, my soul,--
Let me not name it to you, you chaste stars!--
It is the cause. Yet I'll not shed her blood;
Nor scar that whiter skin of hers than snow,
And smooth as monumental alabaster.
Yet she must die, else she'll betray more men.
Put out the light, and then put out the light:
If I quench thee, thou flaming minister,
I can again thy former light restore,
Should I repent me: but once put out thy light,
Thou cunning'st pattern of excelling nature,
I know not where is that Promethean heat
That can thy light relume. When I have pluck'd the rose,
I cannot give it vital growth again.
It must needs wither: I'll smell it on the tree.

he truly believes that his wife has betrayed him--"it is the cause" for 
which he is about to kill her, "else she'll betray more men." He's 
wrong, but he's not "lying." Similarly, when Hamlet sees and hears his 
father's ghost in the bedchamber scene (but Gertrude doesn't), it makes 
us wonder how "true" the things he has reported previously in soliloquy 
were--but we never suspect him of *lying* either.

Hope that helps make the distinction clear.

Best to all,
Carol Barton

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Larry Weiss <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:		Monday, 22 Oct 2007 12:14:26 -0400
Subject: 18.0722 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0722 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie

I think Nicole Coonradt is spot on when she says

 >Soliloquy is thought verbalized so that the audience knows
 >what the character is thinking. I don't know of any definitions
 >that say "soliloquy = truth," ergo, whether *what* the person
 >speaks is "truth" is a different thing. That would be to say, by
 >extension, that "thought = truth," wouldn't it?

An author might want us to understand that a character misperceives the 
actual situation and, therefore, describes it inaccurately in soliloquy. 
In that case, the author will usually provide ample clues as to the 
"actual" state of facts. But (with the possible exception of theatre of 
the absurd), a drama would be far too chaotic if a character lies to the 
audience about what he or she is thinking -- i.e., what the author 
expects the audience will understand from his words about his state of mind.

Given this rule, what do we make of the following from "How all 
occasions ..." (26 monosyllabic words, beginning and ending with caesurae):

... I do not know
Why yet I live to say, "this thing's to do"
Sith I have cause, and will and strength, and means
To do't. ...

No fair peeking at the thread we had a few years back.

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Helen Whall <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:		Monday, 22 Oct 2007 12:28:31 -0400
Subject: 18.0722 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0722 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie

Soliloquies are a fascinating way to bring up other issues of "knows to 
be true" versus "believes to be true" versus material truth verses 
truthy truth. The only reliable "knows to be true" soliloquies rely on 
material truth. A character tells us what he or she has "really" done or 
what will be done. Here the convention helps with exposition even as 
setting up for the audience that knowledge-tease, dramatic irony. When 
soliloquy seems to be more a matter of the character thinking out loud 
(sort of the three little circle beneath the cartoon balloon), the 
speaker "believes" what he or she says to be true,  and it may be, even 
if we in the realm of dramatic irony know differently. Or, in the realm 
of never-ending interpretation, we believe the character is wrong or 
that the character is self-deceiving. Anyone think of a soliloquy that 
breaks down those premises?

Helen Whall

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Carol Morley <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:		Tuesday, 23 Oct 2007 09:08:59 +0000
Subject: 18.0714 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie
Comment:	RE: SHK 18.0714 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie

For me, soliloquies show the audience the character unmediated by the 
need to perform to any other on stage intruders. They DO show us exactly 
what the characters are thinking- that seems to me to be exactly their 
point, and 'meaning'. Of course, some characters are so fundamentally 
twisted/ dishonest/ dumb/ self-deluding that they wouldn't be expected 
to deliver 'truth' at any price, but the characterisation, at these 
points,  I believe to be consistently truthful to the character's inner 
lives. And that's a meaningful theatrical convention too.

Carol Morley

[6]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Lynn Brenner <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:		Tuesday, 23 Oct 2007 17:24:01 -0400
Subject: 18.0722 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0722 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie

 >Virtually every soliloquy Macbeth has consists of rationalization
 >and self-deception. Antony has one short soliloquy; it consists
 >of fooling himself about why he is going to ditch his wife and
 >run back to Egypt. The proposition is 'true' only if it means that
 >we're supposed to think that this is what the character is thinking.
 >In that form, of course, it's also meaningless.

Surely not. Watching Macbeth and Antony deceive themselves adds 
immeasurably to our understanding of who they are and how they see 
themselves. It's even more interesting when the character who's 
rationalizing his actions is someone who prides himself on seeing the 
world as it really is -- e.g., Iago.

I assume the professor means that in a soliloquy, the character is 
telling the truth as he sees it. I think he's right about that.

Lynn Brenner

[7]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Scott Shepherd <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:		Tuesday, 23 Oct 2007 18:56:31 -0400
Subject: 18.0722 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0722 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie

The truth-in-soliloquy principle is not meant to rule out self-deception 
or cases where the speaker is simply misinformed. The idea is that the 
soliloquizing character will not knowingly tell us something he does not 
actually believe.

Not everyone agrees with this. For example, some readers don't trust 
Iago when he says he suspects his wife with Othello. Or Hamlet when he 
claims to think the ghost "may be the devil."

The truth-in-soliloquy argument says it's absurd to imagine Iago or 
Hamlet practicing deception not on another character but on the audience 
itself. The common-sense understanding being that the audience doesn't 
exist in Iago's or Hamlet's imaginative reality, so there is no one to 
lie to, therefore no point in lying.

The counter-argument I suppose is that in a real theater there *is* a 
felt relationship between the audience and a fictional character who 
addresses them directly, and in that context we should not be surprised 
to detect the sort of posturing, defensive justifications, ass-covering 
omissions, etc. that one ordinarily detects in a person  explaining his 
actions to "the public" or some other sort of interested nonparticipant.

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, 
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the 
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the 
editor assumes no responsibility for them.
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.