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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: February ::
To be or not to be
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0094  Thursday, 14 February 2008

From:		Arnie Perlstein <
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Date:		Wednesday, 13 Feb 2008 16:21:57 -0500
Subject:	To be or not to be

I just found the following passage in Aristotle's _Metaphysics_, in Book 
Gamma:

"But our present question is not whether it is possible for the same 
thing to be and not to be in regard to the locution, but whether it is 
possible in regard to the object. But if 'man' and 'not man' do not mean 
something different, it cannot be denied that 'not to be a man' will 
mean the same as 'to be a man', and this will mean that 'to be a man' 
will just be 'not to be a man', since they will be a single thing."

For what I think must be obvious reasons to a participant in this group, 
I wonder whether it has ever previously been suggested that Shakespeare 
had this passage at least partly in mind when he wrote Hamlet's most 
famous soliloquy.

The possible connection I see is that Hamlet is considering suicide, he 
is in emotional torment as a result of seeing his father's ghost, but, 
being the hyper-intellectual that he is, he immediately intellectualizes 
the physical feeling in his gut, and sublimates it into a METAphysical 
internal debate. I.e., he struggles to make this a problem that can be 
solved by his intellect, and in a way, it is----because part of his 
uncertainty and doubt relate to the very pressing question of whether 
the ghost was really his father's ghost, or a hallucination induced by a 
hallucination of his guards--remember, Hamlet is the only witness to the 
story about Claudius killing Hamlet--or a Devil in disguise, etc.  So 
Aristotle's analysis has some applicability to that question.

Arnie Perlstein
Weston, Florida

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