The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0094 Thursday, 14 February 2008
From: Arnie Perlstein <
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
"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
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.
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