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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: January ::
Soliloquies - Truth or Lie...or Overheard
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0006  Thursday, 3 January 2008

[1] 	From:	Carol Barton <
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	Date:	Friday, 21 Dec 2007 10:42:06 -0500
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0836 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie...or Overheard

[2] 	From:	Aaron Azlant <
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	Date:	Friday, 21 Dec 2007 10:42:41 -0500
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0836 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie...or Overheard

[3] 	From:	Edmund Taft <
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	Date:	Friday, 21 Dec 2007 11:14:27 -0500
	Subj:	Soliloquies -- Truth or Lie -- or Oveheard?

[4] 	From:	Larry Weiss <
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	Date:	Friday, 21 Dec 2007 12:38:37 -0500
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0836 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie...or Overheard


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Carol Barton <
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Date:		Friday, 21 Dec 2007 10:42:06 -0500
Subject: 18.0836 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie...or Overheard
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0836 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie...or Overheard

I agree with Lynne (and disagree with Scott), except that I think Hamlet 
is conscious of and deliberately invoking both meanings of "nunnery." 
The Ophelia he loves--the innocent whom he has instructed to "doubt that 
the stars are fire"--belongs in a convent, where she will not become the 
sort of manipulative, duplicitous female who is a "breeder of men" like 
his mother; the duplicitous little conspirator who is pandering to her 
father and Claudius against him belongs in a whore-house, with the other 
perfidious females who show one face (adoration) to their husbands, and 
another (treachery) to their lovers. She is a schemer like Gertrude, and 
the recognition must pierce Hamlet to the quick: all women are demons of 
the same stripe. (In his state of mind, who can blame him? He has seen 
nothing but love between his parents--so how come the funeral meats to 
furnish forth the wedding feast?) Such shocks to one's personal 
epistemology breed cynicism of the most bitter kind, and I think that's 
what he's expressing here: both the ideal woman and the scheming whore 
figure in his exclamation.

Carol Barton

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Aaron Azlant <
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Date:		Friday, 21 Dec 2007 10:42:41 -0500
Subject: 18.0836 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie...or Overheard
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0836 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie...or Overheard

At the risk of further exposing myself for the Stephen Booth partisan 
that I am, this topic is also addressed in "On the Value of Hamlet." 
Booth views the interrogation of Ophelia in this scene (which is 
certainly odd, in part because Hamlet accuses Ophelia of things that he 
is presumably angry at his mother for) as yet another example of 
Shakespearean misdirection.

In previous scenes, we in the audience receive privileged information: 
unlike Polonius and Claudius, we know that Hamlet has decided to put on 
an antic disposition-although, even this is odd, because Hamlet elects 
to tell Horatio and the guardsmen (and us) so only after about fifty 
lines of lunacy. In any case, when we see him in the scene with Ophelia 
he is legitimately angry and does not seem to be playing.

I don't know, then, if there is direct evidence for his overhearing 
Polonius or even that nunnery in this case means anything other than 
"nunnery"; I suspect, instead, that the purpose of the scene is a 
radical break from evidence that we have previously observed.

--AA

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Edmund Taft <
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Date:		Friday, 21 Dec 2007 11:14:27 -0500
Subject:	Soliloquies -- Truth or Lie -- or Oveheard?

Lynn Brenner suggests the following scenario during 3.1 of _Hamlet_:

"Claudius and Polonius are hiding behind a convenient upstage screen. 
When Ophelia tenders her gifts -- 'There, my  lord.' - Polonius peeps 
out for a split second to see what she's handing Hamlet. (What could be 
more like him?)"

True enough, so this suggestion is quite possible. It comes right on the 
heels of the fact that Hamlet must be surprised that Ophelia is giving 
back gifts that once meant so much to her. Moreover, it's the way she 
says it:

             "My lord, I have remembrances of yours,
             That I have longed long to redeliver."
                                     (3.1.94-95)

She's wanted to give these tokens back to Hamlet for a long time? - as 
if she's been out of love with him for a long time?

It sounds like what Polonius instructed her to say, and it doesn't ring 
true.

Ed Taft

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Larry Weiss <
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Date:		Friday, 21 Dec 2007 12:38:37 -0500
Subject: 18.0836 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie...or Overheard
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0836 Soliloquies - Truth or Lie...or Overheard

I do not claim a monopoly on all possible, or even reasonable, solutions 
to the question. But I do believe that my solution is the only one I 
have encountered which is keyed to and supported by the actual text. The 
elaborate stage business described by Lynn Brenner would work in 
performance, and I suppose we have all seen some such shuffling about, 
but there is nothing in the text to justify it; it is all in the mind of 
the reader, director or actor. I wish Alan Dessen would weigh in on this 
one.

Scott Shepherd's comments quibble with the perfect wholeness of my 
interpretation, but do not offer a reasonable alternative, or any 
alternative at all. And I don't think his cavils undermine what I have said:

 >That Hamlet means chastity when he says "Are you
 >honest?" is clear from his immediate follow-up: "your
 >honesty should admit no discourse to your beauty."

No; this is Hamlet's response to Ophelia's misinterpretation of his 
meaning or a deliberately misleading answer to her question "What means 
my lord?" (which may be regarded as a straightforward inquiry into 
whether Hamlet has seen through the charade).

 >We should notice also that the explosion starts *before*
 >"ha, ha!":  you can hear it rumbling already in "No not I,
 >I never gave you aught."

That line seems to me nothing more than a modest declaration that the 
gifts were insignificant; akin to the modern "forget about it; it's 
nothing." Hamlet is not here berating Ophelia or questioning her good faith.

 >But is this invention necessary? Does it even improve
 >our understanding of the scene?

I think so; but you are free to disagree. If "understanding" includes an 
appreciation of how and why Hamlet has become aware of Ophelia's 
duplicity and reacts suddenly, I think it helps immeasurably. And, oh, I 
object to "invention:" as applied to a plausible interpretation of an 
actual line of text. Unscripted shuffling behind the arras or brief 
disclosures of the hidden watchers not supported by stage directions, 
THOSE are "inventions."

 >Doesn't it rather alleviate the need to understand it, by
 >explaining it in terms of the *plot*, in terms of hero-vs-villain?

Absolutely not.

 >Doesn't it in fact invalidate a crucial encounter between
 >Hamlet and Ophelia, turning it into a clever show put on
 >for the benefit of the men behind the curtain?

It can be both a representation of Hamlet's disappointment at Ophelia's 
duplicity and the death of his love ("I did love you once") AND a 
demonstration for the benefit of the watchers. As the latter, it is not 
particularly "clever"; for example, Hamlet seems to go too far with "all 
but one."

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