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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: March ::
Solid Flesh Once More
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0192  Friday, 28 March 2008

[1] 	From:	Steve Roth <
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	Date:	Thursday, 13 Mar 2008 21:48:49 -0700
	Subj:	Re: SHK 19.0162 Solid Flesh Once More

[2] 	From:	David Bishop <
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	Date:	Friday, 14 Mar 2008 02:41:02 -0400
	Subj:	Re: SHK 19.0175 Solid Flesh Once More


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Steve Roth <
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Date:		Thursday, 13 Mar 2008 21:48:49 -0700
Subject: 19.0162 Solid Flesh Once More
Comment:	Re: SHK 19.0162 Solid Flesh Once More

David Bishop <
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 >The thought which doesn't compute with anyone on this list,
 >apparently, is that "too too solid flesh" refers to Hamlet's youth.

I *love* this thought. I had never thought of it, and it adds yet more 
valences of meaning to the line. (David, you have read my screed on 
Hamlet's youth, right? http://princehamlet.com/chapter_1.html) Just 
because nobody has responded to the subject doesn't mean it doesn't compute.

Likewise William Godshalk's bit on a hilarious sexual reading. ("a dew" 
= emission, "solid flesh" = a youthfully erect member, "melt, thaw" = 
what happens to said solid flesh following said emission.) It's well 
down the scale of "yeah that's gotta be right," but it's damned funny 
and I'm adding it to my locker.

Do either of these prove that "solid" is the "correct" reading? No. But 
they both add  valid-to-at-least-amusingly-enjoyable additional 
meanings, contributing to the density and layers of meaning that have 
been steadily accreting to this line for centuries.

On that note, I should point out that hamletworks' Commentary Note for 
this line runs to 10,000 words, approximately 28 pages.. (Which I have 
not read--recently.)

http://www.leoyan.com/global-language.com/ENFOLDED/output4.php?file=HWORKS0300/HW-313cn.xml

 >I wouldn't even seriously suggest that I was the first to
 >see the reference to youth. In the vast corpus of criticism
 >I'm sure someone has noticed that, here or there. But
 >where? That is the question.

Not that it matters a great deal to me (I'm just happy to relish and 
render my own somewhat-educated judgment on what you've provided), but I 
would be curious to know about any of your predecessors on this point.

 >I see no reason to think that "a dew" should be amended
 >to "adieu", which though consonant, in a way, with the
 >meaning of the sentence, itself does not really make sense.

I wouldn't dream of making that choice as a text editor. (Actors need 
not choose in this case, unless they choose to "explain" the word[s] via 
some action.) But I love having the variant meaning/reading as part of 
the complex for the line that exists in my mind.

 >Steve Roth takes the politically and deconstructionally
 >correct position that words can mean anything and everything,

Oh please. Come on, David. My position is merely that words and strings 
of words can have multiple meanings. Hardly controversial. I'm betting 
that I have at least as little truck with the greater body of postmodern 
"theory" as you do.

 >to say that in a particular case a word means one thing and
 >not another is mean-spirited, narrow-minded, bigoted, etc.

Oh please again. Not at all. The "one thing and not another" decision is 
an often unfortunate necessity that an editor (and to a lesser extent a 
actor or director) faces. One has no choice but to remove some of the 
readings and their associated meanings, in choosing one. Just a fact, no 
value judgment.

 >If when I hear "solid" I also hear an echo of "salad",
 >for example,

Ha! I love that. Trying to work up a joke based on it...

 >that doesn't mean Shakespeare intended that echo,

In a huge number of cases we have no way of knowing with any degree of 
certainty what Shakespeare intended. (On what level of consciousness did 
he "intend" any of the more allusive readings/meanings?) Based on the 
multiple texts and variants, and the many plausible meanings arising 
from same, it seems to me that he intended many things--complementary, 
contradictory, and downright mischievous.

It actually amuses me greatly to think that Shakespeare "intended" to 
leave behind the multiple, conflicting texts, and the innumerable 
un-"fix"able cruxes that result.

We can of course conclude that he could not possibly have intended a 
given variant or meaning, based on any number of arguments--notably 
nonesensicalness (See: "salad"), lack of of evidence, or a great many 
types of contradictory evidence.

 >nor that it adds to my understanding of the play,

Ah now *there's* the ticket. That's what I care about.

 >or to the greatness of the play.

It's greatness arises, in my mind, from the very density (complex 
coherence or coherent complexity) that is generated by multiple, 
interrelated, tightly interwoven readings and meanings: the tapestry, 
which only can only be perceived in all its majesty in the mind. And the 
more you know about it--the more readings and reasoned interpretations 
you've internalized--the denser, more beautiful, and "greater" the 
mental tapestry.

 >The more weight is given to this amorphous nimbus
 >of suggestibility the more trouble the work will have
 >moving forward, to tell a story,

It's true that all that complexity can/does/often will get in the way of 
a successful stage production (or first reading, for that matter), which 
relies more on story and action. But for me that just speaks to 
Shakespeare's genius-his ability to write for both the stage and the 
page. (And the mind.)

 >I would certainly agree that Shakespeare packs in
 >suggestions that may be inaudible on the stage.

That's good to know. "Packs" is right. Seems obvious, though.

 >To follow the program would seem to dissolve the
 >possibility of meaning anything in particular.

This is like arguing that a country with strong social support systems 
is the same as the Soviet Union. (An argument you hear distressingly 
often on this side of the pond, along with altogether too many other 
black-and-white arguments [literal and figurative]...) Have I said "Oh 
please" yet?

 >echoes which are intentional, meaningful and significant,
 >in different ways, and those that are not, which requires
 >critical insight, and argument.

My point is only that the argument should often be about *degree* of 
belief (in Ulysses' sense?), as opposed to either/or belief. When I'm 
holding this complex in my head, how much weight do I give to "solid" 
(lots) and how much to "salad"? (Just enough for a quick grin-but it's 
there now, and I'm keeping it!)

 >The idea that it's meaningless, and mean, in general, to
 >argue about what's correct and what isn't--though in particular
 >cases that may be true--is often used, I think, to evade the
 >point of particular arguments, as for example that Hamlet
 >would not use "sullied" at this stage in the play.

Your "youth" argument for "solid" simply doesn't convince me to deny all 
validity to "sullied." "I know not seems" does not, to me, (even begin 
to) prove Hamlet's unalloyed belief in his own purity. I might opt for 
your choice when editing (depending on many factors), but since I'm not 
editing, there's no need to shred and discard a whole section of the 
tapestry.

Oh, and in my previous post, I had meant to laud and praise this 
previous of yours:

 >In editing Shakespeare, my rule of thumb is to produce
 >the best Shakespeare possible, which I tend to believe
 >coincides with the real Shakespeare. Removing all appeal
 >to meaning and quality in the interest of "objectivity" will
 >accelerate the decline of the humanities,

If "best" means the Shakespeare which best puts across its density, 
complexity, and coherence (and humor!), we agree. I also believe that 
constitutes the most "authentic" Shakespeare--the Shakespeare that 
Shakespeare, IMHO, most "intended."

Claiming "objectivity" on the sallied/solid question, and using it to 
discard part of that intention's complex result, will undoubtedly 
accelerate not only the decline of the humanities, but in fact the 
disintegration of all civilized life on earth.

Oh and thanks to Hardy for his arduous if pleasant labors. Enjoyable 
reading, thanks.

Steve

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		David Bishop <
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Date:		Friday, 14 Mar 2008 02:41:02 -0400
Subject: 19.0175 Solid Flesh Once More
Comment:	Re: SHK 19.0175 Solid Flesh Once More

I appreciate Carol Barton's agreement on the limits of polysemy. 
However, I think what Hamlet's old stock relishes implies some sense of 
being sullied, as does the dram of eale (evil?) and perhaps the 
suspicion of cowardice and/or bestiality.

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