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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: August ::
What is Hamlet's flaw?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0448  Friday, 14 August 2009

[1] From:   Sally Drumm <
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     Date:   Wednesday, 12 Aug 2009 13:33:06 -0400
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0447 What is Hamlet's flaw?

[2] From:   Sally Drumm <
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     Date:   Wednesday, 12 Aug 2009 13:37:24 -0400
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0447 What is Hamlet's flaw?

[3] From:   Jim Ryan <
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     Date:   Friday, 14 Aug 2009 10:26:13 -0400
     Subj:   What is Hamlet's flaw?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Sally Drumm <
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Date:       Wednesday, 12 Aug 2009 13:33:06 -0400
Subject: 20.0447 What is Hamlet's flaw?
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0447 What is Hamlet's flaw?

 >Has young Hamlet achieved perfect vicarious contrition by
 >helping to restore the fruits of King Hamlet's sins to young Fortinbras?

Please define "vicarious contrition" and "fruits of King Hamlet's sins."

Sincerely,
Sally Drumm

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Sally Drumm <
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 >
Date:       Wednesday, 12 Aug 2009 13:37:24 -0400
Subject: 20.0447 What is Hamlet's flaw?
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0447 What is Hamlet's flaw?

 >Alas, old ideas (like
 >Saussure's rather silly "language never errs") tend to decline as their
 >(tenured and aging) proponents either retire or die, rather than because
 >its proponents have not found consensual confirmation in the critical
 >universe.

I have often been accused of being lodged in the 19th century and 
consider it a compliment. Thank you. I much prefer French philosophers 
to American, and so far as criticism is concerned, I will spend hours 
reading Mimesis and zilch time reading most of what today is called 
criticism. Truly, language never errs.

Sincerely,
Sally Drumm

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Jim Ryan <
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 >
Date:       Friday, 14 Aug 2009 10:26:13 -0400
Subject:    What is Hamlet's flaw?

John Knapp writes,

 >In general, while scientists tend to work toward a consensus because
 >"nature" talks back to scientists and it's "not nice to fool mother
 >nature," literary critics can only talk back to one another. Ours is a
 >very conservative discipline that tends to rely on reputation as much
 >as strength of rhetorical skills.

Shouldn't it be possible to keep a quiet corner in Shakespeare studies 
where we can hear Shakespeare whisper back? To put aside the 
conservatism of the discipline and make consensual incremental changes, 
particularly in the description of the plays? For example, we know 
(don't we?) from the action and time intervals in, say, _Hamlet_ and 
_Othello_ that those plays are composed in five main parts and that the 
traditional Act divisions often do not accord with those parts. Yet we 
go on publishing the incorrect demarcations with only a footnote, if 
that, to indicate the flaws. Why not reverse the procedure, footnoting 
the old and incorrect divisions? Give students some more immediate sense 
of the dramatic structure instead of implying that the breaks are not of 
much importance? ("Convenience of reference" hardly justifies distorting 
the plays' articulations.)

The recent discussion on Othello's handkerchief illustrates critics 
talking back to one another with little regard for the text, without 
listening for Shakespeare's voice. There was only one mention, and that 
slighting, to the fact that the handkerchief is embroidered with 
strawberries. Surely it would be worth looking at the food references in 
the play for clues to the handkerchief's significance. And in this 
search wouldn't it be helpful to have a compendium of food references 
listed scene by scene? Wouldn't it be possible to reach consensus on 
such modest details?

Accurate description ("mere description," in Stanley Cavell's dismissive 
phrase) necessarily precedes interpretation. Amidst the grand theorizing 
about the plays, I often imagine hearing Louis Agassiz exhorting his 
students: "Look at your fish."


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