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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: August ::
What is Hamlet's flaw?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0454  Thursday, 21 August 2009

[1] From:   Anna Kamaralli <
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     Date:   Friday, 21 Aug 2009 00:06:53 +0000 (GMT)
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0453 What is Hamlet's flaw?

[2] From:   Felix de Villiers <
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     Date:   Friday, 21 Aug 2009 12:47:37 +0200
     Subj:   What is Hamlet's flaw


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Anna Kamaralli <
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Date:       Friday, 21 Aug 2009 00:06:53 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: 20.0453 What is Hamlet's flaw?
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0453 What is Hamlet's flaw?

 From Donald Bloom:

 >Heathcliff: I described his behavior to a friend (a retired psychology 
professor) and asked him why >someone would do such things. He said, "An 
abused childhood   --   or possibly a brain tumor" ... the >maniacally 
sadistic quality of his later life makes him rather dubious as a hero of 
any sort.
 >
 >Becky Sharp: She's an acquisitive, egocentric bitch.

Thank you for providing such a neat illustration of gendered double 
standards. She's a "bitch", but a sadist who enjoys stringing up puppies 
is merely a "dubious hero". As I also recall you calling Katherina an 
"obnoxious bitch", perhaps you might like to take a rest from commenting 
on female characters until you get a wider vocabulary or a greater 
acquaintance with the present century?

Regards,
Anna Kamaralli

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Felix de Villiers <
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Date:       Friday, 21 Aug 2009 12:47:37 +0200
Subject:    What is Hamlet's flaw

A reply to Donald Bloom 19 Aug 2009

I had half a mind to send my reply to David privately as it departs 
somewhat from Hamlet, but not really, as comparisons are always 
interesting -- and I feel I have some public right to correct gross 
misunderstandings of what I wrote.

First of all I NEVER said Aristotle was wrong, though to say he was 
right would be equally dim-witted. What I meant was that I look closely 
at the text in front of me, before turning to other theories No 
theoretician is absolutely right, theories of drama change. Aristotle 
was not God. I have just this minute read his theory of tragedy (a 
summary of it) and saw several points that have been challenged, like 
that of the katharsis. Aristotle writes that drama must have action in 
it, and this is precisely what Hamlet avoids. I have considered this 
flaw as his strength, but it is, in any case not, (I think) a flaw in 
the Aristotelian sense. Hamlet extends beyond the bounds of traditional 
tragedy, much to the discomfort of Classicists, especially in France. 
Shakespeare is Britain's undomesticated genius. I believe the unity of 
time and place also comes from the Greeks.

Having looked at Aristotle's theories I now know why there has been this 
mania for flaw spotting. Really! Aristotle could use his own 
intelligence, Shakespeare his, and we ours.

When I mentioned Heathcliff and Becky Sharp I was thinking of literature 
in general and this business of spotting flaws. The fact that Becky 
Sharp is a nasty piece of work is so obvious that every ass can see it 
and it does not require identification. We are interested in what she 
does with it and what the outcome of her actions will be.

Heathcliff's abused childhood may be relevant but it is not of vital 
significance. I have no doubt your friend was joking when he talked of a 
brain tumour. Heathcliff comes from nowhere. Emily Bronte's novel is a 
fantasia, a nightmare. Heathcliff and the first Catherine come from a 
realm of evil spirits and go back to it. When Heathcliff dies he shrinks 
and goes like an emaciated goblin. (Another factor is Emily Bronte's 
furious hatred of middle class society. If this had dominated her novel 
it would have failed, but as far as I can remember the poetic 
inspiration takes off from about chapter 9) Why has this novel been so 
much loved for generations?

Well Hamlet has nothing to do with those two anti-heroes, aolthough he 
too is described by Hazlitt as an anti-hero,. Going from them to him 
brings out his virtues. I found an interesting citation on this subject 
in Hamlet by Hazlitt:

"The moral perfection of this character has been called in question, we 
think, by those who do not understand it. It is more interesting than 
according to rules; amiable, though not faultless. The ethical 
delineations of that "noble and liberal casuist" (as Shakespear has been 
well called) do not exhibit the drab-coloured quakerism of morality. His 
plays are not copied either from the "Whole Duty of Man," or from "The 
Academy of Compliments!"

Dare I say that Heathcliff and Becky Sharp made a bold escape from the 
'drab-coloured Quakerism of morality?" Becky is the only honest 
character who unashamedly exercises the hypocritical avidity of the 
others -- apart from about two 'good' characters and a woman who can't 
cope, vegetates and dies.

Don't take every word I write literally.

Yours,
Felix

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