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Home :: Archive :: 2009 :: July ::
SBReview_4: Margreta de Grazia's _Hamlet without
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0408  Monday, 27 July 2009

[1] From:   Phyllis Gorfain <
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     Date:   Saturday, 25 Jul 2009 17:40:57 -0400
     Subj:   Re: SHK 20.0392 SBReview_4: Margreta de Grazia's _Hamlet 
without Hamlet_

[2] From:   Hardy M. Cook <
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     Date:   Monday, July 27, 2009
     Subj:   Some Ramblings on the Instability of Meaning and the Nature 
of Thought


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Phyllis Gorfain <
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Date:       Saturday, 25 Jul 2009 17:40:57 -0400
Subject: 20.0392 SBReview_4: Margreta de Grazia's _Hamlet 
Comment:    Re: SHK 20.0392 SBReview_4: Margreta de Grazia's _Hamlet 
without Hamlet_

Some thoughts about the _Hamlet_ phenomenon. The attraction for 
Shakespeareans as well as "buffs," and enthusiasts, for analyzing, 
interpreting, or commenting on _Hamlet_ on/for Shaksper is *almost* 
worth an article.

I guess any examination of the submissions and writing about them in any 
kind of meaningful way would need to be a "crossover" between 
psychiatry, Shakespearean studies, and literary theory. But, come to 
think of it, the entire subject is actually worth about three sentences. 
How much can one say about how and why _Hamlet_ attracts this kind of 
confusion/conflation of intellectual (or just mental) absolutism along 
with a zeal for conversion/convincing all others of the truth and 
definitiveness of one's decoding? For true believers, _Hamlet_ is a 
mystique, and when one has decoded its mystery (or believed one has), 
one has to broadcast, publish, and convince all others of the mystery 
one has solved, forever, and completely.

But then, why _Hamlet_ more than _Lear_ or _Timon of Athens_ or _Titus 
Andronicus_, or any other play with a character who goes insane or 
something of the sort? I guess that answer is _Hamlet_'s iconic stature, 
its place as a master cultural text in world culture. Actually, that 
aspect of the phenomenon is probably worth an article -- as one gets 
there into cultural studies, I guess. That article would address what 
other master texts (in a variety of fields) attract this kind of 
interpretative zealotry?  I can imagine those who think they have the 
answer about dreams, about questions in physics, etc. all haunt editors 
and experts mailboxes. Not what I want to write about that, however . . 
. I wonder if Marjorie Garber wrote about this in her recent book on 
Shakespeare and popular culture, a book I haven't read? I gather many 
other fields and listservs may have this problem with kooks and buffs 
and lay theorists writing in with _The Answer_ to some favorite 
intellectual puzzle.

At least Amnon knows his theory about _Hamlet_ undoubtedly only a theory 
and one that is way out there, but possibly _interesting_ in terms of 
staging, or if people are willing to consider a purely imaginative 
"theory" that makes no claim to finality or truth.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Hardy M. Cook <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:       Monday, July 27, 2009
Subject:    Some Ramblings on the Instability of Meaning and the Nature 
of Thought

 >At least Amnon knows his theory about _Hamlet_ undoubtedly only
 >*a theory* and one that is way out there, but possibly _interesting_
 >in terms of staging, or if people are willing to consider *a purely
 >imaginative "theory" that makes no claim to finality or
 >truth.* [MY EMPHASIS]

Phyllis Gorfain's remarks and in particular her comments about her 
friend Amnon Zakov's paper, "Death "Becomes Hamlet: Elsinore as a Black 
Hole"

<http://www.shaksper.net/review-papers/ZakovDeathBecomesHamlet_Elsinore_Black_Hole_ZAKOV.pdf>, 


and his interpretative play, "Death Becomes Hamlet or Is That The 
Question?, A Tragic Comedy in Two Acts"

<http://www.shaksper.net/review-papers/DeathBecomesHamletScript_01_07_2009_ZAKOV.pdf>, 


that I quote above capture many of my own attitudes toward some of the 
_Hamlet_ postings that have appeared on SHAKSPER recently (see 
especially my comments in the FLAWS thread at 
http://www.shaksper.net/archives/2009/0396.html).

After these many years of association with SHAKSPER, I have found that 
many, many people are attracted to _Hamlet_, and many of them believe 
that they have a better understanding of the meaning of the play than 
anyone else. The problem is that not only are they convinced they 
understand the play better than anyone else but also that they simply 
cannot be persuaded by any means or evidence either textual or 
historical or otherwise that they are not ABSOLUTELY correct. 
Occasionally, these "pet" theories are religiously based (i.e., _Hamlet_ 
represents spiritual struggle between X and Y), often connected to a 
larger theoretical framework (i.e., not only is _Hamlet_ about the 
retelling of such and such but that the reason is that Shakespeare was 
representing Christian beliefs about Z, or Jewish beliefs about U, or 
Shakespeare was Christ or is a member from Louisiana, and so on and so on).

And then there is the matter of those posts that treat the character of 
Hamlet as a "real" person not a as character is a fictional construction 
that is enacted by actors (who may or may not want to imagine a back 
story to help them enact their character on the stage).

What I believe that bothers me about all these posts to which I refer, 
those that appear at the drop of any proverbial hat with Hamlet's name 
on its inside, is their seeming conviction of their own rightness, that 
there is only ONE correct interpretation of the play and that here it is.

One recent _Hamlet_ thread began with a question -- What is Hamlet's flaw?

Now, either* I have finally grown up, or* have so bought into 
post-modernist assumptions, or* have so accepted beliefs in the 
instability of meaning that I am no longer, if I ever was to begin with, 
capable of feeling assured that my assumptions are stable enough to hold 
up to scrutiny -- that my thoughts are even worthy enough to utter. I am 
not sure if I have just come to accept that whatever I have to say runs 
the risk of being expressed in such unstable terms that I am virtually 
incapable of making a critical observation about Shakespeare or* is it 
just a critical statement about _Hamlet_ or* is the entire point of 
_Hamlet_ that it is perhaps the foremost expression in western 
literature of the instability of meaning, of the inability to find 
fixity in language or thought. That _Hamlet_ is ALL about "the 
interrogative mode," as Maynard Mack said of it -- To be or not to be -- 
THAT IS THE QUESTION!* Or is it that I have become so imbued with an 
Asian perspective that nothing means, it just is.*

"To judge therefore of Shakespeare by Aristotle's rules, is like trying 
a man by the Laws of one Country, who acted under those of another."
  	Alexander Pope. From "Excellencies and Defects of Shakespeare"

"The past if a foreign country; they do things differently there."
	L. P. Hartley _The Go-Between_

  --  a purely imaginative "theory" that makes no claim to finality or 
truth.*

When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad.

Being and non-being create each other.
Difficult and easy support each other.
Long and short define each other.
High and low depend on each other.
Before and after follow each other. . . .
	Trans. S. Mitchell
	Verse 2 _Tao te Ching_

Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty only because there is ugliness.
All can know good as good only because there is evil.

Therefore having and not having arise together.
Difficult and easy complement each other.
Long and short contrast each other;
High and low rest upon each other;
Voice and sound harmonize each other;
Front and back follow one another.
	Trans. Jane English
	Verse 2 _Tao te Ching_

Everyone recognizes beauty
      only because of ugliness
Everyone recognizes virtue
      only because of sin

Life and death are born together
Difficult and easy
Long and short
High and low-
      all these exist together
Sound and silence blend as one
Before and after arrive as one
	Trans. Jonathan Star
	Verse 2 _Tao te Ching_

Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty,
           only because there is ugliness.
All can know good as good only because there is evil.

Being and nonbeing produce each other.
           The difficult is born in the easy.
Long is defined by short, the high by the low.
      Before and after go along with each other.
	Trans. Wayne W. Dyer
	Verse 2 _Tao te Ching_

We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our
thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
  	From Verse One _The Dhammapada_
	Translated by Thomas Byrom
<http://www.thebigview.com/download/dhammapada.pdf>

All that we are is the result of what we have thought.
	From Verse One _The Dhammapada_
	Translated by Eknath Easwaran

"The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human 
thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question. Man 
must prove the truth - i.e. the reality and power, the this-sidedness of 
his thinking in practice. The dispute over the reality or non-reality of 
thinking that is isolated from practice is a purely _scholastic_ question."
	Marx. From _Theses On Feuerbach_ 
<http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/theses/theses.htm>

"It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on 
the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness."
	Marx. From "Preface" of _A Contribution to the Critique of Political 
Economy_
<http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1859/critique-pol-economy/preface-abs.pdf>

"Religion is from the outset _consciousness of the transcendental_ 
arising from actually existing forces.
	Marx's Notes, 12. FORMS OF SOCIAL CONSCIOUSNESS
<http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/german-ideology/ch01c.htm>




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