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Dying Unshriven
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.1082  Wednesday, 6 December 2006

[1]     From:     Paul E. Doniger <
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    Date:     Tuesday, 5 Dec 2006 19:14:24 -0800 (PST)
    Subj:     Re: SHK 17.1077 Dying Unshriven

[2]     From:     Will Sharpe <
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    Date:     Wednesday, 06 Dec 2006 15:02:01 +0000
    Subj:     RE: SHK 17.1077 Dying Unshriven

[3]     From:     Hardy M. Cook <
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    Date:     Wednesday, December 06, 2006
    Subj:     Editor's Note


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Paul E. Doniger <
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Date:         Tuesday, 5 Dec 2006 19:14:24 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 17.1077 Dying Unshriven
Comment:     Re: SHK 17.1077 Dying Unshriven

Cheryl, Louis, et al,
 
I can accept the possibility that Horatio's comment may be seen as a 
criticism -- at least that is one viable interpretation. Michael 
Pennington says it should be a "reproof" followed by "a silence in the 
theatre" (_Hamlet: A User's Guide_ NY: Limelight Editions, 1996: 184), 
and that seems a perfectly reasonable approach to me, although not the 
only approach. Actually, considering Hamlet's short line just before 
Horatio's comment ("Thou know'st already."), the pause could come before 
he speaks rather than after. But a reproof or a criticism is a far cry 
from horror. Also, it could be quite simply a quiet reaction that 
carries no reproof at all. Horatio is something of a stoic who is "not 
passion's slave;" consequently, it's quite probable that his comment 
carries no judgment in it at all. Hamlet's self-defense (if that's what 
it is) may come from his own inner turmoil or sense of guilt and not at 
all from Horatio's personal reaction to the news.
 
Paul E. Doniger
 
[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Will Sharpe <
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Date:         Wednesday, 06 Dec 2006 15:02:01 +0000
Subject: 17.1077 Dying Unshriven
Comment:     RE: SHK 17.1077 Dying Unshriven

Oh dear, it's happening again. 'Dying Unshriven', a fair yet fatal 
question on something related to the action of Hamlet, has become yet 
another pretext for talking about what Hamlet means. Kenneth Chan writes:

[PROSEQUOTE]
This is definitely true if we selectively use only the portions of the 
play that suits our interpretation, while ignoring the rest. On the 
other hand, if we have to fit our interpretation to the entire play - 
every portion of it, without leaving anything out - we will find that 
there is actually very little room for multiple varying interpretations. 
Then, and only then, will we come close to the meaning of the play as 
Shakespeare intended.
[/PROSEQUOTE]

Some thoughts on lost-ness. As literary historians, we occasionally 
trawl through Henslowe's Diary and The Annals of English Drama looking 
at play titles that have not survived, for multiple reasons, but let's 
just say that the point is that we know they existed because we have 
written evidence, but we're never going to know these plays, in spite of 
our intense desire to do so. However, in this case there is still the 
possibility that we might one day know them if they are found somewhere, 
such as in the libraries of stately homes etc. It is very unlikely that 
we are ever going to find Shakespeare's diary in the library of a 
stately home or anywhere else, and even less likely that we are going to 
find his mind, so we can say, I feel confident, with absolute certainty 
that we are never going to know 'the meaning of the play as Shakespeare 
intended'. All we are left with is a stalemate. It would be as 
impossible for us to recreate a lost play, word-for-word (I should say 
the odds are billions to one) as it would be for us to uncover the lost 
meaning of Shakespeare as he sat down, quill in hand, to compose Hamlet. 
But here's the thing: if I were to publish a book tomorrow that either 
a) reproduced, word-for-word, the Ur-Hamlet, or b) correctly rendered 
Shakespeare's intended meaning for Hamlet, there would be no way for 
anybody to know that that's what I had actually done in either of these 
cases (unless we found the Ur-Hamlet in a stately home, or in Thomas 
Bodley's grave etc. and verified it). If we accept this, the only 
recourse left open to us when it comes to Shakespeare's lost meaning 
behind a text that we do have is to manufacture our own around this 
cultural edifice, to witter on about it in the hope of convincing others 
of our interpretations. Once we accept that anything we say about Hamlet 
will be our own, or somebody else's who isn't Shakespeare, we can see 
the fruitlessness of the exercise of striving for authentic meaning, the 
crusade that will take the faithful follower into the holy presence of 
truth. Perhaps these discussions might be more fruitful if we used them 
as a springboard for discussing the state of scholarly ideas about these 
phenomena, such as Terence Hawkes's work on this very matter of making 
meaning out of Shakespeare and what's been published since to 
challenge/augment it. In fact, I remember Hardy suggesting this very 
thing a few months ago: that we should have round-table discussions, 
with guest moderators, that might actually involve hard research and 
considered opinions on published work. That way, this forum might become 
what it was intended to be: a way of using technology to maintain a 
scholarly community, a sort of year-round conference that allows ideas 
to be swapped without needing to all fly to a particular city. Sadly, it 
seems to be going the way of most things on the internet, where any old 
thing can get published.

Will Sharpe

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Hardy M. Cook <
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Date:         Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Subject:     Editor's Note

Will Sharpe above has raised two issues that I wish to comment on.

[1] Interpretations - Pet Theories - The Meaning of Shakespeare - 
Shakespeare's Intentions - Hidden Truths - TRUTH and so on

A major issue that has troubled me in recent years as the editor and 
moderator of this list involves the vast disparity between the ways that 
the majority of academics and non-academics regard reading/interpreting 
Shakespeare. I unfortunately so not have the time right now to explore 
the implications of the statement I have just made. In fact, I spend a 
large part of an entire semester in graduate course in Research Methods 
making the distinction between reading and interpreting. Suffice to say 
when in the past I have mentioned that I am thinking about banning 
discussions of Hamlet or the sonnets it is generally in response to my 
frustration with those who are using the discussion to present for 
xteenth time the MEANING of this or that, by which they usually mean 
their own pet theory that they are convinced in the one and only way to 
interpret the meaning of the work, the TRUTH. Will has well expressed 
the futility of such efforts here.

[2] Round Table Discussions

Indeed, I recently initiated a thread about the possibility of adding a 
new feature to SHAKSPER, round table discussions with guest moderators 
on focused topics, something like an electronic version of SAA seminars, 
carried out online. Unfortunately, there did not seem to be a great deal 
of interest in my proposal - undoubtedly, because so many of us have 
little extra time. For this reason, I have not pursued this possibility.


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