The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0603.  Tuesday, 27 May 1997.

From:           Peter C. Herman <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 26 May 1997 20:25:35 -0700 (PDT)
Subject:        Re: Plagiarism & Shakespeare

I'm reposting this to the SHAKSPER, since I think that our little
community could be of some assistance.

Peter C. Herman

>Dear list folks,
>I'm not sure this falls under the purview of this list, but I have a
>puzzling problem.  I'm a grad student at NYU, and a freshperson has
>submitted a paper of which the first paragraph appears rife with
>plagiarism.  I am as sure of it as I can be without having located
>the source.  But cautious policy makes me leery of making an
>accusation without indisputable proof.
>I have checked in the introductions of quite a number of new paperback
>editions of Hamlet, with no luck.  But the style of lit crit going on here
>is not that of the nineties.  I'm hoping someone out there on the list
>will have the older edition which served as my student's source nestling
>on the back of the shelf (or will perhaps have some other insight), and
>will be so good as to inform me where these phrases come from.
>Here is the title and first paragraph:
>                        Paper #3: _Hamlet_
>The soliloquy is a device used by Shakespeare throughout his tragedy,
>_Hamlet_.  Amidst the chaos of the characters and twists of plot, the
>reader is offered a glimpse into the psyche of Hamlet.  Of all of the
>characters depicted by Shakespeare, Hamlet's is the most developed; others
>are defined more by their actions than their introspection.  If Hamlet is
>the most vocal about his inner turmoil, he is also the most indecisive.
>Interestingly enough, Shakespeare's hero is altogether quite human; at
>times vulnerable, and at others, strong willed and decisive.  Hamlet is
>plagued by insecurity and misgivings throughout the play, yet he
>ultimately surmounts his emotional obstacles and accomplishes his goal of
>avenging his father.  The fact that he himself must die in the process,
>not to mention the majority of the cast, attests to the premise of
>pervasive evil instigated by Claudius' misdeed.  Shakespeare relates the
>tragedy of the Danes through the personal tragedy of Hamlet, and in doing
>so, succeeds in evoking empathy and capturing the attention of his
>audience.  Also, hidden in Shakespeare's depiction of madness, both real,
>and feigned, are commentary about many aspects of the tragedy and its
>characters.  Ironically, Hamlet's most clever and insightful remarks are
>those made under the guise of insanity.
>I have checked for errors, and I think this is a verbatim copy.  It reads
>like the highlights from an introduction to a paperback.  But the source
>might be a playbill for a production of _Hamlet_.
>What seems certain is that these sentences were not arranged in this way
>by whoever originally wrote them.  There are simply too many jagged edges
>and bad transitions between well-crafted and insightful phrases and
>sentences: "If Hamlet is the most vocal about his inner turmoil, he is
>also the most indecisive. Interestingly enough, Shakespeare's hero is
>altogether quite human; at times vulnerable, and at others, strong willed
>and decisive."  Both of thoughts are well-articulated in sentences, but
>the transition between thoughts is entirely inadequate:  "Interestingly
>enough."  So, too, "Also," and probably "Ironically," toward the end of
>the paragraph.  I suspect that the paragraph as it stands represents the
>distillation of all the pithy and sententious remarks a longer essay,
>using "Interestingly enough" and "Also" to link together thoughts which
>were originally separated by supporting arguments.
>Nor does the passage suit the paper in which it serves as an introduction.
>The assignment was to do a close reading of any one of the soliloquies
>from the play (with the exception of "To be or not to be"). The paragraph
>begins well enough with the claim that the soliloquies offer the clearest
>insight into Hamlet's psyche.  The student's focus changes, however, by
>the end of the paragraph to concentrate on what is to be learned from the
>antic disposition.  Obviously, the clever and insightful things Hamlet
>says "under the guise of insanity" cannot include the soliloquies.  Of
>course, students write confusing and contradictory introductory paragraphs
>all the time..  But the question here is whether the student who
>understands Shakespeare's plays well enough to argue "Of all of the
>characters depicted by Shakespeare, Hamlet's is the most developed; others
>are defined more by their actions than their introspection" is capable of
>forgetting that the soliloquies cannot be included with the things said
>in the guise of antic disposition.
>Thanks very much for your patience with this inquiry.
>Replies can be sent directly to me, or to the list at large, as you deem
>Charles Henebry

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