The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0648  Friday, 31 March 2000.

From:           Sean Lawrence <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 30 Mar 2000 10:58:35 -0800
Subject: 11.0617 Re: Oxymorons
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0617 Re: Oxymorons

David Bishop writes:

> "Thus conscience does make cowards of us all" dislocates the mind in the
> same way. To fear damnation can't be cowardly because to be cowardly is
> to shrink from noble action. To shrink from damnation is to shrink from
> committing a sin. For a Christian, to fear God cannot be cowardly.
> Laertes' "I dare damnation" is the mirror image of the "craven scruple".
> Laertes can't take hell seriously, at high heroic heat, but his "daring
> damnation" shows something of what Hamlet, with his deeper moral
> imagination, is afraid of. The fear of God can't be cowardly, unless you
> don't really, at least at that moment, believe in God.

Could it be cowardly in the way of those who "made the great refusal"
and are stuck in Dante's Vestibule of Hell?  They were, the poet claims,
too cowardly to be either for or against God and are imprisoned with
those who remained neutral when Satan rebelled in heaven.  Hamlet's
position for at least a couple of acts seems to mirror theirs, at least
if Olivier is to be believed in saying that he was a man who couldn't
make up his mind.

Cheers, and good luck with your book,

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