The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.2032  Tuesday, 30 November 2004

[Editor's Note: This thread has reached its useful end. Anyone wishing
to continue this discussion should do so privately.]

From:           Kenneth Chan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 29 Nov 2004 22:58:59 +0800
Subject: 15.2026 The Meaning of Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.2026 The Meaning of Hamlet

John Reed writes:

 >"So I am not inclined to accept the restriction that we should confine
 >our analysis and discussion to what Shakespeare said.  It unreasonably
 >restricts the domain of counterargument - this is the same maneuver the
 >Enlightenment Philosophers make."

John, let us distinguish between two levels of analysis and discussion.
At one level, we are analyzing what Shakespeare himself is trying to
convey in his plays (whether or not we agree with him). Here, we have no
choice but to examine closely what Shakespeare himself actually wrote,
because we are trying to discern his point of view. At this level of
discussion, it is probably inappropriate to use quotations from other
authors (when they do not concern Shakespeare's play) to suggest that
Shakespeare meant something else. While we may still vary, to some
extent, in our interpretations, our analysis here must, nonetheless, be
based on Shakespeare's own script.

At another level of discussion, we can decide to analyze and debate the
issues that Shakespeare raises in his plays (instead of just trying to
discern what Shakespeare is trying to convey). Now we can bring in
quotations and arguments by other authors to back up our viewpoints.
Here, we are free to disagree with Shakespeare. Nonetheless, even at
this level of discussion, we should avoid confusing the issue by
suggesting that Shakespeare meant something that does not concur with
what he actually wrote.

The points I have tried to make on this thread are largely in the spirit
of the first level of discussion and analysis - i.e. that of discerning
what Shakespeare himself is trying to convey. That is why I have
repeatedly stressed the need to back up our arguments with a detailed
and reasoned reference to the Shakespearean script.

John Reed writes:

 >""Facts" of course are interesting, but it is
 >easily possible to come to opposite conclusions based on the same facts:
 >lawyers do it all the time."

We tend to come to different conclusions if we each make use of only
certain selected facts that agree with our viewpoint, and ignore the
rest of the evidence. This becomes much less of a problem if we utilize
all the facts and leave nothing out. There are so many differing
interpretations of Hamlet because most interpretations are based only on
certain specially selected portions of the play and ignore the rest
(which are rendered irrelevant, or even contradictory, to the

The spiritual message in Hamlet, however, accounts for practically
everything Shakespeare wrote in the play. My book "Quintessence of Dust"
is specifically written in the form of a running commentary of the
entire play in order to demonstrate this. If another interpretation can,
under a single coherent theme, also account for all the puzzling aspects
of the play - that I listed in an earlier post at
http://www.shaksper.net/archives/2004/1716.html - we should certainly
seriously consider and discuss it.

Kenneth Chan

S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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