The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1274  Tuesday, 15 June 2004

[1]     From:   Bill Arnold <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 14 Jun 2004 06:16:12 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1262 The Murder of Gonzago

[2]     From:   David Cohen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 14 Jun 2004 11:46:42 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1262 The Murder of Gonzago

[3]     From:   David Cohen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 14 Jun 2004 14:30:08 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1262 The Murder of Gonzag

[4]     From:   David Cohen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 14 Jun 2004 14:30:08 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1262 The Murder of Gonzag

From:           Bill Arnold <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 14 Jun 2004 06:16:12 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 15.1262 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1262 The Murder of Gonzago

Pamela Richards writes, "Hamlet believes that a person can see a ghost
and still be sane."

OK: this sentence and that follows from its ill-advised logic is sheer

OK: it seems to escapes some on SHAKSPER that *Hamlet* the play is a
work of fiction, and that characters in plays, such as the spirit/ghost
of Prince Hamlet's father is a fictional character in a play.  Haven't
you seen *E.T.* or *Star Wars*?

Bill Arnold

From:           David Cohen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 14 Jun 2004 11:46:42 -0500
Subject: 15.1262 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1262 The Murder of Gonzago

Pamela Richards <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

 >I find it fascinating, if inexplicable, that of all the kinds of
 >psychological studies that exist, apparently there are very few that
 >touch on belief systems as a factor underlying behavior.  We might for a
 >moment assume that in most human beings who are not suffering from
 >pathology, beliefs are one factor that are taken into consideration when
 >a person makes a choice about how to behave.  In fact, someone who is
 >mentally unbalanced could still have a belief system, which although it
 >corresponded poorly to reality or what we might call "truth", served to
 >motivate his actions.  I think that forensic "profilers" deal with these
 >and other factors to learn about and anticipate the behavior of their

You are right about this, except for one thing.  There is social
psychological research-for the most up-to-date information on this,
you'd have to consult an expert in the area of beliefs and behavior,
which I am not-that shows how much our beliefs are the EFFECT of our
behavior.  So it is not always the case that we consciously formulate
beliefs and then act, because we sometimes act rather mindlessly and
formulate beliefs afterwards, i.e., I must believe X because I have been
behaving as though I believed X.  But Hamlet is a highly sensitive
introvert, so my guess is that a for the most part, it is beliefs
->action, as you say

 >But instead of examining some hypothetical subject of "profiling" as an
 >example of this principle, we might return to the topic of Shakespeare's
 >play as a mirror of life for a moment and place a few of Hamlet's
 >apparent underlying beliefs under the microscope to see if he
 >demonstrates the principle of correspondence between belief and
behavior . . . .

I don't see anything wrong with any of this (litote?)

 >We could go on.  I wonder how many items of the short list of beliefs
 >named above would be shared by those applying research in the field of
 >psychology to determine "truth?"

I and two, most definitely not; 4 probably not.

 >Or, if we divorce Hamlet as Shakespeare wrote him from his beliefs and
 >force him to live consistently with modern-day beliefs shared by you and
 >other psychological researchers, let us be prepared to see some "antic"
 >behaviors that will be very hard to explain.

Well, you wouldn't have Hamlet as Shakespeare wrote him, but I don't see
why it would be hard to explain his antic behavior as a ploy

 >Is it true that there is no branch of the science of psychology that
 >looks into the belief structures of individuals or societies to help
 >explain behavior?  It does seem like such a ripe field for study.

Consult the social psychology area researchers at your local University,
or get a hold of an Introduction to Psychology textbook and look up
beliefs in the index

David Cohen

From:           David Cohen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 14 Jun 2004 14:30:08 -0500
Subject: 15.1262 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1262 The Murder of Gonzago

Edmund Taft <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

 >David Cohen informs us that
 >"The point can be applied to characters like Othello, for the power of
 >the Iagos of this world depend on the psychology of their victims.  The
 >locus of explanation cannot simply be the Skinnerian "outside," a fact
 >upon which the heroic ship of Skinnerianism has foundered."
 >Yes and no. As I'm sure you know, Skinner would argue that thinking does
 >not cause action - that's a fundamental mistake that we humans make. We
 >think AND act: action is not a by-product of will, volition, or thought;
 >it is shaped by the environment, period. So, in the case of Othello,
 >what happens (Skinner believes) is that once Iago begins to shape
 >Othello's environment, Othello's feelings and thoughts naturally follow
 >suit and conform to whatever belief system is reinforced by the
 >surrounding environment.

Well, the fact is not what Skinner believes but what is actually so.
(In fact, it is not what anyone says, including what I say, that makes
something so, but evidence  and by evidence I don't mean just what some
talking head says is so, else the "truth" in all this is what the guy
with the best logic and the most delightful metaphors says is true.)
What you describe is marionette behavior-". . . what happens (Skinner
believes) is that once Iago begins to shape Othello's environment,
Othello's feelings and thoughts naturally follow suit and conform to
whatever belief system is reinforced by the surrounding environment.
Fact is, some people in some situations may act like marionettes, but
others not.  You seem to think that anyone could be duped by a Iago.
But everything we know from individual differences psychology is that
this can't be true.  Why?  Because there is more to behavior than just
Skinnerian shaping.  I thought my examples posted earlier made that
abundantly clear-that what is inside is as important as what is outside.
  In the case of Othello, it is his peculiar temperament (febrile,
sensitive, hypermasculine, i.e., given to sexual jealousy) that allows
Iago to be effective. Iago brings out what is in Othello, he does not
just put something in.

Do you think that Skinnerian shaping via rewards and punishments can get
an ordinary kid to play the piano like  Rubinstein?  You can use it to
get a bear to dance, but it remains a bear, none the less.  Do you think
that punishing a great talent can do more than frustrate it.  Leonard
Bernstein's parents, fearing he might become a professional musician,
tried to dissuade him by getting rid of the family piano!   Fat chance.
  Carl Gauss was born about 200 years ago in a peasant's cottage located
in what is now Germany.  Little Carl had few educational opportunities
during his "formative years."  Talk about education disadvantage!  What
little parental encouragement he did get came from his mother.  His
father, an uncouth gardener, bricklayer, and canal tender, disapproved
mightily of his son's interest in numbers.  The worst possible
upbringing for nurturing a talent.  Moreover, Carl's giftedness was
frustrated at school by a teacher who was as brutish as he was ignorant.
  It was frustrated at home by a father whose attitude was that,
"Education is a passport to hell."  Yet despite such disadvantages
during his "formative years," Carl at age nineteen had become the
greatest mathematician of all Europe.  Some years later, he would become
one of the greatest mathematicians and scientific geniuses of all time.

Such amazing stories do more than tell about extraordinary children.
They illuminate a deep truth about all children: Much of a child's
psychological development is self-determined, not socially programmed.
Much of it depends on talent and temperament, not instruction and
reinforcement.  And much of it resists pressure from external influences
that would force it to be other than what it is. Carl Gauss's story well
illustrates this fact of life.  It reminds us just how much kids really
are like rubber bands, resisting change imposed by circumstances, but if
forced to change, reverting to their normal "shape" when circumstances
permit.  This is what Skinner failed to appreciate, for all his greatness.

You seem to be confusing what people do and what they are, or suggesting
that what they are is merely what they do.  I beg to differ.  Moreover,
if Skinner was so right about behavior, why is is work pretty much a
footnote in current psychological fields.  The promise of Skinnerian
psychology has gone the way of psychoanalytic theory, certainly its
etiological side.  Freud put too much into the mind, Skinner put too little.

 >With all due respect, Skinner is in no way the simpleton you make him
 >out to be. Proof that Skinner has made an important point is as easy as
 >comparing the 60's to the 90's. In the 60's, liberal thought was
 >everywhere and young people were almost automatically liberals. In the
 >go-go 90's, the climate (the environment) had reversed, and, low and
 >behold, the values of the young also reversed, and "conservative" was
 >the cool thing to be. Or just consider (remember?) what high school is
 >like: lemmings over the cliff, right? - and just about all of us would

I don't know where you get this from.  Young kids are always liberal
because they have nothing to conserve and they haven't been mugged
either by a bad guy or by reality.  It's cool to be like Robin Hood, but
where are all the cool conservative young you speak of-surely not on
campuses-well, a smattering.  Do a survey on campuses and simply ask
whether the person votes Democrat or Republican.  I doubt you will find
many "cool" conservatives. Anyway, sure, the environment has impact on
social behavior-what's new about that?-but on personality?  Nope.  All I
can do is refer you to my "Stranger in the Nest"(Wiley, 1999) for the
evidence and the argument that it just ain't so. It's really quite
compelling and some have said liberating.  (If you'd rather read a
"quick and dirty" version of the argument, try  "Where Did THAT Child
Come From!" Templegate 2003)  Again, you can apply Skinnerian techniques
get a bear to dance or a dog to roller skate, just as you can get people
to do all sorts of things, even crazy things they will be embarrassed to
remember, and they may even be transformed a bit by what they have done
(altered self concept), but they remain basically who they are. (I  am
talking about normal environments, not pathological ones which can crush
a person psychologically, but that is another story.)

 >I'm not a Skinnerian, but I greatly admire Skinner and think that he has
 >made important contributions to Psychology. I appreciate your points
 >about "reversion to type" and/or "instinctive drift," but a Skinnerian,
 >I imagine, would counter that these observations simply mean that the
 >environment needs to be strong, not weak, if the proper behavior is to
 >be steadily maintained. . . .

Sounds positively totalitarian, but okay.  As I said, if you keep the
pressure one, yes you can maintain marionette behavior, but that is not
a useful or even valid model of the real world, where people with
different temperaments intelligence, and personality traits act
proactively and seek our their own best-fit environments. There is a
large literature on this, and it is one of the reasons that Skinner is
so little talked of these days.  The Skinnerian world you speak of
really does seem totalitarian, and, as any behavior genetic psychologist
would agree, the more pressure from the environment, the less that
behavior will reveal its genetic potential.  I am reminded of something
I wrote about in "Out of the Blue: Depression and Human Nature (Norton,

In his classic analysis of communist society, "The Captive Mind," social
philosopher Czeslaw Milosz describes two psychological solutions to the
helplessness of captivity.  One is based on Polish author Stanislaw
Witkiewicz's imaginative story of Murti-Bing, a mythical Mongolian
philosopher who produced a philosophy-of-life pill.  Take the pill, and
nervousness and philosophical torment turn into mindless serenity and
social pliability.  Murti-Bingists find relief in seemingly normal
activity that promotes denial. Consequently, they have little genuine
enthusiasm for life.  They still go to work, take vacations, fall in
love, have children, yet with a kind of internal paralysis, a vague
sense of emptiness.

Real-world people faced with inescapable conditions may act as if they
had opted for the the Murti-Bing solution; for them, the genuine self is
replaced by a communal, soviet self; they become un-individuals.  A
second solution is the art of cloaking conviction, attitudes, and
beliefs.  Accordingly, one achieves a pride of mastering the
environment, plus a sense of superiority that comes with putting one
over.  "To say something is white when one thinks it black, to smile
inwardly when one is outwardly solemn, to hate when one manifests love,
to know when one pretends not to know, and thus to play one's adversary
for a fool (even as he is playing you for one)-these actions lead one to
prize one's own cunning above all else."

Milosz, writing about communist societies, could just as well have been
describing any totalitarian environment where terror and degradation are
imposed on captive minds-hapless citizens of communist societies,
targeted groups in racist societies, victimized children in abusive
families.  The Russian writer Vladimir Nabokov envisions such
victimization in a mother's fantasy of "tenderness, which is either
crushed, or wasted, or transformed into madness; of neglected children
humming to themselves in unswept corners; of beautiful weeds that cannot
hide from the farmer and helplessly have to watch the shadow of his
simian stoop leave mangled flowers in its wake, as the monstrous
darkness approaches"

Like experimental rats, people entrapped by totalitarian societies are
always in danger of stepping over some line-of committing the "crime" of
impermissible self-expression, of freely being themselves. Under such
existentially threatening conditions, otherwise normal organisms can
discover abnormal solutions."

There is indeed a Skinnerian aspect to human life, but there is much
more to human beings than the ability to respond to rewards and
punishments.  I bet that Shakespeare would have quickly understood what
Skinner was about and after giving him his due, moved on to deeper
things.  Incidentally, if Skinner is so great, why is there virtually no
consideration of his psychology in discussion of Shakespeare?  Perhaps I
have missed a lot, but I just don't see it, and as I said, even such
consideration would deal with a small aspect of human nature, its
conditionability, a basic feature of all animals (even single-cell
creatures) which no one denies.

 >I'll give you two better counter instances, or
 >so I think. Consider alcoholics. As I understand it, Skinnerian
 >principles have not succeeded in making alcoholics into moderate, social
 >drinkers. The problem seems to be that there is a strong genetic
 >component in this disease, perhaps an example of "reversion to type."
 >Another instance would be stuttering, which neither Freud nor Adler not
 >Horney nor Skinner was able to cure. Now we think (rightly, I believe)
 >that this problem is really a slightmisfiring of the nervous system,
again, perhaps genetic in origin, and,
 >as with alcoholism, with an environmental "trigger." These two examples
 >show the limitations of Skinner, but also, paradoxically, his strength.
 >For, these examples illustrate that the vast majority of us, those of us
 >without genetic defects, will respond much as Skinner predicts we will.

Well, yes and no.   As I said, you can get people to do all sorts of
things, just as you can get animals to do all sorts of things.  Since we
are animals, this is no surprise, and I think, not particularly
interesting.  What is interesting is how much WE determine  the
environment, which is a highly misused term, since "the environment" is
often a byproduct of the individual's selection and influence, meaning
that it is heritable.  (It is important to wrap one's mind around the
idea that the environment is a biological concept, not just an external
one.  without appreciating this truth, we miss so much of what human
behavior is all about.)  Do you really think that the "environment" of
an autistic, psychopathic, or hyperactive child isn't biological
(determined by the kid).  we speak of parenting influences, but what
about "childing" influences?  I'm afraid Skinner missed the boat on this.

Skinner thought of the environment as some sort of Orwellian force
operating on creatures from the outside, a force that pushes creatures
around.  It is sometimes that, but it is often just the opposite-the
environment is determined by the individual and as such, it reflects the
individual's biopsychology-thus its heritability.  As psychologist
Sandra Scarr says, "Feeding a well-nourished but short child more and
more will not give him the stature of a basketball player.  Feeding a
below-average intellect more and more information will not make her
brilliant.  Exposing a shy child to socially demanding events will not
make him feel less shy.  The child with a below-average intellect and
the shy child may gain some specific skills and helpful knowledge of how
to behave in specific situations, but their enduring intellectual and
personality characteristics will not be fundamentally changed"

Your examples of alcoholism and stuttering are good, but not in the way
you suggest. They are good because they serve as models for so much
behavior that his highly heritable and difficult to change. The large
literature on parenting and personality development makes clear that
much of what defines us as unique individuals-our personality,
intelligence, talents, character, and liabilities to mental disorder-are
mostly refractory to parenting influences, however we accommodate our
behavior, Skinnerwise.  For many of such traits, the influence of this
or that kind of parenting is zero-though some heritable traits make us
more responsive to certain environmental factors-again, what's inside
that counts.  Example from "Stranger in the Nest:

"Young animals can be reared by adoptive mothers of another breed or
even species.  Mice bred to be aggressive remain so even if reared by
nonaggressive foster-parent mice.  Tenacious and combative terriers
likewise retain these traits even if reared with placid beagles.
Finally, monkeys bred to be uninhibited remain fearless and active
despite being raised by inhibited mothers
If an expansive nature is relatively impervious to change, what about
the opposite, an apprehensive and timid nature?  Uptight rhesus monkeys
are fearful and withdrawn in novel, depressing, or otherwise challenging
situations.  During a brief separation from the mother or from peers,
uptight monkeys show poor adjustment.  Unlike their aggressive or
easygoing brethren, they continue to have problems eating and sleeping.
  They stay put, showing no inclination to explore in hopes of undoing
the isolation.  Even after reunion, these changes in behavior tend to
persist.  Some of the uptight monkeys even show withdrawal and other
signs of depression.

About 15 percent of rhesus monkeys are born uptight, mostly from uptight
parents; and they remain uptight for a lifetime, even if they were
adoptively reared by easy going and protective mothers.  These two
observations suggest the trait is highly heritable.  The behavioral
expression of the trait, however, is another story. During adolescence,
rough-and-tumble competition from less inhibited peers can bring out the
timidity and anxiety of uptight monkeys, yet such reversion to type is
not inevitable.

Uptight infants can be reared by nurturant foster mothers, then
transferred to an older caretaker couple that keeps watch over them as
they play together.  Under these safe conditions, those uptight monkeys
seem confident; they may even wind up dominating most of their peers.
In contrast, uptight monkeys reared by punitive foster mothers seem
timid, often winding up at the bottom of the dominance hierarchy where
they are readily bullied by everyone.  Apparently, the same genetic
potential can show up in different, even opposite ways.  It all depends
on the situation: confident and expansive behavior in safe situations,
timid and avoidant behavior in challenging environments.

As with rhesus monkeys approximately 15 percent of children are uptight
or inhibited from infancy.  This temperamental difference is evident in
their timidity and shyness, and in their readiness to develop phobias by
7 or 8 years of age-a difference of 32 percent for the timids versus 5
percent for other children was observed in one study.10   The
temperamental difference is also evident in their generally elevated
heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, and stress hormone levels,
even the larger diameters of their pupils. Inhibited temperament is most
evident in situations involving unfamiliar children or adults.  It is
also evident in fearfulness, for instance, about being alone or speaking
up in class.  Siblings of inhibited children also tend to be
apprehensive, suggesting, as with rhesus uptightness, that the trait is
highly heritable.

The similarities of the two species go further.  Like their rhesus
counterparts, uninhibited children are uninhibited regardless of
situation.  In contrast, but again like their rhesus counterparts,
inhibited children are confident in secure circumstances but
apprehensive in insecure situations, reverting to their timid ways when
conditions become stressful.  Such observations show just how much the
impact of rearing depends on inborn tendencies, how temperament (nature)
can limit or exaggerate the impact of rearing (nurture).  With some
traits, differences in rearing may have a relatively small effect on a
child's development; with other traits, differences in rearing can make
a big difference.

 >Sociobiology or evolutionary psychology is the newest thing, and it is
 >in some ways impressive, in other ways, an extended apology for whatever
 >constitutes the status quo. So it therefore has to be viewed
 >skeptically: it can justify any wrong by claiming that that wrong is
 >biologically determined over hundreds of thousands of years and
 >therefore cannot (or should not) be changed.

I don't know where you get any of this (except the skepticism part, with
which I heartily concur).  It sounds like some sort of anti-biological
boiler plate.  I know evopsy people and I never heard any of them say
any of these things.  For example, no one in behavior genetics or evopsy
says that things can't or shouldn't be changed, just that the stronger
the push from nature, the harder will be the necessary press of society.
  Two examples: (1) children are barbarians that require constant
(Skinnerian, if you like) attention, else they revert to their naturally
cruel, anarchic,and selfish natures.  This was the message in the
absolutely on target "Lord of the Flies." () Men need wives to curb
their rabid evolutionarily derived tendency to mate willy-nilly, to be
given to sexual jealousy, yet not to be all that interested in caring
for offspring (the egg vs sperm argument-women go for quality, men for
sex).  Show man and women pictures of newbords, women naturally go gaga,
while men glaze over or get restless and start giving each other
nuggies.  When women say that men are pigs, they are talking about
evolutionary tendencies that make women justifiably distressed.  In the
view of evolutionary psychology, men and women are  almost two different
species!  But this is another (rather long) story.  Incidentally, there
is much of this in Shakespeare, who dramatized  much of sociobiological
insights about human nature, and the difference between the sexes in
human nature.  Shakespeare was not just a man of his times, but a man
for all seasons.  Bravo WS!

 >But I'd like to hear more
 >about you view of _Hamlet_:
 >1. What are the two sides of Hamlet's personality?

I was thinking about the brooding intellectual versus the febrile killer
(of Polonius and at the end, Claudius); I suppose one could talk about
his dramatic/self-indulgent/hysterical side-acting as a ploy (many
actors are introverts converted by the "magic" of the stage or camera
into anything needed, including extravagant behavior. Only the behavior,
not the personality, is inconsistent.

 >2. Why is Hamlet dishonorable, in your view?

He acts disgracefully to Ophelia (that is unforgivable) and to his
mother.  He acts disgracefully to the dear old man (Polonius), who in my
judgment has gotten a bad rap (If you want to see my argument on this,
write me off line).  He disgracefully sends his erstwhile friends off to
their deaths, when they may have had no idea what was in the letter.  He
fails to confront Claudius earlier, man-to-man (which is good because
had he done so, the play might have been shorter and less interesting).
  I mean, how much do you need?

 >3. What evidence shows that Hamlet's actions are unfree/determined?

No one can show that with any one individual.  Freedom versus free will
is something one infers about all people (it is, in a sense, a
statistical concept) from the evidence, which is why I offered twin
findings.  Hamlet may be free in the sense that there is (a) no
Providence getting in his way, but merely that things will play out the
way they play out (If it be now, 'tis not to come . . . etc.  Of course,
if you believe that he is working out some Providential demand, than to
that extent he is unfree; (b) No one is getting in his way-he can fight
Laertes or not.  But he is not free, I argue, from the biology and
conditioning that have made Hamlet what he is.  He really cannot not
fight Laertes.  I think this is a fair inference, pretending that Hamlet
is a real person and therefore that the mechanisms of his psychology are
describable in terms of what we know from psychological research, e.g.,
his introversion is likely genetically determined to a significant
degree, since we know from twin and adoption studies that the trait is
about 50% heritable, and, if you are interested, that a particular kind
of parenting has zero to do with it.  Gertrude, you are off the hook on
your son's introversion!  Of course, there are other likely heritable
traits we might imagine that go into the mix that makes Hamlet what he
is and that limit his free will in the sense of freedom from biology.
But again, heritability is a statistical concept.  Thus, FOR ANY
INDIVIDUAL, the stronger the genetic influence, the stronger will have
to be any countervailing influence, while the weaker the genetic
influence, the will have to be any countervailing influence.
Introversion is highly heritable, in general, but in any one person, it
may be a very "genetic" trait" or a relatively weak trait, depending on
the number of "introversion" and other genes one inherits.

 >4. And last, determined by what?

     See above

David Cohen

From:           David Cohen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 14 Jun 2004 14:32:33 -0500
Subject: 15.1262 The Murder of Gonzago
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1262 The Murder of Gonzago

Pamela Richards <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

 >If you come to the text already subscribing to a preconceived system of
 >"truths" with an intention of proving your "truths", no matter how
 >scientific, well-documented, or psychological they may be, you will find
 >there what you had expected to see because you are looking into a
 >mirror.  While looking into the mirror of life, you will find the same
 >truths that you find in life just as anyone else will find the "truths"
 >to which they already subscribe.  This process fascinates, but it brings
 >us no closer to determining objective "truth" if that is indeed your
 >goal.  Your own set of "truths" applied to the text is insular and
 >self-referencing because Hamlet lives only in the mirror.  We can't
 >submit samples of Hamlet's blood for DNA analysis to demonstrate the
 >effects of genetics on his behavior.

Well, much of this is true enough, but for me, the thrust of it is
incorrect.  For one thing, I came to Shakespeare with relatively little
in the way of preconceived notions.  Rather, I let Shakespeare guide me.
  Initially, I went through a process of looking through all the plays
to find important ideas, then how those ideas combined into larger
themes.  I wound up with 10 Great Themes, which I have written about,
yes, from a psychological perspective.  But the idea was to write about
Shakespeare's universal themes, themes that are not merely for
Elizabethan times, but for all times.  So for example, love and sex or
good and evil, or fate and free will are psychological universals.
Hamlet's procrastination isn't merely Elizabethan, but deeply human in a
way that we can understand today in the currency of modern psychology.
What I discovered was that Shakespeare's genius applies to the human
nature of all cultures, certainly Western cultures, and all times.  For
all I know, these qualities of human nature go back to cro Magnon or
even homo erectus times.

And forget about DNA analysis to demonstrate the effect of genetics on
behavior.  With a few exceptions (presenilin 1 and 2 for early-onset
Alzheimer's; MAO-A deficiency and antisocial behavior; the CGG repeat
mutation and fragile X mental retardation), DNA has not been reliably
identified in any of the major psychopathologies, not to mention
personality traits.   Behavior genetics (as opposed to genetics) is the
best we can do these days, to show that there are strong genetic
influences in this or that trait (IQ, extroversion, etc)

 >In applying linguistic science to the plays, we find the structure of
 >the plays provides clues which guide us to conclusions about the
 >possible motivations of the characters in the plays, and the author
 >himself . . . I doubt if I will be able to persuade you to look at the
text from this
 >perspective, since it is probably counter to your inclination, training,
 >and interest.

I have no problem with any perspective that is articulated in plain
language.  There is no reason that someone with a strong point of view
can't appreciate and learn from other points of view, whether it be
cultural or psychological.  That's why I find this list so helpful.

 >On the other hand, I am quite sure you will not be able
 >to convince me that you can demonstrate your objective "truths" about
 >human behavior by using the plays as a proving ground devoid of historic
 >and cultural context.

Well, fortunately, I am not trying to convince you of anything-merely
offering facts and ideas I believe will be useful, that you can either
appreciate or dismiss

David Cohen

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