The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0261  Thursday, 21 June 2012


From:        Steve Urkowitz <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         Sunday, Jun 17, 2012 10:15 pm

Subject:     Shorthand Again


Gerald Downs offers an instance from HAMLET Q1 that he and van Dam would like us to consider as strong evidence demonstrating that that text is some kind a report assembled from a performance by stenography. But how about a different narrative: I’d have us imagine that a certain playwright had in his writer’s toolbox the rhetorical device “aposiopesis”—a sentence which for specific rhetorical purposes such as showing intense emotion or energetic interruption reads as if it is incomplete. And I’d have us imagine that he disported this device at the occasional moment when he wanted to create a heightened dramatic tension, to show that the dramatic character speaking AFTER the aposiopesis energetically cuts off or interrupts the “aposiopeseur.” (I illustrate a bunch of instances in Q1 and F LEAR in my Shakespeare’s Revision of King Lear volume.) So, in the instance cited below in a cut-and-paste from Gerald Downs’ post, I offer as a possible generative narrative that Shakespeare (himself, why not?) desired to show Laertes winding up into a spasm of oath-making, swearing “[By] My will, Not all the world [shall let my revenge].” with the “By” and the “shall let my revenge” being explained as implied, such an explanation plausibly delivered to the players of the King and Laertes roles by that same author. And then “Nay but Laertes . . . ” is the King’s energetic stopping of Laertes’ oath-making to move on to the business of assassinating Hamlet.



“One influential to my thinking was described by van Dam, yet I haven’t seen reference to it other than my own noting, here and elsewhere; the text is from Q1 Hamlet:


 Lear. O he is welcome, . . .

 king   Leartes, content your selfe, be rulde by me,

          And you shall haue no let for your reuenge.

 Lear. My will, not all the world.

 King  Nay but Leartes, marke the plot I haue layde,


Van Dam astutely observes that “Line 1790 lacks any logical connection with the context . . . . The player who acts the part of Laertes hears the last words of line 1789 “no let for your revenge”, which remind him of the first half of [Q2 4.5.137]: “King. Who shall stay you?” upon which he . . . answers . . .”



Van Dam and Downs may be right and I just blowing smoke, but we DO have many examples of such aposiopesis in Shakespeare, many of which leave ungrammatical or illogical bits where the termination of a sentence is aposiopated. (“aposiopissed”?  “aposiopossibled”? )


My point is that just because something illogical or ungrammatical appears in a text, we can’t just declare that an odd form of transmissional skullduggery is afoot ‘cause we are dealing with an author (or rather a whole community of authors) who are quite a bit more willing to cast English grammar roughly about, more willing at least than are van Dam and Downs. So the major premise, that the Q1 text evolved through transcription of an actors’ solution to an author’s mishmash just ain’t necessarily so. It could be the case, though I still send to my spam box all the Nigerian Oil Well offers that come my way. (Sorry for the disrespect here; as I’ve apologized before, I’m from the Bronx and learned to love irreverence at an early age.)


I’ll not address the tangles of Q2. Consider THAT argument interrupted until some further date, or just stopped because I also learned a long time ago that some games are not worth the candle.


Steven Urk-aposiopated-owitz

Back from his 180-mile three day Bike Trek Across Maine


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