Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Open to "Hamlet," the Ophelia-spurned scene



Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies, more commonly referred to as the First Folio, is considered one of the most important books in the world.

Anyone within striking distance of Seattle should go see it, at the Seattle Public Library downtown branch. As well as being a reference in footnotes to modern editions, it's a real book! Also, a copy of the Third Folio. No quartos, alas.

14 comments:

  1. Coincidence. I have been thinking about _Hamlet_, and a Harold Goddard reminds me of an issue that I had never taken time to more completely consider: Why do readers and audiences so often accept without question the idea that Hamlet should avenge his father's death by killing Claudius? This seems like an unchristian response from Hamlet, readers, and audiences. This question goes deeper than an admonition from the Ghost of King Hamlet (a father to son pleading). There is something odd about our reactions to revenge.

    Now, as for Ophelia, that is another can of wriggling worms worthy of many thousands of words. You've provoked me to pick through those worms. Damn!

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    1. A good question for the sociologists and psychologists. Possibly Shakespeare's argument is that once you take the law into your own hands (for example Hamlet's murder of Polonius), the floodgates of violence open (witness the increasing body count once Polonius is dead). Revenge killing was a controversial topic at that time in England, I think.

      Also, very few people respond to life as Christians. This should be no surprise.

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    2. i'm reading leonard woolf's autobiography and he agreed that if politicism and militarism had not taken over christianity in the first century a.d. the world would be a very different place...

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    3. I have to argue that Christianity was never taken over by politics and militarism. People who falsely professed to be Christians used misreadings of scripture to further their own ends. Christianity itself remains the faith of the gospels, no matter how people brand themselves. No organized denomination should be confused with the actual faith and belief structure of Christianity. Just saying. Shaking your fist at Calvin or the pope is not shaking your fist at Christianity. Just as shaking your fist at an American president or congress is not shaking your fist at democracy.

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    4. Or, to put it another way, Science is nuclear bombs, so Science has been taken over by politics and militarism, therefore Science is evil. If you see what I mean.

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    5. And Flannery O'Connor expressed it this way:
      ....I think that the Church is the only thing that is going to make the terrible world we are coming to endurable; the only thing that makes the Church endurable is that it is somehow the body of Christ and that on this we are fed. It seems to be a fact that you suffer as much from the Church as for it but if you believe in the divinity of Christ, you have to cherish the world at the same time that you struggle to endure it.
      In other words, do not confuse the Church with Christianity, and do not confuse Christianity with being a Christian.
      BTW, today is Flannery O'Connor's birthday.
      Here is a small celebration:
      http://thewritersalmanac.blogspot.com/2016/03/flannery-oconnors-birthday-good-friday.html
      v/r
      Tim

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  2. FYI -- your posting has provoked a renaissance!
    http://thewritersalmanac.blogspot.com/2016/03/hamlet-shakespeares-poem-unlimited-and.html
    v/r
    Tim

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    1. Oh, Bloom's crazy little book! I think I even still have my copy. I'm sick of Hamlet, I must confess.

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  3. who's Bloom? i always sometimes imagined hamlet as an arrogant little twerp, a bit narcissistic and self-absorbed. and i wonder why critics et alia think shakespeare's son was named hamnet... it's obvious to me that some poor underfed typesetter, working overtime by candle light, grabbed an "n" instead of an "l" and nobody noticed until it was in print! ratiocininsm has ever been in short supply...

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    1. Yesterday, even before we went to see the Folio, I was thinking about Elizabethan typesetters, and modern ideas about Elizabethan spelling. I imagined men bent over their work, translating manuscripts written in messy hand and possibly not even working from fair copies, unsure themselves how something was spelled, doing the best they could. The educated Elizabethans complaining about how poorly the books were spelled, the educated Moderns writing theses about changes in spelling, etc. [But no doubt someone has actually read the original manuscripts and solved the problems of typesetters and we know more about Elizabeth spelling than I'm claiming here. But I still like the image of a pile of scholarship based on a misunderstanding of the printing process.]

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    2. Bloom is a character in James Joyce's Ulysses. A clown with a son named Hamlet. No, sorry, the son is named Rudolph.

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    3. that's right, i remember; never read ulysses, but i've read about it-which probably convinced me not to read it.... that mss, printing business is a funny coincidence-sometimes i wonder...

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  4. I wonder who decided to open the book to that page? Was it a conscious decision based on content or some other reason? Hmmmm.

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    1. It's got the "to be or not to be" speech, which is probably the best known bit of Shakespeare in English. The Third Folio was open to a different play, but I don't remember which. "Midsummer," maybe.

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