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TSE  May 2003

TSE May 2003

Subject:

Re: Indecisiveness of Hamlet (Re: Hamlet and Lear)

From:

Vishvesh Obla <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

T. S. Eliot Discussion forum.

Date:

Mon, 19 May 2003 04:51:17 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (222 lines)

Dear Gregory,

"To leave it at that reduces him to a single
representative state of mind, and he's more complex
than that..."

That is a key to a right reading of Hamlet.  Thanks
for a detailed explanation.

vishvesh


--- "D.Gregory Griffith" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Jennifer and Vishvesh,
>      Labeling Hamlet as "indecisive" is too vague
> and general to be valid, I would
> agree with you both there. To leave it at that
> reduces him to a single representative
> state of mind, and he's more complex than that.
> However, the most famous soliloquy indicates a
> moment of indecision that (owing I think to the
> ubiquity of
> that scene at 3:1) becomes an umbrella for his
> character, his flaw, his mode of
> operating. The "to be or not to be" speech shows a
> moment of indecision about
> suicide or facing the "oppressors wrong, the proud
> man's contumely,/ the pangs of
> disprized love, the law's delay,/ the insolence of
> office, and the spurns/ that
> patient merit of th' unworthy takes,"(3.1,
> 72-5)--here I read the alternative
> to suicide as a world of trouble where H. either
> puts up with life as it is with
> Claudius or kills him (both of the later options
> will bring about elements of the
> catalogue of woes quoted above).  It is also worth
> noting that Hamlet seems to
> decide on the play within play that actually brings
> about his death at 2.2 (to
> get the reaction from Claudius that will prove he
> has killed Hamlet's father and
> therefore give him the proof he needs to kill
> Claudius) . So in the scene
> just before the "to be" speech, Hamlet seems to have
> made up his mind on a course
> of action that will resolve the problem of  what to
> do about his father's death and
> how to verify Claudius' guilt so he can justifiably
> kill the new king, then looks
> briefly for other options, not unlike Christ's
> momentary doubts about his course
> of action in Gesthemene. Obviously, this indecision
> is a momentary wavering
> only. We can't call Christ or Hamlet "indecisive" as
> character types.
> Hamlet does decide to go through with the plan he
> conceives at the end of
> 2.2: "I'll have grounds/ more relative than this
> [the specter that may be devil
> or father]. The play's the thing/ wherein I'll catch
> the conscience of the King."
> (2.2, 604-6). He seems to have decided, but then
> contemplates suicide in 3.1
> only to abandon that thought. I have seen versions
> of the play where the 3.1
> soliloquy is a ruse--part of Hamlet's "mad act"--but
> I've seen others that play
> this scene as a genuine contemplation of death as
> another course of action than
> finding out the truth about Claudius and killing him
> if he is indeed guilty of
> murdering Hamlet's father. I tend to see it as a
> moment of indecision before he
> finally "makes his move." It does not justify the
> label for all of Hamlet's behavior
> as indecisive--that expands one scene to describe
> the entirety of H's actions and
> character, and there are more things in both than
> are dreamt of in that philosophy.
>       As to Prufrock's in/decisiveness that Jennifer
> calls into question, I feel that's
> part of what the text of the poem cleverly hints at,
> but never fully answers:
> the speaker has moments of "decisions and revisions
> which [subsequent] minutes
> will reverse"--he seems pretty indecisive at
> times--like the Hamlet he is at pains
> to say he is so unlike! My question: is part of the
> significance of the poem a complex of quandaries
> about what he might "dare" to do, what he might
> "presume," whether he should "begin" or "say" or
> "force [any moment] to its crisis"--all initiative,
> any catalyzing action, seems to be the speaker's
> crisis of indecision. Should he or shouldn't he
> budge an inch? Won't that disturb the
> universe--perhaps for the worse and irreversibly? I
> think, Jennifer, you are squarely on the money
> to search the poem and ask indecision about what,
> but not because there is no
> indecision, rather because there's so much
> indecision that the speaker cannot
> clearly articulate a concrete example or object for
> that indecision. He cannot
> speak it into being.
>     As if I hadn't gone on too long already, I'd ask
> all posters to look again at
> Hamlet for reference to the fool (with all due
> respect for those who see a shift
> to Lear):
> HAMLET [to Ophelia]  ....Where' your father?
> OPHELIA   At home, my Lord.
> HAMLET  Let the doors be shut upon him, that he may
> play the fool nowhere but in 's own house. Farewell.
> OPHELIA  O, help him, you sweet heavens!
> HAMLET  If thou dost marry, I'll give thee this
> plague for
> thy dowry: be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as
> snow,
> thou shalt not escape calumny. Get thee to a
> nunnery,
> farewell. Or, if thou wilt needs marry, marry a
> fool,
> for wise men know well enough what monsters you
> make of them. To a nunnery go, and quickly too.
> Farewell.
>
> (3.1, 131-41) --right after the "to be" business
> echoed by
> Prufrock's ironic "nor was meant to be"
>
> Significant? I'll leave it to the "board" to decide!
> --Greg--
>
> Vishvesh Obla wrote:
>
> > Dear Jennifer,
> >
> > “My second point is about the propagation of the
> idea
> > that Hamlet is indecisive, which has appeared in
> > several posts. What evidence to support such a
> claim?
> > It seems to me that Hamlet has sure enough made up
> his
> > mind; the problem is rather than he cannot act on
> his
> > decision. To be indecisive and to be incapable of
> > action are not the same. Hamlet's mind is made up
> on
> > one thing--Claudius--before he even sees the
> ghost.”
> >
> > That was very impressive.  Hamlet, I understand,
> is a
> > very intelligent character unlike Prufrock who
> seems
> > to be a surreal kind of a person.  If Hamlet
> > hesitates, I think it is because he knows how
> powerful
> > and clever Claudius is.  I feel that Hamlet ought
> to
> > be seen (as any dramatic character should be) from
> the
> > play’s perspective; confusions as to his ‘madness’
> and
> > ‘procrastination’ arise when we look outward of
> it.
> > (In fact, one can point out many ‘evidences’ for
> it
> > when one misreads the play). Hamlet is controlled
> by
> > the conditions of the play and it makes saner
> reading
> > to read the play in its context.
> >
> > In Prufrock, Eliot consciously tried to portray a
> > muddled up personality, to express a typical state
> of
> > mind of the modern age, and I don’t see anything
> > remarkable to compare him with Hamlet.
> >
> > vishvesh
> >
> > --- Jennifer Formichelli <[log in to unmask]>
> wrote:
> > > Dear Listers,
> > >
> > > I have two points upon this thread. First,
> Michael,
> > > in response to
> > > Ninodeluz:
> > >
> > >
> > > > Don't forget, Hamy calls Polonius a fool,
> > > > Prufrock calls himself ALMOST a fool.
> > > >
> > > >
> > > > This is because Prufrock is switching from
> Hamlet
> > > to Lear. . .
> > > > Michael
> > >
> > >
> > > I should very much like to know where Lear calls
> > > himself a fool. This
> > > seems to me rather unlikely. The fool nearly
> > > outright calls him a fool,
> > > and Lear threatens him with a whip; his speech
> to
> > > Gloucester about 'the
> > > great stage of fools' does not appear to include
> > > either of them; and
> > > even in his apology to Cordelia he does no such
>
=== message truncated ===


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