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TOPIC: "To the celestial, and my soul's idol . . .

"To the celestial, and my soul's idol . . . 7 years 2 months ago #1172

Charles wrote:
Willedever wrote:
Charles wrote:
Notice he says: "Frailty, thy name is woman", he doesn't differentiate but takes the entire gender to task.

He's speaking based on Gertrude's behavior. That's it.
Yes, he is speaking about Gertrude's behavior, but that's not the issue I'm trying to explore. I'm making the argument that the level of disgust indicated by his statement reflects Hamlet's overall emotional stature, how he is feeling about his mother specifically and the world in general. His mood is dark and that permeates his thoughts and his behavior. I have difficulty imagining him writing love letters and making tenders of affection toward Ophelia after the death of his father, particularly after the interchange with the ghost. I have to wonder why you are so sure that he could so bifurcate his feelings to be able to do so? Are you speaking from personal experience -or- are you Shakespeare reincarnated :D

There are others who read these threads - I wonder if they care to share their thoughts and ideas?

Regards, Charles

Actually, I'm not entirely with you on this one, Chas. I do think that the main part of the Hamlet/Ophelia relationship that is mentioned in the text refers to events coming after Hamlet's return from Wittenberg, after Old Hamlet's death. Only the main part, though. Some of the letters and remembrances are probably from earlier days, before Hamlet first went to Wittenberg. I think the two have been sweethearts since early adolescence, or something very near to sweethearts.

A major puzzle in the play is why Ophelia is told by her father and brother that she cannot have a relationship with Hamlet because of the difference in their respective stations, when Gertrude says during the funeral scene that she hoped Ophelia would have been Hamlet's wife. There's definitely something amiss there. I'm wondering if a given production shouldn't actually omit one of those perspectives, so they don't collide - or, at least provide some clear explanation.
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"To the celestial, and my soul's idol . . . 7 years 2 months ago #1173

Charles wrote:
Yes, he is speaking about Gertrude's behavior, but that's not the issue I'm trying to explore.

When Hamlet makes the "Frailty..." remark, he is talking about Gertrude. He is making no direct reference to Ophelia there.

You cannot understand the play based on only a handful of quotes taken out of context.
... I'm making the argument that the level of disgust indicated by his statement reflects Hamlet's overall emotional stature, how he is feeling about his mother specifically and the world in general. His mood is dark ...

At the time he speaks. There are other Scenes in the play. ;) Or are you ignorant of the fact that there are other Scenes in the play?

Again, you cannot understand the play based on only a handful of quotes taken out of context. You will never understand the events or characters like that.
I have difficulty imagining him writing love letters and making tenders of affection toward Ophelia after the death of his father, ...

The shortcomings of your personal imagination have nothing to do with the play. And of course you'll have difficulty understanding the play if you try to intepret it according to only a handful of quotes out of context.
... I have to wonder why you are so sure that he could so bifurcate his feelings to be able to do so? ...

I'm sure of what the play says, because I have studied it. If you're ignorant, and too lazy to study the play, then of course you won't understand what I tell you.
Are you speaking from personal experience -or- are you Shakespeare reincarnated :D

I happen to be speaking from the personal experience of having actually read the play. By all appearances, that is far more than you've ever done. Have you ever even read the entire play? It doesn't appear that you have.

Your fundamental ignorance of the play could be corrected if you would take the time to study it, and if you would pay attention to those who know the play, but if you wish to remain ignorant of the play, you may certainly do so.
There are others who read these threads - I wonder if they care to share their thoughts and ideas?

Well, if they do, I hope they're not as ignorant of the play as you are, so that they have something useful to contribute to the discussion.
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"To the celestial, and my soul's idol . . . 7 years 2 months ago #1174

Willedever wrote:
Charles wrote:
I'm not suggesting that Hamlet had never been to Wittenberg, only that he was on his way back when Claudius killed his father.

Your idea has no support anywhere in the play dialogue.

Well, there is one thing, actually, that suggests it. Hamlet came from Wittenberg and so did Horatio, but it seems that Hamlet arrived home earlier. So theoretically, he could have been on his way home already, when the news of Old Hamlet's death reached him. But I'm not sure if this has any wider significance for the overall action. Except to pose the question that, if Hamlet and Horatio were both at Wittenberg, why didn't they come back to Denmark together? They're best friends. On the other hand, maybe they weren't studying together at the time; maybe it's been years since they saw each other.
Last Edit: 7 years 2 months ago by Tue Sorensen.
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"To the celestial, and my soul's idol . . . 7 years 2 months ago #1175

shakespeare wrote:
Again, we're speaking in "absolutes" here. ...

No, in fact, I was not.

The correct interpretation of Hamlet is the one that works for what Shakespeare actually wrote (as best we can determine that.)

That is a fact.

If you ignore what Shakespeare wrote, you are obviously not going to produce a valid interpretation of the play (except by sheer, meaningless coincidence.)

Or, why were you so interested in getting Q2 right, if you don't think it matters what the Bard wrote? Isn't that rather "absolute?" ;)

It should also be clear, just as a matter of common sense, that trying to interpret the play based on a single quote taken out of context is not a very smart, or useful, thing to do.
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"To the celestial, and my soul's idol . . . 7 years 2 months ago #1176

Willedever wrote:
I happen to be speaking from the personal experience of having actually read the play. By all appearances, that is far more than you've ever done. Have you ever even read the entire play? It doesn't appear that you have.

Your fundamental ignorance of the play could be corrected if you would take the time to study it, and if you would pay attention to those who know the play, but if you wish to remain ignorant of the play, you may certainly do so.
There are others who read these threads - I wonder if they care to share their thoughts and ideas?

Well, if they do, I hope they're not as ignorant of the play as you are, so that they have something useful to contribute to the discussion.

Willedever, that attitude really sucks. That attitude will never, ever get you respect from anyone. I mean, really. Can't you see how competely ridiculous and unconstructive it is? Just because people have different interpretations than you, you repeatedly accuse them of not having read the play, being ignorant, lazy, stupid and having nothing to contribute? This is not true; this is pure bullying. In terms of civil discourse, your attitude is the one that has nothing to contribute, and no business on a public board where everyone is entitled to their opinion. Mellow out! If you don't agree with people, can't you at least agree to disagree? Otherwise you're making these boards impossible for anybody else to feel comfortable on.

With open-minded discussion, maybe we can all learn something new. Even you.
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"To the celestial, and my soul's idol . . . 7 years 2 months ago #1177

Charles wrote:
Willedever wrote:
Charles wrote:
Notice he says: "Frailty, thy name is woman", he doesn't differentiate but takes the entire gender to task.

He's speaking based on Gertrude's behavior. That's it.
Yes, he is speaking about Gertrude's behavior, but that's not the issue I'm trying to explore. I'm making the argument that the level of disgust indicated by his statement reflects Hamlet's overall emotional stature, how he is feeling about his mother specifically and the world in general. His mood is dark and that permeates his thoughts and his behavior. I have difficulty imagining him writing love letters and making tenders of affection toward Ophelia after the death of his father, particularly after the interchange with the ghost. I have to wonder why you are so sure that he could so bifurcate his feelings to be able to do so? Are you speaking from personal experience -or- are you Shakespeare reincarnated :D

There are others who read these threads - I wonder if they care to share their thoughts and ideas?

Regards, Charles

A further reply to this post - I don't think you should see Hamlet as completely dark-mooded, even though he's pretty far down in the early parts of the play. Hamlet does, at least for a while, engage in love-play with Ophelia; what other reason does he really have to stay at the Claudius-infested Danish court? I believe he stays because of Ophelia (and this is a decision he makes before Old Hamlet's Ghost speaks to him of revenge), and proceeds to have a relationship with her (a continuance of their pre-Wittenberg relationship), at least until she is forbidden to see him. And even then, we might reasonably guess that Ophelia in fact may not be obeying her father's orders, but continue to see Hamlet in secret. But, of course, that's speculation. One possible interpretation.

"Frailty, thy name is woman!" is certainly both a reference to Gertrude and to the female gender in general, but it does not follow from the idea that women are frail that they should therefore not be loved! Old Hamlet, in both his appearances, advises Hamlet to be gentle with Gertrude, because conceit in weakest bodies strongest work. Hamlet is sometimes said to be a misogynist - at least in the situations where he rails against women's faults -, but actually I don't think the observation that women are frail necessarily needs to by misogynistic. It can also simply be a factual observation. In fact, Hamlet could be saying the Frailty line in a sad rather than an angry voice. That might work very well, too.

Hamlet often jumps between impulsive rage and deep pensiveness. Many lines make different kinds of sense depending on how you perform them. Which is another of the play's great strengths. Hamlet would never have become so beloved a work of art if it wasn't for its astounding range of different possible interpretations. I believe this is exactly as Shakespeare intended it - he wanted a play full of questions, hints and double meanings, to keep us guessing, to keep making us return to the play's philosophical depths over and over again, keeping its burning questions alive for future ages to reflect upon and make inquiries about.
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"To the celestial, and my soul's idol . . . 7 years 2 months ago #1178

sorensonian wrote:
... Some of the letters and remembrances are probably from earlier days, before Hamlet first went to Wittenberg. I think the two have been sweethearts since early adolescence, or something very near to sweethearts.

There's no reason at all to think so. Most significantly, that idea runs directly contrary to what Polonius says. If Hamlet and Ophelia had a longer term relationship, it would not be "of late."

The interpretation that works for what the play actually says, is that the romance of Hamlet and Ophelia began after Hamlet returned for his father's funeral.
A major puzzle in the play is why Ophelia is told by her father and brother that she cannot have a relationship with Hamlet because of the difference in their respective stations, when Gertrude says during the funeral scene that she hoped Ophelia would have been Hamlet's wife. ...

There's no mystery at all about that. First, Laertes is only repeating what Polonius said, so Laertes can be disregarded. Then, you'll find the answer in Polonius's characterization. Polonius is extremely intent on proving his loyalty to Claudius - that's abundantly clear in the play. Claudius has defeated Hamlet in the election, we know. Polonius is obviously worried, at first, that marriage between Ophelia and Hamlet would make Polonius look disloyal to Claudius, as if Polonius were siding with Hamlet, and would have preferred Hamlet had won the election. Polonius is worried that the appearance of him siding with Hamlet could cost him his job, if Claudius didn't like it.

It's only necessary to know a little about bureaucracy and politics, and Polonius's character, to understand that. Then, as events proceed, Polonius thinks he's found a way around the problem. He actually does want the Prince for a son in law, which is what leads to the Nunnery Scene.

Gertrude doesn't have those political concerns, that Polonius has. She isn't an employee who could be fired by Claudius. In interpreting the statements made by different characters, the different characterizations have to be taken into account, of course. Gertrude, and Polonius, are in quite different positions.

There's also the simple point that many significant events occur between Laertes and Polonius's statements in Scene 3, and Gertrude's statement in Scene 19. It's obviously unwise to try to interpret the play by looking only at two isolated speechs, out of context, while ignoring the vast bulk of the play. Nobody will ever understand it like that.
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"To the celestial, and my soul's idol . . . 7 years 2 months ago #1179

sorensonian wrote:
Willedever, that attitude really sucks. ...

Behave yourself.
Just because people have different interpretations than you, you repeatedly accuse them of not having read the play, being ignorant, lazy, stupid and having nothing to contribute? This is not true; ...

Actually, it is perfectly true that if a person has not studied the play, or even read it carefully, he will not have anything useful to contribute to a discussion of it.

It is also true that an attempt to interpret the play based on a few out-of-context quotes is going to be worthless, except by sheer coincidence. It really is necessary to read the entire play, carefully, to understand it.
With open-minded discussion, maybe we can all learn something new. Even you.

Oh, I'm still learning new things about Hamlet, which is more than some can say. But I don't achieve that by ignoring what the play actually says, or by only pulling a quote or two out of context. Nobody will ever learn the play like that.

Open-minded discussion is fine with me, but I don't equate being open minded with being ignorant. To me, those are two very different things.
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"To the celestial, and my soul's idol . . . 7 years 2 months ago #1180

  • Jim Murphy
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Charles wrote:
There are others who read these threads - I wonder if they care to share their thoughts and ideas?

Regards, Charles

Here's my take on your questions. First the letter. We don't really know the circumstances surrounding this letter. Its image and reality (thematically speaking). Look at the letters from Hamlet in 4.6 and 4.7 and the commission in 5.2 he tells us he wrote. Maybe the letter represents his true feelings or maybe its meant to give a false impression.

What we do know of the Ophelia/Hamlet romance has a distinct dichotomy. We, the audience hear one thing and we see something different. Hamlet and Ophelia only interact in two scenes. There is the nunnery scene in 3.1 and The Mousetrap in 3.2 . The twist Hamlet throws into this isn't to deny his actions but to deny his motivations. Was it love or just lust.

Hamlet's statement, "Frailty thy name is woman", is a generalization based on a single observation: his mother, Gertrude. This is faulty inductive reasoning and it is a product of his adolescence. This becomes particulary pointed at Ophelia in the nunnery scene. He rails at Ophelia for what he sees his mother has become. As he sees it she chose lust over love and given the opportunity Ophelia would do the same. He holds the same harsh criticism for himself.

I think there are a number of explanations for how Hamlet might romance Ophelia while mourning his father and despising Claudius. I think it is accepted that Gertrude and Claudius didn't become officially an item until an indeterminant time after King Hamlet died. I think Hamlet's despondency was gradual and not sudden. I don't think Hamlet is as upset about his father's death as he is about the discovery of his mother's fall from grace.

Hamlet's opening lines in his first soliloquy is just juvenile auxesis that stems from Claudius' rebuke just prior to the soliloquy. I think it helps contribute to Hamlet's "melancholy".

I think that covers your questions.
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"To the celestial, and my soul's idol . . . 7 years 2 months ago #1181

sorensonian wrote:
... Hamlet does, at least for a while, engage in love-play with Ophelia; what other reason does he really have to stay at the Claudius-infested Danish court? ...

It is explicit in the play that Hamlet stays in response to Gertrude's request. There is no question about that, because it is expressly stated in the play dialogue. Anybody who actually bothers to read the play will see it.

There are legitimate questions about the play, but that is not one of them.
... I believe he stays because of Ophelia ...

That is not what the play dialogue says.

If Hamlet wants to stay because of Ophelia, he would not have expressed the desire to leave. He wants to stay because of Ophelia, but he asks Claudius and Gertrude for permission to leave? That makes no sense at all.

Hamlet stays in response to Gertrude's request. We know that, and it is not in doubt.
... (a continuance of their pre-Wittenberg relationship), ...

There is no such thing in the play, as far as a romance between Hamlet and Ophelia goes. Presumably, they would have been acquainted earlier, but that's all.
... we might reasonably guess that Ophelia in fact may not be obeying her father's orders, but continue to see Hamlet in secret. But, of course, that's speculation. One possible interpretation.

It isn't a possible interpretation of the actual play dialogue. The play dialogue states otherwise.
"Frailty, thy name is woman!" is certainly both a reference to Gertrude and to the female gender in general, ...

It's an emotional outburst based on Gertrude's behavior. That is explicit in the play dialogue. It has no direct reference to Ophelia.

Read the entire speech in which that line occurs. Nobody is ever going to understand Hamlet by pulling a few isolated quotes out of context. You will find that Hamlet's line is stated in the context of Hamlet talking about Gertrude.
... Old Hamlet, in both his appearances, ...

"Old Hamlet" does not appear in the play. There is no such character. There is a "Ghost" character.
... Hamlet would never have become so beloved a work of art if it wasn't for its astounding range of different possible interpretations. I believe this is exactly as Shakespeare intended it ...

What Shakespeare intended, was what he actually wrote.
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