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TOPIC: the Nunnery Scene

the Nunnery Scene 7 years 1 month ago #1067

Willedever wrote:
You already know the source, I'm sure, since you posted it: the Second Quarto printing of Hamlet. ... All Shakespearean words are known from the printings of his writings, of course.

It is not very clever to ignore what Shakespeare wrote. The 'independent source' is "Shakespeare." I gave you both the source and the definition for "evocutate." But if you don't want them, that's fine. Nobody's trying to force you into anything. However, you might want to consider that if you rely only on old secondary sources, you'll never learn anything new.

You don't apply this same standard to to the word "inoculate".

"noculate" is the correct term, "euocutat" is a misprint.

The dichotomy of the human condition is what Hamlet faces as he attempts to understand the world in broad universals. The nunnery scene (in part) expresses this theme. Hamlet's view of the world is stark. He sees the base nature of man as an adversity and the "celestial" as aspirational. So, while grafting of plants is a useful, worthy and purposeful endeavor as you point out, Hamlet's metaphor sees it as a negative. The graft puts a false face on the true nature of the rootstock. We know that Hamlet's view as it plays out through this scene is cynical, simplistic even juvenile.
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the Nunnery Scene 7 years 1 month ago #1068

Jim wrote:
You don't apply this same standard to to the word "inoculate".

In point of fact, I do. You're mistaken. I apply the same standards to all words that might be at issue in both Q2 and the Folio.

The measures I use to judge between Q2 and the Folio are as follows.

"plain sense in context,
thematic significance,
root meanings,
relevant ambiguity,
immediacy to the passage,
the flow of the dialogue,
the flow of events, and
overall word usage in the play.
If all that fails, I look to the author's general usage of words, throughout his writings, and to the fact that he was a great poet."

My application of those measures to numerous differences that exist between Q2 and the Folio can be seen at the following link.
"inoculate" is the correct term, "euocutat" is a misprint.

There is no legitimate reason to imagine either word is a misprint. When people don't understand something in Hamlet they always try to claim misprint, as if they can somehow now read a nonexistent manuscript, today, better than the compositor who actually saw it could.
The dichotomy of the human condition is what Hamlet faces as he attempts to understand the world in broad universals. ...

Keeping in mind, of course, that Hamlet is a play character, and not a person who can have understanding. Hamlet understands what the Bard intentionally gave him to understand. Not that you don't know that, but just to keep things clear.
... So, while grafting of plants is a useful, worthy and purposeful endeavor as you point out, Hamlet's metaphor sees it as a negative. ...

Hamlet isn't calling grafting a negative, he's trying to persuade Ophelia that the "graft" of virtue onto the old rootstock of men doesn't work (using the "inoculate" idea for simplicity here.) Of course it would be a positive if it did work.
... We know that Hamlet's view as it plays out through this scene is cynical, simplistic even juvenile.

Nobody knows any such thing, because that isn't a correct description of Hamlet in the Nunnery Scene. He isn't simplistic or juvenile, quite the contrary. Cynical, yes.[/i]
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the Nunnery Scene 1 year 4 months ago #6713

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Willedever, that's a very interesting interpretation (and one that had never occured to me before, for that matter), but I have to say, ultimately, it doesn't really work for me. It seems to me that your whole theory (if one might call it so) is based on the assumption that Hamlet misunderstands Ophelia's statement that "to the noble mind rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind" as a statement of preference, on her part, for "rich gifts" instead of "poor ones", hence the notion that he thinks she's been "seducted" by Claudius or something like that.

The problem with this interpretation, the way I see it, is that if that little bit logically collapses, then so will the whole scene the way you have interpreted it - and I think it kinda does. To my mind, that particular remark by Ophelia is pretty straight-forward. She simply says to him "those things you had given to me once meant the world to me, but now that I see how cruel you really are, they don't anymore, so I don't want them. Take them back". You did argue, of course, that Hamlet's character doesn't have the luxury of carefully interpreting said words that we do, and that's fair enough as a general observation, but in this case - come on, it is pretty blunt, isn't it? "Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind". Who doesn't get it in an instant? When I first watched the scene years ago that was one of the few things I realized immediately. "I treasured these gifts, but now I'm hurt by you".

Why would she say that? That's simple, you said so yourself. This whole little show directed by Polonius has the sole purpose of manipulating Hamlet into declaring his love for Ophelia, which in turn will provide Ophelia with the perfect opportunity to return her own love for Hamlet and hopefully this would culminate into them being reunited after the brief separation imposed by Polonius. Simple plan with a double purpose: Hamlet's "lunacy" gets cured, and they get to be together again, which now is also Polonius' wish, as he no longer fears Hamlet merely wishes to have "a good time" with his daughter at the expense of her chastity and his own honour and reputation. Win - win. Queen Gertrude sums it up perfectly before the "show begins": "And for your part, Ophelia, I do wish / That your good beauties be the happy cause / Of Hamlet's wildness: so shall I hope your virtues / Will bring him to his wonted way again, / To both your honours".

That's the reason why I also think Ophelia is not as unhappy about her "mission" as you're suggesting: when she replies to the former remark by Gertrude with "Madam, I wish it may", I believe she means every word. In fact, she can't wait to carry her part through and see her father's plan succeed, for the obvious reason she wants to be with Hamlet again. I can imagine her returning Hamlet his gifts to her and then turning her back on him, in a gesture of pretended frustration and "heartbreak", sort of like "I don't even wanna look at your face right now, that's how much you've hurt my feelings". It is quite common a scene with couples into "problems", isn't it? But once Hamlet cannot see her face, Ophelia, I can imagine, is in a state of anticipation and blissful eagerness, possibly half-whispering, with eyes closed, something like "Oh God, please, let me hear his words now - let him say he loves me and that we're going to be fine".

But what about Hamlet in this whole situation? In my opinion, not only is he not "tragically wrong" about it, as you suggest, but he actually figures the whole plan of Polonius out. And if we assume there's a certain pause along with silence when Ophelia raps up her speech, we can assume he also gets the time he needs to figure the whole thing out. After all, Ophelia's words do imply a fairly obvious (once you think of it) challenge: it would eventually occur to him that she has sort of "tossed him the ball" and now awaits for some gesture from him. He nust have known: Ophelia wants him back and simply waits for him to make a move for it. Whether or not he has realized that they're not alone in the room is, in my opinion, not revelant yet. All he knows, for now, is that Ophelia loves him, just as he loves her, and she's aching for sweet words, a hug, something. But of course he doesn't grant her wish. Why?

Also simple, and also something you said yourself: Hamlet intends to end the whole thing with Ophelia, not because he wants to (he loves her and wants her like he always has) but because he feels he must. He's on a path that might claim his soul and tragically, there's no room for romance in it. All he can do is to protect the girl he loves. Save her soul. And if he is to break her heart for that purpose, so be it. Better that she gets her heart broken than she gets damned along with him. Therefore, everything that follows is Hamlet trying to tell Ophelia to just.stay.away.from.him. And he tries that in many ways:

First, he tries to insult her by telling her that she is to be doomed by her beauty, that even though she's pure, the fact that she's beautiful means that fatefully, she will become a whore. Not convincing? Fine, let's try something else. "I did love you once". No. I didn't. I lied to you. She still looks uncertain. Let's bring out the big guns. "Listen, girl, I'm not as good as you think I am. I'm capable of horrible things. In fact, there's no point in me living at all. You know what that means? My children would be exactly like me as well. So, you don't want this. You don't want to be my wife and have my kids". Still not hated by her? Alright, let's go completely brutal. "Whatever you do in your life, you'll be despised, because you're a woman. Simple as that. All women are evil. You're no good. I hate you and I hate all women. Just get over it. Go. Get thee to a nunnery".

There are obvious holes in this, because apparently we have to assume that at some point Hamlet realizes the presence of (at least) Polonius somewhere in the room, which would eventually further motivate him into appearing like a bastard and even trigger him to put his good old "antic disposition" on, and I admit I haven't figured the whole thing out. But of one thing I am certain: Hamlet doesn't mean a word he says to Ophelia. Despite his disgust towards his mother, he loves Ophelia and only dismisses her for her own good. Anyway, there's a lot more to think on regarding this scene, which after many years I still haven't got to fully figure out. Probably the most difficult scene in Hamlet and in all theater. But this interpretation is, I think, a good basis. After all, this is probably what defines Hamlet more than anything else: "I must be cruel only to be kind".
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