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TOPIC: Meaning of so long life

Meaning of so long life 1 month 1 week ago #7479

  • Rob
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Does anyone think that the phrasing of the following line in Hamlet's ‘to be or not to be' soliloquy is particularly odd:
“There's the respect that makes Calamity of so long life”?
The only way it makes sense to me is if you interpret 'so long life’ as ‘farewell life’. Then it makes perfect sense in context with the rest of the speech, as it would mean that the dreams that may come after death are what makes calamity of simply saying farewell to life, and death would otherwise be a blessing.
However I've never heard it interpreted like that, and as far as I can tell from searching online the use of 'so long’ meaning farewell wasn't recorded until the 19th century.
Could this be wrong, and Shakespeare's is in fact the first recorded use, or is there another more convincing interpretation of that line? It just doesn't make sense to me to say it means the dreams after death are what makes us endure so long a life, which is the usual interpretation. I really can't see how the phrasing could be twisted to mean that.
Any thoughts anyone?
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Meaning of so long life 1 month 6 days ago #7481

  • Ron Severdia
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Hi Rob and welcome. :)

It's commonly glossed as "so long-lived life" in the context of age, not a farewell, so to speak. I guess you could make a case for some overlapping in meaning, but it's a little different. As you mentioned, "so long" is too modern to have any bearing on the meaning here.
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Meaning of so long life 4 weeks 1 day ago #7484

  • Geoffrey Schoolar
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If you equate "so long life" with "an overly long life," or "such a very long life," it make sense. It's saying that there is the respect that makes us live as long as we can, despite all the calamities that old age brings.

I don't think saying, "so long, life!" Fits because then you are not accepting the calamities. You just kill yourself and you would have no calamities. But Hamlet is saying that we do actually bear all those ills we have, rather than fly to others that we know not of.

But it's an interesting idea I had never thought of!
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