My focus with Hamlet always goes back to the question of whether he was actually mad or just pretending to be mad. Was there method to his madness? As you likely know in the original Danish legend of Amleth, the young prince pretended to be a crazy fool so that he would appear harmless to the usurping fratricidal uncle. Once he was old enough Amleth slaughtered his uncle reclaimed the throne. Shakespeare's Hamlet is different in many ways from Amleth but the general plot points and characters are all there. Elizabethean England would have known the Danish legend and would have gone to the play expecting to see the story of a sane man pretending to be mad in order to exact revenge. So I focus on Hamlet's cleverness at faking madness and does that cleverness slip over into true madness?
I must admit that Bloom's version of Hamlet is the one I was focused on and also that this Hamlet is a creative (mis)reading. Especially because we have only the text and not the music/movement of the actors, I experience the text as demanding the risk of a misreading.
Does Shakespeare subvert the Revenge Play? You may know this, but Shakespeare's first and only son was named Hamnet. He died at 11. Do you know that part of Joyce's Ulysess? Joyce's conspiracy theory concerning Hamlet and Hamnet. (Shakespeare probably acted
the part of the ghost.)
Bloom thinks Shakespeare remains high tech. Considering Falstaff, Hamlet, Edmund, Iago, others I'm leaving out, I believe him. His characters show a leap of self-consciousness. Some of Hamlet's lines seem like proto-Finnegans Wake. Hawks and Handsaws. Nutshells containing infinite space. (The head of the dreamer H.C.E.). Nietzsche tackled Hamlet in the Birth of Tragedy, as perhaps you know. Hamlet is a theme to riff on. He's a prince in black, an arrogant murderous detached melodramatic self-entertainer. He plays at being in a revenge play. But all this is creative misreading perhaps.
---------- Post added 02-22-2010 at 02:03 AM ----------
When I think of Jesus I often have a similar focus. Was he mad? Did he really believe he was the son of God come to die for the sins of the world? Or was he just trying to change the world? I focus on Jesus' cleverness at playing the messiah and does that cleverness slip over into the truly messianic?
Which brings me to Jesus.I feel that Christ must be assemble by the reader. I simply can't accept the same character saying those often contradictory lines. I don't know what the current theory is, but I've read that his historical existence is doubt-able. For me, the Gospels seem like a clumsy masterpiece. How strange and fascinating that there are four!
I mean that four were allowed in the canon. Four winds. Four bedposts. The cross. Jung talks of this, as if there were an archetype for fours. I'm not 100% convinced but I do feel something about crosses and squares and so on. (Not all-sober: forgive the digression).
I guess then there's no answer for me as to whether Jesus was mad or not. For me, he is the prophet poet magic man from Nazareth. He tosses off some great lines, some of the very best. "Before Abraham was, I am." Now that is a brilliant use of grammar, a minimal mystical poem. Who knows? Is the translator as responsible for its resonance as the author?
I think whether he believed or not would make him one of two quite different characters. If one made two movies, one for each hypothesis --how different they would be. This made me think of Wise Blood. Maybe you've seen it. If not, you should check out this clip. The actor went on to play Doc in Deadwood.
YouTube - Wise Blood 3
---------- Post added 02-22-2010 at 02:10 AM ----------
Not that I mind, but why is this in epistemology?
I see the Jesus-type as someone who is firm
in the truth. He just has it, this knowledge thing. In fact, He is
I see the Hamlet as a first philosopher, an ironist. He is the impossibility of closure, continual self-subversion. I suppose that Hamlet and Christ could serve as polar epistemological opposites. But only by my eccentric reading of them perhaps.