Saturday, February 05, 2005

"Shakespeare's Interesting," Part 2 of an Aesthetic Realism class given by Eli Siegel; Reported on by Lynette Abel

This is the conclusion of this great class

Then, using an annotated 18th Century edition of Hamlet Mr. Siegel explained, “I’m not going to read the play as such. I’m going to begin with the notes for casualness. Every passage I do read, he said, will be incidental to an 18th-Century observation.”

Critics have been very much puzzled by the Ghost right from the beginning. “The main point,” said Mr. Siegel “ is whether Hamlet’s father was troubled himself. Why is the Ghost in such a hurry? It seems he was uncertain of himself.” The critic Warton in a note says the vanishing of the Ghost “is like a start of guilt.” “This backs up Aesthetic Realism” commented Mr. Siegel. “Hamlet’s father was not so good—he was better than his brother maybe but that isn’t saying much.” Then reading from the famous scene in which Hamlet speaks to his father, as Ghost, Mr. Siegel commented,” This is one of the passages Hamlet: Revisited sees as rather humorous.” I read from it now:

Ghost. List, list, O, list?
If thou didst ever thy dear father love—

Hamlet. O god!

Ghost. Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.

Hamlet. Murder?

Ghost. Murder most foul, as in the best it is,
But this most foul, strange, and unnatural.

Hamlet. Hast me to know’t that I, with wings as swift
As meditation or the thoughts of love,
May sweep to my revenge.

“In my raffish, profane fashion,” commented Mr. Siegel “I think these words show some mocking. If the wings are as swift as meditation it is not fast. And thoughts of love are usually slow. ‘What does Rita really think of me?’ I regard this as funny as “The Importance of Being Ernest.” And Mr. Siegel read Warburton’s note on the word meditation:

“This word is consecrated by the mystics to signify that flight of mind which aspires to the enjoyment of the supreme good.”

Mr. Siegel commented, “Any mystic that’s in a hurry would be kicked out.” The critic Steevens points out that there is not other ghost that compares to this ghost. “It happens,” said Mr. Siegel “the Ghost in Hamlet in terms of the supernatural is the best of its kind.”

It was pointed out that all of Shakespeare’s plays are interesting because of the problems they show. “The wonderful thing about Hamlet,” noted Mr. Siegel “is that while it has these problems it is so everlastingly poetic. While people are being dramatic the clash and clang of words, verbs, nouns and conjunctions and syllables are being dramatic too.” This class was a great instance of literary criticism. Like the world, it was casual and profound.
Hope you enjoyed it!

By the way, I'd like to suggest you check out my friend's literary blog, which is titled Aesthetic Realism and the Works of Edith Wharton and see her website too.

Best regards,