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December 10, 2005

Okay, so we did our Hamlet soliloquies today, and most people did the extra credit one which begins, “O what a rogue and peasant slave am I!”  About a quarter of the way through that speech is the word “wann’d.”  You know how Shakespeare loves to stick apostrophes in stuff.  Well, I figured it was pronounced “wand,” and I practiced it like that, but after three people in a row went up and said “waned,” I was beginning to doubt myself.  There couldn’t possibly be that many people saying it unless it was the right way… Then David pronounced it “wand,” and I was like, “Well, David pretty much trumps everyone.”  But just to make sure, I decided to ask Mr. Carroll himself which one it was.  He said, “Which one do you want it to be?”  I said I wanted it to be “wand,” because that’s the way I’ve been saying it, and he said that was the correct way.  All good.  But then came the best part–even after Mr. Carroll confirmed that it was pronounced “wand,” people were still pronouncing it “waned.”  I mean, I guess it makes sense that you don’t want to change it after you’ve memorized it one way; it could mess up your flow or something.  But I still don’t understand how that many people could pronounce it the wrong way.  It’s not like it’s counterintuitive–wann’d would be a shortened version of wanned, which comes from the adjective wan… or do people pronounce that “wane” as well?  As my mom said, “That’s a third grade mistake.”  I know I’m a total pronunciation nazi for harping about this, but that really bothered me.  Oh, and one more thing.  I bet myself ten bucks that Wilson would be the third person to say it the right way, and I won that bet.  I guess you have to be part Asian to be able to speak English or something.  Haha.


So how many people loved T.S. Eliot’s essay on Hamlet?  I thought it was a brilliant piece of work.  And aside from the ridiculous blend of plot with other elements of the story, I have some issues with Hamlet the character being the central issue of the play.  Okay, so we study Hamlet because he’s… human?  Like there’s never been another character in all of literature who was genuinely human?  That’s kind of an insult to every writer who ever lived, since literature is, after all, the human experience.  If Hamlet were a comprehensive blend of human elements that have been found in thousands of other works, then I might understand, but he’s not even that.  Humanity is far too diverse to be placed into a single character.  If Hamlet really is human, then shouldn’t the ultimate test be whether or not we can relate to him?  There are many other characters whom I’ve related to much better than him.  I thought I would relate to him going into the book, and I still kind of do, but there’s something missing.  And I think it’s mainly this: that inaction Hamlet experiences that we all supposedly experience, because, frankly, we’re not all heroes?  Absolutely true.  But it doesn’t go far enough.


Because Hamlet, does, after all, act rashly sometimes.  The whole play isn’t just him moping around–he does actually do things, and serious things.  Murdering Polonius through the curtain?  I’m pretty sure I would never go insane enough to do that, but I have lost control of myself before, so let’s just say I would for a second.  What I would most certainly not do, however, is go right back to admonishing my mother.  You just killed a man. Do you even understand that?  I would (and I think this goes for just about everyone else) go into some kind of shock finding out I just murdered an innocent man.  And manic depression isn’t a condition that inflicts all of us, is it?  But there’s a practical purpose for Hamlet’s rash actions, just like there’s a practical purpose for everything in Shakespeare’s plays: there would be no plot without action.  No one would read a book where nothing happens. 


And that’s one of the central issues here–nobody actually wants to read a book about a real person.  If we wanted to take a look at real people, we’d do just that.  When we read, we want to be taken somewhere different, somewhere that changes the way we view things.  We want to read about someone who stands out, someone who transcends the masses.  Not real people.  We could spend our lives observing real people and still not scratch the surface.


But back to my main point, which is that Hamlet isn’t real at all.  Even if the rash action had been omitted, and Hamlet never killed the king, and he actually did just spend four hours moping around, he still wouldn’t be real, at least not real enough for me.  Because at least he had no qualms about what he was supposed to do.  He may have convinced himself that he needed to find out if Claudius really did it first, but it didn’t take long for him to find out, and once he did, he knew what he had to do: kill Claudius.  So he may have suffered from inaction, but he did not suffer from indecision.  And for me, indecision is really the main issue at work.  I’ve almost never decided for sure what I wanted to do and then not been able to force myself to do it.  But indecision is much more complex, and, in my opinion, that makes it more applicable to humanity.  How often do we know for sure the right course of action?  Indecision plagues me constantly, and what often ends up happening is… nothing.  If any dilemma comes up, I’ll mull it over a little while, get tired of thinking about it, take my mind off it for a while, then ignore it entirely.  And 90% of the time, the dilemma disappears.  I’ll so thoroughly convince myself that I don’t really have to do something, that I wind up believing I don’t have to, even if I believed I did before.  Because my whims are only whims, not based on fact, mutable by the slightest change in the atmosphere.  I still believe that most of the things I’ve never done are things I shouldn’t have done… but then again, how do I know for sure if I never did them?  You know?


I would probably never end up avenging my father, as unheroic as that sounds, but it’s perhaps for the best.  That way, you don’t wind up having eight people die and destroying your entire family and someone else’s.


So what happens is nothing.  And now what?  I wait for another whim to ignore, I expect.  How I envy you, Hamlet.  You have no idea how good you have it.  If I could only be sure of something, how much I could do…

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12 Comments
  1. Anonymous permalink

    nice. haha i think i know why i stumbled now .. someone was betting on me, what i said actually had somewhat of an impact for once. did you notice how many people omitted “the” from “the motive and THE cue for passion that i have….”?

  2. Anonymous permalink

    yeah it was spelled “wann’d”. i don’t see how you could make it a long A when there are two Ns following it.

  3. We were keeping track of the wanned/waned issue on our side of the room too. Sara got props for being the first non-asian to pronounce it right.

  4. Also, you should just turn in the second half of this post as your essay.

  5. Actually no, because at seeing “No one would read a book where nothing happens” Carroll would reply what about seinfeld???????because it’s a book and all.

  6. “…That from her working all his visage [gradully decreased in size, amount, intensity, or degree]”
    Thank you, American Heritage Dictionary, for clarifying that error. Three-fourths of our class said “waned.” XD 

  7. I’m in Hoerner english, and even I wouldn’t pronounce it like “waned”…

  8. I think Hamlet is just an exaggerated human being (for the purpose of story). Think about it… he’s kinda bipolar right? To some degree we’re all a little bipolar? He’s part decisive and part inaction. When it comes to love itself, he’s partially in love with it and partially in fear of it and detests the pain it brings him.And was killing a man such a big deal? People were dying left and right in that play (and in that day). There wasn’t exactly a Felony clause or something. As for the manic depression, I’d say that’s probably just Shakespeare coming through in his character. Man that guy had a fucked up life… but hold on a sec. Raise your hand if you’ve never suffered from depression. :-So barring things that distance yourself from Hamlet like the different views of murder then and now, here’s the real psychological element you have to consider (and in my opinion where things get interesting): Maybe you don’t want to relate to Hamlet. Even if you do want to be as decisive as he was, look at how many negative things you just listed about Hamlet. I defy any human ego to jump at the chance to relate itself to that (exaggerated for story, no less).(Enter eerie twilight music)

  9. To some degree we’re all a little bipolar? True, true. But to some degree, we’re all a little everything. You who go on about balance should know that. So by exaggerating the bipolarness, he takes away from the human element. The reason that heroes aren’t real people is because no one is that brave or secure with themselves or understanding. It’s taken to an unrealistic extreme. But going to the other extreme doesn’t make a character human either. Reality should be a photograph, not a caricature.I guess the murder thing makes sense, but you can understand it’s a difficult thing to swallow. Just goes to show again how much society influences us, that something as basic as that can differ so widely. Whoops, did I say the “s” word again? Sorry…

  10. Well, yeah. He had to be made more extreme.. just so the story wouldn’t read like, I dunno… a French film?She looked at Hamlet.”How have you been?” He didn’t smile. He merely puffed on his cigarette.”As well as you, I hope.” There was a protracted silent where there could’ve been some drama were this story not so vainly trying to capture the human spirit. “And your father?” Hamlet asked, taking another puff on his cancer stick.Now who wants to read that??? Okay, so it’s funny, but you’d get sick of it if I’d written a page.You didn’t even talk about the most interesting part! Have you toyed with the idea that the last thing you really want is to relate to Hamlet?

  11. Well, I said I still kind of relate to Hamlet.  I’m just saying that there have been many characters whom I’ve related to better, and I don’t think the entire basis of Hamlet’s merit can be that he’s so undeniably human.  Plenty of characters are human.  Hamlet doesn’t offer anything that should make it the greatest play of all time.
    And your parody demonstrates exactly what I was trying to say.  Nobody wants to read a book about real people.  They have to be warped and exaggerated real people for us to stay interested.  That’s why we like reality shows.  They give you the impression of watching real people without actually making you watch real people.  Unless you’d like to argue that people on reality shows really are real, that is.  So that’s kind of how I see the characterization of Hamlet.  It’s a cop-out.  A reality show.
    Also, I’ve related to characters before who were less than admirable, so I really don’t think that’s a factor.  And I’m going to bring up Native Son again.  I identified with Bigger.  I played him in our final video project.  When our group was trying to decide who would be who, and we came around to Bigger, I said I could do it, because I think I’m sort of similar to him, the way he’s always freaking out about little things, and then that just gets him into an even bigger mess.  Of course, when I tell people this, they’re usually like, “You can identify with a murderer?!”  Never mind that the whole point of the book was that Bigger could be any one of us.  So yeah, I don’t want to sound pretentious, but I think if anything, I’m much less in self-denial than most people.
    Actually, check that.  I may be in denial, but not for the reason you think.  If I really am trying to keep myself from relating to Hamlet, it’s probably because I don’t like having Shakespeare’s idea of “humanity” shoved down my throat.  I just won’t buy into the idea that a single character in this hack job of a play embodies all of humanity, even if that’s exactly the case.  I’m in denial about Shakespeare’s inarguable greatness.  It’s my way of “sticking it to the man.”

  12. Oh I didn’t say you were. I just meant that’s the most interesting question you didn’t ask originally. I think Hamlet is way overrated myself…And I can’t believe you relate to a murderer… haha

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