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英语硕士论文:论《哈姆雷特》的不确定性

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Introduction

 
After more than four hundred years since Hamlet was created by WilliamShakespeare, literary criticisms on the tragedy have far superseded the manuscript,and the commentaries on it cover various aspects. Thereby, any critic who wants tostep into the field of reinterpreting Hamlet, which was once compared to the mostsplendid diamond on the crown and which was created at the summit of Shakespeare’sart, must go through the field which has been trampled by the feet of generations ofcontending scholars, whose criticisms and interpretations of the tragedy havetremendously exceeded the script. Yet, man himself, human nature, the meaning ofhuman existence are still the permanent fields that have infinite space for man toexplore, while, these subjects are concerned in this tragedy.Man is a permanent subject that can not be identified rigidly and man neverceases his interest in himself. And the identification of man varies with the changes ofculture and history. Knowing man and self is subjective, while subjectivity is aproduct of a particular culture which in fact shapes us. Culture is dynamic, anyone’sperception of the same object is different. It is true of the interpretation of the playHamlet which involves the basic philosophical issues on man. Critics of different agesstriving to reinterpret the work, in other words, are trying to reinterpret man and selfas well as the physical world.
Its enduring vitality derives from its art of thought. Hamlet was created in the lateRenaissance period, so the tragedy mirrors and assembles the thoughts, assumptions,doubts and contemplation of the thinkers of that age. In this play, we can heardifferent voices concerning the same issue. As for each issue concerned in the tragedy,readers can hear two completely distinct voices arguing, which seem to be uttered indeep contemplation by thinkers who move between two opposite poles. Moreimportantly, readers of different ages can sense the traces of mind in the course ofgrowth and find the route his or her thought has ever followed. Since its introduction,generations of readers, audience and literary critics are fascinated with the art of itslanguage and thought. Up to now, comments, criticisms as well as interpretations onthe tragedy Hamlet have been going up. Even now, more and more researches aredone into the tragedy. And the image of Prince Hamlet has become the enduringclassic stage and screen image, which is interpreted in different cultures by those whoare passionate about the play. Hence the image of Prince Hamlet varies from cultureto culture in different ages.Shakespeare discusses many issues, and for each, we can hear completelyopposite voices. Readers can sense that the souls of the characters of the tragedy arestruggling in contradiction. Plus, Shakespeare lets all the main characters die, whetherthey are good or malicious, with compassion and evil, justice and injustice, allperishing in the end. While it earns sympathy of audience and readers, it passes onconfusion, indeterminacy as well as doubt to them, and makes them continue to think,judge and choose, for such an ending can not embody the playwright’s moralorientation and judgment of values. Because the characters of the work expresscontradictory opinions about the same issue, readers and audience of different agesand places draw different images of the same character, some of which are completelyopposing.For this, playwright F. Boas coins a term “problem plays” to refer to those playswith problems that include the works that passes on uncertainty and incongruity toreaders. He argues that four of Shakespeare’s plays are problematic. They areMeasure for Measure, Troilus and Cressida, All’s Well that Ends Well and Hamlet.After Boas, Vivian Thomas generalized three features of problem plays: 1. dealingwith problems, especially social and moral problems; 2. Having Contradiction inproblem plays; 3. Conveying uncertain messages to readers and audiences. Passing onuncertain messages and having contradiction is evident in Hamlet.
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Chapter One Incongruity in Cognition of Man
 
A. Hamlet’s contradictory views about man
In the tragedy, we can read the lines expressing the protagonist Hamlet’s viewsabout man. But what is confusing is that he shows polar attitudes regarding man onthe same occasion. He praises man as follows: “What a piece of work is man! Hownoble in reason! How infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express andadmirable! In action how like an angel! In apprehension how like a god! the beauty ofthe world! the paragon of animals1”③ However, what follows his generous praise ishis despise and depreciation of man: “And yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust?Man delights not me: No, nor woman neither” (P189) Such opposing views oftenpuzzle readers and pass on uncertain meaning.Tracing back to the history concerning Renaissance movement, it can be foundthat Hamlet’s soliloquies concern two different trends of thought from humanists. Onegroup, represented by Picco della Mirandola, praises man’s dignity as well as reason;at the same time, affirms the supreme place of man in the universe. Another trendexposes and criticizes the weaknesses, defects and ugliness of man. The twofacets—the praise and skepticism as well as criticism—mark two groups of ideas inthe period of Renaissance. We can hear Picco della Mirandola arguing with Michel deMontagne over the issues with regard to man.As for the lines quoted above, some western critics, such as Eric P. Levy, arguedthat the tragedy is problematic because of the contradictory views put forth by thesame character on the same occasion. Such utterances can produce the effect ofindeterminacy in terms of the cognition of man. On the one hand, man is praised as agod; on the other hand, man is despised. And behind the two views stand two greatthinkers of Renaissance period. One is Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, an ItalianRenaissance nobleman and philosopher, at the same time, a humanist of earlyRenaissance period.
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B Uncertainty in Reason
In Renaissance period, man was believed to be molded in the image of God, andevery creature was created by god. Then came other questions : did all human beingshave the similar or same connotations or personalities? What distinguished man fromother animals except for physical appearance? These are the essential questions thatshould be approached in response to the question “what is man”.When reading the tragedy, thoughtful readers can find a troubling and perplexingissue: on which should man act. emotion or reason? But, Hamlet does not set a modelin this aspect, for he himself does not know what to act on. Let’s look at Hamlet’sinternal activity and external performance which are so inconsistent and contradictory.In the tragedy, Hamlet praises man for having noble reason. More than once,Shakespeare extolled reason on many occasions through the characters in his plays. InHamlet, reason is stressed and praised. In western culture, humanists think that it isreason that distinguishes man from other animals, “without which (reason) we arepictures or mere beasts”(P253). When Hamlet instructs the actors, he emphasizes “ For in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say, the withdrawal of passion, youmust acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness.”(P209) With regardto the relationship between reason and passion, Hamlet explicitly expresses hisperspectives to Horatio that man should not be passion’s slave and those “whoseblood and judgment are so well commingled”(P212) would not be “a pipe forfortune’s finger.”(P212).One reason that Hamlet was and is considered as the masterpiece is that the workinvolves deep and comprehensive thoughts that cover various aspects of life, rangingfrom daily trifles such as dressing to serious grand philosophical issues that stillentangle not only the ancient people, people of Shakespeare’s age, but also themodern people. This is where its greatness and attractiveness lie in. Plus, no issuesconcerned in the play are merely particular to one person or one group of people of aparticular location in one given period, but to all people of different nations ofdifferent ages. With regard to reason, in Renaissance period, it was regarded as themark that distinguished man from other animals. Reason nourished virtues such asbenevolence, justice, forbearance, restraint. bravery, courage, and so on. According toMontagne, the acquisition of virtues must depend on reason to conquer various lustsand desires which were supposed to be innate to human nature.
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Chapter Two Indeterminacy in the Ethical Relationships ............27
A. Confusion in the Relationship between Monarch and Subjects..... 29
B. Shadiness in the Conjugal Relationship..... 32
1. Doubt about Gertrude’s Loyalty to Old Hamlet........32
2. Ambiguity in the Relationship between Claudius and Gertrude.............33
C. Dubiousness in the Relationship between Gertrude and Her Son...........38
Chapter Three Indeterminacy in the Meaning of Existence...........40
A. Bewilderment in the Meaning of Physical Existence............40
B. Confusion about the Meaning of Human Existence..... 43
C. Perplexity in Death...........44
 
Chapter Three The Indeterminacy in the Meaning of Existence
 
Man, definitely speaking, in a sense, is a form of physical existence, but he isdifferent from the physical existence of other substances. Physical existence hererefers to man’s physical body and the outer physical world. In Hamlet, the princebemoaned the inconstancy of the physical existence. His utterances about theimpermanence of life, changeability and cycling of substances arouse loud echo in theears of readers. Likewise, it causes generations of readers to reflect upon the meaningof life, the destiny of soul and the relationship between man and the outer physicalworld.
 
A. Unclearness in the Meaning of Physical Existence
The greatness of a master piece is that it can make readers think with charactersin the works and try to explore further and find out answers. When reading Hamlet,we often fall into contemplation with the prince and other figures. In churchyard,faced with the bones among which there were the bones of Yorick whom Hamlet wasonce acquainted with, Hamlet sighed over the ephemeral life and the variability ofsubstance. “As thus: Alexander died, Alexander was buried, Alexander returneth intodust; The dust is earth; of earth we make loam; And why of that loam, whereto he wasconverted, might they not stop a beer-barrel? Imperious Caesar, dead and turn’d toclay, might stop a hole to keep the wind away; O, that earth, which kept the world inawe, should patch a wall to expel the winter flaw!” (P276) Reading this part, therewould be few people who would not produce the feeling that life is ephemeral, andnothing is eternal.In the meantime, another idea would occur to us that life is empty. Whilepessimism and emptiness occupied the mind of Hamlet, readers and spectators areinfected by this emotion too. But when cooling off, people would ask such questions:what is the meaning of the existence of substance since it is transient and changeable?Since everything would eventually vanish and change into some other substances thatare different, is there an eternal spiritual world that human beings dream of and pursue?Where will soul go with the disintegration and disappearance of the physical body?These questions are associated with Hamlet’s remarks on the bones dug out of thechurchyard.Hamlet’s expressions about transformation of the physical existence would makeone wonder the meaning of life. For the inner being, the flesh is the outer world aswell as the house that the inner being inhabits. When the substantial body does notexist, does it mean that everything related to the being would vanish with the body?Or is there a world after death just as religion preaches? No normal-minded people arenot bothered by such questions.
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Conclusion
 
Hamlet is created in the late Renaissance period and it is permeated with theessence of the thoughts of that age and the previous times. In the tragedy, manyremarkable and representative thinkers’ ideas can be heard through the tongues of thecharacters in the drama. The play can be compared to a palace where thinkers andphilosophers of ancient times and Renaissance period are discussing the most basicphilosophical issues about man. The topics they cover include various aspects: fate,reason, passion, death, etc.The thinkers and philosophers argue against each other and put forth opposingviews which are expressed about the identical issue on the same occasion by onecharacter in the drama. And each issue is discussed in a dialectic way, a typical wayadopted by Socrates who is good at spreading and exploring truth by arguing anddiscussing in a positive and opposite way.These views embody ancient Greek and Roman thinkers’ meditation about manand the world, in the meantime, they also reflect humanists’ cognition on man in theRenaissance Period and the change of the ideas of humanists from optimism tosuspicion to pessimism. Hence, inconsistency and indeterminacy occurred to onecharacter in the tragedy. As a consequence, to the same character, critics give differentinterpretations.Because the tragedy concerns the basic philosophical questions about life andman, they, transcending time and space, reach the mind of readers and spectators ofthe play, who, like the characters of the tragedy, labor to seek out the answers to thequestions. The answers to the questions vary based on the advance of science andtechnology.
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References (abbreviated)
 

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