Friday, December 04, 2009

Larkin Plath titles and proposed poems.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Mr Davies Y10 English Group:
Original Writing Coursework


Please post your Original Writing Coursework here: your magazine response to the Daily Mail article which suggests there is a link between violent computer games like Grand Theft Auto and violent crime amongst teens.

Here are some tips again in case you've forgotten:

Opening paragraphs- 7 'lead hook' devices, with examples:


Look along the shelf of any teenage boy’s bedroom. What do you see? A few Shoot annuals; a school textbook or two, maybe a DVD of Transfomers – and of course, a copy of Grand Theft Auto.

Strong Quote

“Games such as Grand Theft Auto lead to criminality amongst the young and should be banned,” said the Prime Minister at a news conference on juvenile crime today.

The ‘drop’ intro

The light of evil mischief blazed in his eyes. ‘Yeah- that punk won’t be messing with me again,’ he said, as the echoes of gunshots faded into the blare of approaching sirens. Then he saved the game and got back to his homework.

A question

Have you ever played Grand Theft Auto? Yes? Have you ever murdered a cab driver? No? Funny- because according to The Daily Mail, one leads to the other.


Billy comes home from school at about 4pm, has a snack, and unwinds by playing computer games for an hour. Then, he’ll do his homework for another hour or so, eat his dinner and he might go and play football with his friends for a while. Billy is just an ordinary teenager- interested in lots of things, from girls to football to schoolwork- but not obsessive about any of them.

Statement of fact

By the time the average British child is 13, he or she has witnessed over 2,000 murders on TV. If he plays computer games regularly, you can double that figure.

Opinionated pronouncement

I’ve played Microsoft Flight Simulator: that doesn’t make me a pilot. I’ve played Guitar Hero: that doesn’t make me a musician. And I’ve played Grand Theft Auto: that doesn’t make me a murderer!

What the examiners are looking for:

Adapt your style and form to purpose and audience.

-Using one of the seven ‘lead hook’ techniques will adapted your style and form suitably.

Use a range of sentence structures.

-Use long and short sentences and complex sentences. If you use ‘whilst’ or ‘although’, then you have written a complex sentence!

Paragraphs make meanings clear.

-Start a new paragraph for each new subject.

Use graphology.

-In your final draft, use headlines, subheadings, pictures and captions to make your piece look like an magazine article.
Use interviews, statistics and personal opinions and anecdotes

-Interview a parent, a teenage computer gamer, a psychologist. You can invent statistics or research some real ones. Use your own opinions and relevant stories from your own life

Each one of these sections should be half a side to a side of handwritten text.

1. Lead hook (‘7 methods’)
2. Outline the facts of The Daily Mail article
3. Explain how The Daily Mail article suggests a link between computer games and violence.
4. Respond to this, giving your opinion about whether the Thai student was really driven to murder by computer games. What other explanations of his crime are there?
5. Use an ‘interview’- with a psychologist, a computer gamer with no criminal background, a parent, a politician. Back up the interview with statistics or stories from your own life.
6. Write a conclusion that summarises your strongest argument.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Mr Davies Y10 group Media Essays

Welcome to lightingfools. Click on 'comment' below, follow the instructions, cut and past your article on HSM2 and Skins into the comment box. That way, there is always a copy of your work on the internet so I can see it at home and in school, so can you, and it never gets lost!

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Y13 Lit: Plot Synopsis of Wuthering Heights- I knew I had this somewhere! For comparison in terms of setting (Wuthering Heights Vs. Thrushcross Grange / Howards End Vs. Wickham Place)

· First three chapters deal with Lockwood’s relationship with Heathcliff and the sequence of his dreams at Wuthering Heights.
· The narrative passes to Nelly Dean, who fills in the ‘back story’, starting from Heathcliff’s arrival at the Heights.
· Heathcliff is brought to the Earnshaw family as a foundling by Mr.Earnshaw.
· Catherine and Heathcliff are brought up as brother and sister.
· When Mr.Earnshaw dies, Hindley returns to Wuthering Heights with his wife Frances and becomes master of the household.
· Hindley wants to sever the relationship between Heathcliff and Catherine.
· Catherine is injured and spends five weeks at Thrushcross Grange recovering.
· When she returns, all her wildness is gone, having made friends with Edgar and Isabella at the Grange.
· While Catherine is away, Hindley degrades Heathcliff, treating him as a labourer.
· Hindley and Frances have a son, Hareton. Frances dies shortly afterwards.
· Heathcliff disappears for three years. Catherine, for reasons open to interpretation, marries Edgar Linton, not Heathcliff.
· Catherine moves into the Grange with Edgar. They are content (an odd word to apply to Catherine!)
· Nelly Dean moves to the Grange.
· Heatchcliff returns, transformed and incredibly appealing. Both Catherine and her sister-in-law Isabella are captivated by him.
· Heatchcliff stays at the Heights, spending much of his time gambling with his former enemy, Hindley.
· Heathcliff begins to court Isabella’s affections, probably to spite Edgar for taking Catherine.
· Edgar and Heathcliff argue violently, causing Catherine enough stress to make her ill.
· With Catherine unwell, Heathcliff courts and marries Isabella. Edgar disowns his sister.
· For two months, Edgar nurses Catherine while there is no word from Heatchliff and Isabella. Then Isabella writes to Nelly, telling her that the couple are living at the Heights and are desperately unhappy.
· Edgar ignores his sister’s plight, but Nelly goes to visit her. Heatchcliff speaks of his love for Catherine and hatred for Isabella.
· Nelly argues with Heathcliff about his behaviour, but eventually he persuades her to take a letter to Catherine.
· Heatchcliff visits Catherine on her deathbed. Catherine dies giving birth to Cathy.
· Isabella runs from Heathcliff, and gives birth to their son, Linton Heathcliff.
· Hindley dies, leaving Heatchcliff and Hareton alone at the Heights. Heathcliff treats Hareton as Hindley once treated him.
· Isabella dies. Linton Heathcliff, now a sickly boy of twelve, goes to live at the Grange with his uncle Edgar.
· Heatchcliff sends for his son and he goes to live at the Heights.
· Cathy lives at the Grange with her father. Her cousin’s closeness is kept from her.
· On her sixteenth birthday, Cathy happens to meet Heathcliff and Hareton on the moors, returns with them to the Heights and is astonished to find her cousin there.
· Heatchcliff plots to marry Cathy and Linton, thereby gaining control of both the Heights and the Grange.
· Cathy wants to please her ‘uncle’, and writes to Linton even though Edgar forbids the relationship. Eventually, they manage to meet in secret.
· Heathcliff manages to force the cousins to marry, knowing he has little time before Linton dies.
· Edgar dies, the Grange passes to Linton (as the male heir). Linton then dies, so the Grange passes to Heathcliff as Cathy’s father-in-law (Cathy would have inherited the Grange were it not for this close male relation by marriage).
· Tricked of her inheritance, Cathy lives a miserable life at the Heights.
· This brings us back to the point the narrative started at. The last three chapters are from Lockwood’s viewpoint, completing the frame narrative.
· Finally, Lockwood leaves the Grange and returns to find Heathcliff has died and Cathy and Hareton are preparing to marry.


Y13: Some notes from your own presentations on Howards End

Setting in Howards End
Talk about the wilcoxes should live were the schleagels do and vice versa because there both in the worng place for them
The houses in the novel are characters also, talk about the title of the novel, wickham place what it represents and howards end. Basts basement flat representing him at the bottom of society.
The opera scence or the concert , the setting means more to bast than some of the other characters because it keeps him from feeling like hes slipping into the abyss. The scene also very important for establishing character similarities and differences.
Forster based howards end on his previous childhood home, the rooks nest in Hertfordshire. Background research.
Suburbia is forsters Wessex, talk about how he doesn’t desribe the area between two main houses. Urban sprawl at the time.
Howards end and ruth wilcoxes relationship too it, the others are like an extension built onto an old property.

Symbolism within the setting of Howards End

London is symbolised by the modern pieces of technology which seem more associated with the Wilcoxes than the Schlegels, the most obvious example is the motor cars which the Wilcoxes own. These vehicles are symbolising the hectic lifestyles which London offers to its inhabitants. Another portrayal of London which the motor car offers is the chaos of London’s streets and the chaotic lifestyles most of its inhabitants lead. For example on page 181 Charles Wilcox hits a cat, which leads to a chaotic incident where Margaret jumps out of the car, and the men are left to deal with the lady whose cat it was. Although the car is not set in London this maybe symbolising the expansion of the cities and the chaos which it will bring with it to the peaceful countryside.
Wickham place
Wickham place is the house in which the schlegel family live. This house is set in london, however the house seems to be a symbol or a reminder of what London was, and seems to be a symbol for the culture, politics and values which are lost in this modern business orientated London in which the house is now surrounded by.
Forster describes the (page 8)house as ‘a backwater, or rather of an estuary.’ Symbolising the house as an estuary demonstrates how the house fits in with its surroundings. Although in the centre its far enough away from the hustle and bustle. Which gives the impression that the houses is an island of culture within a sea of misplaced values.
Kings cross page10 – 11
Although not a significant setting, and only used very briefly within the novel. The symbolism used to represent kings cross is very interesting. Forster symbolises it as a gateway to ‘infinity’. This is suggested seeing as kings cross is a place where all destinations can be reached by, which gives it a sense of mystery. Kings cross in itself may also be seen as a symbol for expansion. This can be assumed as much of the journeys which we are able to follow on the trains, seem to depict modernisation and expansion. For example Aunt juleys trip to get Helen never really seems to leave suburbia, as she sees ‘advertisements of anti billious bills’, and althugh her journey does ‘ span untroubled meadows and the dreamy flow of Tewin water’ she never seems to be within it.
Howards end
The wilcoxes house along with the schlegels is a symbol for a culture which has been lost, and is now surrounded by alien surroundings due to the expansion which has taken place in the nineteenth century and which is carrying on through the twentieth century. The house is a symbol of Pagan/ country lifestyle which in most parts, has been forgotten. One of the main symbols of this is the wych elm tree which has pigs teeth forced into it. The most significant point of this, is the fact most of the family do not even realise these teeth exist, which insinuates that the house is now just a relic and is inhabited by those who no longer understand it with exception to Ruth Wilcox.
Hilton like Kings Cross is a peculiar setting, because very little happens yet the symbolism is extremely important due to the way it describes the changing society of the period. The narration reads of hilton “ the station like the scenery…struck an indeterminate note. Into which country will it lead, England or Suburbia? This gives the impression that like Kings cross it is a gateway into the unknown. For many parts Hilton appears to be rural due to the slated houses and its tombs of soldiers, however its rural charm is quickly lost due to its including of a subway and island platforms.
This seems to symbolise the fact that hilton was and tries to remain rural however it has been encroached upon by the city. It has become a victim of modernisation in order to thrive once again.
Is a different symbol to many of the other places, because in other incidents, it’s the house which is significant however in this case to Margaret (that is) she finds it insignificant. The setting is rural and seems to be a symbol for the romantic train of thought which Margaret enjoys, however she does not seem to quite fit in to this group. The setting (page185) talks about “the river…still holding the mists upon its banks.” And the lower hills thrilled Margaret with poetry. It seems that very few places actually inspire people in this way throughout the novel which seems to bring up the ongoing idea of a dying breed or it is becoming nothing more than a faded memory. Oninton seems to be a symbol also for traditionalism and this is represented when druids are seen on the drive. Druids are supposedly friends of the trees and are also supposed to be spiritually connected with nature. This therefore gives oniton a symbol of lost society because due to expansion many villages in the so called suburbiua would have once had these beliefs, such as Hilton and this seems to be a symbol on a larger scale of Howards End.

Michael Levenson notes, Howards End is a novel "not of three classes, but of three households." Throughout the novel, each of the three families is defined by their relationships to their physical living spaces. These differing relationships are, in fact, shown to be in conflict in the novel, and this conflict is resolved only uneasily by the novel's end.
This therefore is representing the idea that the houses are in fact important symbols for the characters and the households are in conflict as they symbolise different ideas
Only Ruth Wilcox seems to get on well with Margaret as Ruth is the original owner of Howards end and H.E and W.P are similar in what they symbolise all that is different is that those who inhabit them have different values.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Y13 Classics:

Put your homework here please, as a 'Comment'. Remember, you will need to click on 'anonymous' and wait for me to moderate your comment before it appears- don't keep doing it!

Deadline: Monday 15th

Task: 100+ words on 'In the Apology, is Socrates defending himself of defending philosophy (Socratic methos) itself?

You must use references to the text!

Y13 Literature: Lots of notes on Howards End

Plot Summary of Howards End
· Howards End begins with news of Helen Schlegel's brief affair with Paul Wilcox.
· In its wake, Helen's Aunt Juley travels to Howards End, the Wilcox home, to discuss the relationship with the Wilcoxes, not knowing that it has already ended. The Wilcoxes react with horror to news of the affair, believing, unlike the Schlegels, that Paul must make his fortune before he marries.
· Helen, her romance with Paul and the rest of the Wilcox family over, returns to the Schlegel house, Wickham Place, and she and her sister Margaret resume their old life together.
· They attend a concert of Beethoven with other family members, and Helen accidentally walks off with the umbrella of Leonard Bast, a poor clerk teetering on the edge of respectability.
· After accompanying Margaret to Wickham Place to retrieve his umbrella, Leonard accepts her card, and returns to his own shabby flat, where he lives with Jacky, a woman much older than he.
· The Schlegels learn that the Wilcoxes are taking a flat across the street from Wickham Place, and Ruth Wilcox soon calls on Margaret. Margaret writes a note suggesting that they should not meet because of the possibility of an encounter between Helen and Paul, and Mrs. Wilcox replies to her that they should meet, because there is no possibility of an encounter between the two former lovers.
· The two women strike up a friendship, in spite of Mrs. Wilcox's discomfort in Margaret's world.
· Mrs. Wilcox feels that Margaret understands her attachment to Howards End, and after a day of shopping together, she impulsively proposes they go there. Margaret wavers at first, but they leave for the train station, where they meet Henry and Evie Wilcox, Mrs. Wilcox's husband and daughter.
· Mrs. Wilcox is spirited off by her family, and Margaret's visit is postponed. Soon after, Mrs. Wilcox dies.
· The Wilcoxes are alarmed to discover that Mrs. Wilcox has left a note leaving Howards End to Margaret. They decide to burn the note, and not speak of it to Margaret.
· Two years pass. The Schlegels are about to lose their house at Wickham Place, which will be destroyed so that flats may be built there.
· Leonard Bast's wife, Jacky, comes round to the house looking for him. Leonard has disappeared for an evening, and Jacky thinks he is with the Schlegels. The next day, Bast appears at Wickham Place, explaining that he has taken an all-night walk outside of London.
· When he notes that the dawn was gray and not at all romantic, the Schlegels are charmed by him. When they mention Bast to Henry Wilcox, he tells them Bast's company is in danger of going under, and they resolve to warn Bast of this eventuality.
· They invite Bast to tea, and he is suspicious of their desire to talk business when he wants to talk poetry. The tea is interrupted when Evie and Henry Wilcox arrive at the house, and as Bast is leaving, he tells the Schlegels he will not call again.
· Mr. Wilcox thinks that Margaret is attracted to Leonard Bast, and feels an attraction for her as a result. Soon after, at a lunch with Evie, Mr. Wilcox offers to lease the Wilcoxes' Ducie Street flat to the Schlegels. While Margaret tours the flat, Mr. Wilcox asks her to marry him, and she accepts.
· Margaret wants to live at Howards End, but her fiancé is against it. Meanwhile, Helen has had a letter from Leonard Bast, who is leaving his company for another post at lower pay.
· When Margaret mentions this to Henry, he says that in fact Bast's company is a very stable firm. Though the Schlegels blame Henry for Bast's predicament, he shrugs off their criticism.
· Margaret and Henry make a trip to Howards End, where she is frightened by Miss Avery, who mistakes her for Ruth Wilcox.
· Margaret loves the house, but believes that she and Henry will live at Oniton, where they attend Evie's wedding to Percy Cahill. Helen, who has refused to attend the wedding, arrives there unexpectedly with Leonard and Jacky Bast, saying that she has found them starving.
· Margaret is planning to ask Henry to give Bast a place in his company, but before she can do so, Jacky recognizes Henry as her former lover. Helen takes the Basts to a hotel, where she and Leonard have an intimate conversation.
· Margaret, who believes Henry's unfaithfulness is the late Mrs. Wilcox's tragedy rather than hers, refuses Henry's offer to release her from their engagement, and they reconcile.
· Before Margaret can speak with any of them, Helen and the Basts leave their hotel.
· Before she goes to Germany, Helen attempts to give the Basts a substantial monetary gift, but they refuse. They are soon evicted and forced to rely on handouts from Leonard's family.
· Wickham Place is destroyed to make way for flats, and Margaret and Henry marry. With the family scattered, the Schlegels' furniture is stored at Howards End.
· When Margaret hears that Miss Avery has unpacked the Schlegels' things, she goes to Howards End. She is amazed to see how well her furniture fits in the house, but is soon called away to Swanage when she gets news of her aunt's illness.
· Margaret and her brother Tibby contact Helen, who has been in Germany for eight months, to tell her Juley is gravely ill, and Helen agrees to come to Swanage.
· When Helen hears that Juley has recovered, she refuses to see her family, but will get some books from Howards End. Believing her sister to be unwell, Margaret reluctantly agrees to Henry's plan to surprise Helen at Howards End.
· As the plan is carried out, Margaret realizes that "[t]he pack was turning on Helen, to deny her human rights," and it seems to Margaret "that all Schlegels were threatened with her." When she sees her sister, who is pregnant with Leonard Bast's child, she pushes her into Howards End, and bids her husband and the doctor to leave them.
· Helen, on seeing their furniture and other things, asks to spend the night in Howards End. When Margaret asks Henry if they may stay at Howards End, he refuses on the grounds that it would be immoral.
· Margaret is disgusted by his hypocrisy and she defies his wishes, spending a peaceful night at Howards End with her sister.
· Leonard Bast has been looking for Margaret, and Tibby tells him she is at Howards End.
· As Leonard approaches the house, he is filled with happiness, but when he enters the house, Charles strikes him, and he dies.
· In the wake of Bast's death and her own quarrel with him, Margaret tells Henry she will go to Germany with Helen. But Henry is broken by the certainty of Charles's conviction for manslaughter, and Margaret takes him to recover at Howards End.
· In the final scene of the novel, fourteen months have passed, and Helen, her child by Leonard Bast, Margaret, and Henry have become a loving family. In the presence of his children, Henry deeds Howards End to Margaret, who will leave it to her sister's son. When Dolly remarks that Margaret has gotten Howards End after all, Margaret realizes that she has conquered the Wilcoxes without even trying.

Miss Avery
Miss Avery is Ruth Wilcox's old friend and the caretaker of Howards End. She unpacks and arranges the Schlegels' furniture in Howards End, even though it is only supposed to be stored there.
Jacky Bast
Jacky is Leonard's dull, uneducated wife who was once Henry Wilcox's mistress.
Leonard Bast
Leonard is the lowly clerk who wishes to educate himself by reading books and attending concerts. "Such a muddle of a man, and yet so worth pulling though," says Helen Schlegel. He is described as being on the "abyss" of poverty, and is very self-conscious about his position in society. Suspicious of the rich, he will not be patronized by them, which is part of the reason he refuses Helen's offer of money. His two unfortunate mistakes are leaving his job on the advice of the Schlegel sisters (and Henry Wilcox), and becoming involved with Helen. The scene in which he dies, which includes a dramatic fall into a bookcase that showers him with books, has been criticized for its heavy-handed symbolism.
Frieda Mosebach
Frieda Mosebach is the Schlegels' German cousin, who attends the performance of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony with them.
Juley Munt
Juley Munt is the Schlegels' beloved but interfering aunt, whose famously comic scene in the novel occurs when she travels to Howards End for the purpose of convincing Helen to break off her engagement to Paul Wilcox.
Helen Schlegel
The charming sister of Margaret, Helen is high-spirited and hopelessly idealistic. Beethoven's Fifth Symphony affects her most profoundly, and reveals an interesting theme in the novel. She hears a "goblin footfall" in the music, which she imagines to represent the "panic and emptiness" of life, but she also hears a repetitive motif that she imagines as the heroism, magnificence, and triumph of life. These two aspects of life intrinsically bound together echo the highs and lows of Helen's own experiences. Her short-lived love affair with Paul at the beginning of the novel is indicative of her behavior throughout — heady excitement followed by disillusionment. Ruled by passion, she seldom considers the reality of a situation until it is too late. At first she is quite taken with all of the Wilcoxes, but the ill-fated love affair with Paul colors her feelings afterwards, and she is disappointed when Margaret and Henry Wilcox announce their engagement. Her liaison with Leonard Bast is the result of her sympathy for him and her anger at Henry, who will not help Leonard. Her anger at Henry also occasions a break with Margaret. Helen eventually reconciles with Margaret and Henry, who accept her and her illegitimate child (from Leonard Bast) at Howards End.
Margaret Schlegel
Margaret is the cultured, intelligent, and sympathetic protagonist of the novel. Although idealistic like her sister Helen, she is also very sensible and realistic. "Not beautiful, not supremely brilliant, but filled with something that took the place of both qualities — something best described as a profound vivacity, a continual and sincere response to all that she encountered in her path through life" is Forster's description of her. Some critics have found it hard to believe that Margaret would marry Henry Wilcox, a man most definitely her opposite. But Margaret sees things "whole," and although aware of Henry's faults, she also recognizes noble qualities in him. By the end of the novel, Margaret has had some effect on him. While it could be said that Helen reaches out to help Leonard, Margaret does the same for Henry. Indeed, Margaret is the connecting force between the Schlegels and the Wilcoxes; by the end of the novel, Henry seems less "muddled" and Helen seems less impulsive. But this does not occur until after Margaret nearly leaves Henry because of his refusal to allow Helen to stay the night at Howards End with her. In her famous speech to him, she implores him to connect his infidelity with Helen's transgression: "You shall see the connection if it kills you, Henry! You have had a mistress — I forgave you. My sister has a lover — you drive her from the house. Do you see the connection? Stupid, hypocritical, cruel — oh, contemptible! — a man who insults his wife when she's alive and cants with her memory when she's dead. A man who ruins a woman for his pleasure, and casts her off to ruin other men. And gives bad financial advice, and then says he is not responsible. These, man, are you. You cannot recognize them, because you cannot connect."
Tibby Schlegel
Tibby is Margaret and Helen's younger brother, the Oxford undergraduate. Although intellectual like his sisters, he is not interested in personal relationships as they are. His placid demeanor plays comically against their more passionate personalities, and is particularly evident in the scene where Helen visits him at Oxford to let him know of her plans to go to Germany.
Charles Wilcox
Charles is the philistine elder son of Henry Wilcox. Not especially fond of the Schlegels and their "artistic beastliness," he ridiculously suspects Margaret of scheming to get Howards End. His fierce sense of class superiority leads him to beat Leonard when he finds out that he is the father of Helen's child. Charles is convicted of manslaughter for Leonard's death.
Dolly Fussel Wilcox
Dolly is the chattering, good-hearted wife of Charles Wilcox. Like her husband, she foolishly believes Margaret is scheming to get Howards End.
Evie Wilcox
Evie, the daughter of Henry Wilcox, is a rather silly, superficial woman. Although she dislikes Margaret, she humours her father's interest in Margaret.
Henry Wilcox
Henry is the head of the Wilcox clan, who marries Margaret Schlegel after the death of his wife, Ruth. Critic Rose Macaulay describes him this way: "He has the business mind; he is efficient, competent, unimaginative, practically clear-headed, intellectually and spiritually muddled, uncivilized, a manly man, with firm theories about women, politics, the Empire, the social fabric." He is not given to self-introspection, a trait that almost costs him his marriage to Margaret. She insists that he acknowledge the connection between his affair with Jacky Bast and Helen's involvement with Leonard Bast. But his flaw is that he lacks the ability to connect his actions with the pain they might cause in another person's life, thus his indifference to Leonard's loss of employment. Furthermore, he cannot relate his own transgressions in life to another person's similar transgressions; therefore, he cannot sympathize with Helen. He cannot "connect the prose with the passion." By the end of the novel, Henry is broken by the imprisonment of his son, Charles, which forces him to reevaluate his life.
Paul Wilcox
Paul is the younger Wilcox son with whom Helen briefly falls in love. The incident sets the tone for conflict between the Wilcoxes and the Schlegels.
Ruth Wilcox
Henry's first wife, Ruth, is a kind, unselfish woman whose family adores her. However, she completely mystifies her family after she bequeaths Howards End to Margaret. She does so because she intuitively senses that Margaret will appreciate its "personality" and significance. The critic Lionel Trilling has written that Howards End represents England and its agrarian past, and that Ruth, while not intellectual, possesses ancestral wisdom that will be passed on to Margaret. Ruth is almost like a spiritual guide, or as critic Rose Macaulay states, a bridge between the unseen and the seen, and Margaret believes herself and the others "are only fragments of that woman's mind."
The major theme of Howards End is connection — connection between the private and the public life, connection between individuals — and how difficult it is to create and sustain these connections. Howards End focuses mainly on two families: the Schlegels, who represent intellectualism, imagination, and idealism — the inner life of the mind — and the Wilcoxes, who represent English practicality, expansionism, commercialism, and the external world of business and politics. For the Schlegels, personal relationships precede public ones and the individual is more important than any organization. For the Wilcoxes, the reverse is true; social formalities and the rules of the business world reign supreme.
Through the marriage of Margaret Schlegel and Henry Wilcox, these two very different worlds are connected. Margaret, unlike her wildly idealistic sister Helen, moves toward an understanding of the Wilcoxes. Helen's initial encounter with the Wilcoxes proves disastrous, but Margaret begins to realize that many of the things she values, such as art and culture, would not exist without the economic and social stability created by people such as the Wilcoxes. "More and more," she says, "do I refuse to draw my income and sneer at those who guarantee it."
Margaret and Henry's marriage nearly comes to an end, however, when Henry is unable to make an important connection between his sexual transgression with Jacky Bast and Helen's liaison with Leonard Bast. Margaret and Helen want to spend the night together at Howards End before Helen returns to Germany to have her baby. But the hypocritical Henry cannot tolerate the presence of a "fallen woman" on his property, and refuses to allow Margaret and Helen to remain there for the night. As the critic Malcolm Bradbury has written, Margaret insists on the "primacy of the standard of personal sympathy" while Henry emphasizes "the standard of social propriety." Margaret and Helen defy Henry by staying the night at Howards End, where they reestablish their relationship. By the novel's end, events force Henry to reconsider his values. He is reconciled to Helen, and along with Margaret and Helen's illegitimate son, they live together at Howards End under Margaret's guardianship.
Class Conflict
Another important theme in Howards End concerns struggle and conflict within the middle class. The aristocracy and the very poor do not make an appearance in this novel; the novelist states that "[w]e are not concerned with the very poor," but instead with the "gentlefolk, or with those who are obliged to pretend that they are gentlefolk." The three families in Howards End each represent different levels of the middle class. The Schlegels occupy the middle position, somewhere between the Basts, who exist at the lower fringes of the middle class, and the Wilcoxes, who belong to the upper-middle class. Leonard Bast, the clerk, lives near the "abyss" of poverty, while the Schlegels live comfortably on family money, and Henry Wilcox, the wealthy business man who grows steadily richer, has money for "motors" and country houses.
Leonard Bast is somewhat obsessed by class differences, and tries to improve himself by becoming "cultured." He reads books such as Ruskin's Stones of Venice and attends concerts. He meets the Schlegel sisters at a concert performance of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, and becomes interested in them mainly because they seem to take his intellectual aspirations seriously. The Schlegels are fascinated by Leonard and his situation, but Leonard's connection to the Schlegels ultimately proves fatal. When Margaret and Helen hear from Mr. Wilcox that the company Leonard works for is about to go bankrupt, they advise him to find another position. The information proves to be unsound, but Leonard follows it, taking and then losing another position. As a result, he and his wife Jacky are left nearly penniless. In the scene where Leonard, Jacky, and Helen storm into Evie's opulent wedding, Forster illustrates the huge social and economic gulf between the nearly destitute Basts and the wealthy Wilcoxes. This scene, as the critic Frederick P. W. McDowell has noted, "suggests that the impersonal forces by which the Wilcoxes prosper have operated at the expense of Leonard and his class."
Leonard is destroyed by a combination of the Wilcox's indifference and Helen's sympathy. Helen tries to convince Henry that he has a responsibility to help Leonard, because his advice essentially caused Leonard's ruin. When that proves futile, Helen's sympathy for Leonard overwhelms her and she sleeps with him. Upon discovering that Leonard is Helen's "lover," the brutish Charles Wilcox beats Leonard with the flat of the Schlegel family sword. Leonard dies not from the beating, but from a weak heart. He sinks to the floor, knocks over a bookcase and is buried in an avalanche of books, seemingly a victim of his own desire for self-improvement.
Future of England
Closely related to the themes of connection and class conflict in Howards End is the theme of inheritance. The novel concerns itself with the question of who shall inherit England. At the time Howards End was published, England was undergoing great social change. The issue of women's emancipation, commercial and imperial expansion, and the possibility of war with Germany were all factors that contributed to a general feeling of uncertainty about the future of England.
According to the critic Lionel Trilling, Howards End itself symbolizes England. It belongs to Ruth Wilcox, who descends from the yeoman class, and represents England's past. Before Ruth dies, she befriends Margaret Schlegel, and on her deathbed she scribbles a note leaving Howards End to Margaret. She cannot leave it to her family because the only feeling they have for it is one of ownership; they do not understand its spiritual importance as she knows Margaret will. The Wilcoxes dismiss Ruth's note as impossible, and disregard it completely, ignoring the rightful heir. But Margaret's connection with Ruth Wilcox in the novel is strong. Not only is she Ruth's spiritual heir, but she actually becomes Mrs. Wilcox and, ironically, inherits Howards End through her marriage to Henry.
Foster's answer to the question of who shall inherit England seems to suggest a shared inheritance. As the novel draws to a close, the intellectual Schlegels and the practical Wilcoxes are residing together at Howards End, and its immediate heir, Helen's illegitimate son, seems to symbolize a classless future.
Topics for Further Study
Research the career of the famous German composer, Ludwig van Beethoven, focusing especially on his composition of the Fifth Symphony.
Trace the evolution of the British Empire from 1910 to the Commonwealth of Nations today. What are some key differences between imperialist Britain of the Victorian and Edwardian eras and Britain now?
What were the forces that led to WWI, and what was Britain's involvement?
Analyze the history of the class structure in Britain. What were some of the political, social, and economic issues facing the proletariat class and the middle class in 1910? Can you relate them to Forster's depiction of Leonard and Jacky Bast?
The various locales represented in Howards End are related to the theme of inheritance and which of England's landscapes — countryside, city, or suburbs — will claim the future. During the Edwardian era, a great migration from the countryside to the city transpired, mainly because England was shifting from an agrarian nation to an industrialized nation. London, in particular, was growing at an alarming rate, and a great deal of rebuilding and restructuring of the city occurred. New modes of transportation, such as the automobile, tramcars, autobuses, and the subway, allowed people more mobility than ever before. Urban and suburban development, or "sprawl," followed the subway and tramway lines. The novel is wary of this type of progress and movement, preferring the stability of the country life and homes like Howards End versus the impersonal, chaotic world of London.
The three families in Howards End occupy three different locales: the Schlegels live in London, the Wilcoxes split their time between homes in London and the countryside (easily facilitated by their "motor"), and the Basts live in suburbia. A great deal of movement occurs between country and city, and moving house is a major activity in the novel. For Ruth Wilcox, nothing is worse than being separated from your home. When she hears that the Schlegels' lease on Wickham Place will expire and they will be forced to move, she is greatly distressed. "To be parted from your house, your father's house — it oughtn't to be allowed. Can what they call civilization be right, if people mayn't die in the room where they were born?" she says to Margaret.
Howards End is a highly symbolic novel; many critics have described it as parable with archetypal or mythic characters. The Wilcoxes symbolize the practical, materialistic, enterprising sort of people who have contributed to England's prosperity and strengthened the empire. The Schlegels symbolize the intellectual and artistic types who possess humanistic values and recognize the importance of the spirit. Margaret and Henry's marriage demonstrates the relationship between these two personalities, emphasizing a balance between the two.
Of all the Wilcoxes, Ruth is the only one who does not fit the Wilcox "mold." She is withdrawn from modern life, intuitive, spiritual, and not at all intellectual, but as Lionel Trilling states, representative of traditional values and ancestral knowledge. Along with Miss Avery, the caretaker of Howards End, Ruth Wilcox symbolizes the importance of the human connection to nature and the earth. The wych elm tree with the pig's teeth, the vine, and the hayfield at Howards End also emphasize this connection. The movement of the seasons and the rhythms of nature are contrasted to the senseless movement of the modern, industrialized city, symbolized by the motorcar. The motorcar is never portrayed in a very attractive light: chaos and confusion seem to follow it everywhere, as in the scene where Charles hits the cat.
Other important symbols include the Schlegel books and bookcase and family sword at Howards End, which play so significantly in Leonard's death. When Leonard falls from Charles's blow with the sword and literally buries himself in books, it appears that the culture and intellectual sophistication he so desperately sought become his ruin. It is noteworthy that the sword and books belong to the Schlegels, however. Ostensibly, it seems that Leonard dies at the hand of the Wilcoxes — Henry, by giving him bad advice, and Charles, by actually dealing the final blow with the sword. But if Helen had not been overwhelmed by her sense of injustice, her anger toward the Wilcoxes, and her pity for Leonard, he would at least still have his life. The novel's bitter irony is that the person who tried to help Leonard the most effectively destroyed him.
Forster received high praise for his use of humour. Many situations in the novel are quite satirical or ironic. One of the earliest comic scenes in the novel involves Aunt Juley's trip to Howards End on Helen's behalf. When Aunt Juley mistakes Charles for Paul, the comedy begins. The discovery of the error only leads to an argument over Helen's behavior, which progresses to an argument over which family is better, the Schlegels or the Wilcoxes. The silly argument betrays the well-mannered facade of two supposedly well-bred gentlefolk. It also foreshadows the more serious conflict that will arise between the two families.
Another humorous scene involves Margaret trying to engage Tibby in a discussion about his future. She wants Tibby to think seriously of taking up a profession after he graduates. Of course, her reasons have nothing to do with the need for money. Rather, she believes it would build character. When she mentions a man's desire to work, Tibby replies, "I have no experience of this profound desire to which you allude." The aesthetic Tibby has no reason to consider a profession because he is financially secure. One of his satirical comments is that he prefers "civilization without activity."
Another semi-comic scene is the Wilcox family meeting concerning Ruth's bequest of Howards End. The Wilcoxes operate the meeting in an impersonal, business-like manner that reflects their style. Their mistrust of personal relations leads Charles to suggest that perhaps Margaret manipulated his mother into leaving her Howards End. Dolly irrationally fears that Margaret, as they speak, may be on her way to turn them all out of the house. The scene illustrates how suspicious and ill-mannered the Wilcoxes can be, and how they always suppose people are trying to get something out of them.
Jane Elizabeth Dougherty
Dougherty is a Ph.D. candidate at Tufts University. In this essay, she discusses Forster's depictions of the characters' relationships to their dwelling places in Howards End.
Daniel Born notes that "discussion of values in Howards End is never pursued apart from a material context of physical living space." In Howards End, a novel which takes its name from the Wilcox family's country house, the "material contexts" of the characters and their relationships to these material contexts defines each of the three families: the Schlegels, the Wilcoxes, and the Basts. As Michael Levenson notes, Howards End is a novel "not of three classes, but of three households." Throughout the novel, each of the three families is defined by their relationships to their physical living spaces. These differing relationships are, in fact, shown to be in conflict in the novel, and this conflict is resolved only uneasily by the novel's end.
The novel begins with Helen's descriptions of Howards End, where she has gone to visit the Wilcoxes. In the opening paragraphs of her first letter to Margaret, she writes:
It isn't going to be what we expected. It is old and little, and altogether delightful — red brick. From hall you go right or left into dining-room or drawing-room. Hall itself is practically a room. You open another door in it, and there are the stairs going up in a sort of tunnel to the first-floor. Three bedrooms in a row there, and three attics in a row above. That isn't all the house really, but it's all that one notices — nine windows as you look up from the front garden.
Then there's a very big wych-elm — to the left as you look up — leaning a little over the house, and standing on the boundary between the garden and meadow. I quite love that tree already. Also ordinary elms, oaks — no nastier than ordinary oaks — pear trees, apples trees, and a vine. I only want to show that it isn't the least what we expected. Why did we settle that their house would be all gables and wiggles, and their garden all gamboge-coloured paths? I believe simply because we associate them with expensive hotels — Mrs. Wilcox trailing in beautiful dresses down long corridors, Mr. Wilcox bullying porters, etc.
Helen's letter to her sister shows that the Schlegels have spent some time speculating on what Howards End was going to be like, based on their acquaintance with the house's owners. Clearly, the Schlegels believe that one's house is, or should be, a reflection of one's personality, of one's personal relations. Howards End does not seem the type of house that Wilcoxes would live in, and it is true that only Mrs. Wilcox has a personal relationship with Howards End. The house has stood for centuries, sheltering Mrs. Wilcox's ancestors, who worked the land and lived in close relationship to it. The romanticized and pastoral Howards End stands in contrast to the ever-changing landscape of London. Of the Schlegels' house, Wickham Place, the narrator says
Their house was in Wickham Place, and fairly quiet, for a lofty promontory of buildings separated it from a main thoroughfare. One had the sense of a backwater, or rather of an estuary, whose waters flowed in from the visible sea, and ebbed into a profound silence while the waves without were still beating. Though the promontory consisted of flats — expensive, with cavernous entrance halls, full of concierges and palms — it fulfilled its purpose, and gained for the older houses opposite a certain measure of peace. These, too, would be swept away in time, and another promontory would arise upon their site, as humanity piled itself higher and higher on the precious soil of London.
The sea is a recurring metaphor in the novel: as when Margaret says that they "stand upon money as upon islands," the sea represents the ever-changing and threatening reality of modern life. The Schlegels, in their house on Wickham Place, are protected from the roiling sea of modern life, and their house is another island upon which they stand. Yet the Schlegels' house is constantly threatened by the "sea" around it: they will eventually lose their lease, and their house will be torn down to build more flats. The ever-increasing London masses have lost their relationship to the "precious soil" on which they live, and as a result lost what Frederick Crews calls "the last fortress of individualism in a world of urban sameness." Mrs. Wilcox reacts with horror when Margaret tells her the Schlegels will lose their house:
"It is monstrous, Miss Schlegel; it isn't right. I had no idea that this was hanging over you. I do pity you from the bottom of my heart. To be parted from your house, your father's house — it oughtn't to be allowed. It is worse than dying. I would rather die than — Oh, poor girls! Can what they call civilization be right, if people mayn't die in the room where they were born? My dear, I am so sorry —
It seems that Mrs. Wilcox is about to say that she would rather die than be parted from her house, but in fact she has been parted from it, because her husband has decided they should take a flat in London. The forces of "civilization," in the person of Mr. Wilcox, are stronger than the forces of continuity and individualism. The other Wilcoxes do not have Mrs. Wilcox's reverence for Howards End, and at the end of her life, Ruth chooses to leave Howards End to Margaret, believing Margaret to be her spiritual heir. Ruth's husband and children do not understand this decision, seeing Howards End solely as a piece of property — not a very useful or valuable one, but one which legally belongs to them. They decide to disregard their mother's wish, and do not inform Margaret of Mrs. Wilcox's bequest.
Two years after the novel's action commences, the Schlegels do lose their house, and become subject to the threatening sea of modern life. In this, they become like the Basts, of whose flat the narrator says that "it struck that shallow makeshift note that is so often heard in the modern dwelling-place. It had been too easily gained, and could be relinquished too easily." The Basts, who are always barely able to survive financially, do not have any islands on which to stand. When they are financially ruined, they lose their flat and do not have the means to let another one. The Schlegels feel spiritually and emotionally bereft when they lose their house, but they can get another one; the Basts do not have the luxury of ever living in a house that is meaningful to them, though Leonard would like to. Perry Meisel notes of Bast that he is "a grossly thematic reminder that the state of one's psyche and of one's economy are disastrously intertwined." Bast's tentative hold on financial solvency is echoed in his tentative interest in, and acquisition of, culture: like his flat, Bast's quest for meaning in his life can also be all-too-easily lost in the Basts' struggle for survival.
Like the Basts' flat, the various dwelling-places of the Wilcoxes have all been easily gained and can be easily relinquished, with the exception of Howards End. Henry Wilcox values property not for its meaning, but for its use, and he often decides that property he has acquired is unsuitable for his needs. As Levenson notes, Wilcox, unlike Leonard Bast, is a beneficiary, rather than a victim, of the ever-changing nature of modern life. When Henry and Margaret are engaged, Margaret keenly wants to settle into a house of her own, but they never seem to find one to which she is allowed to become attached. The differences in their attitudes toward Oniton, a house Henry has acquired, completely sum up the differences in their characters. Henry's attitude toward Oniton is perfectly prosaic:
Oniton had been a discovery of Mr. Wilcox's — a discovery of which he was not altogether proud. It was up towards the Welsh border, and so difficult of access that he had concluded it must be something special. A ruined castle stood in the grounds. But having got there, what was one to do? The shooting was bad, the fishing indifferent, and women-folk reported the scenery as nothing much. The place turned out to be in the wrong part of Shropshire, damn it, and though he never damned his own property aloud, he was only waiting to get it off his hands, and then to let fly. Evie's marriage was its last appearance in public. As soon as a tenant was found, it became a house for which he never had had much use, and had less now, and like Howards End, faded into Limbo.
Henry bases his opinion of Oniton on the property's use to him: whether he can entertain business guests in it, whether it increases his status, whether it offers him sufficient recreation. When he decides not to live at Oniton, he does not give it up, but lets it to a tenant so he can derive an income from it. It is as if actually living in a house is a poor investment, when one can rent it out and get money from it. The narrator notes that the Wilcoxes are an imperial family, always looking for new parts of England to conquer, as the English have conquered the globe. Henry's attitude towards his home at Oniton contrasts sharply with Margaret's:
Margaret was fascinated with Oniton. She had said that she loved it, but it was rather its romantic tension that held her. The rounded Druids of whom she had caught glimpses in her drive, the rivers hurrying down from them to England, the carelessly modelled masses of the lower hills, thrilled her with poetry. The house was insignificant, but the prospect from it would be an eternal joy, and she thought of all the friends she would have to stop in it, and of the conversion of Henry himself to a rural life. Society, too, promised favorably. The rector of the parish had dined with them last night, and she found that he was a friend of her father's, and so knew what to find in her. She liked him. He would introduce her to the town.
Margaret is stirred by the poetry of Oniton, and moreover, the community surrounding it links her to her father, because the rector had been a friend of his. Though she recognizes that the house itself is insignificant, she thinks not at all of the property's value in the real world, but only of its personal meaning to her. The Schlegels are interested in poetry and personal relations, the Wilcoxes in prose and investments. Yet, as for the first Mrs. Wilcox, her husband's wishes take precedence over Margaret's. They do not settle at Oniton. Margaret becomes estranged from her sister Helen because she has allied herself with the Wilcoxes: she no longer tries to influence Henry, but acquiesces to his wishes. It is only when Margaret and Helen meet at Howards End that Margaret sees that the Schlegels are threatened in a world run by Wilcoxes. She and Helen are reconciled to each other at Howards End, surrounded by their furniture and other possessions, when they realize that "they never could be parted because their love was rooted in common things." It is the history they share, represented by what they have jointly owned and jointly experienced, that binds them together. Because they value this common history, they also value Howards End, which is linked to the history of Mrs. Wilcox's family, to organic relationships rooted in a rural life. As Wilfred Stone notes, "[t]hough the Wilcoxes hold the 'title-deeds' and the 'door-keys,' these evidences of ownership do not impress the Schlegels," who instead value the meanings they can create from the physical space in which they live, meanings which can be more easily created at Howards End than in the impersonal and temporary dwelling-places of London.
The conclusion of the novel sees Howards End rescued from limbo: it becomes a home in which Henry Wilcox, the Schlegel sisters, and the child of Leonard Bast can live together in a life rooted to the precious soil and contained in a house which has witnessed the births and deaths of generations. Yet as Born notes, "that Forster interrupts his final scene with awareness of the encroaching London mass suggests he is not entirely happy with this one-sided vision of serene, private, poeticized culture." Though the Schlegels have conquered the Wilcoxes, the forces of "civilization" still loom in the distance. Though Howards End may represent an idealized solution to the problems of a modernizing England, the sea still threatens the island on which the new family stands.
Source: Jane Elizabeth Dougherty, in an essay for Novels for Students, Gale, 2000.
What Do I Read Next?
In Bloomsbury Recalled (1996), Quentin Bell, son of Clive and Vanessa Bell, offers one of the most recent memoirs recounting the personalities and adventures of that famous literary group.
Joseph Conrad's 1899 novel, Heart of Darkness, reveals the injustices of British imperialism in Africa.
In Forster's first novel, Where Angels Fear To Tread, (1905) he contrasts the vibrant, free life of Italians with the artificial, hypocritical and bourgeois life of the suburban Londoners who visit an Italian village.
Forster's novel, The Longest Journey, published in 1907 tells the story of two half brothers, one of them illegitimate.
A Room with a View is Forster's 1908 novel about a young woman's love affair and her struggle with Victorian conventions.
Forster's last and most highly regarded novel, A Passage to India (1924) details the social and historical milieu of colonial India, and one Englishwoman's experience there.
Forster's posthumously published novel, Maurice (1971) tells the story of a young man's discovery of his own homosexuality.
Fellow Bloomsbury Group member Lytton Strachey revolutionized the genre of biography with his Eminent Victorians, offering unusually unflattering portraits of four British cultural heroes, including Florence Nightingale. Critics suggest that his incisive criticisms take on the difference between mere "moral righteousness" and "true humanitarianism."
Virginia Woolf's 1925 novel, Mrs. Dalloway, is at once the story of Clarissa Dalloway's party and a critique of the British social system.
Woolf's 1927 novel, To the Lighthouse focuses on the inner life and experiences of an English family.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Y12 Literature LTB3 Hamlet coursework

As promised, here are the articles by John Russell Brown and Maurice Charney in full.

Multiplicity of Meaning in the Last Moments of Hamlet

Elizabethan and Jacobean tragedies have had an even more durable life than comedies. Especially at the Globe Playhouse, a varied audience crowded to see the rise and fall of kings, or the working out of revenge and passion. They watched horrific stories concluding with an ultimate test in which the hero, and sometimes the heroine, faced violence and disaster. Death came in many forms, but always brought with it a revaluation of the hero's life as means of support were taken away: the individual was separated from his or her fellows, endured loss and escalation of pain, and was exposed to intense scrutiny. The audience was invited to judge the hero's response and ultimate resource. Perhaps these tragedies were so popular because they offered audiences an opportunity to assume the role of God, the all-knowing assessor who had long been the exclusive possession of remote and authoritative clerics: they could watch as man suffers, and so judge his ultimate worth. In the words of John Webster, writing his first tragedy in 1612 (partly in imitation of Shakespeare):
. . . afflictionExpresseth virtue, fully, whether true,Or else adulterate. (The White Devil I.i.49-51)1
Death brought a final truth-telling. In his second tragedy, a couple of years later, Webster's heroine is told in the very first scene:
. . . believe'tYour darkest actions--nay, your privat'st thoughts--Will come to light. (The Duchess of Malfi I.i.314-16)2
The coming to light of a man's "privat'st thoughts" is what Shakespeare implied as he explored the possibilities of tragedy in Julius Caesar, [page 17] a chronicle play concluding in numerous deaths, and gave his most thoughtful character words which liken the protagonists to horses who are judged for resources of spirit in painful trial:
There are no tricks in plain and simple faith;But hollow men, like horses hot at hand,Make gallant show and promise of their mettle;But when they should endure the bloody spur,They fall their crests, and like deceitful jadesSink in the trial. (IV.ii.22-27)3
So, later Hamlet moves through the tragedy with a secret within him, and defies his audience to guess at it. Yet he never seems able to name it, and very rarely lets "fall his crest." Towards the end of Hamlet, the hero tries to share his own sense that a bloody spur is about to probe to his very "heart":
Thou wouldst not think how ill all's here about my heart; but it is no matter. . . . It is but foolery . . . . (V.ii.208-11)4
Earlier he had rounded on Guildenstern who had tried to "sound" him and "pluck out the heart of [his] mystery": "'Sblood, do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe?" (III.ii.356-57, 360-61). In his first encounter with his mother, he had warned that nothing external, neither words, nor clothes, nor breath, tears, facial expression, "Together with all forms, moods, shapes' -could express hi inner grief.
This part of Hamlet's character--for ambiguous and complicated speech is a distinctive element of the "mind" with which Shakespeare has endowed his hero--this characteristic operates on various levels. We soon see that in private he continues to use wordplay as a disguise in which to taunt and trick both adversaries and friends, so that he is not fully understood and they are encouraged to disclose hidden thoughts:
Pol. Do you know me, my lord?Ham. Excellent well. You are a fishmonger.Pol. Not I, my lord.Ham. Then I would you were so honest a man.Pol. Honest, my lord?Ham. Ay sir. To be honest, as this world goes, is to be one man picked out of ten thousand. . . . (II.ii.173-79)
Fishmongers smell, when among other men; a fishmonger was a name for "fleshmonger" or bawd; a fishmonger's wife and daughter were said to breed, fish-like, in great quantity . . . .7 And so, Hamlet's mind runs on to "so honest a man," a word meaning "honourable," or "chaste," or "truthful, genuine."8 "Modesties . . . craft . . . colour"; "I know a hawk from a handsaw" (II.ii. 280-79, 375): wordplay gallops easily, or abruptly it makes a bold and mocking challenge. Hamlet can deliver one message and at the same time another contrary one; "if you be honest and fair, your honesty should admit no discourse to your beauty (III.i.107-08); or again, ". . . he may play the fool nowhere but in's own house [page 20] . . ." (III.i.133-34); or again, "The body is with the King, but the King is not with the body. The King is a thing . . . of nothing" (IV.ii.26-29).
Words are wanton in Hamlet's mind, feeding his aggressions and his fears. Sometimes we get the impression that he is revealing more than he knows, as if his unconscious, rather than conscious, mind controls his speech. Why should he punish Ophelia openly before the actors perform The Mousetrap? Is he looking at his mother and step-father all this time, or wanting to do so? Does he want them to hear? Or is he forcing himself to be pleasant in public to a girl he distrusts, and failing so thoroughly to do this that he concludes with talk of churches, hobby-horses and an epitaph which is puzzling even to himself? His play upon cunt, no-thing, jig, do, die, hobby-horse (III.ii.115-32) is doubly vulgar: not only a run of obtrusive and brutal sexual innuendo, but also an unprincely assumption that his predicament is a rite or carnival of common validity. In effect Hamlet is creating a paronomasia of performance, moving from politeness to brutality; and it seems to come out almost unbidden.
Even when Hamlet's wordplay is intentional and nicely judged, it is not always clear to what purpose he uses it. To confuse or to clarify? Or to control his own uncensored thoughts? The energy and turmoil of his mind brings words thronging into speech, stretching, over-turning and amalgamating their implications. Sometimes Hamlet has to struggle to use the simplest words repeatedly, as he tries to force meaning to flow in a single channel. To Ophelia, after he has encountered her in her loneliness, "reading on a book," he repeats five times "Get you to a nunnery," varying the phrase only by word-order and by changing "get" to "go." And after he has visited his mother "all alone" in her closet and killed Polonius, after she has begged him to "speak no more" (III.iv.88), and after his father's ghost has reappeared, Hamlet repeats "Good night" five times, with still fewer changes and those among accompanying words only. But, of course, in performance, in the heat of passionate encounter, the effect and meaning of these simple words can change with each repetition. It is an actor's instinct to vary them, using them as rungs of a ladder to grow towards a climactic emotional effect, rather than as firm stepping-stones on which to cross an unruly [page 21] river. So Hamlet seems to be struggling to contain his thoughts even by use of these simple words, rather than enforcing a single and simple message as a first reading of the text might suggest; and the words come to bear deeper, more ironic or more blatant meanings.
In soliloquy, Hamlet gives wordplay such scope that we receive an impression of a mind working simultaneously at different levels of meaning and consciousness. As soon as he is alone, we hear that he wishes "this too too sullied" (or sallied, or solid) "flesh would melt" (I.ii.129?).9 From melt, particularly appropriate if linked to solid, Hamlet's mind springs onwards to two other verbs: thaw, bringing further physical associations of cold and change, and dissolution; then on to resolve, with a range of old and new associations--dissolve, melt, inform, answer, dispel doubt . . . "resolve itself into a dew"--that is something almost intangible, now; and mysterious; and also, in association with some senses of resolve, there is a suggestion of due, with a hint of necessary "payment" or "judgment."10 And so Hamlet's mind reaches "the Everlasting" (with a look backward, perhaps, marking a contrast with that which melts, thaws, and does not last)--the powerful, non-fleshly presence who fixes (no melting or resolving now) his canon (both law and instrument of destruction) against self-slaughter . . . . Hamlet's mind breeds one meaning out of another, using words in several senses, activating new words so that they interact with each other. The energy of this wordplay is amazing: unsettled, serious, self-lacerating, mocking, self-critical, reckless; and bringing a sense of victorious and heady achievement as words bend, buckle, extend their meanings, and sharpen their attack.
Even in soliloquy, Hamlet is not always in control. Sometimes he halts momentarily, as if alarmed by what he has said:
. . . 'tis a consummationDevoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;To sleep, perchance to dream--ay, there's the rub:. . . . (III.i.63-65)
Here the thought-process is abrupt and oscillating, so that scarcely any two modern editors punctuate this passage in the same way; many resort [page 22] to dashes and numerous dots. At other times Hamlet makes a conscious withdrawal, as if the management of words has tired or perplexed him too painfully:
Then are our beggars bodies, and our monarchs and outstretched heroes the beggars' shadows. Shall we to th'court? For by my fay, I cannot reason. (II.ii.263-65)
Farewell, dear mother. . . . Father and mother is man and wife, man and wife is one flesh; so my mother. Come, for England. Exit. (IV.iii.52, 54-56)
In this second example, Hamlet has rendered the king speechless, but he pursues him no further, preferring to go off-stage, silent and under guard, to journey to England.
Hamlet may be still less in control in the grave-yard, when both he and Laertes have had to be restrained physically. He tries to use simple words, but then asserts "it is no matter" and leaves abruptly with a taunting riddle:
Hear you, sir,What is the reason that you use me thus?I lov'd you ever. But it is no matter.Let Hercules himself do what he may,The cat will mew, and dog will have his day. (V.i.283-87)
Much of the dramatic action of this tragedy is within the head of Hamlet, and wordplay represents the amazing, contradictory, unsettled, mocking, fecund nature of that mind, as it is torn by disappointment and positive love, as Hamlet seeks both acceptance and punishment, action and stillness, and wishes for consummation and annihilation. He can be abruptly silent or vicious; he is capable of wild laughter and tears, and also polite badinage. The narrative is a kind of mystery and chase, so that, underneath the various guises of his wordplay, we are made keenly aware of his inner dissatisfaction, and come to expect some resolution at the end of the tragedy, some unambiguous "giving out" which will report Hamlet and his cause aright to the unsatisfied among [page 23] the audience. Hamlet himself is aware of this expectation as the end approaches, and this still further whets our anticipation.
* * *
Towards the close, Hamlet has a short exchange alone with Horatio, which seems intended to "set up" the final encounter with Laertes, the Queen, Claudius, and the whole Court, and to make absolutely clear the nature of his own involvement. The passage exists in two good versions; the second Quarto of 1604, and the Folio of 1623, which is now thought to represent Shakespeare's revision of the earlier version.11 This second text adds fourteen lines in which Hamlet seeks to justify, as "perfect conscience," his determination to kill Claudius with his own "arm"--or rather to "quit" him, which implies repaying as well.12 He then asks whether he would not be "damned" if he did nothing to eradicate "this canker of our nature" (V.ii.68-70). But even this later addition to the play does not establish a "plain and simple faith."13 We notice that Hamlet expresses himself in rhetorical questions which seem to qualify his momentary certainty. And only minutes later, as the last encounter approaches, his reluctance to tell all ("Thou wouldst not think how ill all's here about my heart; but it is no matter," ll. 208-09) and a further intrusion of vigorous and baffling wordplay cloud over these ultimate issues once more.
Immediately before the King and Queen enter on stage, Hamlet's words, spoken as he again finds himself alone with Horatio, are so tricky--or perhaps tricksy--that they baffled the original compositors of the text and have set modern editors at variance.14 Neither the Quarto nor Folio makes sense and various emendations have been proposed. No/knows; has/owes; leave/leaves; ought/all; of what/of ought, all collide and change places with each other in the different versions. Today a text might read, "Since no man, of aught he leaves, knows aught, what is't to leave betimes?" or "Since no man of ought he leaves, knows, what is't to leave . . .," or ". . . no man owes aught of what he leaves, what is't . . .," or ". . . no man knows of aught he leaves, what is't . . . ." (Was the speech ever absolutely clear in Shakespeare's autograph manuscript, or in his head?) With Hamlet's next words, as trumpet and drums [page 24] announce the King's arrival, the play's hero contrives yet another avoidance-tactic, refusing to talk further with a surprisingly curt "Let be."
Encountering Laertes in front of the whole court, Hamlet speaks again very simply: "Give me your pardon, sir. I have done you wrong" (l. 222). But then he refers to his own supposed "madness" as if it had been entirely real, and as if that absolved him of all responsibility for his actions:
Who does it, then? His madness. If't be so,Hamlet is of the faction that is wrong'd;His madness is poor Hamlet's enemy. (ll. 233-35)
That sounds straightforward enough, but what is his madness? Is it a "sore distraction" by which he has been punished, or is it his own invention and a somewhat theatrical disguise? To what extent is Hamlet creating a cunning smokescreen of words and questions, under which to hide his intent to kill the King? Soon all the action is over, the Queen, Laertes, Claudius and Hamlet all dead; and yet no more mention is made of "madness."
However, the action is held up artificially at the very last minute: the playwright delays his hero's death at the midnight hour for concluding speeches and the audience is encouraged to expect that the hero will unmask and everything will be clarified. But then, even now, this does not happen. Hamlet's final words are so famous that for us they carry an air of assurance with them, but if we try to imagine them as they were heard for the first time, we may appreciate that much is still concealed, and much is just as ambiguous as it was in his characteristically vigorous and volatile use of words throughout the play. We may wonder whether Hamlet is playing consciously with words at the very moment of his trial by death; and, if so, for what purpose.
In his last words to Claudius, Hamlet has already insisted on a final sexual pun: "Drink off this potion. Is thy union here?" (l. 331; italics mine).15 But when he knows that he is himself dead, almost at once he is concerned about how much is "unknown," and insists that Horatio should live to tell his story "aright." But that is his friend's duty: he [page 25] himself uses his last moments very differently, and speaks almost at once in an earlier manner:
I am dead, Horatio. Wretched Queen, adieu!You that look pale and tremble at this chance,That are but mutes or audience to this act,Had I but time--as this fell sergeant, Death,Is strict in his arrest--O, I could tell you--But let it be. . . . (ll. 338-43)
Wordplay has come back, as if unbidden: "This fell sergeant, Death, / Is strict in his arrest" plays on strict as "cruel," "inescapably binding," and, perhaps, as "morally severe"16 (this last sense is common in Shakespeare's plays). And arrest can refer equally to the stopping life and to stopping the "act" which the audience is watching and Hamlet performing. Then, once more, the wordplay is stopped with "But let it be . . . ." And yet, when he tells Horatio, a second time, that he is as good as dead, the "potion" becomes "The potent poison"; and in a strange phrase (Shakespeare using o'ercrows for the only time), the poison is said to shout in triumph over his spirit, rather than taking possession of his body:
O, I die, Horatio.The potent poison quite o'ercrows my spirit. (ll. 357-58)
For Shakespeare, this may also have been a reminiscence of the father's spirit who had "faded on the crowing of the cock" (I.i.162).
Hamlet has already heard the "warlike noise" of Fortinbras' approach, and now he gives his "dying voice" to this young soldier for the next King of Denmark:
He has my dying voice.So tell him, with th'occurents more and lessWhich have solicited--the rest is silence. (ll. 361-63)
The last line here is Hamlet's last line, and it is as multiple in meaning as any in the play. Solicited takes attention first. Is this a gentle solicitation or an urgent call? The word had been used in both senses by Shake-[page 26] speare. Perhaps the second is the most likely here, since solicited and silence are linked a little in sound and may therefore be held in opposition. But the main problem is "the rest is silence." What can this mean?
First perhaps, it means "All that remains for me to say must be unspoken." This reading seems to make Hamlet withdraw intentionally from saying more, as he has done frequently in the course of the play: "Let it be." Wordplay allows him to escape without revealing his secret. Alternatively, he may feel overmastered in his mind, as he is in his body, and here acknowledges that this is so and that he can manage no more words, except this last mocking pun, for rest could also mean the taking of ease, or a pause in action (or music).
A second reading would have Hamlet assert that the remainder of his life can have nothing to say or will make no noise, perhaps no "warlike noise"--the volleys may still be ringing in his ears, or the first sound of drums for Fortinbras' approach. So he might speak of his failure to tell all, and die making an excuse for his rashness or ineffectuality.
But, then, rest may equally well refer to a time after life, a release from the "unrest" of life. In the same vein, Hamlet has told Horatio to:
Absent thee from felicity awhile,And in this harsh world draw thy breath in painTo tell my story. (ll. 352-54)
In association with silence, rest need not imply any existence after life; what follows life is unknown, possibly without life of any sort; in any case it makes no noise here and now.
However, yet another interpretation is not so agnostic or irreligious. Hamlet could mean that "the rest" of an after-life has nothing to say about matters of the world, such as the succession of Fortinbras; so death is a "quietus" devoutly to be wished (III.i.75). Horatio's conventional and specifically religious consolation which follows immediately may seem to substantiate this reading:
Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet prince,And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest! (ll. 364-65)
But has Hamlet lost his fear of those "dreams" which may follow when "we have shuffled off this mortal coil" (III.i.67)? Having killed the King [page 27] and voted for his successor is he ready to go into the dark, and accept his own "rest" without blenching? This would be a huge revaluation of earlier attitudes for which the discourse on the fall of a sparrow (V.ii.215-18) is the sole (but not necessarily unequivocal) textual authority. If this is the "correct" reading, however, we may wonder why Shakespeare should follow the earlier account of Hamlet's attitudes with such an "ambiguous giving out," in glancing, unreliable wordplay, at this crucial last moment?
A defence of sorts can be made for each of these four different meanings of Hamlet's four last words, but they tend to cancel each other out if they are all allowed into the reckoning. Instead of choosing between them, I find myself ready to suggest yet a fifth reading which does not attempt to express the "virtue" within Hamlet, that mystery which passes ordinary show; this fifth interpretation could indeed co-habit with any of my earlier suggestions. Perhaps when the playwright directed Hamlet to say "the rest is silence," he was allowing himself to speak through his character, telling the audience and the actor that he, the dramatist, would not, or could not, go a word further in the presentation of this, his most verbally brilliant and baffling hero. The author is going to hide like a fox, leaving all of us standing at a cold scent.
In several earlier passages, we may have heard something of Shakespeare's own voice in what Hamlet says. "Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you . . ." (III.ii.1-2) and the several other old saws and modern instances delivered to the Players on their arrival at Elsinorein their rehearsals, and during their performance, are all possible authorial statements. Hamlet's quick retort to Polonius' dramatic criticism, his managing of several scenes as they are developing--"I must be idle," "For England?" "This is I, Hamlet the Dane," "But it is no matter," "Let be,"17 and so forth--could also be partly Shakespeare's words as they propel the plot forward. At the close, Hamlet is aware of his deeds as an "act" that is closely watched by "mutes or audience" (V.ii.330) who need to be told what has happened so that his name shall not be "wounded": something of Shakespeare may be in all this as well, and perhaps in the rather dismissive:
So tell him, with th'occurents more or lessWhich have solicited . . . .
[page 28] This might suggest the impatience of an author dealing with issues ("more or less") that only censorious (politically committed or politically correct) audience-members would wish to pick on.
There is example for a final authorial voice in other plays. Of course, Prospero's "I'll drown my book" and "Now what strength I have's mine own" come much later in Shakespeare's career. But about this time, we have in Troilus and Cressida, "Hector is dead: there is no more to say" (V.x.22);18 in Twelfth Night, "But that's all one, our play is done" (V.i.393);19 in The Merchant of Venice, "Portia. You shall not know by what strange accident / I chanced on this letter. Antonio. I am dumb" (V.i.278-79);20 and in Love's Labour's Lost:
The words of Mercury are harsh after the songs of Apollo. Exeunt. (V.ii.922-23)21
This last example is doubly strange. The line is printed in larger type than that used for the rest of the Quarto version of the play, and is without a speech-prefix. The Folio text regularizes the type-face, but is responsible for adding the concluding line, "You that way; we this way". Keeping in mind these other speeches in which Shakespeare may take over from his characters, we might think that here, through Hamlet, he is announcing that he has "no more to say," still less any further mystery to disclose.
I do not know which of these five meanings to prefer, but the actors of Shakespeare's company seem to have been unsatisfied with them all. The Folio text contains numerous small additions to the Quarto which are thought to have been drawn from what actually happened on stage in performance.22 Among these is an addition to Hamlet's part, following "The rest is silence." What Burbage the actor added is represented by four letters: "O, o, o, o." Then follows the stage-direction. "Dies." What can this mean? Did Burbage believe that he needed extra time to express pain or disbelief, or to struggle or panic? We have no idea what the four O's were intended to mean and still less notion of what Shakespeare thought about them (the Folio was, of course, published after his death),23 but this addition became well enough established to get into print, and it serves to remind us that, however serious Hamlet's last words were intended to be, they had to be spoken [page 29] while he faced the physical reality of death itself. The actor's way of accepting or resisting the "strict arrest" will become part of the meaning of the last moments of the play, casting further complications on the task of dealing with what Hamlet says and with the wordplay.
Exactly how Hamlet dies--how he dies physically--will continue to contribute to our view of him after the "silence" which follows the moment of death. Fortinbras enters asking "Where is this sight?" and Horatio directs attention to all four bodies on the stage. After all is said and done, the way in which Hamlet dies, whether in pain or with mockery, or with some sense of fortunate release, will still be manifest in his facial expression and in the manner in which his body lies on the stage--in contrast to how the others had died and are also mercilessly displayed.
* * *
Why should Shakespeare choose to conclude this tragedy with words that give the final presentation of its hero a multiplicity of possible meanings?
The most difficult answer would be to say that all meanings are meant to be present, co-existing. This might please critics and scholars who puzzle over the text in their own time and are able to build up complex impressions, but how could an actor attempt to suggest them all? How could an audience-member grasp them all in the exciting moment of performance, in an "upshot" in which purposes are easily mistook (V.ii.389)? A more acceptable answer might be that the audience, and each individual member of that audience, is left to interpret as they wish, according to their own "business and desire, / Such as it is" (I.v.136-37). In this case, the actor's task might be to avoid making any very clear statement of Hamlet's final thoughts or inner mystery. Yet that is easier to say than do, and we might rather argue that the multiple meanings are there so that the actor of Hamlet can choose which one he wishes to emphasise, according to the way in which he has responded to the varied challenges in his journey through the text, and according to what he feels himself best able to embody. Such a choice is likely to be intuitive, rather than intellectual; but it could also be governed by the [page 30] actor's (and his director's) view of how the play can speak most excitingly to the audience which comes to see their work.
However we choose to explain his decision, we must accept the fact that Shakespeare chose, very positively, to provide a multiplicity of meanings at this crucial moment. His hero was, above all and in the final test, alive in his mind, drawn restlessly into engagement with his imagination, perhaps a little in the same way as his creator had been as he worked. Death, for such a person, could not be held in a single grip, in the fix of words used in a single sense, without "tricks, in plain and simple faith." Such dramaturgy involved a choice which went against most of Shakespeare's earlier practice. At the moment of his death, Titus Andronicus could hardly have made himself more plain to our understanding:
Why, there they are, both baked in this pie;. . .'Tis true, 'tis true; witness my knife's sharp point. (V.iii.60-63)24
Romeo dies drinking poison; there is wordplay here, but wholly controlled and limited:
Here's to my love! O true apothecary,Thy drugs are quick. Thus with a kiss I die. (V.iii.119-20)25
Juliet also plays on words without confusing her simplest meaning:
Yea, noise? Then I'll be brief. O happy dagger.This is thy sheath. There rust, and let me die. (V.iii.168-69)
Richard III and Richard II both die with single-minded speech, although in earlier scenes they had both used wordplay to express their turbulent and cunning thoughts.
Marlowe, Shakespeare's most imaginative and inventive contemporary, ended his tragedies as their heroes narrowed the target for their thoughts; and he gave them words in which to express themselves unmistakably. [page 31] After Shakespeare's time, John Webster, for all the punning and allusive subtlety of his dialogue, took definition still further in the last moments of his leading characters. Shakespeare's Hamlet, however, dies mysteriously, and he is aware that he never makes a full statement of his thoughts:
Had I but time . . .
O, I could tell you--But let it be. (ll. 341-43)
The most unequivocal impression given by the hero at the close of this tragedy is that his mind is unvanquished: his imagination is still exploring strange shapes and future eventualities--what is still unknown, and even silence itself.
Of course there are many ways of accounting for the tragedy as a whole. It is a Revenge Tragedy, and a Tragedy of Blood (or of lust and love); it is a Metaphysical Tragedy in which the nature of death, certainty, and life are all weighed and variously judged. It is also a Tragedy of State, the story of a kingdom ruled by an ambitious, treacherous, and smiling king, in which the "rabble" can rise up to follow the insurrection of a young man who has a private vendetta to pursue, but no clear political programme. The plot and characters, the drive and liveliness of the dialogue, the clashing rhetoric, all support these various strands of the play; and they are supported by on-stage action which is often exciting, sensational, and visually opulent. But the heart of the tragedy is Hamlet himself, a person whose mind is unconfined by any single issue. As he moves towards the last encounters, we can sense a self-aware superiority: ". . . Laertes. You do but dally. I pray you pass with your best violence" (301-02). He is attracted, still, to light-minded wordplay and assonance: "strict . . . arrest," "o'ercrows . . . occurents," the pun of "dying voice" (the sound he makes is growing faint). There is mockery in "potent poison," the ring and relish of a mountebank. Impatience and a constantly frustrated desire to have matters under control can be heard in repeated comes and in many short replies, commands and messages. Tenderness mixes with bitterness--"Absent thee from felicity awhile . . ."--and with ambiguity. "The rest is silence" [page 32] could be a joke, a profound searching of the unknown, a resignation to the fate of a sparrow, the voice of bitter despair, or a matter of fact.
At the risk of sounding too unambiguous for such a play, I would say that, through Hamlet, this tragedy affirms the world of the mind over against the world of matter, the unresolved and independent conscience over against the answers that can be provided by others or demanded by society in its political, religious or familial manifestations. In so far as Hamlet commands our attention while the tragedy unfolds and is completed, we prefer his ambiguous, spirited, free affirmation that the "rest is silence" to the attempted suicide and sentimental consolation of Horatio, or to the political homage of Fortinbras, and his call to arms and to a fresh start.26
University of MichiganAnn Arbor
1. The Revels Plays, ed. John Russell Brown, 2nd ed. (London: Methuen, 1966).
2. The Revels Plays, ed. John Russell Brown (London: Methuen, 1964).
3. Arden Edition, ed. T. S. Dorsch (London: Methuen, 1955).
4. Quotations are from the Arden Edition of Hamlet, ed. Harold Jenkins (London: Methuen, 1982).
5. Eds. G. D. Willcock and A. Walker (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1936), p. 153.
6. Ben Jonson, Works, eds. C. H. Herford, P. and E. Simpson (Oxford: Clarendon P, 1947) 8:623.
7. See Jenkins' note, pp. 464-66.
8. See OED †2.a., 3.b and c.
9. On the textual ambiguities of this line, see Jenkins' note, pp. 436-38.
10. See OED "resolve" vb. I.2.†b. To analyse, examine (a statement). Obs.
1. See, especially, the editors' comments for The Oxford Shakespeare (Hamlet, ed. G.R. Hibbard [Oxford: Clarendon P, 1987] 104-130).
12. See OED, "quit, †quite" II.10. To repay, reward, requite.
13. Julius Caesar II.ii.22.
[page 33] 14. Almost any modern edition will serve as an introduction to the problem. The variants quoted below derive from editions by Harold Jenkins, J. Dover Wilson, G. Blakemore Evans and Terence Spencer, and others.
15. See Jenkins' note.
16. See OED "strict," esp. 10-15, and "stricture."
17. III.ii.90, IV.iii.47, V.i.250-51, V.ii.209 and 220.
18. Arden Edition, ed. Kenneth Palmer (London: Methuen, 1982).
19. Arden Edition, eds. J. M. Lothian and T. W. Craik (London: Methuen, 1975).
20. Arden Edition, ed. John Russell Brown (London: Methuen, 1955, 1959).
21. The Quarto version, quoted from the Arden Edition, ed. Richard David (London: Methuen, 1951, 1956).
22. See Harold Jenkins, "Playhouse Interpolations in the Folio Text of Hamlet," Studies in Bibliography 13 (1960): 31-47.
23. We may reflect that its repetitious simplicity is not far from Bottom's death-line as Pyramus in A Midsummer Night's Dream, or the slightly more sophisticated end for Thisbe.
24. Arden Edition, ed. J. C. Maxwell (London: Methuen, 1953, 1961).
25. Arden Edition, ed. Brian Gibbons (London: Methuen, 1980).
26. This article is based on a paper read at a symposium on Paronomasia at the University of Münster in July 1992. It benefits in many ways from the discussion there, both formal and informal, and its welcome stimulation. I cannot note all the effects of this occasion in the body of this paper, so I hope this general note may be taken as an indication of my gratitude and indebtedness.

The Rest is Not Silence: A Reply to John Russell Brown
John Russell Brown, "Multiplicity of Meaning in the Last Moments of Hamlet," Connotations 2.1 (1992): 16-33.

It is not surprising that John Russell Brown's vigorous, witty, and energetic paper comes out of a symposium on paronomasia at the University of Münster in July 1992. The paper is strongly appropriate for that occasion, yet there are other ways of looking at the last moments of Hamlet that may not be so specifically related to paronomasia. Brown rather blurs the linguistic continuum leading from literal puns (homophonic use), to general wordplay, to multiple meanings, which have nothing to do with puns at all. His discussion of at least five meanings of "The rest is silence," which is at the heart of his paper, is a far cry from paronomasia. Yet all the verbal resources of Hamlet are marshalled significantly and intelligently. Brown is not only a subtle critic of language but also a skillful commentator on performance. He says that "Hamlet is creating a paronomasia of performance" (20) in his scene with Ophelia in 3.2., and he is everywhere sensitive to performance implications of language.
There is one assumption throughout that I find odd: that Hamlet has a secret that he never reveals and that "Wordplay allows him to escape without revealing his secret" (26). This seems to me a romantic and skewed interpretation, but Brown insists on it with a quantity of repetition that I find surprising. Hamlet has a "reluctance to tell all" (23), he practises "avoidance-tactics," "refusing to talk further" (24), and "the audience is encouraged to expect that the hero will unmask and everything will be clarified" (24), but this does not happen. What "single and simple message" (21) does the hero have that Brown is as [page 187] unsuccessful as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in plucking out? I am baffled by this kind of pursuit, which violates the existential nature of Hamlet's engagement with the audience, which is also an engagement with himself. To say that, even in soliloquy, Hamlet "is not always in control" (21) seems to me to mistake the protagonist's relation to himself as well as to the spectators. For Hamlet to be "in control" of his discourse implies a purposiveness that is foreign to his character. Hamlet speaks in order to find out what he wants to say; he is one of the audiences to his own words, especially in soliloquy. Is Hamlet trying, imperfectly, to express his meanings, or, as Brown says, to use punning language and wordplay to conceal his meanings? This implies that there is another esoteric play behind the public play that will reveal itself only to the initiated. Criticism, therefore, becomes an act of piercing through Hamlet's (and Shakespeare's) concealments and masks.
Brown fixes his discussion on Hamlet's last words, "The rest is silence," to which he attributes at least five separate meanings. These lines "could be a joke, a profound searching of the unknown, a resignation to the fate of a sparrow, the voice of bitter despair, or a matter of fact" (32). I wonder why Brown chooses such relatively unambiguous lines to expend his energy on, except that these lines are connected with his idea of Hamlet's unrevealed mystery: "So he might speak of his failure to tell all, and die making an excuse for his rashness or ineffectuality" (26). But it is fairly conventional for the protagonist at his death to run out of time and to have a lot more to say than he can possibly fit in. This explains why characters such as Hotspur and Antony die in the middle of a sentence. Even the Ghost in Hamlet "could a tale unfold"--different from the tale he is actually telling--that would harrow up Hamlet's "soul, freeze thy young blood, / Make thy two eyes like stars start from their spheres" (1.5.16-17). I cannot understand why Brown should single out "The rest is silence" to clinch his point about Hamlet's holding out on us "with such an 'ambiguous giving out,' in glancing, unreliable wordplay, at this crucial last moment" (27). This is not really wordplay at all in comparison with Hamlet's earlier, dazzling display of paronomasia.
Brown's fifth and final explanation of "The rest is silence" I find disappointing: that Shakespeare is speaking through the voice of his [page 188] protagonist, "telling the audience and the actor that he, the dramatist, would not, or could not, go a word further in the presentation of this, his most verbally brilliant and baffling hero" (27). Brown is at his most characteristic and extravagant moment here, insisting on a cutely paradoxical interposition of Shakespeare into his play. Shakespeare is brought on to tell us, confidentially, in place of Hamlet the character, that "he has 'no more to say,' still less any further mystery to disclose" (28). Brown is very self-consciously slipping back into the romantic mysteries of Sir Sidney Lee in the late nineteenth century, as if at certain crucial moments the dramatic character can't be trusted with enunciating points that have an important autobiographical clang.
Hamlet's last words are actually "O, o, o, o," which occur only in the Folio text, and which Harold Jenkins, the Arden editor, dismisses as an actor's interpolation by Richard Burbage, which has no authority in Shakespeare's authentic text. Presumably, Brown also rejects the O-groans because he says that "We have no idea what the four O's were intended to mean and still less notion of what Shakespeare thought about them" (28). But O-groans occur in Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, and in many Elizabethan and Jacobean plays. They were a fairly conventional emotional gesture in these plays, especially associated with death. We do not know precisely how the O-groans got into the Folio text of Hamlet, but one plausible suggestion is that they were part of Shakespeare's extensive revision of the earlier Quarto 2 version.
By the demands of logic, I have been betrayed into mounting a vigorous quarrel with an essay I greatly admire and with an author who has consistently titillated my intellectual curiosity in conversation, in lecture, and in print. Brown is creating his own original Hamlet for the occasion, and I think he is carried away with a passion to pluck out the heart of Hamlet's mystery and to bring on Shakespeare himself as the taunting author. This is an admirable enterprise, and I feel a sense of disloyalty in not being able to join it. I am inclined to accept Hamlet for what he is and not to probe his riddling discourse for secrets that he does not choose to reveal. Perhaps I believe in the Freudian unconscious more firmly than Brown does, which applies to dramatic characters as well as their creators. In other words, there is a certain stratum of literary and dramatic discourse that is hidden from both [page 189] character and author alike. There is no way of exercising the control and the deliberateness that Brown posits. This is especially true of Hamlet, where the protagonist is trying out roles and modes of discourse throughout the play.
Rutgers UniversityNew Brunswick, New Jersey