There’s Something Rotten in the State of Denmark – And It Isn’t the Eggs in Our Hamlet

There’s a major problem with trust between the characters in William Shakespeare’s most famous play – Hamlet. How can you blame them? They’re not the most upright, honorable bunch. In fact, they make Dexter look like a sweetheart.

A couple of these Hamlet quotes pretty much say it all in a nutshell:

GHOST: “Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast..”

(1.5.9)HAMLET: “O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!”

(1.5.10)POLONIUS: “At such a time I’ll loose my daughter to him;Be you and I behind an arras then.”

(2.2.12)LAERTES: “I am justly kill’d with mine own treachery.” (5.2.12)

Sounds like these guys have got some issues to work out. Let’s break it down and take a look at who’s doing what to whom:

  • Claudius kills the king, Hamlet’s father, takes over the throne and snags his own brother’s wife while he’s at it
  • Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother, betrays her ex-husband the king by jumping into the sack with Claudius immediately after his death
  • Laertes interferes in his sister Ophelia’s love life and demands that she stop trying to become involved romantically with Hamlet
  • Hamlet pretends to be crazy. Sure, he’s just doing so to catch his uncle in a trap, but still – deceitful.
  • Hamlet plots to kill Claudius.
  • Polonius hides behind a curtain to spy on Hamlet. What – were there no closets in this castle?
  • Hamlet (thinking he is Claudius) stabs and kills Polonius (wouldn’t have been so easy if he were in a closet – we’re just saying),
  • Claudius conspires to have Hamlet’s friends usher him to England where he’ll be out of the way for at least a little while.
  • Claudius and Laertes plot to kill Hamlet.
  • Hamlet, upon discovering an incriminating letter ordering his own death, decides to serve Rosencrantz and Guildenstern a dose of their own medicine and has them killed. (That’s some costly medicine.)
  • Claudius unintentionally poisons Gertrude.
  • Laertes kills Hamlet.
  • Hamlet kills Laertes and Claudius.
  • Horatio is caught cheating on the PSAT.

Now that’s some treachery and deceit. If this isn’t a FOX reality show in the making, we don’t know what is.

There are plenty of aspects of Shakespeare’s masterpiece that make Hamlet his most performed and most acclaimed effort, but you just have to give a shout-out to the element of duplicity that runs rampant throughout the text. It’s no wonder that practically everyone ends up lying in a pool of blood and/or poisoned wine by the end of it.

Hopefully the above list will inspire you to go home, tell your mother you love her, hide the cutlery, and stop acting so crazy.

‘Cultural Strength’ As Seen by The West And The East in The Light of Edward Said’s "Orientalism"

Edward Said’s signature work, the theory of “Orientalism”, has been celebrated as a post-colonial propaganda where ‘cultural strength’ is found to be a crucial aspect for relating the West’s ideology about the East. Both the West and the East, in their observation of the fact of ‘cultural strength’, have their own ways of defining and implementing it though sometimes in a selfish and autocratic way like the West and sometimes in a servile and spontaneous way as that of the East. In our process of dissecting as well as supporting the mentioned topic we shall be attempting to define ‘cultural strength’ and its importance from the perspectives of both the West and the East.

Defining ‘cultural strength’ may admit the idea of a nation’s stimulus for establishing its cultural identity through various means and ways like cultural imposition,. In establishing its culture, a nation may assert its spontaneous flourishment without dominating other nations or it may hold the path demeaning or caricaturing other nations to vivid its superiority over them. And the latter happens in case of the Westerners who are always concerned for their authority over the Easterners for their own identity. The cultural study of the West and the East by Said in his “Orientalism” exhibits the multifarious application and observation of ‘cultural strength’. Regarding this Said asserts, “cultural strength is not something we can discuss very easily- and one of the purposes of the present work is to illustrate, analyze, and reflect upon Orientalism as an exercise of cultural strength”.

To the West orientalism is their ‘cultural strength’ that manifests itself through making dominant differences from the mean orient. Said observes, “European culture gained in strength and identity by setting itself off against the orient as a sort of surrogate and even underground self…”. The occident practices its ‘cultural strength’ through its atrocity of defining and giving shape to the orient who can never speak for themselves as the West thinks: “they cannot represent themselves; they must be spoken for”.

The culture of the occident shows its strength through its imposition upon the strangers or the East. They are bothered about injecting their culture into the brain of the orientals and even the orientals are made to think in their way. This is the very strength of their culture, though negative, that they define others on the basis of their culture as Said describes it through his theory of Orientalism: “Orieantalism is better grasped as a set of constraints upon and limitations of thought than it is simply as a positive doctrine.”. this is orientalism that in this way ensures the authoritative practice of ‘cultural strength’ of occident over orient.

The Westerners have a strong interference of their culture when they try to define as well as identify orient being apart from the orient. Their culture of superiority complex and defining things selfishly let them delineate orient with a misrepresentation having exterior idea as Said avows, “Orientalism is premised upon exteriority”. The cultural tendency to generalize a selfish idea about the whole orient from a single awkward instance is strong enough proof of their vehement strength derived from their culture. From a distant as well as safe viewpoint, the West observes oriental cultures, though inappropriately, and concludes them to be mean and bigotrious cultures as their imaginary view of the orientals is: “The oriental is irrational, depraved(fallen), childlike, ‘different’; thus the European is rational, virtuous, mature, and ‘normal’.”

The strength of the culture of the West is its belief that they are the most sound in this world culturally and this may be their false ideology to avoid the fear of losing authority or power. Their culture endows them with the ‘white man’s burden’ which they relieve by schooling, punishing, rectifying, and finally civilizing the orient: “The orient was viewed as if framed by the classroom, the criminal court, the prison, the illustrated manual”. This pervasive as well as mighty invasion of the ‘cultural strength’ of the West upon the East is subtly illustrated in Said’s comment: “Yet what gave oriental’s world its intelligibility and identity was not the result of his own efforts but rather the whole complex series of knowledgeable manipulations by which the Orient was identified by the West.”

This is the purposively superficial study of the East that gave the West the license to draw conclusion about the orient with their own accord. This culture of their cursory and rough study of others through travel books and other similar sources lets them assume the oriental as ‘fierce lion’ where eventually the fierceness is highlighted rather than the lion and thus there is “no longer lions but their fierceness-“. And even Arthur James Balfour, an emissary for the Europeans, arbitrarily though absurdly claims occident’s command over orient as he says, “We know the civilization of Egypt better than we know the civilization of any other country”.

This unjust showdown of ‘cultural strength’ will continue until the orient dare expose its ‘cultural strength’. Such is the expression of Said:

Such an Orient was silent, available to Europe for the realization of the projects that involved but were never directly responsible to the native inhabitants, and unable to resist the projects, images, or mere descriptions devised for it… a relation between Western writing (and its consequences) and Oriental silence the result of and the sign of the West’s great cultural strength, its will to power over the Orient…books about fierce lions will do until lions can talk back.

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries the Orient looks to manifest its ‘cultural strength’ steadily and gradually by the blessing of modern Orientalism or ‘Oriental Renaissance’ that ignited new awareness of the orient among the thinkers, politicians, and the artists all over the world. The newly-discovered as well as modern translation and interpretation of the oriental texts in oriental language like Sanskrit, Zend, and Arabic made possible for the orient to promote and exhibit its cultural strength.

The unprejudiced, fresh and new outlook to the old arbitrary custom gave it the opportunity to flourish itself truly and gradually. The non-Europeans have their right to define as well as erect their identity as orientals apart from the untoward interferences of the Europeans. Their ‘cultural strength’ is being gradually redefined by the Orientals themselves emphatically and given its true shape as the embodiment of the whole Orient.

Book Review: The Professor by Charlotte Bronte

The Professor was Charlotte Bronte’s first book, written in 1845-6 but not published until 1857, two years after her death, and ten years after the publication of her most famous work, Jane Eyre. Although a new review of a well-known classic serves little purpose, it is interesting to put on record one’s views from a modern perspective. From the beginning of The Professor it is clear that the young Charlotte Bronte had an astonishing fluency and breath of vocabulary but she writes with a charming naivety and from a seemingly narrow breath of experience.

The principal character is a young man, William Crimsworth, and one must wonder immediately if the young female writer can create a realistic male mind. The author was obviously more successful with a female heroine in Jane Eyre. Though a heterosexual, William Crimsworth, has a particularly sanitised view of members of the fair sex. How much this is due to the conventions of the period and how much to the author’s inevitable lack of insight is impossible to say.

All the important characters in The Professor are described in detail with regard to physical appearance and demeanour but attention is paid to the interpretation of head shape by the pseudoscience of phrenology, which was popular in the period immediately before the book was written but has since been discredited. Miss Bronte’s tendency to discern nationality from head shape is also hard to accept in the modern world. However, this is not a harsh criticism, as all authors run the risk of their scientific knowledge being superseded in later years.

Some of the characters seem to be of such extreme nature as to be hard to believe. Could anyone be quite so unfeeling and cruel as William’s brother, Edward, or quite so detached, ill-mannered and omniscient as Mr Hunsden? Extreme caricatures can enhance the drama and intrigue, take Sherlock Holmes for instance, but there can be perhaps too many in one novel. Miss Bronte’s female characters, Frances Henri and Zoraide Reuter, are completely believable and can be taken on trust as the creations of a female mind.

William Crimsworth earns his living as an English teacher and although today he would need a TEFL certificate he appears to be well qualified for the job and successful in its execution. William speaks fluent French, and as much of the dialogue is reported in that language, Miss Bronte seems to expect her readers to have at least a sound basic knowledge. Presumably, her sophisticated aristocratic Victorian readers could cope with this amount of French, but many modern readers might find this substantial use of a foreign language annoying. However, it is remarkable how little the English language has changed in almost one hundred and seventy years and The Professor will continue to be read and enjoyed long after this, and most other reviews, are forgotten.