Thursday, January 18, 2007

Something Rotten : Hamlet the Atheist?

I've finally worked my way through Jasper Fforde's "Thursday Next" series to get to the one I've wanted. Something Rotten has Hamlet as a main character. For those not familiar with the plot of these novels they involve a rather odd sort of literary / scifi combo where detectives are charged with "bookjumping" themselves from reality right into the text of a book to prevent people from doing things like kidnapping characters, changing the ending, and so on. It's really quite imaginative stuff. Throughout the series he has always stayed near the edges of Shakespeare - in book one, for instance, he introduces the notion of the Baconians as crazies who come door to door trying to convince people who the real author of Shakespeare's works is :). And a later book (I think it was the second) is entirely centered around someone who claims to have found the text to the infamous lost work, Cardenio. I believe at one point someone is even arrested for the crime of overdramatically portraying Richard III.

But this time Hamlet is an actual character in the play. And he has hopped out of the play and into reality. I've just started the book, but already I like it. One of Hamlet's first actual pieces of dialogue is to explain how he wants to talk to people about what they think of him and his motivations, because he himself is confused. He gives the example that he's supposed to be oh so very religious, but then he comes out with a line like "for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so," which Hamlet points out is a pretty atheistic thing to say.

Man's got a point. I'm anxious to see how this one goes. I wish I'd found it on audiobook, I'd get through it much faster, but I'll take what I can get.


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Anonymous said...

So if there is "noting good or bad" what not just do the worse thing imaginably possible? Obviously someone is delusional here. And of course reality keeps people out of trouble.
Atheist are the biggest schemers in the world. Why do you think Karl Marx said they were perfect extractors for the cause of communism.

JM said...

Anonymous said..."So if there is "noting good or bad" what [why] not just do the worse thing imaginably possible?"
One, because that's not at all what it advocates or refers to. Two,this is pure thought, About the process of pure thought. Three, it's not a simple matter of good or bad, right or wrong. It goes beyond that concept. This is pure non-judgmental philosophical thought, far ahead of its time.

What it's really about is Perception and Reality: The only way we're able to view things (e g. black/white, up/down, in/out, over/under,darkness/light..."good/bad".

Our limited perception is able to take in and process a mere scintilla of all that exists. There are lots of things we can't measure or process at all. Therefore, the only way we're able to view things--and, therefore evaluate and "judge" things--is pretty elementary and simplistic, compared to all there is to know. Black, white, up, down; these are only labels WE give to what it is that WE perceive, HOW we perceive it. For instance, you mention "reality"--what is reality-truly? WE have no idea. This is the axis upon which the observation of the statement turns.

The statement is placed in the mouth of a genius, Hamlet, by another genius, Shakespeare.

Just one more of the many reasons why his work is so important.