In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

ERIC P. LEVY 'Nor th'exterior nor the inward man': The Problematics of Personal Identity in Hamlet Hamlet begins with an urgent questioning of identity: 'Who's there?' A similar query is soon directed at the Ghost: 'What art thou that usurp'stthis time of night' (1.1.49). The interrogation is complicated by the very nature of the problem. For identity in this context is not simple but polar. That is, it comprises a totality whose two aspects are public and private or what Claudius tenns 'th'exterior' and 'the inward man' (2.2.4).1 Therefore, if the question of identity is to be answered at the most fundamental level, the proper relation of the inward and outward dimensions of identity must first be determined. As we shall find, Hamlet profoundly critiques prevailing assumptions regarding this relation, and dramatizes an alternate conceptualization of human identity: 'what is a man' (4.4.33). According to the conventional schema, inward and outward are construed as reciprocal modes of the same totality. In Hegel's succinct enunciation of this traditional schema, inward pertains to 'essence' or 'identity with self'; outward pertains to 'appearance' or /what is manifested .' In ideal configuration, '[t]he appearance shows nothing that is not the essence, and in the essence there is nothing but what is manifested' (179). A medieval example of such agreement occurs in Abbot Suger's (d. 1151) celebrated description of the clergy assembled for the consecration of the Parisian basilica of St Denis: 'their outward apparel and attire indicated the inward intention of their mind and body' (113).2 This schema of selfhood presupposes the primacy of inwardness, whereby inwardness is construed as the original or exemplar of which the exterior is at best a faithful copy and at worst a deliberate dissimulation. As such, inwardness has more reality than outwardness. Implicit in this schema is the assumption that inwardness has privileged and unerring access to its own content. That is, just as outward, as a public manifestation, is by definition perceptible by others, so inward, as a private experience, is by definition uniquely perceptible by the subject to which it 1 Cf States: There are two dimensions in which a character behaves and exists before us: as body, as acter, do-er and speaker of things, as entity in physical spacei and as "spirit/' as judgment, sensibility, thought, and imagination' (187). 2 For background, see chapter 3, 'Suger of St.-Denis,' in Von Simpson, 61-90. UNIVERSITY Of TORONTO QUARTERLY, VOLUME 68, NUMBER 3, SUMMER 1999 712 ERIC P. LEVY pertains. Gilbert Ryle elaborates: 'Only I can take direct cognizance of the status and processes of my own mind' (11). In other words, private confirmation of inward content is deemed analogous to public confirmation of outward content. The essential differences between them concern location and access. Public objects are situated in the world or the body, and can be perceived by any appropriately placed observer; private objects are situated 'in the mind' (Hamlet 3.1.57), and can be perceived only by that mind. Indeed, Hamletinvokes this assumption when distinguishingbetween outward display and inward feeling: 'But r have that within which passes show, I These but the trappings and the suits of woe' (1.2.85-86). Here, the private object (in this case, his own grief) is assigned a certainty of existence equivalent to that enjoyed by public objects. In fact, Katherine Eisaman Maus even claims that, in this example, the private object enjoys superior certainty: 'For Hamlet the internal experience of his own grief "passes show" in two senses. It is beyond scrutiny, concealed where other people cannot perceive it. And it surpasses the visible - its validity is unimpeachable ' (4; original emphasis).3 THE CRITIQUE OF INWARDNESS But Maus's claim regarding the primacy of inwardness is undermined in the world of the play, where the private object (that of which inwardness is aware) is notoriously problematic and in need of outward verification. Relevant examples include Polonius forgetting his own train of thought ('what was I about I to say?' [2.1.50-51]), and Ophelia uncertain of her own awareness, both before her madness ('I do not know, my...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 711-727
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.