Monday, November 15, 2010

Hamlet Reference?

As I was reading Candide over the weekend, I noticed that one of the old woman's quotations sounded extremely familiar. At the end of her story, the old woman explains how her life's suffering has been so painful that she has at times contemplated suicide. Like Hamlet in his "To Be or Not to Be" Speech, she explains that the decision not to commit suicide is a great act of cowardice. She asserts, "I wanted to kill myself, but always I loved life more. This ridiculous weakness is perhaps one of our worst instincts; is anything more stupid than choosing to carry a burden that really one wants to cast on the ground?" I thought it was such a coincidence to come across this line so soon after reading Hamlet. Do you all think Voltaire intentionally alludes to Shakespeare's "To Be or Not to Be" Speech?


chrissy said...

Perhaps Voltaire was influenced by Shakespeare's Hamlet. Although we discussed it in class today, I, too, was reminded of Hamlet when I read over the Old Woman's story.
We talked in class today about how sometimes it is hard to tell if Voltaire is satirizing on something or if he truly believes it. So far from what we've read, it seems to me like Voltaire does think life has many different trials and tribulations but I don't think he endorses suicide.

Katherine said...

I think this is a clear concetion between the two stories. I agree with Chrissy that Voltaire could have possibly been influenced by Shakespeare's Hamlet. Also maybe Voltaire had similar thoughts on suicide? Im not sure but it seems that if a writer makes this bold of a statement then there must be some sort of special meaning to it. I think its very interesting that suicide is a main theme in things we have read thus far- just to name a few, Candide, Hamlet, and Dante's Inferno all involved suicide.

Julia Dean said...

I agree with you all and think that Voltaire was most likely influenced by Shakespeare, whether he would have admitted to it or not. I found online that Voltaire stated that "'Hamlet' is a coarse and barbarous play . . . One might think the work is a product of a drunken savages imagination." I think this is quite ironic since Voltaire seems to repeat the "To be or not to be" speech when the Old Woman speaks about the difficulties of life. Do you all think included this speech to satirize Shakespeare? Like Chrissy said, it can be hard to tell whether Voltiare is satirizing on something or if he truly believes it.

Samantha said...

Julia, that statement of Voltaire’s you found reminds me of something else we discussed in class yesterday. Just as Voltaire denounces Hamlet in his other writing and then alludes to the play in Candide, likewise does he condemn Jewish people and then write about them in the novel. I believe Voltaire satirizes Hamlet, but genuinely expresses his Anti-Semitism.

Blaine said...

Julia, this statement reminds me of other similarties between Hamlet and Candide. Although Votaire arguably empowers both the Old Woman and Cunegonde, in both stories, women are portrayed as property. In Hamlet, Polonius depicts his daughter Ophelia as his own property and that she must obey his command because he basically own her. In Candide, Voltaire satirically demonstrates that soilders rape enemies' soilders wives, not soley for pleasure, but because it transforms the enemy soilders' prized possession into "damaged goods".

Chloe said...

I think it's coincidence that the old woman's story is similar to Hamlet's "to be or not to be" speech. I think suicide is and was a common motif that developed throughout literary ages. I agree with Chrissy--I don't think Voltaire had any intention to endorse suicide; he was simply demonstrating the importance and question of taking one's life.

efabio said...

I would doubt that this is a deliberate allusion, as the idea behind Hamlet's "To Be or Not To Be" speech was not original to Shakespeare. I think that the old woman's remarks shows that contemplating our own limited existence is a theme in dramas. Suicide has been agonized over for at least hundreds of years and surely will be for many more, so it is not so great a coincidence for it to show up in these two works.

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