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Deconstruction, appealing to the insights of Julia Kristeva, Roland Barthes and Michael Riffaterre, has sought to show that all boundaries are at best provisional, at worst false and deluding. The act of reading ‘plunges us into a network of textual relations’, Graham Allen expounds: ‘Meaning becomes something which exists between a text and all the other texts to which it refers and relates, moving out from the independent text into a network of textual relations’. The study of an author’s ‘sources’ may be rejuvenated by ideas of ‘intertextuality’. Stephen J. Lynch avers: ‘The old notion of particular and distinct sources has given way to new notions of boundless and heterogeneous intertextuality’. Indeed, ‘the sources themselves can be examined as products of intertextuality – endlessly complex, multilayered fields of interpretation that Shakespeare refashioned and reconfigured into alternative fields of interpretation’.
Kathryn Schwarz makes a valuable historical study of ideas and images of the Amazon in early modern representation. However, she appeals also to the Derridean principle of the supplement:
The multiplication of statements of desire [in A Midsummer Night’s Dream] opens those statements to interpretation: if the rhetoric of female homoeroticism sounds just like that of heteroeroticism, language, like masculinity, becomes portable, flexible in the ways that it defines and refers. A transition into heteroeroticism implies a possible transition out.
We defy augury: there is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come - the readiness is all. Since no man owes of aught he leaves, what is't to leave betimes? Let be.
(Hamlet, v, ii, 210-16)
[God is] a Governor and Preserver, and that, not by producing a kind of general motion in the machine of the globe as well as in each of its parts, but by a special Providence sustaining, cherishing, superintending, all the things which he has made, to the very minutest, even to a sparrow.
(Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion)
Fate guides us, and it was settled at the first hour of birth what length of time remains for each. Cause is linked with cause, and all public and private issues are directed by a long sequence of events. Therefore everything should be endured with fortitude, since things do not, as we suppose, simply happen - they all come.
(Seneca, 'De Providentia')
The first passage quoted, where Hamlet declares that 'there is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow', is of key importance in the longstanding critical debate about Hamlet and Christianity. The way we relate it to the attitudes represented in the quotations from Calvin and Seneca bears crucially upon our choice between three rival interpretations of the play.
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