Hawk Isnít a Handsaw, or Misreading The Sopranos in the Garden State
Marge Roukema (R-New Jersey) doesnít like The Sopranos, so
much in fact that she wants congressional action on the matter.
has a drafted a resolution against films and series such as
The Sopranos she considers misrepresentative and denigrative
of Italian-Americans. Constituents have even stopped her in the
grocery store to express their displeasure with the infernal works.
has taken some fine positions in the past, but she and her constituents
are way off on this issue.
dub it The Hamlet Fallacy. An obstinate myth about Shakespeareís
princely protagonist is that heís loco the Demented Dane, the Loquacious
Loon. After all, he introspects incessantly and even soliloquizes.
This guy must be a nut.
I attended a high school where 1) We read Hamlet and 2) We
were taught that textual support, not sentiment, determines an interpretationís
validity. (It isnít so much a New Critical approach as a commonsensical
one: assertions about a text should be grounded in the text, not
"This is how I feel.")
imparts Hamletís mental complexion in Act 2, Scene 2. Speaking to
Guildenstern who he ingeniously has dispatched along with Rosencrantz Hamlet
claims that "my uncle-father and aunt-mother are deceived,"
followed by this exchange:
In what, my lord?
I am but mad north-north-west. When the wind is southerly I know
a hawk from a handsaw.
lucidity shines in this crystalline affirmation; his irrationality
is a strategic deception to avenge his slain father. (With typical
Shakespearean richness, Hamletís contrived eccentricity emblematizes
the playís themes of concealment and fraudulence. However, Hamletís
circumlocutory somersaults donít make him some quietistic rhetorician.
Heís very much a man of action, for instance when he kills Polonius
and proclaims, "Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell!")
Thus, imputing madness to Hamlet whatever madness is, anyway
indicates a shallow reading of the text.
to assert that The Sopranos stereotypes Americans of Italian
descent overlooks its diverse dramatis personae. A major character
in the series is Dr. Jennifer Melfi, Anthony Sopranoís temperate
psychiatrist. Her ex-husband, Richard, participates in Italian anti-defamation
activities and critiques the relativistic rubbish in Melfiís vocation.
(The Melfis arenít the only articulate Italians in the series.)
thereís no dearth of gun-toting goombahs, which isnít surprising
since The Sopranos centers around the New Jersey Mafia. The
Italian-American community in the series isnít homogeneous, however.
Rep. Roukema examined The Sopranos beyond a cosmetic extent,
she would have discovered a variegated fictive world with a deeply
ethical dimension. In any case, the distinguished gentlewoman from
New Jersey would better fulfill her oath of office by drafting legislation
to abolish the hideous War on Drugs, the thuggish Selective Service
System, the craven War Powers Act that is, institutions subversive
of republicanism and American liberty, as opposed to innocuous artistry.
Kantor [send him mail]
and lives in Boynton Beach, Florida