Revise Hamlet Quotes
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The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” whatever else it might be, seems to be an investigation into the possibility of durational being, which Bergson had described as “the form which the succession of our conscious states assumes when our ego lets itself live, when it refrains from separating its present state from its former states.” The succession that Bergson opposes to vitality is the realm in which the morbid Prufrock tries to imagine speaking Andrew Marvell’s line, “Now let us sport us while we may,” but then falls back on his indecision, his failure to pose his overwhelming question, and his inability to sing his love. Prufrock’s problems are shown to be symptoms of the form of time in which desire for youth runs defiantly against the remorselessness of aging, snapping the present in two. The “silent seas” that might bring relief from currents and countercurrents of time turn out to be like the troubling one that figures in Hamlet’s overwhelming question: “To be or not to be: that is the question: / Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer / The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, / Or to take arms against a sea of troubles / And by opposing end them.” Prufrock understands but is unable to admit the ontological force of the question: the “whips and scorns of time” that threaten to reverse all his “decisions and revisions” make him wish to be merely “a pair of ragged claws / Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.” That synecdochic figure is as much an anachronous peripeteia for Prufrock as it is for Polonius when Hamlet taunts him: “you yourself, sir, should be as old as I am if, like a crab, you could go backwards.
Charles M. Tung