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Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Sopranos and Hamlet

"And the rest is silence" - the famous, many-sided ambiguous last line of Hamlet.

The "rest" could mean respite, sleep, or remainder. The "silence" could mean quiet or death. Is the remainder - what comes after the story of Hamlet - just a time-out, or a death of everything we have seen? When Horatio says this about the bodies he finds on the floor - which we presumably know are dead - what is he telling us about what happens after?

As I was reading Dick Cavett's excellent piece written before The Sopranos' finale, I realized that, in addition to The Lady, or the Tiger echoes, The Sopranos also partakes of Hamlet.

I'm sure I'm not the first person to make that connection - just as I was not the only person to call forth The Lady, or The Tiger - but I thought it useful to record it here.

"And the rest is silence" has been praised by I. A. Richards and other literary critics as the ideal ambiguous ending. Like The Lady or the Tiger, it is a triumph of written language.

In the case of The Sopranos, the "rest" was not just silent, but sudden black. And it was shocking - in a way that the last words of Hamlet were not - because it spoke in image rather than words, and defied our expectations of how a television show, let alone a series, should end.

I'm more sure - less ambiguous - than ever that The Sopranos as a whole and its ending in particular will take its place next to Shakespeare.

listen to free podcast of this review, and reviews of all the other final nine episodes
Further reading:

The Sopranos and the Closure-Junkies

The Sopranos, or the Tiger?

The Sopranos Ninth of Nine: The Anti-Ending Ending

The Sopranos as a Nuts-and-Bolts Triumph of Non-Network TV my 2002 article

I. A. Richards' Practical Criticism

also -
Sopranos Symposium at Fordham University, May 22-25, 2008: Final Program

The Sopranos Podcasts - listen to reviews and analyses to your heart's content

And ...  A Conversation with Dominic Chianese  ... complete video and transcript

And ... reviews of the first eight episodes this final season: The SopranosFirst of NineSecond of NineThird of Nine,Fourth of NineFifth of NineSixth of NineSeventh of NineEighth of Nine

The Plot to Save Socrates

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"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book

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dawn said...

Hey Paul, just stopping by to wish you a great weekend and may your castle dreams come true. My sons championship game is this weekend and there playing at Keyspan, it should be pretty cool. It was supposed to be Shea but they backed out so wish us luck. Talk to ya Monday

Paul Levinson said...

Hey, Dawn, thanks - you have a great weekend, too, and I'll be rooting for your son, and your dreams, too!