1992

Hamlet and "Unpacking the Heart"

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 95. Sunday, 3 May 1992.
 
 
Date: 		Wed, 22 Apr 1992 10:49:00 -0400
From: 		<This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Subject: 3.0092  Qs: Hamlet's "Whore"; Bevington on Disk?
Comment: 	Re: SHK 3.0092  Qs: Hamlet's "Whore"; Bevington on Disk?
 
     The notion that whores use abusive language more readily than others
less trammeled with social regulations, propriety, &c., is conventional
enough.  Part of this comes with the outlaw territory: the proverbial
expression is "As bold, or brazen-faced, as a whore" [Cotgrave's transla-
tion of "Effronte' en putain", 1611].
 
      However, I think it unlikely that "unpacking" the heart is a
positive concept -- whores are not more honest because less bound by
social convention.  More to the point, they are *less* honest, their
sweet words adopted for convenience of trade, their curses expressive
of an indiscriminate hostility in evidence whenever professional considera-
tions do not require sweetness.  Thus, unpacking the heart reveals not
true feelings but the accumulated baggage of vicious anger and contempt.
The resulting language is indiscriminate abuse -- and thus the whore's
language is conventional and ultimately empty.
 
     In comparing his ranting to a whore's, Hamlet is chiding himself for
indulging in the temporary emotional satisfaction of using strong language,
as if it had any effect on reality.
 
      There's a parallel here with any number of rather misogynistic
conventions about certain kinds of women's use of language (fishwives, &c.),
but I really don't think we need to get into that...
 
Kevin Berland
Penn State

Shakespeare on Film

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 94. Sunday, 3 May 1992.
 
 
Date: 		Wed, 22 Apr 1992 10:38:01 -0400
From: 		"Tad Davis" <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Subject: 3.0093  Rs: Branagh; Computers & SAA; Olivier
Comment: 	RE: SHK 3.0093  Rs: Branagh; Computers & SAA; Olivier
 
Two thoughts about Shakespeare on film:
 
(1) Branagh's HENRY V is a masterpiece. I've seen it eight times; finally
broke down and bought my own copy. I love it as much now as I did the first
time I watched it. The Agincourt sequence is one of the most brilliant
battle scenes I've ever seen; more than anything else, it makes it hard not
to agree with Orson Welles's assessment of the same scene in Olivier's
film: a bunch of men in fancy armor riding horses around a golf course. But
what makes the film so endlessly watchable is Branagh himself, and his
willingness to take emotional risks -- to show his sense of rage and
betrayal, his sense of loss and yearning, his naked fear and naked elation;
to suit the action to the word rather than to some misguided sense of muted
Bardic reverence.
 
I'm a pacifist, but every time I watch the film, and Branagh gets to the
St. Crispin's  Day speech, I'm ready to take up my sword and march to the
death for my king. (By some legerdemain, Branagh manages to arouse those
feelings in me and still find room to accentuate the horror of the battle
and the shaky political and moral ground on which Henry treads.)
 
(2) I agree with Steve Urkowitz's opinions about both the HAMLET movies he
described. I'd also like to add the Tony Richardson HAMLET to the pot:
another one that I finally persuaded myself to buy. (Unfortunately the
videotape version of the film is somewhat mauled: it's full of pops and
splices, the copyright date is wrong, and the box shows a scene from
Polanski's MACBETH. But I really did buy it from a reputable source!)
Richardson's direction is a little too close to the face to suit me; I'm
much more comfortable with Zefferelli's expansive treatment. But Nicol
Williamson remains one of my favorite Hamlets of all time -- the only one
who actually convinced me that he was looking at the ghost of his father
(which ghost Richardson chose not to show); and the only one who leaves me
with a tremendous sense of loss at the end. And while Gordon Jackson's
performance as Horatio suffered at the hands of the reviewers, I have
always gotten great pleasure from it. The film reflects some errors in
judgement -- odd rearrangements of some of the scenes, and a bit too heavy
on the sexual energy between Laertes and Ophelia -- but I still recommend
it.
 
Tad Davis
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