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Home :: Archive :: 1992 :: November ::
More Rs: Doubling Claudius and Ghost
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 298.  Monday, 2 November 1992.
 
(1)	From: 	Rick Jones <
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	Date: 	Monday, Nov. 2, 1992, 16:12:00 CST
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 3.0291 R: Doubling Claudius and Ghost
 
(2)	From: 	Ron Macdonald <
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	Date: 	Monday, Nov. 2, 1992, 17:13:34 -0400 (EDT)
	Subj: 	Claudius/Ghost
 
(1)---------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
From: 		Rick Jones <
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Date: 		Monday, Nov. 2, 1992, 16:12:00 CST
Subject: 3.0291 R: Doubling Claudius and Ghost
Comment: 	RE: SHK 3.0291 R: Doubling Claudius and Ghost
 
It strikes me that behind the question of whether Shakespeare's
company (or anyone else's) doubled the ghost with Claudius lies
another question.  Most of us agree that some doubling took place
somewhere, and Tom Loughlin (among others) has articulated the
rationale very effectively.  There are certainly a number of reasons
why this particular doubling might be quite attractive.  Of course, it
runs counter to the legend that Shakespeare himself played the ghost,
to move out to the front of the house as ur-director very early on in
the play -- but this is hardly a convincing reason to reject the
notion.
 
Tom suggests, however, that having the same actor play the two roles
would highlight the family resemblance (certainly true!), and that
this would make the doubling more likely.  Of course, one could also
argue that making Hamlet's father similar in any way to Claudius would
undermine the distinctions between them, so the double would be less
likely to happen.
 
This brings me to my real question: assuming doubling happened, how
much did the company attempt to disguise the fact, highlight the fact,
or whatever?  Most of my own directing experience has been in
educational theatre, where getting lots of folks on stage is a goal
(because we're trying to educate them and don't have to pay them!):
exactly the opposite of a bottom-line oriented professional company.
But I *have* been doubled as an actor a few times: sometimes highlighting
the fact, sometimes doing everything possible to disguise it, sometimes
not really caring one way or the other.  Any evidence (or conjecture)
about which one(s) of these options Shakespeare employed?  Tied up in
this question, of course, is the notion of audience expectation -- did
the audience of 1600 care, or were the signs we now endow with significance
more or less invisible to the Elizabethan/Jacobean crowd?
 
Rick Jones
Cornell College
 
(2)--------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
From: 		Ron Macdonald <
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Date: 		Monday, Nov. 2, 1992, 17:13:34 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 	Claudius/Ghost
 
"Though I have inquired, I could never meet with any further account of
[Shakespeare as an actor] than that the top of his performance was the
Ghost in his own *Hamlet*."  So Nicholas Rowe, on uncertain though not
necessarily dubious authority, in the Preface to his 1709 edition of
Shakespeare.  If we accept Rowe's information, can we further accept
that Shakespeare played Claudius as well?  Seems unlikely to me, though
doubling up the Ghost and Claudius has some undoubtedly fascinating
consequences.  Not the least of these must be the ironic undermining of
Hamlet's claim that comparing his father to his uncle is like comparing
Hyperion to a satyr.  And what becomes of the two portraits Hamlet offers
for his mother's contemplation: can we really believe, as Hamlet seems
to do, that the one is like Jove, Mars, Mercury, the other a mildewed
ear?  With the doubling of the Ghost and Claudius, these portraits
must become more like the indistinguishable Rosencrantz and Guildenstern,
indifferent children of the earth indeed.
 
                               --Ron Macdonald <
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