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Home :: Archive :: 1992 :: December ::
Further Comments on *Hamlet*
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 392. Friday, 18 December 1992.
(1)     From:   Jeff Taylor <GR4302@SIUCVMB>
        Date:   Thursday, 17 December 1992, 17:03:05 CST
        Subj:   The Quotes from Goldman on *Hamlet*
(2)     From:   William Proctor Williams <TB0WPW1@NIU.bitnet>
        Date:   Thursday, 17 Dec 92 17:59 CST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 3.0390  Assorted Comments on *Hamlet*
(3)     From:   Tom Loughlin <LOUGHLIN@FREDONIA.BITNET>
        Date:   Thursday, 17 Dec 1992 11:34 pm EST (Fri, 18 Dec 92 04:34:51 UT)
        Subj:   Venom Refined
(4)     From:   Mike Lomonico <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
        Date:   Thursday, 17 Dec 92 18:45
        Subj:   Re: SHK 3.0388  Rs: Teaching Shakespeare
From:           Jeff Taylor <GR4302@SIUCVMB>
Date:           Thursday, 17 December 1992, 17:03:05 CST
Subject:        The Quotes from Goldman on *Hamlet*
What strikes me most about the quotes from the Goldman article is the
sense of the constructed self and the suspiciousness of action.  Action
isn't suspicious because someone >might< be merely playing or even
deceiving, existence itself is suspect because all human knowledge is
a mediated aproximation.  Direct knowing is only possible for divine beings.
Some might say that what I'm offering here is a Medieval epistemology, but
I believe it fits the Renaissance stage as well, especially *Hamlet*.
Hamlet's uncertainty and Ophelia's submissiveness are generated by the
corruption of cultural meanings by the older generation and directly
represent the extreme importance of >social< meanings supported by
healthy social constructs in a world where little is certain, where
their is no >real< (or ideal) realm anchoring metaphysics.  Early English
drama has a lot of nominalism at its roots.  It's fruit betrays nominalist
sensibilities (IMHO) and iconographic aesthetics.
Jeff Taylor    GR4302@SIUCVMB.BITNET
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
From:           William Proctor Williams <TB0WPW1@NIU.bitnet>
Date:           Thursday, 17 Dec 92 17:59 CST
Subject: 3.0390  Assorted Comments on *Hamlet*
Comment:        Re: SHK 3.0390  Assorted Comments on *Hamlet*
No one, I think, has yet talked about the way Zeff. brokeup/
re-arranged the first two scenes of Act I.  I thought that was quite
amazing and would like to see someone try something like it on stage.
It is certainly easier to do on film than on stage, and there are some
other problems, but I still think it was an excellent interpretation of
of the text.        William Proctor Williams       TB0WPW1@NIU
From:           Tom Loughlin <LOUGHLIN@FREDONIA.BITNET>
Date:           Thursday, 17 Dec 1992 11:34 pm EST (Fri, 18 Dec 92 04:34:51 UT)
Subject:        Venom Refined
All the comments received were very insightful - I enjoyed absorbing them.
Some responses:
   For the record, I must point out that I am not unequivocally opposed to
filmed versions of Shakespeare.  I, too, first cut my teeth watching Olivier's
Hamlet (and I am embarrassed to admit now all the time I spent trying to imi-
tate that languid look of the melancholy Dane - they all want to play Hamlet|).
Nor am I opposed to film actors as a collective group, despite the fact that
I think their art form is far simpler and easier.  What I am precisely against
is the marketing and selling of Shakespeare in a form that looks impressive
but is clearly not designed to serve the text and the playwright; beyond that,
I am against seeing that rewarded.  The casting itself betrays Zeferrelli's
intentions - he no more believed that he would start a Shakespearean renais-
sance in this country by casting Mel Gibson than he believes the sun would
rise in the west.  He just knew he would make money doing it and draw people
to pay to see his film.  End of story.
   As to Jon Enriquez's point that Mel has done more good than harm, I think
you have to define those terms a bit more closely.  For example, people who
decided to have young people read edited versions of Shakespeare's works
around the turn of the century thought they were doing more good than harm.
I believe it was Charles Macready (correct me if I'm wrong, please) who
changed the ending of *Lear* to a happy one, where Cordelia remains alive,
Lear regains his throne, and all's right with the world.  This was done, I
have no doubt, with the idea that more good than harm would come because
more people would accept the rest of the play (more accessible?).  Unless you
can demonstrate clearly that more people are reading Shakespeare and seeing
Shakespeare as a direct result of the Gibson interpretation, I think that
idea remains a warm-and-fuzzy which we would like to believe but isn't
really happening.  I'm willing to bet the vast majority of the people who
saw that Hamlet had a one-shot experience.
   A deeper reality lies in all this, and that's in the concept of how media
of the 20th century is re-shaping our cultural thoughts and habits.  To take
up Gus Sponberg's point about the state of theatre as a whole, you first have to
look at the nature of the medium of the theatre vrs. electronic media and
see how patterns of thought are changed.  First off, in western civilization
as a whole the very concept of privitization has captured the culture.
People simply no longer think in terms of getting their art or their entertain-
ment by means of *leaving their house and congregating with other people.*
They think, rather, in terms of having their art and entertainment delivered
*right to their house* via electronic media.  This explains the popularity of
"home theatres", renting movies, public television, and the A&E channel. This
very discussion list is yet another example of continuing privitization -
normally, most of us would meet each other through travel and conferences;
now, we write e-mail and conference forever.  As a direct consequence of this
phenomenon in the culture, theatre is losing ground more and more simply
because of its primary demand that one get out of the house and go someplace
else in communion with others to get art/entertainment.  As the audience
dwindles, costs rise because there simply isn't enough audience to cover the
costs and spread it about.  I do not for a minute believe that theatre people
in America lack a "missionary" spirit - I simply think we are preaching a
religion which is totally foreign and to which nobody seriously wants to
listen.  If it continues, I think theatre has no more of a chance to survive
the sheer onslaught than someone on horseback has a chance of getting on the
Long Island Expressway.  A very fundamental change is taking place unlike
anything the medium of theatre has ever had to face.  In this country at least,
theatre is not a cultural habit.
   Since theatregoing itself is not a cultural habit, it is no wonder that
young people are not introduced to Shakespeare through his proper medium -
the theatre.  Most schools in this country are simply unequipped to handle
Shakespeare that way; consequently, they go about it in the dullest way
possible - through reading, translating and discussing the text.  Obviously
they become ecstatic when someone, somewhere produces a Shakespearean movie,
because, well, any port in a storm.  But I still contend that film is, at its
most fundamental level, the wrong medium.  It removes you that one extra step
away from the thing itself.  An analogy - a farmer sitting in his air-condi-
tioned tractor 'way up high off the ground throwing fertilizer and chemicals
on the land and ripping away the topsoil in the process.  Does the land yield
more?  Yes.  Is food more accessible?  Yes.  Does the farmer have it easier?
Probably.  But what you cannot deny is that the land is slowly being poisoned,
the topsoil is slowly blowing away, and a certain ineffible but nevertheless
real connection to the process of growing food is lost.  The "medium" of the
plains of Nebraska or the deserts of California were not meant to grow the
food they do without artificial introduction of water.  A short-run good, but
slowly eroding long-term harm.
   I can't - and most likely won't - stand in the way of progress.  I don't
doubt that many very good film versions of Shakespeare will be made,
and that eventually film will become the primary medium by which most
Americans will become exposed to the Bard.  It's inevitable, and the rewarding
of Mel Gibson is the harbinger of the future.  I just think they'll be missing
something dynamic, something human, and something of the humanity which is
the essence of the Shakespearean canon.  Last night I did *King Lear* with
16 students in a black box devoid of chairs; no special lighting effects,
actors dressed in black with small costume pieces, all sounds created by
the actors w/out electronic aids - just us and the words.  It cost nothing,
we performed for free.  I wouldn't trade that experience for a thousand
      Tom Loughlin                *   BITNET
      Dept. of Theatre Arts       *    loughlin@fredonia
      SUNY College at Fredonia    *   INTERNET
      Fredonia NY 14063           *    
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      Voice: 716.673.3597         *
      Fax:   716.673.3397         *   "Hail, hail Freedonia, land of
                                  *    the brave and free."  G. Marx
From:           Mike Lomonico <
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Date:           Thursday, 17 Dec 92 18:45
Subject: 3.0388  Rs: Teaching Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 3.0388  Rs: Teaching Shakespeare
Jon Enriquez says that the reason we need Mel Gibson's Hamlet is that
American students aren't equipped to "translate" Shakespeare and only
when they se it performed will they get it.  He quotes Olivier saying
that Shakespeare can't be read, but must be acted or heard.
        As part of the Folger Library's education department, I can
attest that American students are able to understand Shakespeare when
THEY perform Shakespeare.  Seeing a play or film (and I have no problem
with Mel Gibson or Kenneth Branagh, who has finished filming Much Ado) is
never a substitute for kids getting the words in their mouths.  They
discover the meaning when they work on performing a scene and have to do
close reading on their feet.
        My students remember some of what they have seen on a stage or on
the screen but never forget the experience of performing a scene in their
high school English class.
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 > ----------------- 40.41N, 73.32W
Mike Lomonico
K-12 Teacher at Farmingdale High School,  Farmingdale   Farmingdale, NY

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