1993

Review: NTD *Hamlet* Adaptation

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 94.  Friday, 19 February 1993.
 
From:           Tony Naturale <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 17 Feb 1993 08:52:51 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Review: NTD *Hamlet* Adaptation
 
To Be or Not To Be Ophelia  (by Tony Naturale)
 
 
   In its 26th season, National Theatre of the Deaf (NTD) presented
a unique adaptation of Shakespeare's Hamlet, allowing a fuller
expression of actions and  passions in ASL.  The play was held in
the Panara Theatre at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf
(Rochester, NY).
 
   In the original Shakespeare's version of Hamlet, Ophelia had
been viewed as an overly sensitive, poetically oriented tragic
figure; cursed by crazed Hamlet, her lover, Ophelia sought to make
things right when things only became worse.  Grieving over the
death of her father, Ophelia lost her mind; in her "lunatic" state,
Ophelia eventually drowned in a river.  Later, Hamlet became
despondent after receiving the news of her death.  As the play
turned darker, Hamlet came face to face with a crisis in his life,
his existential crisis;  "To be or not to be, that is the
question," Hamlet wondered. Hamlet (and Shakespeare) left many of
us wondering about his true answer.  Hamlet remained as one of the
most challenging, puzzling, and yet rewarding plays.
 
   In this adaptation of Hamlet, the playwright Jeff Wanshel worked
closely with NTD to develop further the role of Ophelia. Ostensibly
to present a woman's point of view in this "rotten kingdom" of
Denmark, the play became an experiment with mixed results.  To keep
the action rolling,  plot was  changed,  scenes borrowed from other
Shakespeare's plays were included, and conflicts between Ophelia
and Hamlet were highlightened further.
 
   Wanshel also rearranged the series of death scenes, ending with
Ophelia's.  In this way, it was Ophelia who witnessed all the
traumatic deaths of Polonius, the Queen, the King, Laertes and
finally, Hamlet.  In her own death scene, we all grieved deeply
with her at all the tragic events; yet we were also introduced to
the  poetic world of Ophelia, in which flowers talked with and
consoled her, the river cradled her to nurturing comfort, and
Nature welcomed Ophelia in a womblike embrace. (Her death scene was
definitely eco-feminist, in this reviewer's opinion.)
 
 
   In the title role of Ophelia, Camille Jeter was at once delicate
and yet brutally frank; she appeared more cerebral, more reserved,
and more in control.   Unlike Hamlet who had already "gone beserk",
Ophelia went through a major change.  Earlier, Ophelia had
"juggled" the dual but conflicting roles: a submissive daughter for
her father while becoming a passionate lover for Hamlet.  This
constant juggling, however, came  crashing down when Hamlet killed
Polonius, her father.  Here, Jeter delivered a heart-wrenching
judgement against the male sex;  Jeter's anger flared through in
her outrage against men who have dominated and ruined her life; in
her, the tension crackled and flashed between her love for Hamlet
and the duty for her father.  Here,  Jeter presented a feminist
view of her existence in this patriarchical society ruled by
deceits and naked "will to power";  Jeter shared with us her
anguish, her struggle to find a meaning in life, in which pain
dominated pleasure, insanity overruled reason, and lies were easier
to face than truth.
 
   At the funeral procession to the graveyard for Polonius, Ophelia
expressed, in a painfully clear way, the absurdity of her
existence.  In this funereal context, Jeter asked for a reason to
live. "To be or not to be? that is the question."  In her hands,
Camille Jeter performed one of the most compelling interpretations
of this speech.
 
   The role of Hamlet, while stripped of the speech, was still
powerful.  Played by a veteran actor, Troy Kotsur,  Hamlet was very
passionate and determined to get what he wanted.  As a crazed
Hamlet, Kotsur displayed a wide range of emotions through his
animate facial expressions, body postures, physical movements and
of course, his visceral delivery of sign language.  This Hamlet was
very much alive, wrestling with dark emotions and dangerous ideas.
As the ideas grew more unreconcilable,  Hamlet struggled to
confront his mother, the Queen.  Hamlet could not for long remain
silent with the foreboding knowledge of the Queen's involvement in
the conspiracy to kill his father, the King of Denmark.
 
   The rest of the cast did well in maintaining the Shakespearean
pageantry in the background. The Player-King (Joseph Sarpy)
demonstrated his skills as a poet-creator.  He helped express the
morbid thoughts of Hamlet in a unique theatrical technique of
"thought-balooning"; while Hamlet sat, brooding in soliptic manner,
the Player-King revealed the thoughts through signs.  There was an
aiery movements of thoughts, floating above Hamlet. This was a
powerfully creative use of supporting cast, to engage in the magic
recreation of thoughts through ASL.
 
   Polonius, acted by Robert DeMayo, was a perfect example of a
money-obsessed, sexually repressed, and overprotective father of
his "virgin" daughter.  Instead of seeing Ophelia as a human being,
Polonius viewed her as valuable commodity.  And with a prospect of
her marriage to Hamlet becoming stronger,  Ophelia would give
Polonius a profitable access to the royal court of Denmark.
 
   All in all, this show was a fine performance of Ophelia.  Jeter
should be proud of having made "herstory" in this unique adaptation
of Hamlet. The National Theatre of the Deaf should continue to
explore adapting more plays by Shakespeare in order to explore
the beauty of Signs as Visual-Gestural Thoughts of the Renaissance
and the Restoration Cultures.

Pseudonym?

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 93.  Thursday, 18 February 1993.
 
From:           Doris Smith <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 18 Feb 1993 15:23:59 -0600 (CST)
Subject:        Pseudonym?
 
I've know for years of the question many people have regarding the
authorship of Shakespeare's works.  However, today for the first time I
heard that some scholars say that there was no such person as William
Shakespeare, and that it was a pseudonym used by some nobleman whose coat
of arms showed an arm and fist shaking a spear.  Is this one of the
theories floating about?
 
doris smith (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
 
[Doris, I think someone must be pulling your leg.  Shakespeare's biography is
not a speciality of mine, but I felt the necessity of posting an immediate
reply to your query.  I have gleaned the following from Samuel Schoenbaum's
*William Shakespeare: A Documentary Life* with the proviso that all factual
mistakes are my own.
 
In 1568, Master John Shakespeare, William's father, was elected as Stratford's
high bailiff (justice of the peace, presider over the town Council, and the
town's highest elected office -- the equivalent of being mayor).  After being
elected bailiff, Master Shakespeare made preliminary inquiries to the College
of Heralds to receive a grant of arms, conferring on him the status of
gentleman.  The grant was not pursued, seemingly because of financial
difficulties.
 
In 1596, John's application was renewed, probably by his now prosperous son
William.  There still exist two drafts of a document granting John's request;
they are dated 20 October 1596 and were prepared by Sir William Dethick,
Garter King-of-Arms.  John Shakespeare's shield is described thus: "Gould. on
A Bend Sables. a Speare of the first steeled argent. And for his Creast or
Cognizance a falcon. his winges displayed Argent. standing on a wrethe of his
Coullors. supporting a Speare Gould. steeled as aforesaid sett uppon a helmett
with mantelles & tasselles as hathe ben accustomed and dothe more playnely
appeare depicted on this margent."  Accompanying the shield and crest is the
motto "NON SANZ DROICT," not without right.
 
As you can see, the coat of arms was William's father's.
 
I hope that the above answers your question. If you would care to read further,
I would recommend Schoenbaum's *A Documentary Life* and his *Shakespeare's
Lives*.  Frank Wadsworth's *The Poacher from Stratford* is also highly
recommended.  --hmc]

Re: Relationship Between Playtext and Performance

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 91.  Thursday, 18 February 1993.
 
(1)     From:   Nick Clary <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 18 Feb 1993 11:02:22 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   [Relationship Between Playtext and Performance]
 
(2)     From:   Steve Urkowitz <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 18 Feb 93 19:08:05 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 4.0087  Relationship Between Playtext and Performance
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Nick Clary <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 18 Feb 1993 11:02:22 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        [Relationship Between Playtext and Performance]
 
In an e-mail response to my question about playtext reading, Doug Lanier noted
that David Bergeron is preparing a volume of essays under the title WRITING
AND READING IN THE ELIZABETHAN AGE.
 
Doug and I have shared thoughts on the difficulties we have found in locating
evidence of real readers at work, rather than the ideal readers assumed by
dedicatory matter.  He asks in this most recent posting, "Other than the texts
themselves (which also posit "ideal" rather than "real" readers, or at least
combine the two in uncertain ways) and marginalia (hard to find, never easy to
interpret), what sort of evidence would you counsel one interested in this
problem to focus on?"  Any ideas?
 
Nick Clary
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Urkowitz <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 18 Feb 93 19:08:05 EST
Subject: 4.0087  Relationship Between Playtext and Performance
Comment:        Re: SHK 4.0087  Relationship Between Playtext and Performance
 
Oooh, what a nice question about reading and observing plays . . .  Alas, too
often the bibliographic-textual-editorial gang seem to be the only ones
thinking about those playbooks floating around London, but their vision seems
painfully tunnelled.  You can come upon theories about the "bad" quartos as
memorial reconstructions of texts revised after initial performances, followed
by later texts which represented earlier versions but somehow untouched by the
revising process.  The theories tangle deliciously, as theories are wont to do.
But readers of texts don't leave very deep tracks on the texts, though I've
argued that Q2 Romeo and Juliet, for instance, may be seen as the track left by
a particularly authorial reader as he plowed the Q1 version.  The memorial
reconstruction arguments would seem to be proposing that we can observe the
mis-reading of the "genuine" texts by the pirates or the actors or the unknown
scribes.  Whatever those multiple texts represent, they reveal some kinds of
imaginative engagement with scripts and performances, real or fantasized.
 
                                         As ever,
                                         Steve Ur-quarto-witz SURCC@CUNYVM

Re: Shakespeare and Anti-Semitism

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 92.  Thursday, 18 February 1993.
 
(1)     From:   Mike Newman <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 18 Feb 1993 15:17 EST
        Subj:   Shakespeare and the Evidence of the Text
 
(2)     From:   Stephen Orgel <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 18 Feb 93 16:02:12 PST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 4.0090  Re: Shakespeare and Anti-Semitism;
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Newman <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 18 Feb 1993 15:17 EST
Subject:        Shakespeare and the Evidence of the Text
 
Those who have recently posted comments on the matter of anti-Semitism
in The Merchant of Venice have not seen fit to adduce much evidence
from the text (such as Shylock's citing Jacob as a model or the
parodic deprecating of Jacob in Lancelot Gobbo's Esau-like trick on
his blind father).
 
Is this disregard for textual evidence based on the fact that it is
difficult to gather such evidence and construe it carefully (so that
off-the-cuff comments like my own will necessarily characterize the
level of discourse on discussion groups), or is the disregard a
reflection of the disrepute into which New Criticism has fallen?
 
Mike Neuman
Georgetown
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephen Orgel <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 18 Feb 93 16:02:12 PST
Subject: 4.0090  Re: Shakespeare and Anti-Semitism;
Comment:        Re: SHK 4.0090  Re: Shakespeare and Anti-Semitism;
 
Re the hooked nose, etc., Jews were Spanish/Mediterranean in Shakespeare's
time, and had names like Lopez or Soncino, or alternatively Dutch, and
had names like Abraham or Solomon (or Tubal). Shylock is an ENGLISH name.
Sam Schoenbaum cites an action Shakespeare brought against one of his
Stratford neighbors, for repayment of a debt with interest. So it looks
as if Shylock wasn't an outsider at all...
 
Stephen Orgel

Re: Shakespeare and Anti-Semitism; HyperCard

Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 4, No. 90.  Thursday, 18 February 1993.
 
(1)     From:   Piers Lewis <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 17 Feb 1993 08:56 CST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 4.0084  Re:Shakespeare and Anti-Semitism
 
(2)     From:   Kevin Berland <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 17 Feb 93 16:44 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 4.0083  Shakespeare and Anti-Semitism
 
(3)     From:   Robert F. O'Connor <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 18 Feb 1993 09:19:16 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 4.0085  Re: HyperCard Shakespeare
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Piers Lewis <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 17 Feb 1993 08:56 CST
Subject: 4.0084  Re:Shakespeare and Anti-Semitism
Comment:        Re: SHK 4.0084  Re:Shakespeare and Anti-Semitism
 
So, is it now a truth universally acknowledged that a single Jewish
moneylender in pursuit of a monstrous revenge proves Shakespeare to be
antisemitic?  Since when does a single instance prove any general truth?
 
Shakespeare's imaginary garden has a real toad in it, and a poisonous toad at
that whose name is 'money.'  Instead of relishing the fact, we turn it into
political allegory--as with everything else that makes us uneasy.
 
Piers Lewis
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kevin Berland <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 17 Feb 93 16:44 EST
Subject: 4.0083  Shakespeare and Anti-Semitism
Comment:        Re: SHK 4.0083  Shakespeare and Anti-Semitism
 
When Jonathan Miller visited us at McMaster (where he was doing something
medical over at the hospital), he talked about Olivier showing up already
costumed and made up -- huge putty hooked nose, yellowish skin, ghetto
clothing -- and, Miller said, he knew it would be hard to talk him out of
all the traditional Jew-trappings, but he had to do something, or his
(Miller's) ancestors would spin in their graves...
 
Historically speaking, it would have been difficult (or impossible) for
Shakespeare *not* to have been antisemitic.  Of course it's different
now...
 
Kevin Berland
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Robert F. O'Connor <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 18 Feb 1993 09:19:16 +1000
Subject: 4.0085  Re: HyperCard Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 4.0085  Re: HyperCard Shakespeare
 
In response to Tad Davis: it is possible to 'tag' the Hypercard texts, to
leave notes or even bookmarks (at which the text will automatically open
next time) - I have already profusely 'scribbled' over a text of Macbeth
and this has been extraordinarily useful, especially in pulling blocks of
text out of the play for inclusion in other stuff.
 
ROC

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