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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: December ::
Re: Hamlet's Popularity; Dumb Show
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0961.  Tuesday, 29 November 1994.
 
(1)     From:   John Mucci <
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        Date:   Monday, 28 Nov 1994 12:38:45 -0500
        Subj:   Hamlet's popularity
 
(2)     From:   David Evett <R0870%
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        Date:   Monday, 28 Nov 1994 16:28 ET
        Subj:   Dumb Show
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Mucci <
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Date:           Monday, 28 Nov 1994 12:38:45 -0500
Subject:        Hamlet's popularity
 
Although seven shillings is not a large sum to collect for a performance of
*Hamlet* you must remember that Henslowe's scope of what was happening is very
much restricted to his own experience, and that Newington Butts was not
necessarily the residence of the most appreciative audience for it.
 
Enthusiasm for *Hamlet* seems to have been great long before 1603.
 
Of course there is the quote from Nash in 1589, "...if you entreat him faire in
a frostie morning, he will afoord you whole *Hamlets,* I should say Handfulls
of tragical speaches."
 
And the quote from Lodge, from *Wit's Miserie* (1596): "One of the Deuills is
...a foule lubber, and looks as pale as the visard of the ghost which cried so
miserally at the theator, like an oisterwife, *Hamlet reuenge."
 
Gabriel Harvey says "The younger sort take much delight in Shakespeare's *Venus
and Adonis*, but his *Lucrece* and his tragedy of *Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke,*
have it in them to please the wiser sort (1598)."
 
On July 26, 1602 James Robertes entered "HAMLETT Prince Denmarke as it was
latelie Acted by the Lord Chamberleyne his servants."
 
In the poem *Daiphantus, or the Passions of Love,* by Antony Scolocer,
published in 1604, there are several references to the popularity of the play.
In the introduction he says an Epistle ought to be, among many other things:
 
"...like friendly *SHAKE-SPEARE'S* Tragedies, where the Comedian rides, when
the Tragedian stands on tiptoe.  Faith, it should please all, like Prince
HAMLET!" [the capitalization and italicization are all from the original].  And
in the body of the poem itself:
 
`His breath, he thinks the smoke! his tongue a coal!
Then runs for bottle-ale to quench his thirst;
Runs to his ink-pot, drinks! then stops the hole!
And thus grows madder than he was at first.
TASSO he finds, by that at HAMLET thinks
Terms him a madman, then of his inkhorn drinks!
 
Calls players "fools!  The Fool, he judgeth wiseth,
Will learn them action out of Chaucer's *Pander,*
Proves of their poets bawds, even in the highest,
Then drinks a health! and swears it is no slander."
Puts off his clothes!  his shirt he only wears!
Much like mad HAMLET, thus, as Passion tears!'
 
With apologies for the exclamation points, it does show a marked enthusiasm for
the play, with specifically Shake-speare's in mind.
 
Directly addressing the question of the performances at the Universities,
Clarendon states that  "no evidence has yet to be discovered of the occasion on
which the play was acted the the 2 universities; but if we might hazard a
conjecture, it seems not improbable that it might have been at some
entertainment in honor of the king's accession..."
 
When the Hamlet Quarto of 1604 was published with the Plantagenets'
coat-of-arms on the title page, it was a noteworthy event, as though the play
had finally been presented in the condition in which its author meant it to be
seen.  Might we not infer that the play of Hamlet *was* given preferential
treatment by the censors?
 
J. Mucci
GTE VisNet
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <R0870%
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Date:           Monday, 28 Nov 1994 16:28 ET
Subject:        Dumb Show
 
As to Wes Folkerth's question about Claudius and the dumb show, J. Dover
Wilson, in <What Happens in _Hamlet_>, proposed (common-sensibly enough) that
C. is involved in conversation with somebody else and just doesn't notice. (I
have seen, but forget where, the suggestion that he has enough nerve to sit
through the renactment of his crime once, but breaks when it comes around, in
more detail, the second time.) Wilson was also one of the first to propose
that Hamlet has glimpsed C. and P. slipping behind the arras and hence,
knowing that Ophelia is now a conspirator, treats her harshly.  But I agree
with Scott Shepherd that both Hamlet and Claudius become more interesting
figures if we don't take them off the hook, as it were, by giving them
easy-out motives and repeating well-worn theatrical devices.
 
Draconically,
Dave Evett
 

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