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Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: October ::
Re: Hamlet & Wilde; Insanity; *AYL*; *NY Times*
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 0820. Tuesday, 18 October 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Tom Dale Keever <
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        Date:   Sunday, 16 Oct 94 14:18:25 EDT
        Subj:   Wilde and Hamlet
 
(2)     From:   Cary Mazer <
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        Date:   Monday, 17 Oct 1994 20:03:46 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0817  Re: Hamlet's Insanity
 
(3)     From:   Daniel Mufson <
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        Date:   Monday, 17 Oct 1994 18:42:11 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: *AYL*
 
(4)     From:   Christine Mack Gordon <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Oct 94 09:56:03 -0500
        Subj:   *Hamlet* and *MV* make the *Times*
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tom Dale Keever <
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Date:           Sunday, 16 Oct 94 14:18:25 EDT
Subject:        Wilde and Hamlet
 
The recent questions about Hamlet's psyche brought a question to my mind.
 
Was it in a published piece or in quoted conversation that Oscar Wilde asked
"Are the commentators on Hamlet really insane, or are they only pretending?"
It's one of my favorite Wildeisms, but I don't know the source and I'm not even
certain I have the words right.  Any help?
 
It came up now and then during our run of HAMLET at Cocteau Repertory here in
New York.  We had it in the rep for two and a half seasons, often performing
matinees for school groups.  I played Claudius and would often entertain our
non- bookish, but immensely talented, Hamlet, Craig Smith, with some of the
things the academic critics had said over the years about his character.  He
was particularly amused by the common view that Hamlet was paralyzed and
incapable of action.  "But I'm exhausted when this show is over," he would
protest.  "I'm doing something all the time!"
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Cary Mazer <
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Date:           Monday, 17 Oct 1994 20:03:46 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 5.0817  Re: Hamlet's Insanity
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0817  Re: Hamlet's Insanity
 
With regard to Hamlet's insanity (and perhaps the whole "character" issue), I
offer for your amusement the following exchange from _Rosencrantz and
Guildenstern_, a rather forgetable 1891 comedy by W. S. Gilbert.  R and G,
newly arrived in Elsinore, are questioning Ophelia about their old friend
Hamlet:
 
Guild.                And what's he like?
 
Oph.  Alike for no two seasons at a time.
Sometimes he's tall--sometimes he's very short--
Now with black hair--now with a flaxen wig--
Sometimes an English accent--then a French--
Then English with a strong provincial "burr."
Once an American, and once a Jew--
But Danish never, take him how you will!
And strange to say, whate'er his tongue may be,
Whether he's dark or flaxen--English--French--
Though we're in Denmark, A.D., ten--six--two--
He always dresses as King James the First!
 
Guild.  Oh, he is surely mad!
 
Oph.                         Well, there again
Opinion is divided.  Some men hold
That he's the sanest, far, of all sane men--
Some that's he's really sane, but shamming mad--
Some that he's really mad, but shamming sane--
Some that he will be mad, some that he *was*--
Some that he couldn't be.  But on the whole
(As far as I can make out what they mean)
The favourite theory's somewhat like this:
Hamlet is idiotically sane
With lucid intervals of lunacy.
 
Cary M. Mazer
University of Pennsylvania
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Daniel Mufson <
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Date:           Monday, 17 Oct 1994 18:42:11 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Re: *AYL*
 
I have to disagree with Steve Urkowitz's remarks about *AYLI*. It may have
grown less subtle than it was three years ago, but calling it high camp is a
bit absurd. True, I was not able to see it earlier in its run, but what struck
me about the performance I saw a couple of weeks ago was the degree to which
the cast did *not* go for laughs all the time. Almost every scene explored its
own dark undertones. Even Touchstone's bullying Willem off the stage became a
(momentarily) sad incident--we were made to feel bad for this character for
whom audiences have usually held no compassion. This willingness to explore
what is *not* funny in scene after scene was anything but "safe"--indeed, it
didn't always work, and the Willem scene is an example of when I thought they
overdid it. But I respected and admired the choice even there because it was
risky and creative.
 
I had heard that the ambiguities of sexual attraction "reached out off the
stage," and it's true that I did not notice that to be the case at BAM. But
there is still a great deal to admire in the acting: that the interpretations
of a great many of the lines and characters felt fresh; and that, at least
relative to so much American Shakespeare, the actors had a restrained intensity
that was fascinating to watch. I don't doubt that the performances have
degenerated somewhat over the course of such a long tour, but I think it would
be a shame if anyone decided to pass up the opportunity to see Cheek By Jowl
when they return to BAM in December. There is much to learn from their work.
 
-Dan Mufson
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Christine Mack Gordon <
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Date:           Tuesday, 18 Oct 94 09:56:03 -0500
Subject:        *Hamlet* and *MV* make the *Times*
 
This morning's (10/18/94) *New York Times* Arts section has a review of Peter
Sellars's production of *MV,* which has received some attention from members of
this list. David Richards is the reviewer. There is also an article by Jan
Hoffman about the continuing trials (and appeals) of *Hamlet,* this time before
the City Bar Association in Manhattan. Both pieces are well worth reading.
 

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