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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: May ::
Re: *Hamlet*s: Burton, Fiennes, Plummer
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0390.  Tuesday, 16 May 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Harry Hill <HILHAR@CONU2.BITNET>
        Date:   Monday, 15 May 1995 09:02:13 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0388  Re: Burton and Fiennes *Hamlet*s
 
(2)     From:   Kenneth S. Rothwell <
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 >
        Date:   Monday, 15 May 1995 16:25:51 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0388 Re: Burton and Fiennes *Hamlet*s
 
(3)     From:   James Schaefer <SCHAEFEJ@GUVAX.BITNET>
        Date:   Monday, 15 May 1995 13:20:56 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Plummer *Hamlet*
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Harry Hill <HILHAR@CONU2.BITNET>
Date:           Monday, 15 May 1995 09:02:13 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 6.0388  Re: Burton and Fiennes *Hamlet*s
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0388  Re: Burton and Fiennes *Hamlet*s
 
I was in my twenties when I saw the filmed version of the Burton Hamlet, and
found Hume Cronyn's Polonius a quite annoying performance that overstated and
underlined what a more subtle actor such as Redgrave made chilling by control
and calm.
 
I could only assume that, for his ghostly voice-over, Gielgud had courageously
removed his dentures. Alfred Drake's Claudius caught little of the
"pleasantness" of the politician and lover.
 
Although Burton was at other times superbly able to handle verse (his recording
of Donne, for instance, on Caedmon Records, captures well the visceral
immediacy of the more popular poems), for Hamlet his method eschewed the given
rhythms in favour of a prose reading of the role. It was very exciting, but of
course missed too many of the ambiguities that a Scofield is capable of
conveying. Burton's virility, however, and the electric quality of his voice
supported by his infamous heavy inhalations, showed -- in fact, lived -- how a
young intellect confronted with death and duty becomes existentially heroic. I
have never since seen a Hamlet whose wit was such a fist shaken at the cosmos
and its order, nor whose voice was such an embodiment of that fist.
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kenneth S. Rothwell <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 15 May 1995 16:25:51 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0388 Re: Burton and Fiennes *Hamlet*s
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0388 Re: Burton and Fiennes *Hamlet*s
 
Dear Steve, No one has greater respect for your intelligence, wit, erudition,
and perspicuity than I but I must've seen a different performance of the Ralph
Fiennes' HAMLET than the pathetic thing you so cleverly bashed on the network.
I thought Fiennes was dynamite; Francesca Annis as Gertrude, mesmerizing; the
ghost/gravedigger/1st player person, versatile; the Hamlet/Ophelia high jinks,
plausible. I faulted Laertes a bit for being less physically aggressive than
Hamlet. As for the propped up, chalk-white Gertrude, I admit that having a
corpse so rigidly erect was odd but then I decided she was either echoing the
Player Queen in the dumbshow, or it was just a bit of theatrical license,
harmless enough. Or again maybe I was so in shock from having bought 5 tickets
at $55 each (my family loyally accompanied me) that I was determined to love
Fiennes' performance, no matter what. Only rarely does one see Hamlet played by
Schindler and Charles Van Doren. With all due respect to Steve's opinions, I
claim that it's a show well worth seeing if you're in New York and have $55.
Ken Rothwell
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           James Schaefer <SCHAEFEJ@GUVAX.BITNET>
Date:           Monday, 15 May 1995 13:20:56 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Plummer *Hamlet*
 
Mary Jane Miller's mention of Christopher Plummer's Hamlet at Stratford,
Ontario recalled a story I heard about that production nearly 30 yrs ago from
Kirk Denmark at Beloit College.  As he told it, during the scene in the Queen's
closet, Plummer was so distracted by the beauties of his Gertrude that
Polonius's behind-the-arras cries of "What ho! Help!" found Hamlet all the way
down center.  Improvising, Hamlet pointed his sword and shouted, "Die!" --
which Polonius obliging did, presumably of a heart attack.
 
James F. Schaefer Jr.
Georgetown University

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