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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: July ::
Re: "To be or not . . ." Speech
 
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0574.  Saturday, 22 July 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Stephen Schultz <
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        Date:   Thursday, 20 Jul 95 11:24:57 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0571  Q: "To be or not . . . " Speech
 
(2)     From:   Rick Jones <
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        Date:   Thursday, 20 Jul 1995 11:44:10 -0500 (CDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0571 Q: "To be or not . . . " Speech
 
(3)     From:   Chris Stroffolino <LS0796@ALBNYVMS.BITNET>
        Date:   Thursday, 20 Jul 1995 13:21:39 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0571  Q: "To be or not . . . " Speech
 
(4)     From:   Dawn Massey <
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        Date:   Friday, 21 Jul 95 11:22:13 BST
Subj:   Re: SHK 6.0571  Q: "To be or not . . . " Speech
 
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stephen Schultz <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 20 Jul 95 11:24:57 EDT
Subject: 6.0571  Q: "To be or not . . . " Speech
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0571  Q: "To be or not . . . " Speech
 
Several years ago I directed a production of *Hamlet* for a semi-professional
theatre in Louisville which included "To be or not . . ." as performance ranted
at Ophelia but intended to demonstrate to Claudius and Polonius that Hamlet is
raving mad.
 
Some audience members hated it.  Some loved it.  Most didn't seem to recognize
that they were seeing anything unusual or "radical."
 
As I remember, I was led toward this approach by an argument in *What Happens
in 'Hamlet'* that there is some warrant in one of the Qs for an early entrance
by Hamlet which would allow him to overhear the plotting of Claudius and
Polonius.  (My production used the structure of Q1 combined with the language
of F1, and maybe that somehow influenced my reading of the scene.)
 
Thus emboldened, I then added an undetected entrance by Gertrude so that she
could overhear the Claudius-Laertes plotting for the duel.  So she knew about
the poisoned chalice when she drank it and did so defying Claudius to stop her
and thus reveal his guilt.
 
Again, I had the impression that the audience didn't notice anything unusual.
And a reviewer sent to the production by SQ rather liked the Gertrude touch, so
how much more validation can you get than that?
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Rick Jones <
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Date:           Thursday, 20 Jul 1995 11:44:10 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: 6.0571 Q: "To be or not . . . " Speech
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0571 Q: "To be or not . . . " Speech
 
In partial answer to Edna Boris's question about the "to be or not to be"
speech.  No, I can't recall a production which plays the speech with Hamlet
aware of the presence of Claudius and Polonius.  Mine will, when I do it
*sometime*.  More to the point, David Ball insists on such a reading in his
excellent little book *Backwards and Forwards* (which I have used,
incidentally, as a text in acting classes).
 
Hope this helps, however minimally.
 
Rick Jones

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(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Chris Stroffolino <LS0796@ALBNYVMS.BITNET>
Date:           Thursday, 20 Jul 1995 13:21:39 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 6.0571  Q: "To be or not . . . " Speech
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0571  Q: "To be or not . . . " Speech
 
Dear Edna Boris---Thanks for your question on "To Be Or Not..." My question for
you is to wonder why we need to limit the dramaturgical options of that speech
to either a)personal reflections on suicide or b) calculated performance. For
it seems possible, though granted this is VERY HARD to pull off in a
production, that the speech itself navigates so many modulations of mood. In
fact, I am increasingly drawn to those productions in which the "ponderousness"
of Hamlet's thinking becomes more important. For, in one reading, the "To Be Or
Not To Be" soliloguy actually ends on a note that can serve as a DEFENSE of the
contemplative lifestyle by NEGATING the "great enterprises of pit(c)h and
moment"---Sure, the actor playing hamlet must no doubt ask "If you hate
yourself for rejecting an act of violence, did you REALLY reject it"--and, yes,
I think you;re right to question the conventional "authority" and
"authenticity" afforded to soliloquys, but I keep thinking of the Nietzsche
quote in this connexion (something like "thoughts of suicide get one through
many a night") and that one need not have Polonious or Ophelia couched in an
arras overhearing to effectively breath more life back into the "To BE"
soliloquy than the reading which claims Hamlet is on the verge of suicide does.
Thanks (I look forward to hearing others on this), Chris Stroffolino
 
(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dawn Massey <
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 >
Date:           Friday, 21 Jul 95 11:22:13 BST
Subject: 6.0571  Q: "To be or not . . . " Speech
Comment:        Re: SHK 6.0571  Q: "To be or not . . . " Speech
 
A colleague recalls that Sarah Bernhardt overhears Polonius' plans to use
Ophelia, but cannot recall how Bernhardt handles the soliloquy.
 

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