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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: February ::
Re: Hamlet, Ophelia, and Character
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0136. Thursday, 22 February 1996.

From:           Clark Bowlen <
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Date:           Wednesday, 21 Feb 1996 14:51:08 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 7.0129  Re: Hamlet, Ophelia, and Character
Comment:        RE: SHK 7.0129  Re: Hamlet, Ophelia, and Character

Other have eloquently addressed most of the issues around drama and
character--Hamlet and Ophelia's sexual relationship, the Macbeth's kids, etc.
But there is one important point I have not heard voiced so far.

Playwrights must leave room for actors to create the emotional life of the
character within themselves, out of their own flesh, and feelings and
imagination. Too much information about  character--the sort a novelist
supplies--stiffles actors and creates wooden performances (to say nothing about
making the part hard to cast). Dramatic characters are skeletons to be fleshed
out by the actor.  The trick to good playwriting is inspiring actors, not
confining them. It is about raising possibilities, planting questions, not
about supplying answers.

It seems to me entirely appropriate, therefore, to discuss questions about
character history.  The kind and quality of questions the playwright plants are
part of his dramaturgy.   The fact that we are compelled to speculate about
Hamlet and Ophelia's sexual relationship, or the Macbeth's children in spite of
considerable peer pressure to the contrary, I take as a measure of
Shakespeare's genius.  What more inspirational questions than those about
procreation!
 

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