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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: October ::
Re: Gielgud & Beauty and Hamlet to the Players
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 7.0739.  Thursday, 10 October 1996.

(1)     From:   Clark Bowlen <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 09 Oct 1996 12:26:50 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0733  Re: Hamlet to the Players

(2)     From:   John Drakakis <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 9 Oct 1996 17:14:00 +0100
        Subj:   RE: SHK 7.0733 Re: Gielgud & Beauty and Hamlet to the Players

(3)     From:   Andrew Walker White <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 9 Oct 1996 14:51:36 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0733 Re: Gielgud & Beauty and Haml


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clark Bowlen <
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Date:           Wednesday, 09 Oct 1996 12:26:50 -0500
Subject: 7.0733  Re: Hamlet to the Players
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0733  Re: Hamlet to the Players

Until we can send camcorders back in time, we will never surely know
Shakespeare's standard for good acting.  In the meantime, Hamlet's advice to
the players is as good as we can get with words. Their context argues that they
describe what Shakespeare's audience would consider the standard.  Hamlet is
giving the advice because he wants the player's performance to be convincing to
Claudius, else his test is out the window, and the play as a whole is, on one
level at least, about very high-stakes, very convincing acting--Claudius acting
innocent, Hamlet acting mad, R & G acting like friends, etc.

What we can't know is what the Elizabethans saw in Hamlet's mirror--probably
not what we see, at least entirely.  In fact, since 'convincing' is the _sine
qua non_ of acting, wouldn't Hamlet's words do for almost any age or culture?
Only to the extent that we beleive in the commonality of human experience
(certainly not a politically correct idea at the moment) can we argue that
Hamlet's words meant for Shakespeare what they mean for us.

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Drakakis <
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Date:           Wednesday, 9 Oct 1996 17:14:00 +0100
Subject: 7.0733 Re: Gielgud & Beauty and Hamlet to the Players
Comment:        RE: SHK 7.0733 Re: Gielgud & Beauty and Hamlet to the Players

Dear Brad Berens,

You're forgiven.  Soccer isn't my game.

Best wishes
John Drakakis

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew Walker White <
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Date:           Wednesday, 9 Oct 1996 14:51:36 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 7.0733 Re: Gielgud & Beauty and Haml
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0733 Re: Gielgud & Beauty and Haml

My apologies for not citing my sources more clearly; my reference to Burbage
was not necessarily to Hamlet's speech, but to the contemporary observation
that Burbage never stepped out of character, even when he was backstage in the
'tiring house'.  As an actor trained in realism, this indicates to me that he
was a serious realist.

As for Hamlet's advice:  It _is_ seriously meant, IMHO, and risks alienating
the cast, depending on how the scene is played.  Realism is exactly what he
wants, he rejects the notion that you have to play the King like he was
Tamburlaine or Faust.

There is also the satire of the ur-Hamlet, in which a ghost is ridiculed for
sounding more like a fish-wife, a street peddlar, than a real ghost.

We can quibble about what constitutes realism, granted; My experience is that
standards of realism are very difficult to define, and change from one era to
the next, from one director to the next (e.g., Stanislavksi and Chekhov's spats
on Seagull).  What I was pointing out, and what has been missed, is that
Granville Barker learned a great deal about realism at the feet of Shakespeare,
and while we may find his take on it to be old-fashioned, it may have been a
very necessary step to take, given the kind of fare the London theatre scene
had at that time.

As for the element of realism in Shakespeare's plays, can we admit that perhaps
the soliloquoy was an accepted form of realistic acting, one that allowed the
actor-as-character to commune with the audience in a more natural way than
would otherwise be possible, given the other characters he/she has to deal with
on stage?

Andy White
 

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