Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: February ::
Re: Woman Hamlet / Gilligan's Island
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0258.  Saturday, 22 February 1997.

[1]     From:   Ellen Summers <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 21 Feb 1997 13:44:12 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   RE: SHK 8.0243  A Woman as Hamlet

[2]     From:   Richard A Burt <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Friday, 21 Feb 1997 18:12:01 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Woman Hamlet / Gilligan's Island


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ellen Summers <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 21 Feb 1997 13:44:12 -0500 (EST)
Subject: 8.0243  A Woman as Hamlet
Comment:        RE: SHK 8.0243  A Woman as Hamlet

A woman actor played Hamlet in 1989 at the Volksbuehne in what was then
East Berlin.  This production, which used Heiner Mueller's
translation/adaptation of Shakespeare's play, was directed by Siegfried
Hoechst; the actor was Cornelia Schmaus.  The dramaturg for the
production, Anna-Christine Naumann, told me that the rationale for
casting Schmaus as Hamlet was that since she was the strongest actor in
the company, she was the best equipped to handle the role's demands.
The production itself (which I saw performed in Weimar at the
Shakespeare Gesellschaft's meeting, and of which I saw only the second
half) was intriguing and at its best moments brilliantly effective.  The
appearance of a woman in the title role, however, created controversy
not merely because of the break with convention but also because of the
mixed success with which the production's choices addressed the
consequent semiotic problems (and opportunities).

*Hamlet*'s plot turns upon relationships that are fraught with
culturally encoded material related to gender.  All of Hamlet's key
ties-to a father, to a lover, to a lover's father, to male friends like
Horatio or Laertes-are imprinted to a greater or lesser degree with this
encoding.  The change of Hamlet's gender altered all the valences of
these relationships (including of course those with a mother).  To my
eye, the characterization of Hamlet's relationships did not fully
clarify the key issue of whether this was a woman playing a man, or a
woman playing a woman (and therefore a daughter instead of a son, etc.)
This confusion on my part might have arisen because of my not having
seen the first half, but I have some reason to suspect that the
production did not succeed in settling these questions (or in leaving
them stragetically open as opposed to muddled).

I'm all in favor of such experiments in casting, however, partly because
of the enormous interest they generate in precisely how a plot works and
where its fragilities lie.  Of course also I'm in favor of pioneering
efforts to open the Shakespearean canon's great male roles to women
actors in their prime.

Ellen Summers
Hiram College

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard A Burt <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Friday, 21 Feb 1997 18:12:01 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Woman Hamlet / Gilligan's Island

Asta Nielsen performed as Hamlet in a 1920 Danish production of a silent
film.  She's crossed-dressed but turns out to be a woman in love with
Horatio (and vice versa).  Laurence Danson has written on the film as
has Ann Thompson (in an essay forthcoming in _Shakespeare, the Movie_).

The Gilligan's Island episode is #72, "The Producer."  It guest stars
Phil Silvers and was co-directed by Ida Lupino.  Hamlet is indeed set to
Carmen, with the "To Be or Not to be" and "What a rogue and peasant
slave am I" soliloquies condensed into one and revised "To flee or not
to flee, that is the question that I ask of me" and set to Carmen's
"Hanabera" aria.  The skipper as Polonius sings a revised version of
"To  thine own self be true" sung to the "Toreador" aria.  Gilligan is
Hamlet, the Howells are Gertrude and Claudius, Ginger is Ophelia, Mary
Ann is Laertes, and the Skipper is Polonius.  After the producer gets
off the island, the castaways hear over the radio that his production of
Hamlet, the Musical is a big success on Broadway.
 

Other Messages In This Thread

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.