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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: January ::
Re: Claudius and the Mousetrap; Branagh's *Hamlet*
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 8.0045.  Monday, 13 January 1997.

(1)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Saturday, 11 Jan 1997 21:18:07 -0500
        Subj:   Re: Claudius and the Mousetrap; Branagh's *Hamlet*

(2)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Saturday, 11 Jan 1997 22:30:57 -0500
        Subj:   Re: Claudius and the Mousetrap; Branagh's *Hamlet*

(3)     From:   Dave Worster <
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        Date:   Monday, 13 Jan 1997 09:03:00 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Re: Claudius and the Mousetrap; Branagh's *Hamlet*


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Saturday, 11 Jan 1997 21:18:07 -0500
Subject:        Re: Claudius and the Mousetrap; Branagh's *Hamlet*

Mark Mann writes:

>The BBC production makes the moment much more powerful and focused. Claudius
(Patrick Stewart) rises, the play stops, he crosses to Hamlet in silence, in
control, and they stand in front of each other for what seems an eternity,
andthe point is driven home  that they have just looked into each other's
hearts and both found true danger there. Claudius reaches back and quietly,
without taking his eyes off Hamlet, says " Give me some light", a torch is
handed to him, and he exits, still masking his private fears before the public.

As I recall this scene, Claudius says, "Give me some light," before he walks
over to Hamlet.  He uses the torch he has been handed to examine Hamlet's face,
then says, "Away," and walks out.

Do I remember incorrectly, or is there more than one version of this scene?

As I recall, there is at least two versions of the BBC
<italic>Merchant</italic>.  In one version, in Act 4, Shylock is forcibly
baptized--his face pushed into the water--and then a huge cross is placed
around his neck and he is pushed out of the court.  In another version, this
baptism is cut.  Am I correct in this remembrance?

Yours, Bill Godshalk

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Saturday, 11 Jan 1997 22:30:57 -0500
Subject:        Re: Claudius and the Mousetrap; Branagh's *Hamlet*

Of course, the Mousetrap does not follow the ghost's story exactly.  The
murderer is the nephew--a fact not lost on many commentators. If Claudius is on
his toes, that fact should not evade him either.  As Harry Levin noted long
ago, the Mousetrap is a threat directed at Claudius by young Hamlet.

The fact that Hamlet has to intrude his own comments into the Mousetrap in
order to get Claudius to move is again puzzling--if Claudius is watching a
reenactment of his crime.  Obviously, Claudius admits, in the next scene, that
he "done it."  But, as some commentators have asked, did Claudius do it the way
old King Hamlet says he "done it"?  Is the old king hiding the manner in which
he was really murdered?

Of course, there are no good answers to those questions.  You can answer,
"Nonsense!"  But that doesn't make the questions go away.

We don't know what is (hypothetically) going on in Claudius's head as he
watches the Mousetrap.  And we can't be sure that old King Hamlet is a truth
teller.  But we can argue that the Mousetrap doesn't prove Claudius's
guilt--enough though we learn that he is guilty.  Claudius may rise and leave
because of Hamlet's implied threat.

Yours, Bill Godshalk

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dave Worster <
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Date:           Monday, 13 Jan 1997 09:03:00 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Re: Claudius and the Mousetrap; Branagh's *Hamlet*

Harry Hill's comment regarding the distinction between stage acting and movie
acting is right on target.  As we discovered during an MLA session on
performance criticism in December (three great papers given by WB Worthen,
Clare-Marie Wall, and Miranda Johnson-Haddad), it is very easy for a
conversation about *theatrical* performances to "bleed over" into one about
cinematic performances (or vice-versa).  But the two kinds of performances must
be kept distinct; they are two very different kinds of animal.  Stan McKenzie's
comment that Branagh created a performance Jacobi never gave as an actor
illustrates the dangers of applying the standards and conventions of stage
performance to movies.  If one applies a definition of stage performance to a
movie performance, then NO movie actor has ever given one .

Dave Worster
UNC-Chapel Hill
 

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