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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: March ::
Re: Polonius' Precepts
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0347.  Wednesday, 12 March 1997.

[1]     From:   Harry Hill <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 11 Mar 1997 17:16:14 +0000 (HELP)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0341 Re: Polonius' Precepts

[2]     From:   Ed Pixley <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 11 Mar 1997 16:59:19 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0341  Re: Polonius' Precepts

[3]     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 11 Mar 1997 22:51:55 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 8.0341  Re: Polonius' Precepts


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Harry Hill <
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Date:           Tuesday, 11 Mar 1997 17:16:14 +0000 (HELP)
Subject: 8.0341 Re: Polonius' Precepts
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0341 Re: Polonius' Precepts

Louis Marder is right on the mark this time. One of the most disgraceful
performances I saw of Polonius was the generally banal Hume Cronyn in
the Burton *Hamlet* with a punchy Alfred Drake pufifng away as Claudius.
Cronyn did the doddering bit. Oh dear.

Michael Redgrave played a wise Polonius in someone's TV version---just
superb, playing it straight and therefore dangerous.  Doddering Polonii
are for the bozos.

        Harry Hill

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Pixley <
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Date:           Tuesday, 11 Mar 1997 16:59:19 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 8.0341  Re: Polonius' Precepts
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0341  Re: Polonius' Precepts

Another simplistic response:  We might do well to remind ourselves that
Laertes fails to take the advice, "to thine own self be true," and
instead allows himself to become an instrument of Claudius, as his
aside, "yet it is almost against my conscience," confirms. And later, "I
am justly killed with mine own treachery."  Hamlet misjudges Laertes
and, thus, errs in entering into the fencing match, because the Laertes
he knows would not have acted with such treachery.  He earlier tells
Horatio, "I am very sorry. . ./That to Laertes I forgot myself; /For by
the image of my cause, I see / The portraiture of his."

On the other hand, Hamlet doesn't know how NOT to be true to himself,
insofar as he knows who that self is, which seems to me the principal
reason he cannot act (except in mindless passion-a quality he despises
in himself-and whose control of passion he so admires in Horatio).  Only
when he gradually comes to understand that he cannot control the event
but only himself in the event--  "the readiness is all" --existential
rather than consequential action-can he release himself from his need to
control-"Let be."  It's been a long journey from the "seeming/being"
dichotomy of Act I and even from the "to be/not to be" dilemma of Act
III, where he first recognizes his own inability to act without knowing
all the possible consequences of that action-which he soon demonstrates
in his decision not to kill the king at prayer.

By the way, regarding Polonius character, I remember being most struck
by Michael Bogdanov's approach in his Action Man Trilogy back at the
Young Vic years ago.  His Polonius (I forget the actor's name) was not a
doddering fool, but he had absolutely no sense of humor and no patience
with anyone who had.  I remember him as a very dangerous statesman.  I
also find this true in Ragnar Lyth's film.  In fact, Lyth has his entire
court (Scandinavian to the core) in constant judgment on the movements
and actions of the very isolated young people of the play.  It seemed to
me very much a "don't trust anyone over thirty" generation gap, with the
youth being played against each other.

Well, I got a bit carried away there. Sorry!

Ed Pixley

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Tuesday, 11 Mar 1997 22:51:55 -0500
Subject: 8.0341  Re: Polonius' Precepts
Comment:        Re: SHK 8.0341  Re: Polonius' Precepts

Louis C Swilley writes:

>When Polonius says to his emissary to Paris,
>"What was I saying?" it is not the remark of a senile old man - as
>Olivier had Fexix Aylmer play him - it is the command of a high official
>who need not bother remembering, for he has servants who had damned
>well better remember for him.

Or, it may be Polonius testing Reynaldo.  Has Reynoldo been paying
attention? Does he remember exactly what Polonius has been saying?
Perhaps Reynoldo has not been as attentive as he should have been?

Yours, Bill Godshalk
 

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