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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: May ::
Branaugh and Jennings as Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0501  Tuesday, 26 May 1998.

[1]     From:   H. R. Greenberg <
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        Date:   Monday, 25 May 1998 19:11:25 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0482  Re: Branagh's *Hamlet*

[2]     From:   Justin Bacon <
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        Date:   Monday, 25 May 1998 16:22:41 -0700
        Subj:   Re: Jennings's *Hamlet*

[3]     From:   Peter Holland <
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        Date:   Tue, 26 May 1998 10:32:54 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0494  Re: Jennings's *Hamlet*

[4]     From:   Janet Maclellan <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 26 May 1998 08:28:03 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0493  Re: Branagh's *Hamlet*

[5]     From:   Peter T. Hadorn <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 26 May 1998 11:16:41 -0500
        Subj:   RE: SHK 9.0493  Re: Branagh's *Hamlet*


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           H. R. Greenberg <
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Date:           Monday, 25 May 1998 19:11:25 EDT
Subject: 9.0482  Re: Branagh's *Hamlet*
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0482  Re: Branagh's *Hamlet*

I just took in the streamlined RSC Hamlet at BAM. Instructive in view of
all the negativity about Branagh's version, which I now have in
laserdisc and have seen several times, with intermissions of a day or
more. I, too, believe there is much in Branagh's take that can be taken
to task, but overall-pace Robert Louis Stevenson-when it's good, it's
very, very good, and really not all that horrid otherwise. The poignancy
in the "ripeness is all" to Horatio has rarely been matched; the actor's
tears are completely believable in the context of Hamlet's intuition
that death (and deliverance) from his multiple torments is near.

I haven't been following the ins and outs of this thread-but has anyone
noted the similarity of Branagh at his best to Jacobi's interpretation?
Also, to my mind, Jacobi is the best Claudius I've ever seen, just as
Jack Lemmon's Bernardo and Crystal's Gravedigger were the worst takes on
those characters I've ever seen.

Harvey Roy Greenberg

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Justin Bacon <
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Date:           Monday, 25 May 1998 16:22:41 -0700
Subject:        Re: Jennings's *Hamlet*

Joanne Walen wrote:

> Perhaps this version is "not for all markets," but for a 'first look at
> a great play', it has much to recommend it.

Perhaps I am mistaken, but I have always considered the best "first
impression" of a classic work is the classic work itself-not a
questionable adaptation of it. Or, as Larry Weiss has commented:

> But, as someone in the
> audience said during intermission, "its a good story, I wonder what
> Shakespeare would have done with it."

To me the exact opposite of what you say is true. Jennings' Hamlet would
be a *horrible* choice for a "first look at a great play", but an
excellent choice if you wanted to demonstrate what artistic liberties
may be taken with Shakespearean texts.

Larry Weiss also wrote:

> I am also troubled by the omission of Fortinbras (like Laertes, an
> important foil against which Hamlet's inaction is set off), although I
> certainly would not have made as much of him as Branagh did.  I see no
> justification at all for treating Fortinbras as an invading pillager,
> not only because there is no hint of it in the text but also as this
> tends to diminish the brilliance of Claudius's diplomacy (as to which,
> see posts from myself and others a few months back).

Agreed. Although losing Fortinbras is certainly not so bad a decision as
Olivier's decision to slice R&G out of his version-thereby slicing off
an entire side of Hamlet's personality from the play by removing the
foils which reveal it.

> Jennings' deletion of Fortinbras (and his deliberate expurgation of  any
> explanation for Hamlet's conduct other than madness) also leads him to
> omit the "How all occasions..." soliloquy [IV.iv.32-ff], which I
> consider the most important in the play, containing the central sentence
> of 26 consecutive monosyllabic words which sum up the main theme
> [ll.43-46].

Are you speaking of "I do not know why I have yet..."?

>  (I have seen nothing written about that sentence and I
> wonder if other list members regard it as being as significant as I do.
> I would also compare this speech with the gravedigger's understanding of
> the philosophical concept of the three branches of an act [V.i.10-12]).
> Say what you like about Branagh's staging of this soliloquy, it
> certainly emphasizes its centrality.

I, perhaps, am one of the few who had no problems with Branagh's
delivery of this soliloquy. It is the point in the play where Hamlet
first voices his shift from trying to justify the deed to a conviction
of *doing* the deed- the fact that Branagh chose to have his delivery
verbally very *active* was highly appropriate, in my opinion.

Justin Bacon

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[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Holland <
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Date:           Tue, 26 May 1998 10:32:54 GMT
Subject: 9.0494  Re: Jennings's *Hamlet*
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0494  Re: Jennings's *Hamlet*

I've been enjoying the SHAKSPER discussions of the RSC *Hamlet*
production (which I hugely admired when I saw it here in Stratford).
But credit where credit is due: the production is directed by Matthew
Warchus, not by Alex Jennings. Where Branagh directed, starred in and
wrote the screenplay for his film, Alex Jennings only (!) has to play
Hamlet.

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Janet Maclellan <
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Date:           Tuesday, 26 May 1998 08:28:03 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 9.0493  Re: Branagh's *Hamlet*
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0493  Re: Branagh's *Hamlet*

Kristine Batey wrote:

>>No turnip, but most definitely Scarlett.  Dale Lyles isn't the first to
>>have noted the echo of GWTW.

Considering the context, I thought Branagh's "How all occasions" was
primarily a tip of the hat to Olivier's trick of beginning soliloquies
in close-up, then gradually pulling the camera back so that his delivery
could become "larger" as the speech progressed. Given its function as an
intermission break, of course, the sequence inevitably prompts thoughts
of Vivien Leigh as well. Hmm . . . is Branagh paying homage to the
famous couple with a two-in-one allusion?

Janet MacLellan

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[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter T. Hadorn <
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 >
Date:           Tuesday, 26 May 1998 11:16:41 -0500
Subject: 9.0493  Re: Branagh's *Hamlet*
Comment:        RE: SHK 9.0493  Re: Branagh's *Hamlet*

>"Yes, yes, we're all pigs.  What about the descriptions of Hamlet's
>father?  His behavior towards Gertrude hardly "degrades" her."

I would respond by observing that pretty much all we know about Hamlet
Senior comes from Hamlet Junior who clearly idealizes his father.
Otherwise, all we know for sure is that he wore armor a lot, was able to
defeat old Norway (a war- monger-like Fortinbras?  Which may be why
Hamlet gives his voice to Fortinbras at the end), slept in his garden
(neglectful of state?), and, perhaps, was neglectful of wife ("O
Hamlet,  what a falling off was there!")  So, yeah, men ARE pigs in this
play.  Notice the first thing the old school chums Hamlet, Rosencrantz
and Guildenstern start sniggering about as soon as they meet: Lady
Fortune's "privates."
 

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