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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: June ::
Re: Various Hamlet Postings
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0534  Tuesday, 9 June 1998.

[1]     From:   Stuart Manger <
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        Date:   Saturday, 6 Jun 1998 17:27:59 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 9.0530 Re: Various Hamlet Postings

[2]     From:   Ed Taft <
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        Date:   Saturday, 06 Jun 1998 15:35:10 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Various Hamlet Postings

[3]     From:   Narrelle Harris <
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        Date:   Sunday, 07 Jun 1998 21:49:40 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0527  Re: Branagh's Hamlet

[4]     From:   David Evett <
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        Date:   Monday, 08 Jun 1998 12:23:53 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0530  Re: Various Hamlet Postings

[5]     From:   H. R. Greenberg <
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        Date:   Monday, 8 Jun 1998 23:50:01 EDT
        Subj:   Dysthymic Dane  was Re: SHK 9.0523  Re: Various *Hamlet*
Postings


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stuart Manger <
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Date:           Saturday, 6 Jun 1998 17:27:59 +0100
Subject: Re: Various Hamlet Postings
Comment:        SHK 9.0530 Re: Various Hamlet Postings

I agree about the problem of Fortinbras cast as 'bad guy'. One of the
central theme of the whole play is Hamlet's search for the modus vivendi
of the man of HONOUR. There are precious few role models, now that his
father is dead. Laertes? Not a role -MODEL, but one equally searching?
Horatio? Well, he IS dear to Hamlet because he is (apparently) not
passion's slave -though Act 5 might lead one to question that? Claudius?
Erm, probably not! So, who?  There are several speeches about what IS
causa honorabilis for a prince, a man of passion, status, ambition,
expectations, in the public eye, etc? It's a hassle. And Fortinbras
learns how to put himself within the belt of rule at least in that he
desists form sharking up more resolute to wage guerilla warfare on the
Danish borders, AND lead a whole army to carry out some political
purpose for - well, we presume - uncle? So is he indeed how a delicate
prince should behave? Is Horatio's gentle prompting of Hamlet to
consider what he has REALLY done by sending R and G to their deaths on
the education path with Hamlet? Productions always play Horatio as about
the same age as Hamlet, BUT suppose he was the travelling 'tutor'? As
indeed, young men frequently did travel in Europe - well, later at
least? Suppose he was played middle aged? Might that not give an
interesting slant to the balance of the play? Counterforce to Polonius /
Claudius?

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ed Taft <
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Date:           Saturday, 06 Jun 1998 15:35:10 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Various Hamlet Postings

Of course, Bill Godshalk is right that conventions are always in some
way renewed by great authors. One might even argue, to extend Bill's
point, that Marc Antony's praise of Brutus is suspect because it is
basically a eulogy, and the same applies to Fortinbras's final remarks
about Hamlet.  Interestingly, Antony had some first hand knowledge of
Brutus, but as far as we know, Fortinbras knows next to nothing about
Hamlet, right?  Still, I agree with Justin that Fortinbras has gotten a
bad press recently. The implication of many recent productions is that
he is a great falling off from what Hamlet might have been had he become
king. But what is the textual support for this? Is it mainly the
Captain's report in 4.4.18-23? Isn't this Fortinbras's 'cover story" so
that he can hang around and see if fortune delivers Denmark into his
hands? And isn't that exactly what Hamlet does in Act 5? Wait around and
see if Providence delivers Claudius into his hands? So, I ask you,
aren't Fortinbras and Hamlet meant to be seen as much alike, not as very
different?

What do you think, Bill?

--Ed Taft

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Narrelle Harris <
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Date:           Sunday, 07 Jun 1998 21:49:40 +1000
Subject: 9.0527  Re: Branagh's Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0527  Re: Branagh's Hamlet

Renie wrote:

>KB's version IS, right now, the version I'd take to a desert island.
>Thank-you to Roy Flanagan who pointed out that almost all corners of
>academe benefit from KB's bold risk-taking-even his mistakes.   Branagh
>puts Shax on the table.   Failure? Not a whit.  A resounding success.

Thank you, Renie, for expressing many of my own thoughts in your
response.  Whilst the Branagh Hamlet is not without faults, I do think
it's a valid and marvelous interpretation of the play.

One of the things Branagh did was to make Hamlet more accessible to a
90s audience.  Not that this is the only criterion for a production of
any kind, but he was trying to make a film for everyone, not just the
Shakespeare buffs and academics.  His choices might not be everyone's,
but most of them worked for me.  The inserted sex scenes finally made
sense for me of Ophelia's madness.  Perhaps a young Elizabethan maiden
could lose her senses at the murder of her father and loss of the
affections of a young prince, but I'm not an Elizabethan woman and I
could never previously emotionally connect with that sequence of
events.  The audience shouldn't have to be studied in Elizabethan
sociology to understand the powerful emotions - it's important to *feel*
those emotions too.

In much the same way as Baz Luhrman presented Romeo & Juliet in a way
that resonated with modern audiences, making that story fresh and alive
for a new generation, so I think that many of Branagh's choices made
modern sense of Hamlet.  It's only one of many possible interpretations,
of course, and I'm fascinated to see them all.  Unless talented
directors come along and breathe new life into Shakespeare's brilliant
words with their particular interpretations,  his plays risk becoming
museum pieces instead of living theatre.

Narrelle Harris

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Evett <
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Date:           Monday, 08 Jun 1998 12:23:53 -0400
Subject: 9.0530  Re: Various Hamlet Postings
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0530  Re: Various Hamlet Postings

> Can we compare Fortinbras's final comments on Hamlet with Marc Antony's
> final comments on Brutus?  In both cases, the praiser's motivation is in
> doubt, as, of course, it always is. But one way to read both pieces of
> praise is as political manipulation.

Bill Godshalk ought to have included Octavius Caesar's tributes to
Antony and Cleopatra and Aufidius' to the dead Coriolanus, whose
political utility seems to me less clear.  All the tragedies have a
generous turn at the end, although it's not always universal.  Lucius
authorizes honorable burial for his fraternal enemy Saturninus and his
alienated father but condemns Aaron and Tamora to the dungheap.
Monuments all 'round at the end of *Rom*.  Respect to Othello but not
Iago.  Reconciliation and rewards from Malcolm, but his last words on
the Macbeths are "butcher" and "fiendlike": no forgiveness.  Not much
joy in *Lr*, of course, but no small-minded getting even, either.
Alcibiades is reconciled with the senate, then honors Timon in explicit
contradiction of Timon's dying wish.  We could perhaps add the
reconciliation of the warring factions at the end of *R3* (it's not
clear whether Richard is included in Richmond's instructions to "Inter
their bodies as becomes their births"), Fauconbridge's aggrieved
farewell to John preceding the announcement of peace with France, Henry
IV's penitence for the deposition and death of Richard II (which strikes
me as more than merely politic, since we see him gnawed by remorse
through two more plays), Hal's tribute to Hotspur (an interesting
departure from history-there's a plaque near the bus stop across from
the Shrewsbury battleground that says something like, "On this spot the
body of Henry Percy called Hotspur was hung, drawn, and quartered after
his death in the battle of Shrewsbury"), Prince John's positive
interpretation of his newly crowned brother's banishment of Falstaff and
the East Cheapers, the peace (however shortlived) between France and
England after the marriage of Henry V and Katherine of France, and
Cranmer's vision of an England under Elizabeth blessed with peace and
prosperity.

I see no warrant here for ascribing to Shakespeare some remorseless
insistence on humans' remorseless self-interest, with no place in drama
or life for disinterested admiration of demonstrated virtues or
unequivocal desire to live in cooperation not competition with others.

Respectfully,
Dave Evett

[5]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           H. R. Greenberg <
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Date:           Monday, 8 Jun 1998 23:50:01 EDT
Subject: was Re: SHK 9.0523  Re: Various *Hamlet*
Comment:        Dysthymic Dane  was Re: SHK 9.0523  Re: Various *Hamlet*
Postings

Pace the various arguments, moral, theological, sociocultural so forth
advanced about Hamlet's indecision  added to which Jones' Oedipal
theorization and countless other psychological, psychoanalytic
speculations

I submit there is no one "cause" of H's ambivalence about pursuing his
proper revenge, but the promise of one is amazingly seductive to critics
of sundry including analytic stripes,  leading to a recall of that
lovely paper Helene Cixous (think it was she) wrote a few decades back
about the analytic thirst to find the "origin" of symptoms  complexes so
forth can't be done said Cixous at origin there is no origin given the
complexity of internal and external forces playing upon us, only the
alluring potency of the promise of the origin.

Having said all this, I would add-always respecting the pitfalls of
diagnosing characters instead of flesh and blood humanity-that Hamlet's
much commented upon depression-whether due to grief   biological factors
you name it-is amply sufficient in a living client to puzzle the will
sap resolve promulgate or escalate indecision see it every day in the
office in issues small and great causing immense and complex woes.

Do I think dysthymia of minor or major stripe to be the main event here
-- absolutely not-but it makes a deal of sense to deal it into the deck
of the sundry other forces besetting H.

And consider further that during the much elucidated "sea change"  the
lifting of his  dysthymia  -- all other things being equal-for whatever
reason (no Prozac then, but there was St John's Wort and also
spontaneous cures when the gloom runs its mysterious course, the
darkness visible departing) -- restores Hamlet's quite blunted purpose
and allows him finally to act.

Finally, I do not buy that a Christian upbringing would overbalance his
seeking redress under ordinary circumstances. Many instances of
believers in those days killing enemies individual or wholesale with the
clearest of consciences.

Thanks for this interesting thread
Harvey Roy Greenberg, MD
 

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