1998

Various Hamlet Postings

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0528  Friday, 5 June 1998.

[1]     From:   Ildiko Solti <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
        Date:   Thursday, 4 Jun 1998 04:47:39 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Hamlet

[2]     From:   Justin Bacon <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
        Date:   Tuesday, 02 Jun 1998 14:18:41 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0517  Re: Branagh's Hamlet

[3]     From:   Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
        Date:   Thursday, 04 Jun 1998 11:34:40 -0400
        Subj:   Re: Hamlet

[4]     From:   Justin Bacon <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
        Date:   Thursday, 04 Jun 1998 10:56:00 -0700
        Subj:   Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ildiko Solti <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Date:           Thursday, 4 Jun 1998 04:47:39 -0700 (PDT)
Subject:        Hamlet

It has been very interesting to think over with you the various reasons
Hamlet may or may not have for action (killing Claudius). I think all
those aspects are there, but the reason why we don't see him doing the
deed for so long is that the play itself is perhaps a slow-motion
presentation of Action itself. This way, I think, it is also more
actable than seeing it in negative and passive terms.  About the women:
if we decide to make Gertrude just plain adulteress and Ophelia a just a
silly girl, we would end up cutting out the stakes not only for these
characters, but for the others related to them (most importantly Hamlet)
as well.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Justin Bacon <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Date:           Tuesday, 02 Jun 1998 14:18:41 -0700
Subject: 9.0517  Re: Branagh's Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0517  Re: Branagh's Hamlet

 Larry Weiss wrote:

 >Thank you, Ed.  The conventions of the soliloquy require us to accept
 >the speaker's words as accurately describing his state of mind.  He
 >might be in error, but he is not lying, and Ed is correct on that
score.

> Hamlet tells us four things that, if accurate, make it inexplicable that
>he has not yet killed Claudius.  Two of those things (strength and
>means) are (fairly) objective, and I think we have to accept Hamlet's
>word for them.  Moreover, they are confirmed by circumstance:  Hamlet
>clearly has the strength-he employs it in the last scene.  As for means,
>we see that Hamlet had the run of the palace at least until he killed
>Polonius.  In fact, as in the Saxo Grammaticus story, Hamlet might have
>feigned madness in order to assure access to the king.

It is interesting that Hamlet uses the word *have* before that list-he
clearly does not *have* means to kill Claudius, considering he's on his
way to England. By using "have", however, he casts into doubt into when
those elements came together- did he truly have cause before the
play-within-a-play (for example)?

Although it is a very powerful piece, it also suffers terribly from the
fact that it doesn't make much sense. It is for this reason that I
believe the reason it is missing from the Folio is that W.S. cut it.

On the other hand, "From this time forth..." is so essential a summation
of the conclusion he has reached at this point in the play that it pains
me to leave it out.

In other news, John P. Dwyer wrote:

> I think there's a bit too much Holden Caulfield-like analysis of actors
> in recent complaints about Branagh's _Hamlet_.  The more often I view it
> (the whole way through), the better I like it.

That's a very good summary of my own approach. I found three particular
weaknesses in the piece (I may have offered this summary before, I
apologize if I have):

1. Jack Lemmon. Ugh.
2. The Hecuba and Priam "flashback". Ugh.
3. I also felt the final scene got a little bit too carried away. Not as
serious an error as the first two, however.

For a 4-hour film there is more than enough there, despite these errors,
to render it extremely entertaining. Why, oh why, don't they release a
letterbox version of it?

One last note, I have a lengthy "treatise" on my rather untraditional
views of the play (Hamlet isn't tragically flawed, for example). It is
too lengthy for posting here, but I would be willing to share it with
anyone who is interested. (I bring this up here and now because the one
particular weakness of the piece is the fact that I can find no
satisfactory way of fitting "How all occasions.." into the puzzle.)

Justin Bacon
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[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Date:           Thursday, 04 Jun 1998 11:34:40 -0400
Subject:        Re: Hamlet

I do not believe that anything separates Prof. Barton and me except a
semantic quibble.  She believes that Hamlet has a nagging doubt about
the rectitude of taking revenge, perhaps from "thinking too precisely on
th'event," and she considers this a question of cause.  I see little if
any textual support for such uncertainty,  However,  I am willing to
allow the possibility but regard it as a diminution of will. It seems to
me that once we agree, as Prof. Barton does, that Claudius murdered
Hamlet Sr. and that Hamlet Jr. has been exhorted to "revenge," we are
left not with an issue of cause or motivation, but a question of
strength of intention.

 I do not pretend to know why Hamlet's will is blunted; although Ed Taft
and I agree that cowardice is a distinct possibility.  Religious
scruples, as suggested by Prof. Barton is also conceivable, albeit I
find a paucity of textual support.  Someone suggested to me off list
that we should remember that Hamlet is Claudius's nephew and there could
have been familial affection between them in the past.  Again, no text
support, but a possibility.  I am sure every member of the List can come
up with other plausible possibilities.  The only point I was making is
that the 26/27 monosyllabic word sentence is a guidepost that points to
a weakness of intention (from whatever cause) as the root of Hamlet's
vacillation.

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Justin Bacon <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Date:           Thursday, 04 Jun 1998 10:56:00 -0700
Subject:        Hamlet

Ed Taft wrote:

>  But Hamlet is afraid that if he does so, he
> might go to hell  because, after all, revenge is not exactly thought of
> as a Christian act. So, his "will," to use Larry's approach, is
> paralyzed, even though he knows that Claudius deserves to be killed. He
> is scared of (1) dying and (2) going to hell. If so, who would feel
> differently than Hamlet at this point? Only a *truly* mad man, right?

Unless Hamlet is actively questioning his religious beliefs it would be
difficult for him to simultaneously believe that Claudius deserves to
die and that he would go to hell (if he's going to hell for the act,
then Claudius does *not* deserve to die). I think your interpretation
possesses a few of flaws:

1. Hamlet never questions whether or not revenge/vengeance as a general
idea is an act which is good or bad -- I think we are supposed to accept
that, as a general concept, killing people guilty of murder is a good
thing.
2. Hamlet never questions his religious belief. The only time he says
anything about the possibility of going to hell is when he is unsure if
Claudius is guilty or not -- clearly if the Ghost is "the devil"
tempting him to sin by killing an innocent he would go to hell. I never
see the corollary of "but even if Claudius is guilty and I kill him, I'm
going to hell".
3. Because of this you would render the entire play-within-a-play
pointless. If it doesn't matter whether or not Claudius is guilty, then
these pointless activities of trying to prove him guilty (pretending to
be mad, play-within-a-play) are a bit of a wash aren't they?

[Unless of course you believe that Hamlet plans the play-within-a-play
to test *Gertrude* -- but why does he have Horatio watch Claudius then?
Why would Shakespeare write a play so poorly? ]

Andrew Walker White wrote:

> To add to the discussion, the statue of Hamlet Sr. certainly would
> resonate with those of us who watched the collapse of Communism, with
> Lenin's image being toppled all over eastern Europe and the former
> Soviet Union.  It introduces a modern element which is a bit
> distracting, perhaps, since I don't think Shakespeare would have wanted
> his audience to think of Fortinbras' rise to power as a good thing.
> (Was James VI of Scotland regarded as a worthy successor, after all?)

I've got to strenuously disagree here. If you look at almost all of
Shakespeare's tragic works you will see a common theme of stability and
order replacing the chaos at the end of the play-this is certainly true
of the "great" tragedies. At the end of *Macbeth*, *Othello*, *Lear*,
and *Hamlet* we see that after the current king/leader is dead (as a
result of their tragic flaws) a new leader arises. Compare and contrast
with Creon from *Oedipus*. I think these leaders are meant to be beacons
of hope- down with the corrupted old, up with the purity of the new.

Hamlet is slightly muddied, of course, by the fact that Shakespeare
wants us to believe that Hamlet would have made an excellent king
(whether or not you accept that he would've based on what Shakespeare
showed us, I think we have to accept convention and realize that the
very last thing we hear about Hamlet is what a great king he would have
made-from the lips of Fortinbras no less!). I still believe, however,
that Fortinbras is supposed to be looked on as a positive light for the
future.

Justin Bacon
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Re: Branagh's Hamlet

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0527  Thursday, 4 June 1998.

From:           Renie Pickman-Thoon <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 3 Jun 1998 17:37:08 -0700
Subject:        Re: Branagh's Hamlet--The Full Text

First, I feel I should at least note that I'm *pleased* to find this
list.  I would normally wait a decent period of time to learn the ropes
before blundering in; but the lure of the Branagh thread brought me
here, and I can't help but join the fun.  I apologize if I restate
anything that was posted before I joined.  If I overstep, in length or
tone, please attribute it to excessive zeal.

I have not seen the Jennings performance, but I have seen Branagh's
film, ummm-several times; it rekindled and redoubled my interest in Shax
(I hope that abbeviation is not forbidden...) so I certainly don't come
without my own prejudices.

I heartily second the suggestion for KB's film. Both my son (6 1/2) and
even my daughter (3 1/2)  watch it (the latter with judicious use of the
remote) It's a version that everyone can understand, and make their own
judgments. And yes, it's the full text-my understanding of what the full
text is, and, I suspect, many people's understanding of it, i.e. it's
got all the speeches, it's got all the characters.  Some of you may be
squirming already . . .

Jean Peterson wrote:

> I for
>one was at first puzzled and increasingly put off by Branagh's repeated
>insistence that he was filming the "entire" play, the "complete" text-as
>if such a thing existed-when he, like many directors before him, culled
>together a working text from all existing versions of the play,
>including modern emendations.

I can understand how such a perception might annoy.  Jean, were you
referring to his press interviews?  It's hardly the place to explain the
difference between the First Folio and the Second Quarto, don't you
agree?  The press aren't interested, and neither is the film-going
public.  In general.  It promotes the horrible notion that, to quote
Branagh, "Shakespeare is for swots."  KB has tried to get as far away as
possible from the idea that it takes a degree to like or understand
Shax.

In addition, it was hell, I've no doubt, to find backing for the movie
after Zeff's version with Mel beat him to the finish line.  No, I don't
think KB did the "full text" JUST so he could make his own film.  He's
far too in love with the play to have done that.  But, yes, it was
pitched and promoted as an "event"-and the distinction of the "full
text" made the money appear for a Hamlet, which, in film industry terms,
was pretty much on the heels of Zeff's.

No mean feat.  But back to KB's alleged "claim."

In the introduction to the screenplay for his film, KB recounts that he
considers his first taste of the "full text"  the 1992 BBC radio play,
which he describes as, "a splendid opportunity to explore the play's
language with a focus and significance that was uniquely offered by the
medium, in which the spoken word dominates." He goes on to note that,
"arguments will always rage as to what constitutes the 'full' text."
There is also a page devoted to explaining the choice of text for the
screenplay. (Pg. 174)

>his representation of
>his film as "the" complete *Hamlet* deliberately and dishonestly glossed
>over the very complex and interesting problems that the multiple texts
>of that play offer, and presented a misleading picture of his own
>directorial process.

Not in the least do I think he deliberately or dishonestly glossed over
the "choices" that multiple texts may offer.  He chose the most
expansive story he could, and was very straightforward about what he
chose and why he chose it.  As for his directorial process-that's
precisely what's involved in making the choices he did.

> the way Branagh so vociferously claimed to treat each word of
>the text as sacrosanct,

He did and he does-he anguished over whether to keep, "I'll make a ghost
of him that lets me."  His delivery of words, and his choice of images
have, in the main, been chosen to enhance understanding and
communication of the text.  (I'm going to include excitement in helping
communication.)  In the film documentary, "The Readiness is All"
--essentially, the Making of Hamlet-KB and Russell Jackson work through
finding where the words are grounded for the actors: in order to find
how to channel the energy in the words.  Jackson also mentions this in,
"Discovering Hamlet" a film about the Jacobi-directed RTC Hamlet (played
by Branagh).  (Branagh put Jackson and Hugh Crutwell on his team for
Henry V, and hasn't given them up since.)

As further evidence of his respect for what the writer wrote: the
screenwriter of Dead Again (a film which KB directed but did not write)
trumpeted how KB scrupulously adhered to the text.  And anyone who has
seen KB's film "A Midwinter's Tale" (don't miss it!) may recall Nicholas
Farrell's character exclaiming, "Can you *believe* the cuts!"

> while taking such cavalier liberties with other
>kinds of changes and interpolations: writing in characters who do not
>appear in the text (such as the prostitute in Polonius' bed), changing
>speech assignments (so that Ophelia and Hamlet are both seen reciting
>the love letter the text assigns to Polonius), and writing in the
>excessively repeated "flashback" scene of Hamlet and Ophelia making
>love, to cite just a few examples.

Taking liberties?  Artistic interpretation, I think is more apt.
Otherwise, I suppose a director is *always* taking liberties!  And
cavalier-no, certainly not.  He thought hard about all the choices he
made-and whether they work for YOU or not I'm convinced they weren't
lightly made.

In fact, I loved all of the choices you mention.  And I loved the
chandelier- you mean that isn't in the First Folio? (wink)  KB made the
choices he did to tell the story as he wished to-grandly-and I believe
he accomplished that.

> Even his decision to film the play
>as a 19th-century period piece (replete with a wealth of physical and
>material detail to set the scene) is peculiarly at odds with his
>apparent attempt to claim authoritative and definitive status for his
>film, unless one doesn't mind erasing the nearly 400 years of historic

Oooh-not at all.  First, to my knowledge KB has never claimed
"authoritative and definitive status" for his film.  And even if he
had-it doesn't necessarily follow that an authoritative Hamlet needs to
be in period.  As for definitive- is it heresy to argue that each person
may have a definitive Hamlet?  Or that a person may "change" Hamlets
depending on what stage of life they're in?

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.

Cheers,
Renie

PS By the way, Lemmon played *Marcellus*; Ian McElhinney played
Bernardo.

Call for Papers - Performance Issues

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0525  Thursday, 4 June 1998.

From:           Kathleen Lynch <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 3 Jun 1998 11:50:48 -0400
Subject:        Call for Papers - Performance Issues

This is a special call for papers for a panel on performance issues at
_The XIIth Medieval-Renaissance Conference_ at *Clinch Valley College of
the University of Virginia*, Sept. 17-19, 1998.

The purpose of this panel is to explore questions of performance in the
Middle Ages and the Renaissance.  Papers can focus on performance of
music or literature.  The range of topics includes, but would not
necessarily be limited to, the following: performance practice,
performance context, performance conditions, social history of the
performer, contemporary descriptions and images of performance, the
relationship between the manuscript and the performance, and performance
as social act.  Interdisciplinary approaches are welcome, with
disciplines including but not limited to: music, literature, art, and
history.

Please send a brief abstract accompanied by a one-page vita to:

Sten Maulsby
Department of English
Catholic University of America
Washington, DC  20064

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Deadline is May 25. (flexible)

The above address is for the panel on performance.  All other
correspondence to the Medieval-Renaissance Conference at Clinch Valley
College of the University of Virginia should be directed to:
Ken Tiller
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Re: Edmund in King Lear

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0526  Thursday, 4 June 1998.

[1]     From:   James J. Hill <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Wednesday, 3 Jun 1998 14:23:05 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0524  Q: Edmund in King Lear

[2]     From:   Alison Findlay <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Thursday, 4 Jun 1998 09:36:00 +0100
        Subj:   RE: SHK 9.0524  Q: Edmund in King Lear


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           James J. Hill <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 3 Jun 1998 14:23:05 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 9.0524  Q: Edmund in King Lear
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0524  Q: Edmund in King Lear

One suggestion:  "Edmund's Ancestry" (57-101) in John F. Danby's
*Shakespeare's Doctrine of Nature: A Study of King Lear*, London: Faber,
1961.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Alison Findlay <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 4 Jun 1998 09:36:00 +0100
Subject: 9.0524  Q: Edmund in King Lear
Comment:        RE: SHK 9.0524  Q: Edmund in King Lear

Dear Ellen,

For a discussion of Edmund's illegitimacy, see my book Alison Findlay,
*Illegitimate Power: Bastards in Renaissance Drama* (Manchester
University Press and St Martin's Press, Manchester, 1994). The
bibliography includes references to some other important pieces on
Edmund - including Janet Adelman's brilliant analysis in her book
*Suffocating Mothers* (Routledge, New York and London, 1992) which I
highly recommend to you.

Best wishes with your research.

Alison Findlay,
Lancaster University (UK)

Q: Edmund in King Lear

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0524  Wednesday, 3 June 1998.

From:           Ellen Kaye-Cheveldayoff <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 02 Jun 1998 13:43:15 -0400
Subject:        Edmund in King Lear Question

I would like to learn more about Edmund in King Lear.  Can anyone point
me in the direction of some good books, or essays on the subject?

Ellen Kaye-Cheveldayoff

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