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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: April ::
Re: A Hamlet Prequel
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.0781  Thursday, 13 April 2000.

[1]     From:   Tanya Gough <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 12 Apr 2000 10:25:55 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0766 A Hamlet Prequel

[2]     From:   Lawrence Manley <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 12 Apr 2000 10:30:12 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0766 A Hamlet Prequel

[3]     From:   David M. Dutrow <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 12 Apr 2000 10:43:23 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0766 A Hamlet Prequel

[4]     From:   Geralyn Horton <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 12 Apr 2000 10:52:09 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0766 A Hamlet Prequel

[5]     From:   John Amos <
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        Date:   Thursday, 13 Apr 2000 10:26:34 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0766 A Hamlet Prequel

[6]     From:   Christine Mack Gordon <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 12 Apr 2000 13:07:21 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0766 A Hamlet Prequel

[7]     From:   David Glassco <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 12 Apr 2000 14:57:14 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.0766 A Hamlet Prequel


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tanya Gough <
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Date:           Wednesday, 12 Apr 2000 10:25:55 -0400
Subject: 11.0766 A Hamlet Prequel
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0766 A Hamlet Prequel

>Has anyone read Updike's newest, Gertrude and Claudius?  (Or maybe it
>was Claudius and Gertrude...?)

I started it a few weeks ago, and actually made it to the halfway point
before getting swept up in preparations for SAA in Montreal.  I'm not a
huge Updike fan, and this novel hasn't done much to turn me into one.  I
find the pacing bland, the characters fairly static, and Updike does not
provide any significant insights into the world that was Denmark as it
made the transition from paganism to early Christianity, or into the
mind of a young woman caught between the duty owed to her husband and
her stronger attraction to his brother.   It's not terrible, but I'm
afraid it falls into that category of popular mass market fiction that
never quite engages me.  If I finish it, it will be out of a sense of
obligation to old Bill and a stubborn streak that does not allow me to
leave books half read.

Tanya Gough

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Lawrence Manley <
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Date:           Wednesday, 12 Apr 2000 10:30:12 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 11.0766 A Hamlet Prequel
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0766 A Hamlet Prequel

>Has anyone read Updike's newest, Gertrude and Claudius?  (Or maybe it
>was Claudius and Gertrude...?)  I very nearly purchased it yesterday in
>our local McBook store, but thought I'd save my $24.95 and ask the
>list.  The cover blurb goes on and on about how it's all based on the
>Ur-Hamlet and Norse history, etc.  The first page or two didn't look
>promising, but who knows.

I found it quite interesting.  It's a feuilleton, but then Updike is a
master.  I don't want to say a lot and spoil it for you, but the points
that make for interesting reflection (many of them coming out of Saxo
Grammaticus) are the questions raised about Hamlet's improbably high
estimate of his father: How did Hamlet Sr. come by the throne? (in this
version, by marriage to Gertrude)  Was he a good husband? (in this
version, hehe, no)

And best of all is the role of Corambus-Polonius, an old retainer to
Gertrude's father whose loyalties are not to the (in his view) usurping
Hamlet but to Gertrude, whom he has known since she was a child.  The
relationships between Feng-Claudius, Corambus-Polonius, and
Geruthe-Gertrude-the question of what they know about each other and
when they know it-is brilliant and quite moving.

Lawrence Manley

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David M. Dutrow <
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Date:           Wednesday, 12 Apr 2000 10:43:23 EDT
Subject: 11.0766 A Hamlet Prequel
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0766 A Hamlet Prequel

For anyone who would be interested in Gertrude and Claudius...read it!
It's "cute" in parts, but on the whole it's a nice prequel to the play.
Another good Shakespeare novel out now is Robert Nye's The Late Mr.
Shakespeare, where the narrator is a member of Shakespeare's players and
exposes all secrets, such as who the Dark Lady is, who really wrote his
plays, and others.  Enjoy.

David Dutrow

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Geralyn Horton <
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Date:           Wednesday, 12 Apr 2000 10:52:09 -0400
Subject: 11.0766 A Hamlet Prequel
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0766 A Hamlet Prequel

I have read it, and enjoyed it.  But Updike has yet to write anything I
won't enjoy: his prose delights me phrase to phrase whatever his
subject.  Updike seemed pleased with his Gertrude when interviewed by
Charlie Rose on PBS, happy to have drawn a rounded woman and a realistic
Denmark.  However, I found the novel very thin. Like all re-workings of
Shakespeare, including most "production concepts", it seemed to me so
much smaller than the original as to shake one's faith in- what?
Civilization? Progress? Art? What is wrong with us, his audience, that
such a gifted a writer has been encouraged to conceive and be satisfied
by so small and prosaic a creation?

G&C is very like an ordinary well written "woman's historical"-- a genre
which I do not by any means disparage.

* I very nearly purchased it yesterday in our local McBook store, but
* thought I'd save my $24.95 and ask the list.

I checked out one of the library's copies. It is short, and can be read
in a day or two.

Geralyn Horton, Playwright
Newton, Mass. 02460
<http://www.tiac.net/users/ghorton>

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Amos <
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Date:           Thursday, 13 Apr 2000 10:26:34 +0000
Subject: 11.0766 A Hamlet Prequel
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0766 A Hamlet Prequel

I've read it, and I found thoroughly interesting.  Updike, whose always
interested in male/female relationships, uses the affair between
Gertrude and Claudius as a sort of prototypic, mythic relationship
between man and woman.  On the one hand, this Norse couple is primitive,
and you get a good sense of the elemental workings between men and
women.    On the other hand, they're not cave men; they are civilized,
and you see how basic male/female instincts and tempered and hidden by
social regulations. I enjoyed it.

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Christine Mack Gordon <
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Date:           Wednesday, 12 Apr 2000 13:07:21 -0500
Subject: 11.0766 A Hamlet Prequel
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0766 A Hamlet Prequel

Karen Peterson-Kranz asked about Updike's Gertrude and Claudius: found
it at my local library, read it and enjoyed it. It's the only Updike
I've ever read, but I thought his re-working of the story and was
handled very well. Might make a splendid film (ah, yes, another
Hamlet!).  Greetings to all those whom I met (and those I didn't as
well) at SAA: I hope every got home safely, despite surprise snowstorms
and cancelled planes.

Chris/Kit Gordon, Minneapolis

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Glassco <
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Date:           Wednesday, 12 Apr 2000 14:57:14 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 11.0766 A Hamlet Prequel
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.0766 A Hamlet Prequel

I've read the Updike, and I'd say it's "entertaining". You can get the
gist of it for less time and less money (I suspect) from Margaret
Atwood's "Gertrude Talks Back" which is published in a volume called Old
Bones.  Aatwood's 3 page monologue is pointed and witty and gives you
the essence of Updike's 170 odd pages.

David Glassco
 

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