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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: September ::
Re: What's It All About, Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1797  Monday, 25 September 2000.

[1]     From:   Richard Nathan <
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        Date:   Friday, 22 Sep 2000 16:00:29 +0000
        Subj:   SHK 11.1786 Re: What's It All About, Hamlet

[2]     From:   Mike Jensen <
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        Date:   Friday, 22 Sep 2000 09:07:59 -0700
        Subj:   SHK 11.1786 Re: What's It All About, Hamlet

[3]     From:   Lucia A. Setari <
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        Date:   Friday, 22 Sep 2000 15:51:32 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.1786 Re: What's It All About, Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Nathan <
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Date:           Friday, 22 Sep 2000 16:00:29 +0000
Subject: Re: What's It All About, Hamlet
Comment:        SHK 11.1786 Re: What's It All About, Hamlet

I've seen four stage productions of "HAMLET" within the past year, plus
the film with Ethan Hawke, plus a production of my parody "A NIGHT IN
ELSINORE."  The more I've seen of the play, the less I like the title
character.

I saw the in late 1999 at the Folger in Washington, D.C.  It was
probably the best "Hamlet" I've seen this year.   The title character
was played for four different performers, three of them women.  The one
who played Hamlet most often was fairly young, and she played Hamlet as
an angst-ridden teenager.  I know that in the graveyard scene, it is
said that Hamlet is 30, but Hamlet as an angry, self-involved teen
worked.  It wasn't just his father's murder that was driving him nuts,
it was being a teenager and having hormones running amok and really
learning for the first time how screwed up all the adults are.

The next "Hamlet" was a local Los Angeles production, which had received
very good reviews.  When they buried Ophelia, they actually put the
actress who portrayed the role in a box on stage, but then they had ato
find a way to get her off.  So they had everyone freeze, and Ophelia
rose from her grave, looked sadly at Hamlet and Laertes, and then walked
off stage.  It may sownd awful, but the actress carried off the moment.
It was affecting.  TOO affecting.  In the next scene, when Hamlet starts
making fun of Osric, you see that he seems to have completely forgotten
about Ophelia, the woman he claimed to have loved more than 40,000
brothers in the previous scene.  (40,000 may not be the right number -
I'm relying on memory.)   This made Hamlet seem like an insensitive
jerk.

The next stage production was the one in Stratford, Ontario - which
emphasized Hamlet's mad, antic style, which seemed inappropriate for a
man who is truly grieving for his father.  This Hamlet seemed to be
about a man who really had gone insane, but thought he was only
pretending.

I got the same feeling of a man who was truly insane when I saw the
current production in Ashland - particularly in the scene when Hamlet
confronts Gertrude, and warns her not to let Claudia know that he is
really sane.  If Hamlet had any appreciation of reality, he'd know that
there wasn't a chance in Hell of Gertrude telling ANYONE she thinks
Hamlet is sane, because she thinks he's completely nuts.  In fact, I
don't think I've ever seen a production of "HAMLET" in which I didn't
feel strongly that Gertrude was sure Hamlet really was insane in this
scene.  Why can't he see it.

As I said, the more I see "HAMLET," the less I like the character.
Maybe Anon Lesser has it right.  Anyone interested should listen to his
performance as Hamlet in the Naxxos recording of the play.  His Hamlet
is a completely obnoxious jerk.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <
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Date:           Friday, 22 Sep 2000 09:07:59 -0700
Subject: Re: What's It All About, Hamlet
Comment:        SHK 11.1786 Re: What's It All About, Hamlet

>How would you say in just a phrase or a sentence what Hamlet is all
>about?

I'm a bit surprised at the question and a bit surprised that anybody
tired.  A friend of mine recently asked me to read her introduction to a
book on the play. I will summarize that by telling you she said you
really can't summarize the play.  We agreed that Hamlet said it best:

"Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me!  You would play
upon me; you would seem to know my stops; you would pluck out the heart
of my mystery; you would sound me from the lowest note to the top of my
compass...  'Sblood, do you think I am easier to be played on than a
pipe?  Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, yet you
cannot play upon me."  3.1 376 - 389

Of course he is in part speaking of the attempt of R & G to manipulate
him, but also of the impossibility of fully understanding him.  I do not
hesitate to extend this meaning from the character to the play.

All the best,
Mike Jensen

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Lucia A. Setari <
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Date:           Friday, 22 Sep 2000 15:51:32 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 11.1786 Re: What's It All About, Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.1786 Re: What's It All About, Hamlet

Hamlet is about your life.

Yours naively,
Lucia A. Setari
 

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