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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: May ::
Re: Time in Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1206  Thursday, 24 May 2001

[1]     From:   Steve Roth <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 23 May 2001 12:27:51 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1193 Re: Time in Hamlet

[2]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Thursday, 24 May 2001 07:07:46 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 12.1168 Re: Time in Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Roth <
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Date:           Wednesday, 23 May 2001 12:27:51 -0700
Subject: 12.1193 Re: Time in Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1193 Re: Time in Hamlet

>I don't know if it's entirely true (even on the 20th-century stage). I
>saw a production of Romeo and Juliet ("R&J") in NYC several years ago.
>The setting was a Catholic high school (boys only?) if I remember
>correctly. But the actors were all mature men, and none of them appeared
>as young as high school boys.

I find this to be an excellent point.

If Romeo is played by an old man, or Lear by a youth (though makeup
could help here), it's a real problem for the production. Isn't this
equally true for Hamlet?

This is why I find the Dover Wilson's statement ("Hamlet is an actor
made up to represent a certain age, which they [audience members] accept
without question"), echoed by Larry Weiss, to be unsatisfactory. It's
saying that he could be acted by/as a 60-year old, with no problem.

Which just ain't so.

Which brings us back to asking: why are those four oddly obtrusive items
in the play, contradicting everything else (including the gravedigger
himself, in an also oddly obtrusive line directly between his two
thirty-year statements)? The rewrite for Burbage (or, conversely, for a
younger actor) strikes me as a pretty satisfying explanation.

Steve

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Thursday, 24 May 2001 07:07:46 -0400
Subject: Re: Time in Hamlet
Comment:        SHK 12.1168 Re: Time in Hamlet

' -- most important -- how should Fortinbras's words be spoken -- and
which words are we to speak properly?'

Bill Godshalk's obduracy is acquiring an antique charm. We discussed all
this on SHAKSPER three years ago. The point is a simple and, it seems to
me, fairly obvious one. At the end of Hamlet, Fortinbras surveys the
bodies and concludes

               Let four captains
Bear Hamlet like a soldier to the stage,
For he was likely, had he been put on,
To have prov'd most royal; and for his passage,
The soldier's music and the rite of war
Speak loudly for him.
Take up the bodies . . .
(V, 2, 400-406, Arden edition)

Where 'he' in line 402 refers to Hamlet, 'his' in line 403 refers to
Claudius. No textual emendations whatever are necessary to produce this
reading, which, perhaps slightly reinforced by the surrounding iambic
nudging, offers itself irresistibly to the actor and falls readily from
his lips.  The 'mighty opposites' are thus finally borne away, together:
a disturbing emblem of their complex, pivotal relationship in this play
of fathers and sons. Its nature remains, as I've said, one of the five
crucial Shakespearean questions. My withers are unwrung.

T. Hawkes
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