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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: May ::
Re: Time in Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1230  Friday, 25 May 2001

[1]     From:   David Bishop <
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        Date:   Thursday, 24 May 2001 14:44:47 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1206 Re: Time in Hamlet

[2]     From:   Clifford Stetner <
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        Date:   Thursday, 24 May 2001 16:31:12 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1193 Re: Time in Hamlet

[3]     From:   Takashi Kozuka <
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        Date:   Thursday, 24 May 2001 20:09:36
        Subj:   Re: Time in Hamlet

[4]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Thursday, 24 May 2001 23:28:58 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1206 Re: Time in Hamlet

[5]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Thursday, 24 May 2001 23:35:32 -0400
        Subj:   Fortinbras's last speech


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Bishop <
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Date:           Thursday, 24 May 2001 14:44:47 -0400
Subject: 12.1206 Re: Time in Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1206 Re: Time in Hamlet

It has never occurred to me that "his passage" at the end of Hamlet
might be Claudius's passage. Nor does it occur to me now, though Terence
Hawkes finds this reading "offers itself irresistibly to the actor." I
might point to the bridging soldier imagery, but particular arguments
about these lines seem a bit futile if the reader can't feel the
dramatic spotlight now resting on Hamlet.

Best wishes,
David Bishop

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Clifford Stetner <
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Date:           Thursday, 24 May 2001 16:31:12 -0400
Subject: 12.1193 Re: Time in Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1193 Re: Time in Hamlet

Apologies to Steve Roth for unnecessary anguish:

>Clifford, I'm not clear why you think that your reading "must be
>disqualified to accept Steve Roth's," or that you have been
>"intentionally prevented" from demonstrating that yours is the
>"authentic reading."

I meant that the text intentionally is constructed to prevent an answer
to the question it pointedly raises of Hamlet's age.  And I explicitly
said that I did not presume to offer a single authentic reading of the
play, as the obscurity of its transmission dooms us permanently to
undemonstrable conjecture.  As I replied above to Sean, the assertion
that Hamlet must and does have a true age disqualifies the assertion
that he need not and does not.

What I was able to read of your paper seemed to me to imply that we can
separate a sixteen year old Hamlet created by Shakespeare from the
confusion of ages in F1 created by imperfect non Shakespearean
redaction.  If I read wrong, please correct me.  While this seems
completely plausible, it remains beyond our event horizon. It seems to
me to be based on the assumption that ambiguities in versions of the
text must be inadvertent confusions of what was originally definite in
the intention of the author (and that his definite intentions should be
privileged over all other interpretations to which the texts can be
subjected).  Most authors know the approximate age of every character
they create.  If the text(s) do not make it clear, either the author or
his editors have been remiss, but this seems just the sort of convention
that the mature Shakespeare might attempt to undermine.  The sonnet
cycle gives evidence of the poet walking a thin line between convention
and innovation.  I admit I pushed the issue a little far by implying
that both quartos and the folio were specifically designed and planted
to mirror an emerging recognition that the source of problems confronted
in the mature ego (i.e. the Folio) lies in its immature developmental
stages.  As implausible as such a level of premeditation might seem, I
am less concerned with arriving at a single conclusive reading among
many supported by the available evidence than with which of those many I
can securely disqualify, and I've seen enough evidence of premeditated
ambiguities to make me a very insecure reader.

Clifford

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Takashi Kozuka <
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Date:           Thursday, 24 May 2001 20:09:36
Subject:        Re: Time in Hamlet

I wrote:

> >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.

Steve Roth then responded:

>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?

Oops! What I meant was that the appearance of the actor or actress would
not necessarily convey the role's age to his/her audience. (Sometimes it
does, and sometimes it doesn't.) When I saw R&J, I did not feel awkward
about the actors being much older than high school boys should be. It
could be because I read a review before I went to see the performance,
and thus I knew of this particular setting (a Catholic high school).
Would I have found the performance awkward if I had not known anything
of the setting before I saw the performance?

The issue involves many aspects, I think -- not just the difference
between the age of the role and that of the actor or actress, but also
the knowledge about the play and/or the production we have beforehand.
Professor Peter Holland has suggested elsewhere that the future of
performance criticism must involve analysis of *relationship* between
the performance and the audience. What I am suggesting here is that we
must consider not just the age and/or appearance of the actor who plays
Hamlet (or whatever the role is) and its impact upon the audience, but
also the cause(s) of such impact/reaction which could be originated in
the audience as well as in the actor or actress.

Takashi Kozuka

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Thursday, 24 May 2001 23:28:58 -0400
Subject: 12.1206 Re: Time in Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1206 Re: Time in Hamlet

Steve Roth wrote

> 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.

I can't speak for Dover Wilson, but in my iteration I was careful to
exclude "non-traditional" casting.  If a sixty year old can be made up
and lit to look 30 (or younger in the Q1 version), I have no problem.
Otherwise, we are back in the thread about idiosyncratic casting, not
discussing the age of the character in the text.

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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Date:           Thursday, 24 May 2001 23:35:32 -0400
Subject:        Fortinbras's last speech

I recall T. Hawkes's reading very well, and I confess to having been
awestruck by its brilliance.  The reading seems so right to me, not only
for the reasons advanced by Prof. Hawkes (meter and spectacle), but also
because it does not strike me that "the soldier's music and the rite of
war" are fitting for Hamlet's passage.  It can be argued that they are
not particularly suitable for Claudius either; but at least we are told
that he has effectively prepared the defense of his kingdom, and it can
be argued that the diplomatic solution he achieves is the professional
soldier's highest aim.

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