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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: October ::
Re: Essential Macbeth and Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2468  Sunday, 28 October 2001

[1]     From:   Karen Peterson <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Oct 2001 11:00:46 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2462 Re: Essential Macbeth and Hamlet

[2]     From:   Larry Weiss <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Oct 2001 15:57:26 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.2462 Re: Essential Macbeth and Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karen Peterson <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Oct 2001 11:00:46 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 12.2462 Re: Essential Macbeth and Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2462 Re: Essential Macbeth and Hamlet

Following Tue Sorensen's very comprehensive discussion of key issues in
the two plays, I may be moving from the sublime to the ridiculous.  But
what of that.

Ms. Gallagher mentions that she will be doing *Hamlet* with her
college-bound group, and *Macbeth* with the average group.  If I had to
give an *essential*, I would, based on my experience teaching
Shakespeare to a very mixed bag of high school students, emphasize above
all else that Shakespeare's plays were written to be PERFORMED, as
public ENTERTAINMENT.

Depending on the students' past experience(s) with Shakespeare (they
may, perhaps, have had R&J in their freshman or sophomore year) this
point may or may not have been communicated to them.  In my opinion, at
least, many students lose interest in Shakespeare because they are
presented with texts which they are expected to read on their own,
silently.  Assigning student groups to "perform" certain scenes, or to
take parts in a "readers' theatre" format, is a step in the right
direction, and have been suggested by others on this thread.

But if they have limited or no experience HEARING Shakespeare's language
spoken by actors who know how to do it, that situation will have to be
corrected before they will gain much from their own attempts at
performance.  First choice would be to take them to a production, but
that is not easily done.  Films are the logical alternative.  Or
audiotapes.  If the teacher's has any performance skills, her own
read-aloud renditions of difficult passages can also be very helpful.

This plus some work on what play going was like in the early modern
period ought to go some distance in helping both groups realize that
these plays have survived for reasons that go far beyond their "literary
merit".

I could go on and on but I think I better stop now. Good luck, Carol,
and have fun!

Cheers,
Karen Peterson

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <
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 >
Date:           Friday, 26 Oct 2001 15:57:26 -0400
Subject: 12.2462 Re: Essential Macbeth and Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.2462 Re: Essential Macbeth and Hamlet

> Hamlet and Fortinbras are reflections of each other. Both have
> dead fathers, rebel against their uncles and each kill themselves a
> Pollack (Polonius being Latin for Poland)!

I don't take Polonius's name to suggest that he himself is Polish.
Rather, I think "Polonius" is an honorific conferred on someone who was
instrumental in overcoming Poland, like Germanicus, Britanicus,
Coriolanus.  As I commented some time ago, the name adds a dimension to
the character, suggesting that his confidence in his own statesmanship
was at one time not without justification, and providing a partial
explanation of why a king as astute as Claudius would retain someone in
his dotage as chief adviser.  We may also infer that another reason is
that Polonius, a respected elder, was helpful in electing Claudius king
That also provides an explanation for Hamlet's antipathy to him.

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