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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: July ::
Re: To be or not to be
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1871  Thursday, 26 July 2001

[1]     From:   Charles Weinstein <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 25 Jul 2001 20:02:42 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1858 Re: To be or not to be

[2]     From:   Andrew W. White <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 25 Jul 2001 20:39:36 -0400
        Subj:   To be or not to be


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Charles Weinstein <
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Date:           Wednesday, 25 Jul 2001 20:02:42 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 12.1858 Re: To be or not to be
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1858 Re: To be or not to be

Along with Harold Jenkins, I do not believe that Hamlet ever becomes
aware of the hidden presence of Claudius and/or Polonius during the
nunnery scene.  As Jenkins points out in Arden 2, there is no clear
textual evidence for such an interpretation; I would go further and say
that the text militates against it.  Artistically, I believe that it is
a poor choice: it cheapens and melodramatizes what is otherwise
emotionally and psychologically profound.  When I directed a production
of Hamlet several years ago, I expressly told my actors NOT to play the
scene that way.  It worked; and I believe that it was a better scene for
it.

I will elaborate upon this in a future post.  In the meantime, I would
simply ask those who feel differently to try a simple experiment.  Read
the scene again assuming that Hamlet never knows.  See how this alters
and deepens everything he says to Ophelia.  What was once the
predictable and easy rage of a man who hates being spied upon becomes
something less contingent and more harrowing, less circumstantial and
more tragic.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew W. White <
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Date:           Wednesday, 25 Jul 2001 20:39:36 -0400
Subject:        To be or not to be

Thanks to Paul Doniger for correcting my flawed memory:  Claudius does
send for him, and it could, indeed, be another room in the castle, but
it would still have to be one with an arras like the one Polonius
indicates in the lobby.  I took his speech to mean "At such a time
[i.e., when Hamlet is _here_] I'le loose my daughter to him."

It also occurs to me that given the context of a plataea, a vague sort
of 'acting area,' I'm not sure even Shakespeare himself was much
concerned about which room the scene takes place in.  After all, it
takes place in the Globe, and the tapestry for the reveal room usually
hangs upstage center, right?  The audience might not have cared much for
maps of Kronburg Castle, themselves, hence the vague note 'a room in the
castle' may have been more pro forma.

Cheers,
Andy White

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