2001

Re: Two Gents, Catching Cold

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1897  Monday, 30 July 2001

From:           Susan St. John <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday 27 Jul 2001 09:26:27 -0700
Subject: 12.1879 Re: Two Gents, Catching Cold
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1879 Re: Two Gents, Catching Cold

> Rainbow Saari wrote:

> I think Lucetta's line, "Yet there they shall not lie, for catching
> cold", expresses the idea that if the pieces of the letter are left
> where they are, then the matter they contain (Proteus' love suit to her
> mistress) may likewise cool off, grow 'cold', and sicken.

This would make sense if Lucetta leaned down to pick them up; "yet there
[here] they shall not lie" *doesn't* sound like she's suggesting Julia
should pick them up in order that her love not grow cold...do you
envision Lucetta taking up the pieces? and then perhaps Julia snatches
them back on her line??

Thanks,
Susan.

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World Shakespeare Bibliography Online

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1896  Monday, 30 July 2001

From:           Jim Harner <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday 27 Jul 2001 13:18:55 -0500
Subject:        World Shakespeare Bibliography Online

The Library Association (London) has announced that the World
Shakespeare Bibliography Online has been shortlisted for the 2001
Besterman/McColvin Medal
(http://www.la-q.org.uk/directory/press_desk/200113.html). The World
Shakespeare Bibliography on CD-ROM 1990-1993 won the medal in 1997.

Jim Harner
Editor, World Shakespeare Bibliography Online

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Re: Hamlet's Clashing Ideals

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1894  Monday, 30 July 2001

[1]     From:   Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 27 Jul 2001 13:19:13 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1886 Re: Hamlet's Clashing Ideals

[2]     From:   Graham Hall <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 27 Jul 2001 18:00:06 +0000
        Subj:   Hamlet's Clashing Ideals

[3]     From:   Andrew W. White <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 27 Jul 2001 15:17:43 -0400
        Subj:   Hamlet's Clashing Ideals

[4]     From:   Rainbow Saari <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Sunday, 29 Jul 2001 19:47:13 +1200
        Subj:   RE;12.1886 Hamlet's clashing Ideals


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 27 Jul 2001 13:19:13 -0400
Subject: 12.1886 Re: Hamlet's Clashing Ideals
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1886 Re: Hamlet's Clashing Ideals

>This lack-of-certain-knowledge bit is certainly a central theme of the
>play ("Who's there?")

I don't think "Who's there?" prefigures a theme of uncertainty so much
as disjointedness.  Consider:  A sentry is on stage "at his post" and
another person enters and demands of the sentry "Who's there?"  This
reverses the proper order of things, which Francisco correctly restores
in the next line -- "Nay, answer me ...." But the suggestion has already
been planted in the audience's mind that something completely out of the
ordinary is happening.  And who was Bernardo expecting to be there, or
was afraid might be there?  Perhaps this is the most brilliant opening
line ever written.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Graham Hall <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 27 Jul 2001 18:00:06 +0000
Subject:        Hamlet's Clashing Ideals

>Don Bloom writes,
>
>Excuse me for introducing a side issue in this discussion of "The
>Mousetrap," but the thing that has bothered me for many years is why the
>players agree to do it at all. Even leaving out the possible parallel of
>the nephew to the brother, the play on the surface is a gross insult to
>the queen. > [...]

Life's prequel could be said to have occurred on  7 Feb 1601, I suppose.

Further, it could be argued that Eastward Ho! kept the tradition alive.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew W. White <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 27 Jul 2001 15:17:43 -0400
Subject:        Hamlet's Clashing Ideals

Some very good stuff, I like this thread, it's getting more demanding.

First, Steve Roth:  I see a contradiction here -- first you say:

>I didn't mean to suggest that [Claudius'] reaction is solely because he's seen
>his own death figured at his nephew's hand. It's quite possible his
>reaction is because he saw his own vile crime. (Both, I'd say.)

Then:

>Hamlet would understand both explanations for his
>action, but would be unsure whether A, B, or both of the above was the
>trigger. So he gains no knowledge.

Hmm, so Hamlet has seen Claudius react _both_ as a guilty party, and as
someone who now knows his days are numbered.  That doesn't constitute
proof?

Again, Hamlet has informed the audience that the 'most miraculous organ'
will give a criminal's deeds away.  So we have been asked to look, upon
Claudius' eyes during the dumb show.  Eyes don't have lines or stage
directions.  Granted, Shakespeare doesn't give us explicit stage
directions ('his eyes buggeth out, his jaw droppeth') but Hamlet's
certainty should be taken at face value, IMHO.

> I don't understand; what plot is Hamlet covering (up?) [with Ophelia]?

Um, the plot to uncover Claudius' guilt, and Gertrude's incestuous
adultery, through the play?  Just a theory.  Given Denmark's reputation
for drunkenness and bawdry, Hamlet's nastiness with Ophelia would pass
as a sign of mental health among the court.

> Claudius is a brilliant actor. <g> Which is what makes him such a
> consumate diplomat and politician.>

Precisely the point:  Claudius is a good actor, but I believe the scene
is set up so that he _does_ lose his cool, albeit silently, and reveal
his guilt in a very discreet, eye-centered manner.

> It's certainly a play about revenge, but I don't understand what
> demanding and intricate revenge is.

A revenge that ensures Claudius' damnation, because mere death doesn't
cut it.  He has to suffer in the afterlife, just as he made his brother
suffer Purgatory needlessly.  It's a concept that is alien to us, but
would be taken for granted back then.  And this involves Hamlet's unique
awareness of the two worlds, that of nature and that of the 'life to
come.'  It is because he has to juggle the demands of _spiritual_
revenge, not merely physical, that he needs to play it so carefully and
make sure he does the job at the right time, under the right
circumstances.

As for Edmund Taft:

> I have to disagree with Andy: this is very much a play about not
> knowing. . .

In the sense you put it, of course it's about not knowing, which I would
qualify:  it's about _initial_ uncertainty.  Hamlet makes sure he's got
his facts straight before he proceeds; it is hence also a play about
revelations, and about the difficulties of acting even after one has 'by
indirections found directions out.'

As for Don Bloom, who is right to point out:

> Surely the players could expect immediate imprisonment, followed by
> whipping, branding, mutilation -- if they were lucky, that is, and
> escaped REAL torture.

Well, yes, but remember that the Lord Chamberlain's men had just
collectively escaped the gallows themselves, in the wake of the Essex
rebellion.  Their excuse?  'Look, _R-II_ was an old chestnut of a play,
nobody does it anymore; but this was a command performance, and the
money was too good to pass up."  [Among the defendants was one of the
editors of the Folio edition.]  That was enough to keep their heads off
the block.

Cheers, and apologies for the length but there was so much good stuff to
respond to!

Andy White

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Rainbow Saari <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Sunday, 29 Jul 2001 19:47:13 +1200
Subject:        RE;12.1886 Hamlet's clashing Ideals

Don Bloom's 'side issue' about ' the Mousetrap'  ( Why would "the
players agree to do it at all", given the play "on the surface is a
gross insult to the Queen?" ) brings into focus   similarities between
'the Mousetrap' performance by  these fictional Players and  the actual
performance by the Lord Chamberlain's Men of Richard II just prior to
the Essex Rebellion. That Queen, Elizabeth, was indeed offended by its
content. Those Players apparently did it , in all innocence, for the
money  according to Augustine Phillips, when asked to explain. (Forty
shillings, if my memory serves me correctly .)

If the theory that Steve Roth endorses is so (that the Players in
'Hamlet' are intended  to represent/parody  the Lord Admiral's Co ),
then perhaps in 'Hamlet' we have WS portraying, with customary
subtlety,  how easy it is to for players of any company( even - heaven
forbid!- the L. Admiral's ) to get (innocently or otherwise ) caught in
a 'mousetrap', in this case a potentially politically inadvisable
situation, as Don points out.

Cheers,
Rainbow

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Re: To be or not to be

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1895  Monday, 30 July 2001

[1]     From:   Andrew W. White <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Friday, 27 Jul 2001 15:42:26 -0400
        Subj:   To be or not to be

[2]     From:   Charles Weinstein <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Sunday, 29 Jul 2001 17:41:44 EDT
        Subj:   SHK 12.1858 Re: To be or not to be


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew W. White <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 27 Jul 2001 15:42:26 -0400
Subject:        To be or not to be

First:  somehow, R. A. Cantrell and I have miscommunicated.  I believe
Hamlet is _especially_ gifted at finding things out; in the original
legend, in Belleforest's narrative, and here too he is able to play the
fool but tell the audience that he's in charge of his own fate.  (how
does he get word about the trip to England, eh?)  On a related thread, I
have stated my belief that Hamlet learns Claudius' guilt at _The
Mousetrap_, although few seem to agree.  [Care to chime in on that
thread, to back me up?]

Some people on this thread have problems with Hamlet's prescience, but I
do not.  I believe that if Hamlet smelled a rat from the very first, his
"To be or not to be" would be explicitly staged for the benefit of his
observers.  Hence, that's just how I would play it if given a second
chance: book in hand, pontificating.  [And if it is about suicide, but
it's staged, it could be done as a means of keeping Claudius and
Polonius off his back.]  Just because few people stage it this way
doesn't mean that it can't be done.  But it does require an especially
astute director and nuanced actor -- one or both being in short supply
as far as Hamlets go.

As for Mary Jane Miller's remarks -- I thought this was Ophelia's line
of reaction too, for a long time.  But once I concluded that Hamlet knew
he was being watched from the start, and that Ophelia was taught how to
play this scene, what props to use, etc., and on VERY short notice, it
was hard for me to see "rich gifts" as anything other than a bit of
Polonian dramaturgy.  After all, it isn't Hamlet who has been cruel, it
has been Ophelia -- she is telling him a bald-faced lie, and both of
them know it.  How on earth can Ophelia, who has shunned Hamlet and sent
back all letters, gifts, etc., for months on end, accuse Hamlet of
cruelty at this moment?  Answer: because she was put up to it.

Which leads me to another question:  since when is Ophelia a good spy?
Let alone, a good actress?  Why should we not be given to see the strain
of the demands placed on her, through her awkwardness at both line
delivery and prop-handling?

Andy White

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Charles Weinstein <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Sunday, 29 Jul 2001 17:41:44 EDT
Subject: Re: To be or not to be
Comment:        SHK 12.1858 Re: To be or not to be

The Nunnery Scene is (or should be) about Hamlet's need to love warring
with his inability to love, his desire for Ophelia struggling against
sexual nausea and helpless misogyny, his longing for a wife and family
polluted by thoughts of a faithless mother and murderous uncle stewing
in corruption, honeying and making love over the nasty sty.  Much of
this is lost or obscured if Hamlet suddenly notices a twitching behind
the arras or, worse, is aware of the "lawful espials" from the outset.
The scene then ceases to be about Hamlet's love-sickness (far more
severe than anything Polonius has imagined) and promptly becomes a scene
about his dislike of spies.  That is not only trivial and reductive,
it's superfluous, since the play has already given us one such scene
("Were you not sent for?") and is about to give us another ("How now, a
rat?  Dead for a ducat, dead!").  We don't need three.

We certainly don't need the cheapening suggestion that Hamlet's words
are not a true confession of his agony, but rather an act staged for
Claudius and Polonius or the easy, understandable fury of a man who
hates eavesdroppers.

Moreover, if "Where's your father?" signals Hamlet's awareness of hidden
auditors and his test of Ophelia's loyalty, then Ophelia surely knows
it, and just as surely knows that his resulting fury is provoked by her
untruthful reply.  Yet her words indicate no such knowledge, either to
Hamlet or to herself when alone.  On the contrary, her prayers during
Hamlet's tirade reveal nothing but an anguished belief that he is
genuinely insane, beyond human comprehension or treatment.  "O help him,
you sweet heavens!"  "O heavenly powers, restore him!"  When left alone
to express her deepest and truest feelings in soliloquy, does she
castigate herself for betraying Hamlet?  Does she say "I've deceived the
man I loved, forfeiting his trust and affection forever"?  Not a bit of
it:  she utters the heartfelt eulogy "O what a noble mind is here
o'erthrown," lamenting the ruin that madness has wrought in Hamlet's
soul and body.  If Hamlet has truly guessed the presence of others and
revealed this knowledge to Ophelia, then her prayers and her soliloquy
are nothing but the craven charade of a weakling who cannot admit her
guilt even to herself.  Ophelia perforce becomes a hypocrite who shuns
self-awareness through false piety and ludicrous head-shakings over the
"madness" that makes Hamlet behave so inexplicably.

Of course, it is possible to see Ophelia as a coward and a ninny, and
some critics (e.g., Anne Barton) have done precisely that.  But I cannot
read Ophelia's words and hear the accents of craven hypocrisy.  Nor do I
believe that so paltry a figure would show the quiet, contained courage
with which Ophelia receives Hamlet's obscene insults in the Play Scene.
("Lady, shall I lie in your lap?" is the Elizabethan equivalent of
"Wanna fuck?" and the subsequent references to "country matters" and
lying "between maids' legs" are hardly cryptic.  Yet Ophelia does not
run weeping from the room or into her father's arms:  she cradles
Hamlet's head and deflects each lewd remark with pained but gentle
dignity:   "Still better, and worse.")   Finally, I do not believe that
a shallow doll, even in distraction, could utter the most beautiful and
haunting lines of the play, as Ophelia does in IV.5:  "Lord, we know
what we are, but know not what we may be."  "There's rosemary, that's
for remembrance.  Pray you, love, remember."  Shakespeare lavished
considerable tenderness and care upon Ophelia:  he would not have done
so if he intended her words in the Nunnery Scene to be read in the only
way that the "awareness" theory will allow.

The theory can also be faulted for judging the eavesdropping in too
partisan a fashion.  For as we all know (but seldom admit) the "lawful
espials" are by no means clearly reprehensible.  Hamlet, after all, is
thought to be insane, and the insane are often discreetly watched to
insure that they do not harm themselves or others.  Hamlet has recently
broken into Ophelia's closet and assaulted her physically; Polonius
could hardly allow his daughter to meet him again without supervision.
Yet the supervision must be hidden from the patient if he is to freely
reveal his heart to Ophelia and effect the cure that everyone desires.
In short, it is possible to see Polonius' plan as benign in intention,
prudent in conception and responsible in execution--"lawful" indeed.
Yet it becomes difficult to keep this in mind if one supposes that
Hamlet's fury is prompted by his knowledge of prying eyes and lurking
ears.  Sympathies become skewed in favor of the outraged victim of
invaded privacy, at the cost of ambiguity and complexity.

Well then, how should "Where's your father?" and the surrounding lines
be played?  Like this, I believe:  "Why isn't your father here to
protect you from me?  He told you never to see me again--and he was
right.  I'm an arrant knave who would deceive you into slaking his
filthy lust.  And you, of course, would deceive me with your coquetry
and lies, your false faces and false words.  Your father was right to
lock you away from me, and if he now relents and allows you to wander
unchaperoned, let the doors be shut on him, since he's clearly too old
and too senile to know what he's doing.  If he won't sequester you in a
convent, do it on your own initiative.  Save yourself, and save me."

--Charles Weinstein (using his wife's server)

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Re: Smoktunovsky Hamlet

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1893  Monday, 30 July 2001

[1]     From:   Arthur Lindley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Saturday, 28 Jul 2001 09:46:33 +0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1884 Re: Smoktunovsky Hamlet

[2]     From:   Graham Bradshaw <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Saturday, 28 Jul 2001 12:32:49 +0900
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1884 Re: Smoktunovsky Hamlet

[3]     From:   Sean Lawrence <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Saturday, 28 Jul 2001 12:29:42 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1864 Re: Smoktunovsky Hamlet

[4]     From:   Arthur Lindley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 30 Jul 2001 14:08:03 +0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1864 Re: Smoktunovsky Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Arthur Lindley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Saturday, 28 Jul 2001 09:46:33 +0800
Subject: 12.1884 Re: Smoktunovsky Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1884 Re: Smoktunovsky Hamlet

Our Library at the Nat'l U of Singapore was able to get a video of this
film for me a few years ago, I believe from an outfit called Hendring
Ltd.  I've asked the Media Librarian if she can provide further info.

Arthur Lindley

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Graham Bradshaw <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Saturday, 28 Jul 2001 12:32:49 +0900
Subject: 12.1884 Re: Smoktunovsky Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1884 Re: Smoktunovsky Hamlet

For a Russian audience, Smoktunovsky's own past gave his Hamlet added
bite. After being released from a Nazi prison camp he soon found
himself  in one of Stalin's. This Hamlet was being played by a brave
oppositional hero.  Which must have given an extraordinary contemporary
urgency to (say) the first soliloquy, which is heard as a voice-over
while Hamlet walks through the assembled court, watching the
lickspittles and their leader with undisguised contempt. And of course
Grigori Kozintsev (the director), Boris Pasternak (whose translation was
used), and (who provided the music) had all suffered under Stalin.

Imagine the excitement of a Russian in 1964, setting off to see a new
Hamlet film produced by that extraordinary quartet! For a thoroughly
dispiriting contemporary contrast, one might take the acclaimed
Ninagawa, who is content to have Hamlet played by any pop star or soap
opera idol with the right consumer image, and then shows how far "great
theatre" can go in trivializing great drama.

However, Kozintsev's film was obviously not interested in the Tragedy of
Claudius: in effect, Claudius "is" Stalin, with no redeeming features.
Smoktunovsky's Hamlet is powerful and dangerous, as any Hamlet should be
(Sarah Bernhardt said she decided to play Hamlet because the male actors
weren't manly enough); but Pasternak's translation omits or sanitizes
some of Hamlet's nastier moments or moods, and (as in Dr Zhivago) sees
Hamlet as a kind of redeemer. Or that was the tendency.

An earlier generation of Russians, including Chekhov (in Ivanov), had
been far more critical of Prince Hamlet; Turgenev's great essay on
"Hamlet and Don Quixote" (1860?) had paved the way for these later,
sharply critical views of the Prince.(Which had no counterpart in
nineteenth-century England, because Coleridge had such a retarding
influence.)

From this point of view, the 1964 Kozintsev/Pasternak/ Smoktunovsky
Hamlet was bringing the Russian critical wheel full circle, by
reinstating a more heroic and imposing Hamlet.  At the time some Russian
critics, notably Alexander Anikst, protested that this Hamlet was too
noble, and nobler than Shakespeare's Prince (who shows no concern for
the fate of Denmark and its people).

So, from another point of view, this magnificently moving film (like
Peter Brook's recent production---represented a paradoxically
old-fashioned return to the habit of seeing the play through Hamlet's
eyes.

In short, the Russian-ness of this great film is both enabling and
limiting. It's well brought out in Kozintsev's wonderful book, when he
remarks that Hamlet is "Lermontovian" in the first four acts but
"Pushkinian" in the final act. There are some good studies of these
Russian contexts,including Eleanor Rowe's HAMLET: A WINDOW ON RUSSIA
(1976), Anna Kaye France's BORIS PASTERNAK'S TRANSLATIONS OF SHAKESPEARE
(1978), and Arthur P. Mendel's "Hamlet and Soviet Humanism" in the
December 1971 issue of the Slavic Review, vol.30 no.4. John Joughin's
SHAKESPEARE AND NATIONAL CULTURE (1997) includes an enthralling essay by
Robert Weimann on how the "humanist" Hamlet of Soviet criticism failed
to impress Brecht's East Germans: that cultural-critical collision now
seems like one of history's best jokes! And of course Bernice Kliman's
remarkably comprehensive study of Hamlet in film, TV and audio, provides
an indispensable starting point for all discussions of Hamlet in
performance...

Best wishes, Graham Bradshaw

P.S. Could somebody persuade Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorsese to help
get such movies back into circulation, as great foreign movies that
contemporary Americans cannot see? (Chiefly because contemporary America
has such a dumbing-down, Hollywood-pulp-first stranglehold on what
movies can be shown in Britain, France, Japan etc. This is yet another
context where chatter about the "post-colonial" seems like a sick joke.)

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Saturday, 28 Jul 2001 12:29:42 -0700
Subject: 12.1864 Re: Smoktunovsky Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1864 Re: Smoktunovsky Hamlet

Hi, all.

Kozintsev's other book is called King Lear : the space of tragedy : the
diary of a film director.  It's very good:  he proposes, among other
things, that the knights need not be represented.

Cheers,
Se


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