2001

Re: Hamlet's Clashing Ideals

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1857  Wednesday, 25 July 2001

[1]     From:   Steve Roth <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 24 Jul 2001 11:11:45 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1807 Re: Hamlet's Clashing Ideals

[2]     From:   S Herbert <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 24 Jul 2001 11:55:28 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Hamlet's Clashing Ideals


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Steve Roth <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 24 Jul 2001 11:11:45 -0700
Subject: 12.1807 Re: Hamlet's Clashing Ideals
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1807 Re: Hamlet's Clashing Ideals

An Ontology of Hamlet.
or, Who Knows Who's Guilty? And When?

Rather than copying and pasting and responding, here are my responses to
all of you interested and interesting observers and commentators (you
know who you are):

Claudius knows he's guilty throughout.

Hamlet *believes* Claudius is guilty after his contretemps with the
ghost (the strength of his belief ebbs and flows). But he doesn't *know*
it; Horatio's "and do in part believe it" in 1.1 begins the
uncertain-knowledge-about-ghosts theme that repeats and echoes
throughout, particularly in Hamlet's "The spirit that I have seen/May be
the devil."

*We* first get true knowledge of Claudius' guilt from his admission just
before the nunnery scene.

Horatio hears from Hamlet of the murder, sometime prior to the mousetrap
(when Hamlet speaks of "the circumstance/Which I have told thee of my
father's death"). But he's hearing secondhand evidence of damned
uncertain provenance, transmitted through an interlocutor of
more-than-questionable reliability. Our secondhand report of this report
emphasizes its tenuous nature.

What seems to be missing in this discussion is an understanding that the
mousetrap gives knowledge to Claudius (that Hamlet knows of the murder,
in detail), but nobody else. Hamlet gets more uncertainty, and the
courtiers get a different understanding entirely.

Going back to J.D. Wilson's crucial (though incomplete) explanation in
What Happens in Hamlet, here's why:

What all the courtiers see is not a reenactment of Old Hamlet's murder.
They see the nephew to the king poisoning the king and stealing his
crown! This in a play put on by the nephew of the current king, who
about three months back preempted the nephew's succession.

It looks to the courtiers like a not terribly well-veiled threat against
the king's life. No wonder everyone's in such a tizzy. R&G, Osric,
Voltemand, Cornelius, et. al. must be feeling pretty damned
uncomfortable sitting in on this increasingly nasty family squabble.
Mighty opposites and all that.

What Wilson doesn't point out is that Hamlet knows that this threat is a
perfectly adequate explanation for Claudius getting his knickers in a
knot and calling for light. He's not necessarily upset because his crime
was reenacted.

So the mousetrap doesn't prove anything for Hamlet. (It just lets him
get nasty digs in at uncle/father/aunt/mother/whatever.) Claudius knows
that Hamlet knows. But Hamlet doesn't know for sure if Claudius knows,
or even if there's anything *to* know, for sure. But Claudius doesn't
know that Hamlet doesn't know. *footnote below*

And the mousetrap certainly doesn't break the central dramatic device
that drives the action of the play (or lack of same)--Hamlet's sole
"knowledge" (besides Claudius) of the murder having occurred.

Gertrude learns of the murder, sort of, sort of obtusely and glancingly,
from Hamlet in the closet scene. And he's immediately undermined by the
ghost refusing to appear to Gertrude. So her belief has gotta be more
than a little shaky.

In fact, nobody in the play ever learns for sure that a murder even
*occurred,* much less who did it or proof of same. Laertes' "the king's
to blame" doesn't say anything about Old Hamlet's murder. So the
courtiers cry treason.

It's left to Horatio to tell everyone, and it's unclear whether they'll
believe the ghost either, especially quoted third-hand, even if the
guards attest to the visitation. Horatio has no other evidence to
present.

* Footnote: I can't help but be reminded here of the great line (one of
dozens) from Lion in Winter, Prince Geoffrey to his mother Eleanor of
Acquitaine: "I know. You know I know. I know you know I know. We know
Henry knows, and Henry knows we know it. [smiles] We're a knowledgeable
family." If you haven't seen this movie in the last decade or so, well
worth renting again. Spectacular script. This family Makes Who's Afraid
of Virginia Wolfe look The Barney Show.

FWIW....

Steve
http://princehamlet.com

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           S Herbert <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 24 Jul 2001 11:55:28 -0700 (PDT)
Subject:        Hamlet's Clashing Ideals

Terence Hawkes writes:

>My concern is with 'The Mousetrap'. It doesn't work.
>In Elsinore, only violence does.  That's part of what
>'Hamlet' says: plays make nothing happen.

So ... why are we there in the theater, watching Hamlet watch Claudius
watch the Mousetrap?  I don't think this is an easy question, but it
seems that any answer would apply at least partly to Elsinore.

On a more direct level, could you argue that the Mousetrap is part of
what triggers Claudius's attempt to have Hamlet killed, rather than
merely exiled?  Provoking your enemy to violence can be almost as good
as a confession; it might even have worked, if Hamlet hadn't felt
obligated to fight Laertes.

-- Sarah Herbert

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Smoktunovsky Hamlet

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1856  Wednesday, 25 July 2001

From:           Ellen Steiber <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 24 Jul 2001 12:32:30 -0400
Subject: Re: Hamlet's Clashing Ideals
Comment:        SHK 12.1807 Re: Hamlet's Clashing Ideals

A question for Mike Jensen (or anyone else who might know the answer):

In your response to Graham Bradshaw, you mentioned the "sublime"
Smoktunovsky Hamlet film. Is this the one that was run on PBS in the
80's, presented by Joseph Papp and Diane Venora (Papp's female
Hamlet)?   Does anyone know which Hamlet film was shown with the Papp
intro?  I remember it being a very dark and powerful interpretation and
would love to see it again.

With all best wishes,
Ellen Steiber.

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Re: Who Killed Marlowe?

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1854  Wednesday, 25 July 2001

[1]     From:   Mike Jensen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 24 Jul 2001 08:07:43 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1845 Re: Who Killed Marlowe?

[2]     From:   Graham Hall <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 24 Jul 2001 20:29:44 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1845 Re: Who Killed Marlowe?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 24 Jul 2001 08:07:43 -0700
Subject: 12.1845 Re: Who Killed Marlowe?
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1845 Re: Who Killed Marlowe?

David Riggs of Stanford University has a biography on Marlowe coming out
in the next year.  It looks at the matter of his death, and gives his
reasons for suspecting it is was set up by the government.  I recently
heard him discuss he reasons, and he has put together quite a lot of
evidence which does not prove it, but is suggestive.  My middle-aged
memory being what it is, I shalln't do his ideas the disservice of
trying to reproduce them here, but I think the book will be worth a
peek.

Mike Jensen

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Graham Hall <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 24 Jul 2001 20:29:44 +0000
Subject: 12.1845 Re: Who Killed Marlowe?
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1845 Re: Who Killed Marlowe?

>See George Garrett's novel "Entered from the Sun" for an investigation
>of Marlowe's death.

>How do those assertions square with Charles Nicholls 'The Reckoning'?

See BBC History Magazine Vol 2 No 8. August 2001 and Mei Trow's latest,
Who Killed Kit Marlowe, (pub. Sutton.) for the latest developments.

Best wishes,
Graham Hall

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Re: Squeaking Cleopatras

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1855  Wednesday, 25 July 2001

[1]     From:   Jack Heller <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 24 Jul 2001 15:15:33 +0000 (GMT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1843 Re: Squeaking Cleopatras

[2]     From:   Janie Cheaney <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 24 Jul 2001 11:29:46 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1843 Re: Squeaking Cleopatras


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Heller <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 24 Jul 2001 15:15:33 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: 12.1843 Re: Squeaking Cleopatras
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1843 Re: Squeaking Cleopatras

Stuart Manger asked:

> I think the real problem here may be that we are trying to approach this
> from a very specifically 2001 angle, and how OUR own 12-15 yr olds might
> feel in such performances, and we tend to imagine all manner of hassles
> that simply would never have occurred to them then. How it is possible
> to write modern fiction that successfully conjures that 'innocent' age /
> acting lads beats me. How do you start? How can you retain credibility
> when modern audiences are always bringing huge stacks of post-Freudian
> baggage to the business of reading?
>
> But then again, was Marlowe telling it like it was for all the 'quality'
> when he remarked on the pleasures of boys and tobacco? The worm in the
> bud.

For the scandalous behavior of the Blackfriars boys, consult Thomas
Middleton's pamphlet, "Father Hubbard's Tales, or, The Ant and the
Nightingale." He tells of the boys "able to ravish a man." I could tell
more if I had my sources here with me. You may also find a case of a
father complaining about the Blackfriars boys kidnapping his son for
nefarious purposes. This is cited in Leinwand's article, "Redeeming
Beggary/Buggery in Michaelmas Term."

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Janie Cheaney <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 24 Jul 2001 11:29:46 -0500
Subject: 12.1843 Re: Squeaking Cleopatras
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1843 Re: Squeaking Cleopatras

> From:           Stuart Manger <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

> Question to Janie Cheaney:
> WHEN do 'boys' get a chance for 'arduous practice'? As you say, the
> schedule was frenetic, so.....? Did they learn their skills exclusively
> in the children's companies? OK, I can see that is possible, BUT surely
> not ALL of them came from such companies? Were some like the
> disgustingly psychopathic little mall-rat Webster from 'Shakespeare in
> Love' who learns by sneaky voyeurism?

That's a whole bunch of questions.

Since acting companies with permanent stages were relatively new at the
end of 16C, I'm guessing that the patterns might not have been so well
established.  Perhaps (a big perhaps, I know) in the beginning there
were various ways that boys came into the company--some from the
children's companies, others by special arrangement with the parents or
guardian, and a few with no previous experience but yet certain
qualities that the members of the Company found intriguing.  Children
learn by rote very quickly, and the ages corresponding to our elementary
school grades were considered the optimum time for stuffing them with
facts, poetry, grammar, scripture, etc.  I can see boys of 9-12 learning
the lines and the conventional gestures easily, but stage deportment and
command could only come with practice--as courtiers, messengers, tavern
drawers, and soldiers.  Imitation of the adult players, as in any
apprenticeship, would be regarded as essential.  The boys might have
been taken on a two- or three-month trial, and dismissed if they didn't
show some promise.

>Did the scene perhaps grow out of a session before a
>show when the 'boy' Viola did not know any sword-fighting passes - or
>many - and suddenly, everyone there sees the comic potential?

Interesting thought--however, I've read (again, only in secondary
sources--the curse of the library-book researcher) that the boys WERE
trained in swordplay and dancing, because they would need both in their
capacity as extras.  But again, it's hard to see where they found the
time.

> What baffles me are the intimate love scenes. The man writes such
> ardently, sensuously urgent and sophisticated material for lovers, and
> such sexually tense scenes, that you really do wonder exactly how they
> did it?

Convention, again?  Common wisdom is that the scenes were WRITTEN so
explicitly just because they couldn't be ACTED explicitly.  I imagine
that there were accepted poses and mannerisms for love scenes, as for
battle scenes, and the audience willingly suspended their disbelief for
both.

>How it is possible
>to write modern fiction that successfully conjures that 'innocent' age /
>acting lads beats me. How do you start? How can you retain credibility
>when modern audiences are always bringing huge stacks of post-Freudian
>baggage to the business of reading?

I'm not sure it's successfully been done yet.  Most of the novels on
this subject (a slew of 'em in the last few years) are written for the
juvenile/young adult audience--who may know more than what's good for
them, but haven't yet acquired all that baggage.  The psychological
conflicts raised by boys playing girls aren't directly addressed by Gary
Blackwood, who wanted to tell a gutsy adventure story in "The
Shakespeare Stealer." Susan Cooper slights them also in "King of
Shadows," which through the means of time-travel attempts to treat a
modern kid's angst with a dose of Shakespeare.  My own book, "The
Playmaker" (Knopf, 2000) attempts to grapple with how a boy might
actually go about trying to play a woman, but the protagonist has other
problems that take precedence.

> But then again, was Marlowe telling it like it was for all the 'quality'
> when he remarked on the pleasures of boys and tobacco? The worm in the
> bud.

Yes, one wonders.  However, I'm not going there.

> From:           David Kathman <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

> Hmmm... I'm not sure where you found these apprentices "listed", but the
> information you got is not quite accurate.

Many thanks for clarification.  My information came from a book by
Bernard Beckerman ("Shakespeare at the Globe, 1599-1609"), but since I
don't have the book in front of me I can't check his documentation.  The
copyright date is 1962; I suspect the scholarship has advanced since
then.

There are other details I wish I'd known before writing my first book,
but I didn't have the advantage of this list at the time.

JBCheaney

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Re: Cressida (Ashland)

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1853  Wednesday, 25 July 2001

[1]     From:   Mike Jensen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 24 Jul 2001 08:02:29 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1849 Re: Cressida (Ashland)

[2]     From:   Karen Peterson-Kranz <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 24 Jul 2001 11:34:59 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1849 Re: Cressida (Ashland)


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 24 Jul 2001 08:02:29 -0700
Subject: 12.1849 Re: Cressida (Ashland)
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1849 Re: Cressida (Ashland)

I'm a bit puzzled by Richard Nathan's comments.

>I think the production made clear that Cressida was not Helen in the
>scene in which the Greeks demanded kisses of Cressida.  Mike Jensen
>suggested that any sympathy for Helen came from the performance of the
>actress in the role.  But in the scene where the Greeks demand kisses,
>they are clearly threatening rape.  This results in Cressida having to
>turn to Dimodes for protection.  I think that is enough to make it >clear
>that Cressida is not Helen.

Perhaps you meant that I suggested that any sympathy for CRESSIDA came
from the performance?  Actually, I didn't.  I wasn't discussing
sympathy, but character motivation.  Sympathy may be included, I
suppose, but that was not my intent.

As for the rest of the comment, I mostly agree, so I don't see the
problem.  Actually, this was one of the things that really worked for me
in OSF's production.  The way Taylor Layton played the kissing scene was
wonderful of heart wrenching.  At was a gang rape of the lips.  Each
kiss made her more wretched and violated than the previous.  It was
ugly, and hard to watch the progression of her soul's violation.
Cressida seized the opportunity of Menelaus claiming his kiss to avoid
being raped by yet another man, in a way that seemed exactly right.  It
was very well done.

As for Cressida not being equated to Helen, I went to some pains to
point out the differences that I saw in the production, but the fact
that they are given identical dumb shows should not be ignored.

Mike Jensen

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karen Peterson-Kranz <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 24 Jul 2001 11:34:59 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 12.1849 Re: Cressida (Ashland)
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1849 Re: Cressida (Ashland)

> The first time I read "Troilus and Cresida," and I
> got to the ending, my reaction was - "WHAT????
> THAT'S IT???  WHAT KIND OF RESOLUTION IS THAT?  WHAT
> HAPPENS NEXT?"  And that's still my reaction.  The
> play seems to me like part one of a mini-series,
> waiting for part two.

I was interested that Richard Nathan noted the "unfinished" quality in
the playtext.  That quality seems to be in the story itself, not just
Shakespeare's version.  Chaucer's telling inspired at least one "sequel"
by another hand: Robert Henryson's late 15th century "Testament of
Cresseid," in which we catch up with Our Heroine years later, listen to
her bemoan and renounce her past "sins."  Henryson, like some
interpreters of Shakespeare's play, assumes -- rather unthinkingly --
that Cresseid is a "whore." Which is rather odd, since (at least in my
reading) Chaucer's Chriseyde is presented quite sympathetically.  I have
always thought that Shakespeare showed himself to be an attentive reader
of Chaucer, as demonstrated by his allowing his Cressida to retain the
complexity which others (like Henryson) stripped from her in their
desire to characterize her as the quintessential "false" woman.

Cheers,
Karen Peterson

_______________________________________________________________
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