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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: June ::
Undiscovered Country
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1522  Thursday, 14 June 2001

From:           Rainbow Saari <
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Date:           Friday, 15 Jun 2001 12:05:44 +1200
Subject:        Re; Time in Hamlet ; the Undiscovered Country

I've recently read Steve Roth's 'Hamlet: The Undiscovered Country' and
found it delightfully illuminating and thought provoking. I must thank
you, Steve, for introducing me to the full speech from the True Tragedy
of Richard III that Hamlet refers to in his " the croaking raven doth
bellow for revenge". Absolutely " a part to tear a cat in "! The thought
of Alleyn playing this had me in stitches

Wilson's theory and your additions to it, that Shakespeare was sending
up the Admiral's Men in his portrayal of the Players in Hamlet ( not to
mention the young Prince who is so fond of their style ), is indeed
plausible.

I also see the 'young Hamlet' of the 1601 play as a young man. In
'Squeaking Cleopatras: the Elizabethan  Boy Player '  ( Phoenix Mill UK:
Sutton, 2000 ) Joy Leslie Gibson details the skills the boy actor would
have to develop ( Chpt 3. To Be  An Actor ) She points out that boys
voices commonly broke then much later than they do now. Thirteen is the
average age now, but due,probably, to a diet with a much lower protein
level, boys voices often broke in the 15/1600's at 17 or 18 yrs of age.

The legal definition of a boy, she notes, was different then as well; a
woman could not divorce her husband for impotence before he turned 18,
because it was not thought he would have 'enough ink in his pen'  before
that age. ( This lack of  'ink' was obviously not a problem for
Shakespeare.)

As far as 'young Hamlet' is concerned, might there not have been in the
Company a boy whose voice had recently broken, around the yr 1600,
capable enough to carry a large part ( the original actor of Rosalind
perhaps ? ) that WS had in mind when he wrote the 1601 version of
Hamlet? It's interesting to speculate.

Gibson dissects the speech patterns of the dialogue Shakespeare wrote
for his boy actors, pointing out how they take into account the smaller
lung capacity of a boy/ youth compared to an adult actor, and how the
content of the speeches was not beyond the boy's ability to emotionally
identify with and portray convincingly. I know the matter of whether the
language of Q 1 is Shakespeare's is much debated; seems to me it might
be a profitable exercise  to compare the mechanics and complexity ( or
lack of  it ) of the language 'young Hamlet' uses in Q1 to that of
Shakespeare's leading female roles.

If anyone knows of someone who has done this I'd be interested in
hearing about it.

Thanks again, Steve, for a most enjoyable read.

All the best,
Rainbow

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