2001

Beale's Hamlet

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1359  Monday, 4 June 2001

From:           Andrew W. White <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 4 Jun 2001 11:44:45 -0400
Subject:        Beale's Hamlet

Having just come back from New York City, and the BAM, I imagine a few
of us can now begin to talk about the National Theatre production of
Hamlet with a bit more objectivity than either the NY Times critic (who
gushed exceedingly) and certain list-members here who obviously have
issues with obesity.

My first observation is that once, just once, I wish Times critics were
forced to sit in the upper balcony where I was:  all that wonderful
stuff Ben Brantley saw is virtually invisible when you're up in the
'gods.'  What makes huge waves in Orchestra, row B hardly manages a
ripple in Balcony, row C (where I was).  Ironically, (Dr. Weinstein, are
you reading this?) Beale's much-ballyhooed girth was unnoticeable from
where I sat; and aside from his self-deprecating pat of the belly on
'forgone all custom of exercise' he really didn't seem all that big.

Having seen other quiet, humane Hamlets (Tom Hulce did so with the
Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C. some years ago), I didn't find
Beale as revelatory as others did.  But he has tremendous talent, and
was clearly in charge of the role from start to finish.  The supporting
cast, aside from Peter Blythe (the funniest damned Polonius and one of
the most inventive Gravediggers I've ever seen) were OK but they were
clearly not interested in outshining their star.

What annoyed me about his Hamlet, frankly, was what annoys me about
practically every other Hamlet I have ever seen.  Aside from the staging
(boxes, stacked and re-stacked for each scene) and the ubiquity of
Gregorian Chant (even the Gravedigger sings an Easter hymn), there was
almost nothing new in John Caird's vision of the play.  This lack of
creative thinking may satisfy most members of the audience, who are
conditioned to the old, Goethe-inflected Dane ("Melancholy means
depressed"), but it left me cold.

Because my high level of annoyance with the RNT production is due to my
own personal understanding of the role (I've played it myself), it would
be inappropriate for me to whine about it here.  The audience Saturday
night at BAM was for the most part spellbound, and that is what should
be put on record, not my own nit-picky complaints.

Andy White
Arlington, VA

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Disappointing Hamlet

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1358  Monday, 4 June 2001

From:           H. R. Greenberg <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Sunday, 3 Jun 2001 22:26:17 EDT
Subject:        Disappointing Hamlet

Saw yesterday at Brooklyn Academy of Music the much vaunted Hamlet and
was quite disappointed. Earlier production by Peter Brook much more
intriguing in overall conception. Supporting cast good to poor, Claudius
unimaginative, Polonius not bad, Hamlet OK, but for a 'thoughtful,
thinking through the moment' Hamlet, I will take Derek Jacobi of several
decades back and Kenneth Branagh recently. Overall, no subliminity, no
awe, little pity, and as recently been the fashion, no Fortinbras, no
explanation for the warlike preparation, and no '...quarrel in a
straw...' soliloquy. Ending had a bit of that ineluctable sublime, but
all in all, tepid stuff, making one wonder if all the promises of
greatness were in aid of emptying our pocketbooks.  Should be interested
in other opinions, altho I believe several who have seen the production
here have felt it missed the mark.

Harvey Roy Greenberg, MD

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Re: Why Shakespeare

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1356  Monday, 4 June 2001

[1]     From:   Mike Jensen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Sunday, 03 Jun 2001 15:40:20 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1333 Re: Why Shakespeare

[2]     From:   Gabriel Egan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 4 Jun 2001 11:52:10 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1333 Re: Why Shakespeare


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Sunday, 03 Jun 2001 15:40:20 -0700
Subject: 12.1333 Re: Why Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1333 Re: Why Shakespeare

Sam Small wonders:

>How else can great poetry be created if not
>by a certain purity of thought?

Don't know. You should ask Lord Byron.

He also wrote:

>Rather than being so nit-pickingly pedantic about my humble remarks
>Gabriel Egan might fully address my point that many modern authors, due
>to their political bias, such as Dostoyevsky, haven't a hope in hell of
>achieving the universal regard of Shakespeare.

Poor John Milton.  Not a hope in hell.

Mike Jensen

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 4 Jun 2001 11:52:10 +0100
Subject: 12.1333 Re: Why Shakespeare
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1333 Re: Why Shakespeare

Sean Lawrence wrote

>. . . politics seems to be precisely that field in which
> torturing people to death (or anything else, for that
> matter) becomes justifiable in the name of ultimate
> victory.  Insofar as politics is involved in the empirical
> domain, it isn't terribly philosophical, and insofar as it
> isn't so involved, it would seem to rely on credos.

Politics which tortures people to death does, I agree, approach religion
in its deferral of gratification. The workers' paradise is much like the
city of god in that extraordinary cruelty along the way towards it is
excused in the name of the final outcome. Such aberrations aside,
politics is primarily "of the finite", as Sartre put it: the next
improvement in working conditions, the next monopoly broken up.
Religion, however, is primarily concerned with patient acceptance of
present and forthcoming misery in the name of the final outcome
(Valhalla, nirvana, heaven).

Sam Small wrote

> The piece you quote from the aforementioned writer
> [Dostoyevsky's _The Brothers Karamazov_] left me
> at a loss as to who was being supported.  Christians,
> Communists, Moslems, Jews, Atheists et al have all
> "tortured the baby to death" in the blind hope that
> "men would be happy".  Or was that the ambiguity to
> which you were referring?

You claimed that "an adherent of any particular political credo or
religious philosophy would not write a play where the cherished school
of thought is proved wrong/bad/indefensible/immoral/stupid". I provided
an example where an adherent of Christianity wrote a novel in which his
cherished school of thought is proved indefensible.

Your claim is thus shown, mutatis mutandis, to be wrong, unless you were
referring specifically to plays above other art forms.

Gabriel Egan

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Re: Othello and Emilia

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1357  Monday, 4 June 2001

From:           Adrian Kiernander <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 04 Jun 2001 12:01:05 +1000
Subject: 12.1314 Re: Othello and Emilia
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1314 Re: Othello and Emilia

Peter Hadorn writes:

>The more interesting one occurs in 4.2 when Othello says this about
>Emilia: "This is a subtle whore,/ A closet lock and key of villainous
>secrets,/ And yet she'll kneel and pray--I ha' seen her do't" (22-24).
>When, I ask my class, has Othello been in a position to see Emilia keep
>"villainous secrets"?

If Fortinbras's "his" can, with a simple gesture, refer to the dead
Claudius, then Othello's "This is a subtle whore" can refer not to
Emilia, who has just left the stage, but to the character who is now
entering, Desdemona. I am remembering a production where Desdemona
entered at that point and immediately knelt to Othello on "What is your
pleasure?", thus reinforcing his suspicions. (It also made his following
action on "Let me see your eyes: look in my face" physically bigger and
much more threatening and disturbing. Towering over her, he grabbed her
head and twisted it upward so that he could look down into her eyes.)

Adrian Kiernander

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Re: Time in Hamlet

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1355  Monday, 4 June 2001

[1]     From:   Mike Jensen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Sunday, 03 Jun 2001 12:57:56 -0700
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1327 Re: Time in Hamlet

[2]     From:   Terence Hawkes <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 4 Jun 2001 05:24:36 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 12.1327 Re: Time in Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Mike Jensen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Sunday, 03 Jun 2001 12:57:56 -0700
Subject: 12.1327 Re: Time in Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1327 Re: Time in Hamlet

Grumble, grumble, grumble.

The problem with accreting that Claudius is actually Hamlet's father,
aside from the fact that it is so unnecessary, is that it means Claudius
and Gertrude waited either 20 or 30 years to do anything about the King.

James M. Cain would not have understood, and neither do I.

Mike Jensen

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 4 Jun 2001 05:24:36 -0400
Subject: Re: Time in Hamlet
Comment:        SHK 12.1327 Re: Time in Hamlet

'But let's not go crazy. Claudius never "actually refers" to Hamlet as
his literal son.'

Of course, David Bishop is absolutely right once more. I have evidently,
in my crazy way, been using some crackpot edition of the play which
assigns to Claudius lines such as

 'But now my cousin Hamlet, and my son--' (1. 2. 64 Arden edn.)

and

 'Our son shall win' (5. 2. 289 Arden edn.)

Presumably he has access to a (sane) edition of the play which doesn't
contain these lines at all.  What a relief. Back to sleep again.

T. Hawkes

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Webpage <http://ws.bowiestate.edu>

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