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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: March ::
Re: The Real Beale
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0575  Monday, 24 March 2003

[1]     From:   Thomas Larque <
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        Date:   Friday, 21 Mar 2003 13:47:41 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0563 Re: The Real Beale

[2]     From:   Thomas Larque <
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        Date:   Friday, 21 Mar 2003 13:58:07 -0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0563 Re: The Real Beale

[3]     From:   Ted Dykstra <
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        Date:   Friday, 21 Mar 2003 11:49:17 EST
        Subj:   Beale etc.

[4]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Friday, 21 Mar 2003 13:04:24 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 14.0563 Re: The Real Beale

[5]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Friday, 21 Mar 2003 11:15:28 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0563 Re: The Real Beale

[6]     From:   Charles Weinstein <
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        Date:   Sunday, 23 Mar 2003 06:26:50 -0800
        Subj:   The Real Beale


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Larque <
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Date:           Friday, 21 Mar 2003 13:47:41 -0000
Subject: 14.0563 Re: The Real Beale
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0563 Re: The Real Beale

>There are really only a few absolute pre-requisites for Hamlet's
>physical being. But one is that he be athletic. He easily defeats
>Laertes at fencing, though the latter has been talked up as a
>super-star. He accepts the phony competition in the first place because
>he has been "in constant practice." He is able to out-run the pursuers
>for a considerable time when he is playing "Hide, fox." He also acquits
>himself creditably in the battle with the pirates.
>
>Athletic, and, as Fortinbras points out, "like a soldier."

But surely Richard Gloucester (later Richard III) is reputed as a great
soldier in Shakespeare's plays, but he is both deformed and "halts",
according to the text.  Not only are audiences capable of suspending
their disbelief, but there is surely the suggestion in texts such as
these that factors such as strength, bravery, and particularly skill
need to be considered alongside traditional athletic build, youth,
health, and fitness.

Of course Foster's reading also depends upon Gertrude's "He is fat and
scant of breath" meaning "He is covered in sweat, and is out-of-breath
because he has been exercising" rather than the alternative "My poor
son!  He is overweight and finding this exercise rather difficult".  The
former, it is true, is the most commonly accepted textual reading these
days and sounds more heroic, but the latter is certainly not
impossible.  There seems no reason why Laertes' reputation might not be
a superficial one - based on his remarkable youth and fitness - while
Hamlet (who has been "in continual practice") might be able to beat him
by the use of sheer skill.

I didn't see the Beale production, but I can imagine a very good fight
scene in which a frustrated Laertes in peak physical condition, finds
that Hamlet's skill with a sword is such that he can't press his
advantage home, with Hamlet somehow repeatedly finding his way past
Laertes' spirited defences.

Certainly the theatrical tradition has not been for perfect athletic
Hamlets.  Various actors - possibly including Richard Burbage himself -
continued to play the part when they had long passed their physical
primes.  I have certainly seen references to actor-managers playing the
role in their seventies.

Of course, one might also say "There is one thing we know about Hamlet,
and that is that he is a man", and that's true too, but it hasn't
stopped a fairly large number of actresses from playing the part.
Beale's Hamlet certainly cannot have required a suspension of disbelief
quite as large as that.

I for one would certainly have considered Beale as Hamlet to be within a
reasonable range of theatrical realism (although I am happy to accept
that these things are a matter of taste, and others may take a contrary
view), and I very much wish that I could have seen the production.

Thomas Larque.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Thomas Larque <
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Date:           Friday, 21 Mar 2003 13:58:07 -0000
Subject: 14.0563 Re: The Real Beale
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0563 Re: The Real Beale

>Of course Foster's reading also depends upon

Sorry.  My mind obviously disconnected from my fingers, and I ended up
subconsciously confusing Donald Bloom with that other Donald much
discussed on SHAKSPER, Donald Foster.  Fortunately my mind did not
wander to such an extent that I ended up referring to either Donald as
"Mr. / Professor Duck".

Thomas Larque.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ted Dykstra <
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Date:           Friday, 21 Mar 2003 11:49:17 EST
Subject:        Beale etc.

>Any actor who holds up a good review of his or her performance as proof
>of their excellence is an idiot. Ditto for those who gleefully hold up
>bad reviews to the reverse end.
>
>Ted Dykstra

>I don't know about that- in fact, that is wrong.  An actor is always
>suffering from a vulnerable ego, and pays a huge price psychologically
>as a "person" for the chance to be many personas. Anyone who has dated a
>famous actor knows this, as I do. I won't belabor the point, but a good
>review from a good critic is telling- just as an A on a test is never a
>fluke, and a D can be the result of a bad day.  It all depends on
>whether "we" acknowledge the reviewer as worthy- that's what gives the
>review weight.  Some people, for whatever reason, must have the
>limelight, even at times when they are not ready for prime time.  The
>fear of being invisible, forgotten, inconsequential makes us sometimes
>get in the way, just to be noticed.  We see this on the road everyday-
>some drivers in the fast lane holding up traffic so they know they
>really exist- Descartes would be proud.
>
>Claude Caspar

Not sure what you're on about, Claude, other then to note that you've
slept with an egomaniacal famous person (well done!). Of course a review
affects an actor, and as I have said before, a good one is like winning
the lottery and a bad one hurts, but to hold one up as proof of your
excellence ("look what so and so says about me, I'm a good actor!")
does, I assure you, make one an idiot. Any actor who walked into the
theatre insisting he knew for sure he was good because a review said so
would be laughed out of the dressing room.  I myself have had hundreds
of both, and I read them with a sort of fascination, mostly because they
are often very wrong about any number of things, and so varied in
opinion from paper to paper that it completely confirms the notion that
to believe one over the other would be ridiculous.

Ted Dykstra

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Friday, 21 Mar 2003 13:04:24 -0400
Subject: 14.0563 Re: The Real Beale
Comment:        RE: SHK 14.0563 Re: The Real Beale

Don Bloom notes that

>There are really only a few absolute pre-requisites for Hamlet's
>physical being. But one is that he be athletic. He easily defeats
>Laertes at fencing, though the latter has been talked up as a
>super-star. He accepts the phony competition in the first place because
>he has been "in constant practice."

Maybe if the competition was in gymnastics or long-distance running this
would follow, but fencing needn't involve jumping around a whole lot.
The very best fencers, like the foremost exemplars of any sport, are in
very good shape, but there are quite decent fencers who are heavy or who
smoke, but are good with a sword.

Cheers,
Sean.

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Friday, 21 Mar 2003 11:15:28 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 14.0563 Re: The Real Beale
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0563 Re: The Real Beale

I'm not convinced that Hamlet is required to be athletic. The reason
Hamlet is defeating Laertes can easily be that Laertes is having an
attack of conscience (knowing his success is Hamlet's death) and he says
so before he delivers his fatal stroke ("and yet 'tis almost 'gainst my
conscience"). Everyone, including Horatio, believes Hamlet will lose.
Hamlet contradicts his foregone all custom of exercise proclamation by
insisting he has remained in practice.  In the context of the (false?)
hope of providence in sparrows' falls, I am more inclined to believe
that a melancholic man would sit around and mope. "Like a soldier", I
believe, can just as easily refer to his demeanor and mettle as his
physical fitness.

Regardless of these things, I don't see anything pointing one way or the
other. I think an adept actor can be any shape and still do the role.
Besides, even if Shakespeare had written a description, these things are
not steadfast. Younger actors played Lear, Burbage must have been past
thirty and still playing Hamlet.  And have you seen his portrait? Not
the handsome prince that everyone thinks Hamlet should always be.  Dare
I say that he does not look unlike Beale?  Physical appearance really
has little to do with performance as the King's Men would likely have
pointed out.

Brian Willis

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Charles Weinstein <
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Date:           Sunday, 23 Mar 2003 06:26:50 -0800
Subject:        The Real Beale

<sigh>  Thomas Larque has spluttered on at obsessive length about an
earlier post of mine which he has either misremembered or never bothered
to read carefully.  Were he to do so, he would discover that (a) I
quoted some of my good reviews (in response to his quotation of a
negative one) to prove that my critical stringency cannot be seen as the
projected bitterness of an actor who has never received good reviews of
his own (that is what I meant by "establishing my bona fides"); and (b)
that I apply the same standards to myself that I do to others, as why
would I not?  I don't intend to moderate my position in the slightest.

By the way, although I am a professional actor and a veteran of some 25
Shakespearean productions, my performing is a sideline and is not the
way I earn my living.  I do it strictly for love.

--Charles Weinstein

"Anyone who cares a lot about something--for example, a baseball fan--is
very critical in making judgements about it.  Far from the opposite of
caring, being critical is the very consequence of caring."--Harvey C.
Mansfield

"Contemporary scholars are simply not interested in value judgment at
all (they have smaller fish to fry)."--James Wood

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