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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: November ::
Dramatis personae
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.2203  Wednesday, 19 November 2003

[1]     From:   Susanne Collier-Lakeman <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Nov 2003 12:02:12 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.2195 Dramatis personae

[2]     From:   David Friedberg <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 18 Nov 2003 18:01:20 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.2195 Dramatis personae

[3]     From:   Melvyn R. Leventhal <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 19 Nov 2003 00:49:29 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.2195 Dramatis personae

[4]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 19 Nov 2003 05:27:24 -0500
        Subj:   SHK 14.2195 Dramatis personae

[5]     From:   Carol Morley <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 19 Nov 2003 11:53:20 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.2195 Dramatis personae


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Susanne Collier-Lakeman <
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Date:           Tuesday, 18 Nov 2003 12:02:12 -0800
Subject: 14.2195 Dramatis personae
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.2195 Dramatis personae

Dan Smith writes,

>I have no textual support for this of course but I someday I
>would quite
>like to see a production that hinted at it in casting.

Hello, did you not see the Branagh Hamlet?

Susanne Collier, Ph.D
Professor of English
California State University, Northridge

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Friedberg <
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Date:           Tuesday, 18 Nov 2003 18:01:20 -0500
Subject: 14.2195 Dramatis personae
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.2195 Dramatis personae

Bill Arnold wrote Well, well, well: I guess not all the Spirit/Ghost
posts of late were read by all, which does not surprise me.  Anyway, it
is crystal clear that Will S, who wrote the play Hamlet, has characters
in ACT ONE definitively describe the Spirit/Ghost as the father of
Hamlet; BA may be surprised to read that I did follow all the recent
brouhaha, and still am not convinced. He is most assured, but I am not.
There is a character in  1.4.40 of the play Shakespeare wrote who asked

"Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damned,"

All the characters in Act One address the apparition as if it were
borrowing the King's late majesty. Hamlet later acknowledges the
apparition as his fathers spirit, but then proceeds to play conjuror to
the demon in the Cellarage scene that follows. The ghost certainly moves
around in the bowels ofthe earth as if in response to Hamlet's commands.

The effects of the Ghost's commands is to extirpate two entire families
and the ruling House of Denmark. Is this a sign of demonic origin?

I have also never been able to work out what benefit it might be to the
soul of King Hamlet for revenge to be exacted.

Banquo tells us in another play by the same author that

And oftentimes, to win us to our harm,
The instruments of darkness tell us truths,
Win us with honest trifles, to betray's
In deepest consequence.

That may be precisely what has happened in Hamlet, which is why no
textual change is necessary.[Thank you Jay Feldman]

Arnold assumes that within a living body is a soul, which leaves after
death and may under certain circumstances be visible as a Ghost; and
that all ghosts are such.  There is as much proof of the existence of
souls and ghosts as there is of demons. Protestant creeds, such as
existed in England and Denmark at the time of the play's writing
suspected all ghosts as devils.

Now if Shakespeare had indicated that the ghost is the soul of Hamlet's
[putative] father, we may be forgiven for believing that it is a genuine
character whose word is to be believed.  But I am informed by the Board
that it was so listed by another luminary.

Although what the ghost told us about his demise was true, his
provenance is not certain

My thanks to all who responded

David Friedberg

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Melvyn R. Leventhal <
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Date:           Wednesday, 19 Nov 2003 00:49:29 EST
Subject: 14.2195 Dramatis personae
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.2195 Dramatis personae

>Can anyone tell me when did
>a list of characters appearing in the play become the norm?  Has
>the Ghost always been definitively described as Hamlet's father?"

In 1709 The Works of William Shakespeare edited by Nicholas Rowe was
published by Jacob Tonson in six volumes.  Thus, Rowe was Shakespeare's
first editor (and also the first to attempt a biography of Shakespeare
which he included in Volume 1).

In 1999, Pickering & Chatto www.pickeringchatto.com published a reprint
of the Rowe edition with a seventh volume -- the Poems edited by Charles
Gildon -- first published in 1710. I recently bought a copy of the set
through abebooks. The reprint contains an excellent introduction by
Peter Holland of the Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham.

In answer to your specific question, Rowe was the first to prepare a
Dramatis Personae for each of the plays.  Among the cast of characters
listed by Rowe for Hamlet (Volume 5) is "Ghost of Hamlet's Father."

Melvyn R. Leventhal
New York, New York

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Wednesday, 19 Nov 2003 05:27:24 -0500
Subject: Dramatis personae
Comment:        SHK 14.2195 Dramatis personae

Dan Smith tells us  'I quite like the idea that Hamlet's real father is
Claudius', but adds 'I have no textual support for this of course'. Of
course. However there are, I gather, editions of the play in which
Claudius actually refers to Hamlet as his 'son'. But they'll never catch
on.

T. Hawkes

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Carol Morley <
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Date:           Wednesday, 19 Nov 2003 11:53:20 +0000
Subject: 14.2195 Dramatis personae
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.2195 Dramatis personae

The esteemed Marlowe Society, no less, perpetrated a 'Hamlet' in 1980
which was having no truck with the Ghost being the deceased King/father
of the Prince and all that traditional malarky. No, the 'Ghost' was
portrayed as a cunning set-up by Claudius, with Osric as his henchman,
to drive his younger rival for the throne (and the attentions of
Gertrude), stark bonkers with the appearance of a fake ghost. Osric used
a ventriloquist's dummy and fooled him good and proper. Unlike the
audience, I may add. And no, I'm not making this up- it was the funniest
production of the play I've ever seen, if only for the fact that it
seemed to be taking itself entirely seriously-and didn't work. Something
to be said for going WITH the text on occasion.

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