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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: February ::
Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0497  Friday, 20 February 2004

[1]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Thursday, 19 Feb 2004 07:03:03 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0484 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?

[2]     From:   M. E. Fontenla <
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        Date:   Thursday, 19 Feb 2004 10:43:10 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0484 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?

[3]     From:   Karyn White <
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        Date:   Friday, 20 Feb 2004 06:33:02 +0900
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.0484 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Thursday, 19 Feb 2004 07:03:03 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 15.0484 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0484 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?

Bill Godshalk writes, "Bill Arnold adds these stage directions to
Hamlet's Mousetrap: 'The Usurper King squirmed, and tried to hide his
evil face, and bolted the witness chair like a confirmed criminal caught
in the act.' Terence Hawks responds: In your dreams. The fact is that
'The Mousetrap' doesn't work. In the world of Elsinore, as beyond it,
art doesn't make anything happen.  And I agree with Terry.  There's no
indication how the king responds to the play, and Horatio's judgment on
the king's guilt is noncommittal...Even so, Claudius does not rise until
after Hamlet's comment on the poisoning...."

OK: this *thread* is not about what these writers are writing about and
they are taking my remarks out of context.

OK: my point was that Prince Hamlet *acts* during this crucial
*confrontation* scene with the Usurper King on the Throne of Denmark as
if he were not an actor but a *director* and the audience would have
perceived, as we all perceive, that the Usurper King was *unmasked* to
his surprise!  None doubt that the *poison* aspect of the death of
father of Prince Hamlet was information known only to Heaven and the
Spirit World of the returning ghost!  Thus, the Usurper King is
flabberghasted aka flabberghosted and bolts the stage.  Yes, bolts!  And
yes, the audience would have gotten it: and what they would have gotten
was the twin facts that (a)the Usurper King had killed the father of
Prince Hamlet by poison as the ghost had told the audience in ACT I and
(b) Prince Hamlet like a prosecutor in court [recalling these events
were in fact *staged in court*] had boldly stood the test of time and
*unmasked* the Usurper King in front of that audience who might have
indicated by gasps and hissing that the Evil S.O.B. was unmasked and
could not face *the court* and had to exit in his unmasking.

OK: let me also make this point about this thread in general: plays
staged before audiences about *royalty* had a history of exposing Good
and Evil Acts by Royal Personages.  And history records that Royal
Personages always *acted* royally and took things in their own hands as
to changes of power, whether Richard III, Macbeth, or any other play
going back to the ancient Greeks.  There was no international tribunal
that usurped princes could go to, nor relatives or cohorts [think Will
S's play Julius Caesar] who thought they were more deserving than
reigning kings and queens.

Prince Hamlet by his actions throughout the play *Hamlet* clearly
indicates he understand the moves of power, "Just do it!"  Lest we
forget, as Lord Acton told us, "Power corrupts, and absolute power
corrupts absolutely!"  Princes of the realms throughout history in royal
realms in which the eldest prince inherited the throne by historical
fiat were faced with similar situations and this play brings it all home
to us.

OK: This thread is about how the audience reacted, and no doubt Will S
was playing to the audience to have Prince Hamlet take the bull by the
horns and bring him to his knees in the arena of public opinion.
Somebody had to lose, and no doubt the Usurper King Claudius knew the
gig was up, and he was about to lose his ill-gotten gain and crown, and
*ALL* the events leading up to that unmasking was designed, staged and
directed by Prince Hamlet, albeit tragically in the end for himself,
Ophelia, her father, and others he might not have wanted to bring down
with the Usurper King.  Power, indeed, corrupts, absolutely: the essence
of tragedy.

Bill Arnold
http://www.cwru.edu/affil/edis/scholars/arnold.htm

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           M. E. Fontenla <
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Date:           Thursday, 19 Feb 2004 10:43:10 -0500
Subject: 15.0484 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0484 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?

I don't know if any of this has been said before or if it's irrelevant
but here goes...

If you're interested in the staging of that scene I suggest looking at
Gurr and Ichikawa's Staging in Shakespeare's Theaters.  There's an
entire chapter where they walk through how Hamlet might have been
blocked and why.

If you are looking for proof that Shakespearean audiences did interact
perhaps you should look beyond Shakespeare's plays.  Beaumont's Knight
of the Burning Pestle has all out interaction with "audience members"
taking over the show.  In the prologue for that play the boys says "We
fear it is like to fare so with us; that, seeing you cannot draw from
our labours sweet content, you leave behind you a sour miss like, and
with open reproach blame our good meaning, because you cannot reap the
wonted mirth. Our intent was at this time to move inward delight, not
outward lightness; and to breed (if it might be) soft smiling, not loud
laughing"  which is later contrasted by Nell and George's behavior.
Also, Jonson's Bart Fair also has a good example when Busy interrupts
the puppet show and talks to Dionysius.

Elizabeth Fontenla

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Karyn White <
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 >
Date:           Friday, 20 Feb 2004 06:33:02 +0900
Subject: 15.0484 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.0484 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?

 >I prefer Patrick Stewart's BBC
 >interpretation, in which Stewart takes a torch, walks slowly over to
 >Hamlet, puts the torch close to Hamlet's face, examines his face
 >carefully, nods, and then says "away."  The king has not revealed his
 >guilt (at this point), but Hamlet has revealed himself.

Is there any place where I can purchase a copy of this?  I would dearly
love to see it.

Thanks!
Karyn

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