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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: February ::
Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.0524  Tuesday, 24 February 2004

[1]     From:   Dan Smith <
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 >
        Date:   Friday, 20 Feb 2004 14:15:12 -0000
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.0484 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?

[2]     From:   Kathy Dent <
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 >
        Date:   Monday, 23 Feb 2004 16:40:45 +0000
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.0497 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Dan Smith <
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 >
Date:           Friday, 20 Feb 2004 14:15:12 -0000
Subject: 15.0484 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.0484 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?

If we think of Hamlet as a new play (not one in which we all know
Claudius is guilty) then having Claudius flee in guilt-ridden horror
weakens the suspense and deprives the speech "O my offence is rank" of
its impact. This speech is remarkable because as soon as we know he is
guilty we get an insight into some high order self-analysis and moral
reasoning. Claudius clearly accepts his guilt and has the moral
integrity not to hope for absolution without true confession and a
penance (loss of throne, queen, life) he is not willing to undertake.
Claudius knows despite his struggle to repent that he remains damned
("My words fly up, my thoughts remain below") but Hamlet assumes that
because he is praying he will go to heaven and resolves in his hubris to
murder him when he has no chance of salvation.  Hamlet does not
understand proper contrition, repentance and penance. He never publicly
shows any remorse for the deaths of Polonius or R&G. Rather the reverse,
"I'll lug the guts into the neighbour room" (III,4), " They are not near
my conscience; their defeat Does by their own insinuation grow"
(V,2,3733). At the duel his speech which opens "Give me your pardon,
sir" seems to presage genuine contrition but continues with "What I have
done That might your nature, honour, and exception Roughly awake, I here
proclaim was madness" (I killed your father and drove your sister to
suicide but it was the madness did it not me), "Hamlet is of the faction
that is wrong'd; His madness is poor Hamlet's enemy " (I am a victim too
- sounds like Jerry Springer), "I have shot my arrow o'er the house And
hurt my brother" (I didn't mean it) (V,2,3885 & seq).  This doesn't
sound like a responsible adult, rather a child blaming everything and
everybody else for his actions. In this respect Shakespeare gives
Claudius a greater stature than Hamlet.

Dan Smith

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kathy Dent <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 23 Feb 2004 16:40:45 +0000
Subject: 15.0497 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.0497 Did Shakespearean Audiences Talk Back to the
Performers?

 >>I prefer Patrick Stewart's BBC
 >>interpretation,
 >
 >Is there any place where I can purchase a copy of this?  I would dearly
 >love to see it.

BBC Shakespeare productions on video are no longer available new --- but
they are regularly sold secondhand on the UK ebay site:  www.ebay.co.uk
  and you can occasionally find them in the UK Amazon marketplace too:
www.amazon.co.uk

The one with Patrick Stewart as Claudius has Derek Jacobi playing the
part of Hamlet.  Because it's relatively rare now, it's not cheap, but
nonetheless still cheaper than many theatre tickets -- and priceless, if
only for Jacobi's wonderfully intelligent performance.

Kathy Dent

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