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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: November ::
Real Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.2024  Monday, 29 November 2004

[1]     From:   L. Swilley <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Nov 2004 07:15:59 -0600
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.2019 Real Hamlet

[2]     From:   John W. Kennedy <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Nov 2004 09:18:30 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.2019 Real Hamlet

[3]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Nov 2004 06:29:35 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.2019 Real Hamlet

[4]     From:   Colin Cox <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Nov 2004 08:54:38 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.2019 Real Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           L. Swilley <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Nov 2004 07:15:59 -0600
Subject: 15.2019 Real Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.2019 Real Hamlet

Ms. Castaldo wrote,

 >Some of the plays and characters are so well known, their actions so
 >expected and recognized, that playing "against type" doesn't create only
 >caricature. Instead, it allows audiences to learn something about their
 >own expectations and reveals levels of the text
 >(script/performance/character) that are usually hidden. I'm not saying
 >this always works, but I am saying that by now Shakespeare does not
 >always have to be played straight.

In defense of Ms. Castaldo's point was a college production of
"Merchant," years ago, in which Shylock was not the usual sniveling,
hand-wringing underdog (as even Olivier chose to present him) but a
dignified, authoritative gentleman of the 19th century (the whole
production was of that era). The effect was emphasized by the countering
"reconstruction" of the Christian figures as the villains of the piece.
It worked and it was a marvel.

L. Swilley

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John W. Kennedy <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Nov 2004 09:18:30 -0500
Subject: 15.2019 Real Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.2019 Real Hamlet

Annalisa Castaldo <
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 >

 >I agree with you that in general subtexts and subtleties remain and
 >should remain buried rather than form the majority of a performance. But
 >Shakespeare presents an interesting exception (and Hamlet even more so).
 >Some of the plays and characters are so well known, their actions so
 >expected and recognized, that playing "against type" doesn't create only
 >caricature. Instead, it allows audiences to learn something about their
 >own expectations and reveals levels of the text
 >(script/performance/character) that are usually hidden. I'm not saying
 >this always works, but I am saying that by now Shakespeare does not
 >always have to be played straight.

But (and I say this as someone who has performed in more than one farce
of frustrated Shakespeare) is this, in fact, "playing Shakespeare"? Or
is it something more akin to a rap song "sampling" an old Motown hit?

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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 >
Date:           Friday, 26 Nov 2004 06:29:35 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 15.2019 Real Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.2019 Real Hamlet

Annalisa Castaldo writes, "Bill: I agree with you that in general
subtexts and subtleties remain and should remain buried rather than form
the majority of a performance. But Shakespeare presents an interesting
exception (and Hamlet even more so). Some of the plays and characters
are so well known, their actions so expected and recognized, that
playing "against type" doesn't create only caricature. Instead, it
allows audiences to learn something about their own expectations and
reveals levels of the text (script/performance/character) that are
usually hidden. I'm not saying this always works, but I am saying that
by now Shakespeare does not always have to be played straight."

Hi, Annalisa, Colin, and SHAKSPEReans.  Yes, we ARE on the same page, in
your fine post above.  And I agree basically with Colin on these same
points.  Hey, I have already posted that I enjoyed very much Baz
Lurhman's *Romeo and Juliet* and would probably enjoy his version of
*Hamlet*!

But let us not ESCAPE from my fundamental point: there IS Will S.'s
version of *Hamlet* and there IS the Arden text and there will probably
be a *variorum* text.  And we here are discussing texts AS READING
FODDER and not always commenting upon movie versions, or stage versions.
  I even welcome actors and directors comments, but in THIS contextual
context they are just other commentators like the rest of us: scholars
and readers of Shakespeare alike.

So, just as we can discuss the TEXT of a novel like *Herzog* we ought to
be able to stay contextual with *Lysistrata* or *Hamlet* without saying
we cannot, when in fact we DO do it.  We do discuss the text they way it
appears from the author.  How about the text of a Tennessee Williams
play, or a play like *Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolff* which is
admittedly a whole different animal when seen with Richard Burton and
Elizabeth Taylor in the movie version.

So, can we not discuss the "Real Hamlet"?

So, let us start with a definition of my enumerated term: seeing as I
started this tread.  I define the "Real Hamlet" as the textual character
in the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare.  Take it from there.

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

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Colin Cox <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Nov 2004 08:54:38 -0800
Subject: 15.2019 Real Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.2019 Real Hamlet

Annalisa Castaldo writes

 >I am saying that by now Shakespeare does not
 >always have to be played straight.

The great dilemma for many actors in the approach to playing Hamlet is
heard in the question, "what can we do with him this time?" My reply is,
"all you need to do is remember that Hamlet has never said these words."
Hamlet has not read Shakespeare's script, in fact, Hamlet is making it
up as he goes along. I think it's a John Barton phrase "it needs to be
freshly minted." Hence it has to be 'new' every time you do it. Unlike
'set in stone' words on a page, actors evolve. The Hamlet you play at
twenty can in no way resemble the Hamlet you play at thirty or the
Hamlet you play at forty. If you're still playing him at fifty, I think
you need to see a therapist!

As actors, we are taught to trust the text in the sense that Shakespeare
clearly indicates the range of choices that are available to us. The
magic of Shakespeare, however, and this is the genius of it all, is he
never tells you how to play the part. Shakespeare asks you to bring
everything you are to the role and infuse his characters with your life
experience. If I trust this and the template that Shakespeare has
provided, my Hamlet will in no way, nor must it ever, resemble Bill's
Hamlet or Annalisa's Hamlet. When they do, the play will no longer be
the thing . . .

Colin Cox

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