2004

Best Cinematic Hamlet?

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1616  Tuesday, 31 August 2004

[1]     From:   John Reed <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 30 Aug 2004 21:30:39 -0700
        Subj:   Re: Best Cinematic Hamlet

[2]     From:   Tanya Gough <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 30 Aug 2004 20:30:05 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1607 Best Cinematic Hamlet?

[3]     From:   M Yawney <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 30 Aug 2004 17:36:37 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1607 Best Cinematic Hamlet?

[4]     From:   Harvey Roy Greenberg <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 30 Aug 2004 20:38:45 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1607 Best Cinematic Hamlet?

[5]     From:   Bill Arnold <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 30 Aug 2004 19:53:06 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1607 Best Cinematic Hamlet?

[6]     From:   Cheryl Newton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 30 Aug 2004 23:57:57 -0400
        Subj:   Our Mad (or Not) Prince

[7]     From:   Kenneth Chan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 31 Aug 2004 15:26:29 +0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1607 Best Cinematic Hamlet?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Reed <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 30 Aug 2004 21:30:39 -0700
Subject:        Re: Best Cinematic Hamlet

Meaning no offense to anyone on this thread (or elsewhere), but I don't
think any of them are any good.  They are too ordinary.

Regarding whether Hamlet was mad, I don't think he was.  There is a
marked tendency nowadays (for practically everyone) to interpret all
aspects of characterization as if they belonged to the domain of
psychology.  Spirituality is generally neglected (or denied).  To my way
of thinking Hamlet has severe spiritual problems.  Perhaps many would
agree that he has problems of some kind, and a psychological view
immediately latches hold of that and transforms it into psychological
terms: hence he must be insane, or in common terms, "mad."

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Tanya Gough <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 30 Aug 2004 20:30:05 -0400
Subject: 15.1607 Best Cinematic Hamlet?
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1607 Best Cinematic Hamlet?

Just wondering why no one has even mentioned, let alone voted for
Richard Burton's performance - does it not count because it is a filmed
stage production?  I'm actually rather fond of it myself.

Tanya Gough
The Poor Yorick Shakespeare Catalogue
www.bardcentral.com

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           M Yawney <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 30 Aug 2004 17:36:37 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 15.1607 Best Cinematic Hamlet?
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1607 Best Cinematic Hamlet?

Thank you, Mr. Arnold, for pointing out the error in my previous
contribution to this thread.

The sentence reading "I think there is a misunderstanding in what the
integrity of a playscript means and how that differs from an ordinary
literary text," should read "I think there is a misunderstanding in how
the integrity of a playscript differs from the integrity of an ordinary
literary text."

I made the mistake while editing the sentence. I am sorry for any
confusion and I hope this calms the tyger.

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Harvey Roy Greenberg <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 30 Aug 2004 20:38:45 EDT
Subject: 15.1607 Best Cinematic Hamlet?
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1607 Best Cinematic Hamlet?

My own favorite is Jacobi -- I was fortunate enough to see him in London
quite a few years back.

May an essential outsider make a suggestion? My expertise is
psychoanalysis and film theory. I belong to a number of internet groups,
including this one, a poker group, a film study group, and a group which
is devoted to the Aubrey/Maturin novels of Patrick O'Brian. My knowledge
of Shakespeare is, well, 'little latin and less greek...", although I
was reasonably conversant in Vergin etc when I was in my teens. But
farewell that.

At times, and thankfully these are few, and one of them is in this
latest batch, your communications turn snarky, if not actually derisive
and minimizing. Thankfully, this doesn't happen very often. But when it
does, the discourse, as they say, reminds me of some of the more
splenetic exchanges on my poker group, where the id is perennially off
the id.

The website of the Patrick O'Brian group, called the Gunroom, observes
an essential etiquette which reflects the parameters of the actual
gunrooms of those 'wooden ships and iron men' days. Then a great deal of
discussion took place, but religion and politics were out of bounds. One
spent a year or more in close confinement with one's messmates, and to
preserve a reasonable degree of civilized behavior, the subjects --
according to 'the immemorial practise of the service' were so limited.
Which did not mean that a great deal of ground, philosophical, musical,
artistic, and of course nautical, couldn't be covered.

In that spirit, participants of the GUNROOM, all O Brian addicts, all
literate and often spectacularly literate, have generally kept to
civilized discourse, with very little ad hominem and or minimizing
correspondence. Thankfully, from what I have read, most participants in
the SHAKSPER dialogue essentially keep things smooth and courteous.
Occasionally, or so it seems to this outsider, your responses to each
other verge on the edge of rancor, and sometimes go over the edge. In
the past, several posts here have admonished against ad hominem, bitter
responses. But they do creep back, they always do. This sort of stuff
does really go against the grain of productive debate. At least, as they
say in internet speak, IMHO.

Sorry if I sound schoolmasterish, but this is a great group, and
although a lurker, I find it unfortunate when people flame each other,
however intellectually.

Harvey Roy Greenberg, MD


[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 30 Aug 2004 19:53:06 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 15.1607 Best Cinematic Hamlet?
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1607 Best Cinematic Hamlet?

Stuart Manger writes, "All I ask is 'was that the original question?'
Are we talking as teachers looking for the best study aid to use in
class in lieu of a stage performance for students, OR are we thinking of
cinema as an integrated art form in its own right?"

OK: the original question is easy.  The subject *IS*: "Re: SHK 15.1589
Best Cinematic Hamlet?"

OK: and your inferred question is: "are we thinking of cinema as an
integrated art form in its own right?"

OK: and my answer to both *IS*: yes, and yes!

OK: as a former projectionist in Massachusetts for 23 years during my
summer sabbaticals from teaching, I dare say I know something about "the
integrated art form in its own right."  And, when the script is by
Shakespeare, well then the script is by Will S.  Now, I admit that I
enjoyed *Romeo and Juliet* by B.L., in its modern gas-station setting,
but was it the *Best Cinematic R.& J.*?  Divorced from Shakespeare, some
might think so.  But *best* is a *BIG* word as a modifier.

OK: if *you* want to divorce your *Best Cinematic Hamlet* from
Shakespeare, then go right ahead, and enjoy Jacobi, or any ole director
you like.  My point *IS* that the word *Hamlet* implies Shakespeare's
*Hamlet* and that is the Prince Hamlet remembered when they leave the
*best cinematic Hamlet* and if he comes off like crazy Jack in *The
Shining* then the director has *FAILED* Shakespeare and Shakespeare's
text.  Period.

OK: despite the fact there are ample texts, as scholars attest, there
*IS* still Prince Hamlet underlying them all, and madness vs. not
madness are mutually exclusive.  That is the test.  And Prince Hamlet
was not mad.  He was a "sweet prince."

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

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Cheryl Newton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 30 Aug 2004 23:57:57 -0400
Subject:        Our Mad (or Not) Prince

True - this is a discussion that could go in circles & spirals
endlessly.  I've seen Hamlet played convincingly both ways.  I enjoyed
either interpretation as long as the depiction was consistent.

For those of you who argue that he absolutely cannot be mad, please
consider your definition of & attitude toward madness.  Many people are
more scared of madmen than of spiders.  It's a shame to throw away a
portrayal by Campbell Scott on the basis that Hamlet cannot *really* be
mad.

Cheryl

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kenneth Chan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 31 Aug 2004 15:26:29 +0800
Subject: 15.1607 Best Cinematic Hamlet?
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1607 Best Cinematic Hamlet?

Bill Arnold writes: "OK: Madness and not madness are mutually exclusive,
except in the movie *King of Hearts*, if you get my drift?"

I am afraid I cannot agree here. No contemporary psychiatrist would be
so bold as to draw a clear demarcating line between madness and sanity.
There simply isn't such a line.

In the play, I believe Shakespeare has deliberately kept the status of
Hamlet's madness ambiguous. That is, in fact, the reason why there is no
general consensus on the issue.

What is important, though, is that Shakespeare has kept Hamlet's
"madness" ambiguous for a very specific purpose. It fits in with what
the rest of the play is trying to say. The ambiguity of Hamlet's madness
is part of a cohesive message which pervades the entire play.

In the play, the whole issue of "madness" or delusion is explored
repeatedly. It is not just Hamlet's "madness" but also that of Ophelia,
and in Act 3, Scene 4, even Gertrude is accused by Hamlet of being worse
than mad. There is a reason for all this.

The play highlights the fact that we generally refuse to face up to the
profound and to the inevitability of death. We hide from the truth by
indulging in distractions and by artificially beautifying reality to
conceal what is rotten within. The question Shakespeare is asking us is
this: Are we not mad in behaving this way? Who then is actually sane?
This is part of the spiritual message in Hamlet.

I believe we should try to interpret the play on the premise that
Shakespeare has meticulously crafted it to convey a very specific
message. Thus, we need to interpret each part of the play in the context
of what the rest of the play is saying. It is meant to be a cohesive whole.

There are actually hardly any extraneous lines in Hamlet. Almost all the
lines either move along the action of the play or are aimed at imparting
its central message.

Kenneth Chan
http://www.hamlet.vze.com

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
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Hamlet Who Cuts it Best?

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1615  Tuesday, 31 August 2004

From:           John Reed <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 30 Aug 2004 21:25:53 -0700
Subject:        Re: Hamlet Who Cuts it Best

John wrote:

 >When you are a director and have to cut the play to two hours or a
 >little more, where is your best guide to making the cuts?  This is a
really
 >big problem, especially if you want to make a play out of it.  If you want
 >to make a ballet, you just cut out all the lines
 >right off the bat, and
 >then build it up again using action.

I probably haven't seen too many different versions myself (from the
point of view of a real aficionado), and all of them have been twentieth
century versions - I never saw anything from earlier centuries - but in
my view too much credit is given to the conscious mind in devising
adaptations.  What I mean is that if versions could be compared,
carefully, across centuries, for instance, or across genre (play vs.
ballet), or across cultural milieu, most of the observed differences
would have to do with tacit assumptions about what is proper, and very
little would be do conscious thought.  Oh, I know, I'm being unfair.

These plays are hard to cut, everyone knows that.  Suppose you had to
cut Beethoven's Fifth Symphony down to two thirds of its normal length.
  How would you do it?  That's just music.  With a play, especially this
play, you have a whole slew of moral, psychological, and yes, religious
issues to deal with.

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
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DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
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Sonnet 89

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1613  Tuesday, 31 August 2004

[1]     From:   Bill Arnold <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 30 Aug 2004 20:23:32 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1608 Sonnet 89

[2]     From:   David Lindley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 31 Aug 2004 09:23:50 +0100
        Subj:   Armour


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 30 Aug 2004 20:23:32 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 15.1608 Sonnet 89
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1608 Sonnet 89

Sally Drumm writes, in part: "As we all know, there are many reasons for
a writer to share work among friends--beyond the possibility of
autobiography.  I would suggest that for some writers, the more personal
or autobiographical the writing is, the less likely it will appear
anywhere except in print.  It seems to me that Shakespeare was not much
on sharing his personal life with the general public, and his
autobiographical leavings are minimal.  As such is it likely that he
would take the sort of deeply personal incident some theorize are
contained in the sonnets, and turn those into autobiography."

OK: you wrote a thoughtful and fuller response, but I want to respond to
the above.  I do believe you meant *unlikely* in your last sentence?

OK: in any event, you are on a slippery slope here.  Meres' comment and
list and date of when it was published implies the *sonnets* were early
production.  And that fits lyricism.  As a lyric poet myself and
interested in the American bard Emily Dickinson I can assure you that
*I-form* lyric poetry is generally autobiographical.  Test the waters,
and you will find that to be the case.  Plath?  Sexton?  However, not
all lyric poets move from lyricism in their early years, such as
Wordsworth, or Dickinson, or Plath and Sexton, even Frost, and then
become great dramatists of circa three dozen plays.  That is an
incomparable feat.  Will S. was an autobiographical lyric poet, and then
great dramatist.  Do *not* forget that Will S. identified himself as
"Will" in several poems and punned on the word in so many others as to
leave little doubt about my inference as being true and certain.
Perhaps, in hindsight, he might have burned his lyric production as
Emily Dickinson allegedly asked her sister to do with hers.  If you
think of Rimbaud and how he barely survived his lyricism, then you might
think of Shakespeare's lyric production as separate from his drama
production.  I do.

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

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Lindley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 31 Aug 2004 09:23:50 +0100
Subject:        Armour

 >I was told by a learned 18th century
 >specialist (with reference to a project on *Antony and
 >Cleopatra*) that "armor" was the slang term for our "condom."
 >However, that usage is not listed in either the OED or
 >Frankie Rubinsteins's book.
 >
 >Alan Dessen

 From memory, Boswell talks of 'engaging in armour' in his letters; but
I had always thought that the idiom, and perhaps the object, were of
eighteenth-century origin.

David Lindley

_______________________________________________________________
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The Meaning of Hamlet

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1614  Tuesday, 31 August 2004

[1]     From:   John Reed <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 30 Aug 2004 21:49:20 -0700
        Subj:   Re: The Meaning of Hamlet

[2]     From:   Kenneth Chan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Tuesday, 31 Aug 2004 15:29:26 +0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1605 The Meaning of Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Reed <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 30 Aug 2004 21:49:20 -0700
Subject:        Re: The Meaning of Hamlet

Here we go again, talking about Gertrude and the Ghost.  In this scene
we have four dramatically significant entities: Hamlet, the Ghost,
Gertrude, and the audience.   I think I showed earlier that in
Shakespeare Character Appearance is a potential variable.  Maybe this
scene is one of those times.  I have the feeling, anyway, that the Ghost
appears to the audience as it "really" is (whatever that is), and that
it appears to Hamlet in the fashion that it claims to be (as Hamlet's
father).  I think Gertrude sees it as well, although I'm not sure how
she sees it.

Yes, she claims she doesn't see it, directly to Hamlet.  And then she
has a curious line, "Alas, he's mad."  She refers to Hamlet as "he".
Who is she speaking to?  I think she's speaking to the audience.  So it
could be she is denying seeing the Ghost again, this time making the
claim to the audience.  A vain attempt.

Not long ago I finished writing a screenplay to Hamlet (purely for the
fun of it, so don't hold your breath about ever seeing it made), and
after going through with that labor I have the impression one of
Gertrude's characteristics is that she dissembles.   She doesn't want to
be revealed, especially to the audience, as having done anything wrong.
  Seeing the Ghost, especially in the way Hamlet sees it, would remind
her of the things she has done wrong (if any), and she doesn't like it.
  She's on the path of the progression of evil, and having the Ghost
appear just then is hard on her, she doesn't want to be made to feel
G-U-I-L-T-Y, guilty, guilty, guilty.  It might be similar to Macbeth
seeing the "Ghost" of Banquo at the party.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kenneth Chan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 31 Aug 2004 15:29:26 +0800
Subject: 15.1605 The Meaning of Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1605 The Meaning of Hamlet

Dear Claude

The reason why Gertrude does not see the ghost is not really a mystery.
Not everyone can perceive everything under all circumstances, especially
when it involves psychic or mystical phenomena.

The real question is why Shakespeare highlighted this point in the play.
A careful examination of Shakespeare's lines during this episode gives
us a clue. Immediately after failing to see the ghost, Gertrude
concludes that Hamlet is mad and hallucinating. What is Hamlet's response?

He does not seem to wonder why she does not see the ghost. He does not
speculate on whether this inability is the result of being "in sin" or
anything like that. In fact, Hamlet does not seem at all interested in
why she does not see the ghost, or why the ghost does not make himself
visible to her.

Hamlet's response, instead, focuses on something else altogether. Taking
into consideration what the rest of the play is saying, I believe
Shakespeare's purpose for this episode is to enable Hamlet to make
exactly this response. And given that the play aims at encouraging us to
take the spiritual path, Hamlet's response is indeed important.

Instead of wondering why his mother fails to see the ghost, Hamlet
focuses on the danger of her using it as an excuse to avoid reforming
her life. Shakespeare, I believe, is aware that this is a serious
problem in the real world.

On the spiritual path, certain levels of attainment are required before
we can open the door to the inner journey and to spiritual experiences.
While the perception of ghosts does not quite rank in the same category,
it is the dismissive attitude towards such experiences that acts as a
serious hindrance to spiritual progress. It is unwise to prematurely
dismiss mystical experiences - widely described by saints and mystics on
the spiritual path - as psychological aberrations simply because we
cannot experience them at present.

Through Hamlet's response, Shakespeare deliberately makes this point -
i.e. that we should be wary of using this excuse of "madness" to avoid
reforming our own lives. Immediately after this response by Hamlet, the
whole matter concerning Gertrude's failure to see the ghost is quickly
dropped.

In interpreting Shakespeare, I believe it is helpful to work on the
premise that Shakespeare does have something important to say in his
plays and that he meticulously crafts them to convey specific messages.
We should, therefore, try to interpret each part of his plays in the
context of what the rest of the play is saying. The different parts, I
believe, are meant to form a cohesive whole.

Regards,
Kenneth Chan
http://www.hamlet.vze.com

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
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The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
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The Globes Audience in the Future

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1612  Tuesday, 31 August 2004

[1]     From:   Martin Steward <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 30 Aug 2004 12:24:25 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1603 The Globes Audience in the Future

[2]     From:   Kate Pearce <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
        Date:   Monday, 30 Aug 2004 22:11:33 +0100
        Subj:   The Globes Audience in the Future 2


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Martin Steward <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 30 Aug 2004 12:24:25 +0100
Subject: 15.1603 The Globes Audience in the Future
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1603 The Globes Audience in the Future

"If I were to take a guess at this moment, it seems like the late
Victorians first saw this cinematic approach to the stage, at the same
time that pictorial Shakespeare became the vogue. Still, the work of
Poel (authentic staging conditions) indicates a striving against that
fourth wall. Certainly by the time that film was widely distributed,
non-musical hall theatre was already darkening and quieting audiences in
a hope to achieve pictorial authenticity and to accommodate the
viewpoint that Shakespeare was high art, the equivalent in many ways, I
would argue, of opera."

Brian Willis's post sounds plausible.

Verdi and Wagner are surely key figures in this development?

m

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kate Pearce <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 30 Aug 2004 22:11:33 +0100
Subject:        The Globes Audience in the Future 2

I'm thankful for the responses on The Globe's audiences in the future. I
have decided to do my dissertation on the comparison on the Globe's
audience in the Elizabethan times with the audiences today. I agree that
audience participation is not completely lost today, but I still feel
that we are a long way from how the Elizabethans acted. Being at a drama
school, I have worked (backstage) on plays that have put the audience
right in the centre of things. The reaction is fascinating; they simply
clump together and freeze up. It's like they are scared to be
incorporated with the actors play. I suppose there is comfort in being
able to sit in the dark and simply watch.

I suppose working in college, I'm not so scared to participate, but at
the Globe one the actors caught my eye, made a stance and pouted his
lips. The whole of the audience turned to look at the scene with
laughter and suddenly I was part of the performance. This happened to
others and they seemed to enjoy it. That started me thinking, as to
whether people enjoyed the attention or simply acted up to the actor? I
myself found it funny! Fun! For audience participation, does it help to
single out the audience member to break the clump? You can never tell
how that person will act; does that make it more interesting? It
certainly keeps the actor on his toes. The Elizabethan was much more
likely to seen with a beer in his hand than today, that surely must have
encouraged the clump to break.

Another thing that made me wonder was, in Elizabethan times the higher
class would not only go there to see a play, but also to be seen. They
sat in the boxes behind the stage, not only to listen and be out of the
sun, but mainly to be seen in their refinements. Why now (today) do
people pay to sit here (if they do pay) when all you can see is the back
of the play? No offence, but from my observation, it's not to show off
the wealth in clothes, they seem to look similar to the rest of the
audience.

Many thanks for your response.

Kate.

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

DISCLAIMER: Although SHAKSPER is a moderated discussion list, the
opinions expressed on it are the sole property of the poster, and the
editor assumes no responsibility for them.

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