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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: August ::
Best Cinematic Hamlet?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1607  Monday, 30 August 2004

[1]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Sunday, 29 Aug 2004 06:55:50 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   "Good night, sweet prince..."

[2]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Thursday, 26 Aug 2004 07:41:56 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1589 Best Cinematic Hamlet?

[3]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Thursday, 26 Aug 2004 08:06:57 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1599 Best Cinematic Hamlet?

[4]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Thursday, 26 Aug 2004 08:28:05 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1599 Best Cinematic Hamlet?

[5]     From:   Ann Carrigan <
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        Date:   Thursday, 26 Aug 2004 16:23:21 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1589 Best Cinematic Hamlet?

[6]     From:   Stuart Manger <
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        Date:   Thursday, 26 Aug 2004 18:25:05 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1599 Best Cinematic Hamlet?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Sunday, 29 Aug 2004 06:55:50 -0700 (PDT)
Subject:        "Good night, sweet prince..."

Those who believe Prince Hamlet was noble, sane, and was on the side of
angels when he took on the challenge of his father's spirit, recall that
upon his death, Horatio delivered a telling eulogy, Act V, Scene II,
lines 370-71:

"Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet prince,
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!"

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

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Thursday, 26 Aug 2004 07:41:56 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 15.1589 Best Cinematic Hamlet?
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1589 Best Cinematic Hamlet?

Bill Arnold writes:

 >OK: thank you for a wonderful and thoughtful response, and I can fully
 >appreciate your love of *Hamlet* in its very many Protean
 >manifestations. But surely, you can understand that some of us, who
 >also love Shakespeare, and value his plays, might wish to see some
 >*integrity* with the script.

With three substantive versions of the play extant? And I think that the
idea of one ideal and final draft of a script from that time has
increasingly been proved to be a hoax. "Integrity" doesn't mean one
draft, one interpretation.

"Yes, I admit that in order for us to get to the *integrity* of the
script with a production in terms of its performance, we must agree on
the *interpretation* of the play. Perhaps, that is illusive? I do *not*
believe so, inasmuch as there are so *many* words in the play, and the
various counterpoints can only arrive at one mutually exclusive
interpretation."

Sounds a bit fascist, doesn't it? The only truth is my truth? Bill, be
careful. While I admire your passion for this play and your belief in
your own personal interpretation of the play, the strength of the
character and the play is its ability to support multiple
interpretations. Although one's choice of best cinematic Hamlet may
reflect their own beliefs about the character, it is still the
multiplicity of approaches that makes the part and the play so special.

For the record, my favorite is Jacobi.

Brian Willis

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Thursday, 26 Aug 2004 08:06:57 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 15.1599 Best Cinematic Hamlet?
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1599 Best Cinematic Hamlet?

Edward Brown writes, "The standard in American law is 'beyond a
reasonable doubt', not 'beyond a shadow of a doubt', and like most
'standards' this one is subjective."

OK: that is just the poet in me coming out, and my reaching for the
metaphor rather than the adjective!  I would say, in the vernacular,
sitting on a jury, vibbing for a verdict, "Look, all, the accused is
innocent until *proven* guilty, and if I cannot *SEE* his/her *shadow*
in the prosecution's scenario, I *must* acquit!  In other words, to
paraphrase Plato's *Parable of the Cave* logic: no shadow, no tree!

OK: for me, the concept of *reasonable* is too much like the scholarly
*let's not fish, but let's cut bait forever* talk that takes place in
faculty meetings, in which the same ole, same ole, is addressed again,
and again, and again, and no decision is ever, ever, ever reached, if
you get my drift?

OK: to keep this *on* Will S., recall what the Bard said about *reason*:

Act 1, Scene 7


SCENE VII. Macbeth's castle.

LADY MACBETH

     We fail!
     But screw your courage to the sticking-place,
     And we'll not fail. When Duncan is asleep--
     Whereto the rather shall his day's hard journey
     Soundly invite him--his two chamberlains
     Will I with wine and wassail so convince
     That memory, the warder of the brain,
     Shall be a fume, and the receipt of reason
     A limbeck only: when in swinish sleep
     Their drenched natures lie as in a death,
     What cannot you and I perform upon
     The unguarded Duncan? what not put upon
     His spongy officers, who shall bear the guilt
     Of our great quell?

OK: isn't ironic that out of the mouth of one of the *greatest criminal
minds* of all times comes the *most distorted reasoning* of all times,
that Will S. reminds us that "reason" is "a limbeck only" if subjected
to *too much distillation*?

OK:  you understand my point: *reasonable* can get lost in the "if the
glove don't fit, you must acquit" logic, as logical as it sounds.  Will
S. reminded us that *reason* can be fooled, even though it should
protect us from our emotions, he showed us the likes of a character in
Lady Macbeth who could distort *distortion* itself!

OK: our *reasonable* approach to deciding whether or not Hamlet the
character was mad or not has resolved nothing.  So, I say to you, and
all SHAKSPEReans, where IS the *shadow* of his madness that I absolutely
must ajudicate him as guilty of the charge.  I cannot *SEE* the shadow
nor can I therefore conceive his tree in the mad scenario and in my
limbeck of *reasonable doubt* I acquit him of madness.  [So, now, thanks
to Cheryl Newton, I shall watch Kevin Kline's cinematic portrayal of the
sane Prince Hamlet!].

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

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Bill Arnold <
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Date:           Thursday, 26 Aug 2004 08:28:05 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 15.1599 Best Cinematic Hamlet?
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1599 Best Cinematic Hamlet?

M Yawney writes, "I think there is a misunderstanding in what the
integrity of a playscript means and how that differs from an ordinary
literary text."

OK: excuse me?  You are unleashing the *tiger* within me, and I mean the
Blakian version.  Re-read your sentence.  The words are unequivocable,
but err.

OK: Madness and not madness are mutually exclusive, except in the movie
*King of Hearts* <g>, if you get my drift?

OK: In the *King of Hearts* the template is that the insane or more sane
than the sane?  Now, if you believe that, I have some Atlantic Ocean
front property to sell you in Kansas and your neighbors will be Dorothy
and the Wizard of Oz!  You can produce your own Napoleonic
hand-in-the-vest version of Prince Hamlet, but I ain't buying it.

OK: let us say that madness and not madness are mutually exclusive.
With that standard, the text of the play *Hamlet* adjuticates Prince
Hamlet sane.  Of my premise and my inference I have *NO* doubt, not a
scintilla of rationalization or an inkling of a twinkle of poutable
doubt.  Zilch, Zip, Nada.  Period.

OK: where the debate over Prince's Halmet's madness vs. his not madness
goes astray is when debating participants do not deal with the concept
of *Truth* as being *all the truth, and nothing but the truth, so help
you God* and you put your hand on the Big Book, and, as the spirit of
Hamlet's father demanded: SWEAR, SWEAR, SWEAR, at least three times.  In
an American court, you only have to do it once!

OK: the *text* is the key to the decision of Prince Hamlet's madness.
And only a mad director would turn a sane Prince into a madman.  You
want a manman, try Officer Jack in *Doctor Strangelove* and you have a
manman.  Prince Hamlet is *not* mad and the text proves it.  Thus, the
*only* playable play and cinematic version of Will S.'s *Hamlet* I want
to watch is the one which does *not* distort the truth of the text of
the English bard.

OK: now if you wish to start a thread on the truth of the madness vs.
the non-madness of Prince Hamlet, and Hardy approves it, let us have at it!

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

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ann Carrigan <
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Date:           Thursday, 26 Aug 2004 16:23:21 GMT
Subject: 15.1589 Best Cinematic Hamlet?
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1589 Best Cinematic Hamlet?

One of the things that makes judging "Hamlet" -- whether on stage, film
or TV -- so difficult is that there are so many characters in which to
be invested. I'm always bothered by a Polonius who doesn't fit, and it's
largely a personal interpretation. I go along with Hamlet's opinion that
Polonius is a laughable person. He's got some dignity, but it's
undermined with his overblown sense of his own importance, his stumbling
flattery, and so forth. In the Campbell Scott version, Polonius was
played by an actor of great natural grace and presence, and with one of
the most beautiful speaking voices of our time -- Roscoe Lee Browne.
Hamlet's attempts to portray him as a buffoon just kind of rang false
for me.

I kept waiting for Bill Murray to be more Bill Murray-ish as Polonius,
but his portrayal was rather cold, as I recall...a choice that may have
fit the film but not not my view of the character.

I recall I once saw a video of "Romeo and Juliet" from a library, which
had the wonderful Esther Rolle (of TV's "Good Times") as the Nurse. Once
again I thought the actress was too dignified for the role, as I wanted
to feel that the Nurse was silly and fickle and capable of giving
terrible advice, but Ms. Rolle just exudes brains and wisdom. I didn't
get to laugh at her.

-- Ann Carrigan

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stuart Manger <
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Date:           Thursday, 26 Aug 2004 18:25:05 +0100
Subject: 15.1599 Best Cinematic Hamlet?
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1599 Best Cinematic Hamlet?

I am wondering if we are losing sight of a main thrust in this thread.

Surely there is a big difference between the best 'cinematic' Hamlet,
and the best reading of the role of Hamlet on film - a rather different
concept?

I proposed Kozintsev's Russian Hamlet simply because in terms of raw
cinema, it is IMHO the most searching, visually and technically as well
as interpretatively the most satisfying version on film that I know -
and yes, I have seen most of the others cited.. Almost all the debate so
far has been about individual actors' interpretations of the central
role. 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?

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