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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: August ::
Best Cinematic Hamlet?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1616  Tuesday, 31 August 2004

[1]     From:   John Reed <
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        Date:   Monday, 30 Aug 2004 21:30:39 -0700
        Subj:   Re: Best Cinematic Hamlet

[2]     From:   Tanya Gough <
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        Date:   Monday, 30 Aug 2004 20:30:05 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1607 Best Cinematic Hamlet?

[3]     From:   M Yawney <
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        Date:   Monday, 30 Aug 2004 17:36:37 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1607 Best Cinematic Hamlet?

[4]     From:   Harvey Roy Greenberg <
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        Date:   Monday, 30 Aug 2004 20:38:45 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1607 Best Cinematic Hamlet?

[5]     From:   Bill Arnold <
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        Date:   Monday, 30 Aug 2004 19:53:06 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1607 Best Cinematic Hamlet?

[6]     From:   Cheryl Newton <
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        Date:   Monday, 30 Aug 2004 23:57:57 -0400
        Subj:   Our Mad (or Not) Prince

[7]     From:   Kenneth Chan <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 31 Aug 2004 15:26:29 +0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1607 Best Cinematic Hamlet?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Reed <
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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 <
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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 <
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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 <
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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 <
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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 <
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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 <
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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

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