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Home :: Archive :: 2005 :: October ::
Joshua Logan and Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1681  Saturday, 1 October 2005

From: 		L. Swilley <
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Date: 		Friday, 30 Sep 2005 16:00:37 -0500
Subject: 16.1664 Joshua Logan and Hamlet
Comment: 	Re: SHK 16.1664 Joshua Logan and Hamlet

John Reed wrote, quoting Joshua Logan, "A play should take its 
protagonist through a series of experiences which lead to a climactic 
moment...when he learns something about himself that he could have known 
all along but has been blind to....  For when the protagonist has this 
revelation, one which raises his moral stature, the audience can grow 
vicariously along with him...etc." / I like this observation, but again, 
I don't think it applies to Hamlet (or Macbeth).  Hamlet is active: he's 
the protagonist.... He makes decisions, and then goes on to put them 
into practice.  It's not enough.

Isn't it the character's *estimate of his actions* that Logan writes of? 
  And doesn't that estimate occur for Hamlet is his meditation on 
all-levelling death in V,i, then again in V,ii ("...and a man's life's 
no more than to say, "One' and "There is a divinity that shapes our 
ends, etc." and "If it be not now, etc.") ?  (The scenes are very alike, 
too - for what it's worth - in Hamlet's comparable judgements of the 
Clown  and of Osric ("...the toe of the peasant comes so near the heel 
of the courtier, etc...." and "Let a beast be lord of beasts and his 
crib shall stand at the King's mess.") - repeating the soul-bracing view 
of Caesar and Alexander as reduced to stoppers for a bung hole. ]

John Reed continues, Kenneth Chan might be right when he directs our 
attention to the audience. Even the above quotation makes mention of it: 
"...that change must be for the better.  The audience must feel and see 
the leading man...become wiser."  In order for the change to qualify as 
an anagnorisis, the audience has to validate it - not the character. 
The character can decide whatever he wants.

The last court of appeal is the character's view of how he should view 
his situation and respond to it. As Newman says, conscience is imperial, 
and it is that *subjective* conscience to which we must respond if we 
will be right with ourselves. An audience, being like the character in 
that deep regard, will see and appreciate how the character judges 
himself. For example, in Hemingway's "Short, Happy Life of Francis 
Macomber," Macomber has decided that he must face the lion to prove 
something; that is his challenge to himself, the measure he applies to 
establish his integrity in his own eyes.  It does not matter that I and 
others (the audience) think him a damned fool to place himself in such 
danger to prove his worth, for *it is what HE has chosen as his 
challenge that counts. If he answers the challenge bravely, he has 
satisfied himself, and an audience understands and praises him for his 
answer, for they, too, constantly challenge themselves in minor or major 
ways and measure themselves according to the dictates of their 
subjective, perhaps objectively mistaken conscience. The stuff of 
conscience is deeper than our philosophy.* In Hamlet's case, he has 
finally concluded that he should trust "a divinity" and stop trying to 
"shape his end" himself by such machinations as putting on an antic 
disposition, or staging a play. (That the public judgement of Claudius, 
which he has sought all along, is virtually handed him by events he 
himself has not arranged - and that that judgement has nothing 
immediately to do with the murder of the Old King - underline the 
rightness of Hamlet's decision to leave matters to a Higher Mind.)

John Reed continues, For these plays the audience in question is not 
necessarily us, but the original audience; the audience for whom the 
plays were originally written.

To the degree that we pursue an effect limited to the original audience 
, to just that degree we lose the universal, eternal significance of 
this drama, a significance that, for reasons I have given above,  has 
been there and will continue to be there for all audiences and 
generations to come.

[L. Swilley]

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