Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: May ::
Dumbshows?
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0379  Tuesday, 2 May 2006

[1] 	From: 	Peter Goldman <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
	Date: 	Monday, 01 May 2006 11:51:53 -0600
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0375 Dumbshows?

[2] 	From: 	Philip Tomposki <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
	Date: 	Monday, 01 May 2006 19:55:23 -0400
	Subj: 	SHK 17.0375 Dumbshows?


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Peter Goldman <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date: 		Monday, 01 May 2006 11:51:53 -0600
Subject: 17.0375 Dumbshows?
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0375 Dumbshows?

In regard to Claudius' apparent lack of reaction to the dumbshow, we 
have to realize, first, that the play itself does not raise this as an 
issue. There are no stage directions for Claudius at this point in the 
scene. Second, no one within the play itself directly comments on 
Claudius' reaction or lack thereof (although Hamlet's comments to 
Ophelia are relevant here).  As an undergraduate, I was taught that if 
something is important in a Shakespeare play, Shakespeare will emphasize 
it. After years of serious study and teaching, I see no reason to 
question this as a general principle. I cannot, therefore, see Claudius' 
apparent lack of reaction as a major problem.

Claudius' (apparent lack of) reaction to the dumbshow is a problem of 
staging. We all know that Shakespeare's plays are lacking in stage 
directions. At the original rehearsals, presumably he would be available 
to answer questions such as this.  I can see 3 possible ways to stage 
this. 1. Claudius talks to Gertrude or others, ignoring the dumbshow. 2. 
  Claudius grows increasingly uneasy during the dumbshow, squirming in 
his seat and etc. 3. Claudius sits in stony silence, because the stage 
emphasis is on Hamlet and Ophelia, not Claudius. I see all 3 three as 
acceptable interpretations, although I tend to favor #1. But what 
difference does it make? It's clear that Claudius reacts to the main 
play: rising, calling for light, and soon after attempting to pray for 
forgiveness. We need to keep things in perspective. It's not a Henry 
James novel, which painstakingly attempts to provide completely 
realistic, in-depth motivations for every minute action and character. 
Shakespeare is certainly capable of finely detailed, nuanced 
psychological portrayals, but he is not adverse to painting with a broad 
brush when it is appropriate to his dramatic conception. There's 
foreground and background, and hermeneutic methods appropriate to each.

~Peter

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Philip Tomposki <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date: 		Monday, 01 May 2006 19:55:23 -0400
Subject: Dumbshows?
Comment: 	SHK 17.0375 Dumbshows?

Kenneth Chan wrote: "The choice we are faced with here is simply this: 
Are we to continue believing that Shakespeare deliberately made his own 
play inconsistent when there are no actual grounds for believing that he 
did so? Of course, you can still insist that Shakespeare deliberately 
planted an inconsistency if you want to; you are free to believe that. I 
seriously wonder, though, how many people would find that conclusion 
acceptable."

Not many, I suspect, but that's because most people are accustomed to 
the Disney/Hallmark-Hall-of-Shame dreck, with it's nicely 'consistent' 
themes and characters, neatly tied up in a pretty bow at the end of its 
two hours traffic on the screen.  Real art, the kind that S wrote, 
doesn't do that.  S wasn't a moral philosopher or a clinical 
psychologist, he was a playwright, a storyteller who understood that 
life was contradictory, paradoxical and, yes, inconsistent.  This is 
what he portrays on the stage, and I celebrate him for that reason.  I 
cannot image anything more tedious than a production that would adhere 
to a completely 'consistent' interpretation.

Philip Tomposki

_______________________________________________________________
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, 
 This e-mail 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.
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.