The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0201 Monday, 19 March 2007
From: Hardy M. Cook <
Date: Monday, March 19, 2007
Subject: I know he's only a character but . . .
FROM: Scotsman.com News:
Sane or not, Hamlet a hit in Washington trial
By James Vicini
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sane or not sane? That was the question at
Hamlet's trial presided over by a real U.S. Supreme Court justice late
on Thursday, centuries after Shakespeare's fictional Prince of Denmark
fatally stabbed the garrulous busybody Polonius. But here's the rub.
The jury deadlocked.
The mock trial at Washington's John F. Kennedy Centre for the Performing
Arts, was the "hottest ticket in town," said Justice Anthony Kennedy,
who was attired in his formal black Supreme Court robes for the occasion.
Hamlet's lawyers argued the insanity defence, based on his delusions and
depression. Prosecutors replied that the brooding prince was feigning
madness, knew right from wrong and should be held criminally
responsible. An insanity verdict meant "something would be rotten in
Denmark," argued one of Hamlet's defence lawyers to laughter from an
audience that appreciated her quoting from the play.
In the end, six jurors ruled Hamlet was sane and six others ruled he was
insane. After the verdict was read, Michael Kahn, the Shakespeare
Theatre Company artistic director, urged a retrial.
[ . . . ]
At Shakespeare festival, hung jury leaves Hamlet in limbo
By Brett Zongker
WASHINGTON-The question of Hamlet's sanity remains unanswered after a
Washington jury delivered an evenly split verdict on whether he should
be held criminally responsible for the fatal stabbing of Polonius.
Wearing a brown jail suit with a white ruffle collar, "Hamlet" appeared
Thursday before Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in a sold-out
theater at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The
unscripted mock court trial, combining modern law and Shakespeare's
account of Hamlet, was part of the ongoing Shakespeare in Washington
festival, which runs through June.
After the verdict, Kennedy remanded the Danish prince to "the pages of
our literary heritage."
In Shakespeare's play, the killing of Polonius occurs shortly after
Hamlet returns to Denmark for the funeral of his father, the king of
Denmark. A grieving Hamlet learns that his mother has married his uncle
Claudius, the new king. A ghost tells Hamlet that Claudius murdered his
father, and an enraged Hamlet vows revenge.
But Hamlet's plans go awry. He stabs Polonius, the councilor to the
king, after hearing a noise behind a curtain and mistakenly thinking it
is Claudius eavesdropping.
The split verdict by the 12 jurors, who were selected beforehand and
deliberated for about 20 minutes, was a major blow for the four lawyers
who argued the case.
"No Dane is above the law," San Francisco attorney Miles Ehrlich said in
opening statements. "When you pick and choose your time to kill, you are
In arguing that Hamlet was not insane, Ehrlich noted that Hamlet plotted
to kill Claudius and nearly did so in a chapel while Claudius was
praying. Hamlet decided to wait because he didn't want to send Claudius
[ . . . ]
FROM: NPR: All Things Considered
Method or Madness? Jury Decides Hamlet's Fate
March 16, 2007
Was Hamlet criminally responsible for mistakenly killing his
ex-girlfriend's father, Polonius? That is the question argued in a mock
trial Thursday, as part of a Shakespeare festival in Washington, D.C.,
where lawyers Abbe Lowell and Miles Ehrlich presented oral arguments
before a jury.
The defense, represented by Lowell, argued "no." Hamlet, they
maintained, suffered from something called psychotic affective disorder,
and he was a bit bipolar.
The prosecution, represented by Ehrlich, maintains that Hamlet was
perfectly sane, knew that killing was wrong, and was in control of his
The Shakespeare in Washington festival continues through June of 2007.
S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook,
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.