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Home :: Archive :: 2011 :: January ::
Asta Nielsen HAMLET at BFI
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 22.0008   Monday, 10 January 2011

From:         Hardy M. Cook <
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Date:         Monday, January 10, 2011      
Subject:      Asta Nielsen HAMLET at BFI

[Editor's Note: If you have not seen or not seen on a large screen with piano accompaniment the 1920 
German film HAMLET: A Drama of Vengeance directed by Sven Gade (134 minutes) with Asta Nielsen (Danish 
silent film star) as Hamlet, you SHOULD NOT MISSED this opportunity. The film relies heavily on the story 
as told in Saxo Grammaticus (circa 1200 CE) with a significant change: Gertrude receives notice that old 
King Hamlet has been killed in battle before she give birth to a girl. To insure an heir, Gertrude 
declares the child is a boy. This deception does not become known until Hamlet's death. This film is 
thoroughly delightful and full of interesting gender-bending, with the sub-plot involving Horatio and 
Ophelia being the most poignant. I just love the scenes in Wittenberg and Hamlet's death scene with 
Horatio's discovery of Hamlet's gender and his terrific reaction shot. -Hardy]

From: The Globe Theatre electronic newsletter:

Shakespeare, Hamlet and Wittenberg:

In 1517 Martin Luther nailed The Ninety-Five Theses onto the door of the Castle Church of Wittenberg. The 
document is regarded as the catalyst for the Protestant Reformation. 
Last autumn we claimed that Shakespeare is German and explored the extraordinary influence Shakespeare 
has had on German drama and culture. This spring we explore the impact Wittenberg had on early-modern 
English drama.  Hamlet and Horatio were both students at the University of Wittenberg, where Luther had 
been a Professor of Theology. Marlowe's fictional Doctor Faustus was a teacher there too.  Both Hamlet 
and Doctor Faustus will be staged at the Globe during the 2011 Theatre Season.

While only referred to in the play, the university is depicted in the remarkable 1920 silent film of 
Hamlet starring Asta Nielsen. The film will be screened at the BFI on 27 January with a live piano 
accompaniment.

In a series of lectures at the Globe, Frank Gunther will discuss the art and politics of translating 
Shakespeare's plays into German with particular reference to Hamlet. Professor Ewan Fernie and Dr Adrian 
Streete will explore the relationship between Shakespeare's Theatre and the Protestant reformation The 
season also includes a reading of David Davalos' Wittenberg which wittily imagines conversations between 
Luther, Doctor Faustus and Hamlet at the university.

Our three annual March productions take us further afield. Macbeth will be staged for the Playing 
Shakespeare with Deutsche Bank project; Rutgers' students will take us to Illyria in Twelfth Night and 
over 400 Southwark Primary and Secondary students will inhabit Prospero's Island in The Tempest.

Tickets are also on sale for the annual Sam Wanamaker Festival, involving over 40 students from British 
Drama schools and ending with one mighty festive jig.  The 2011 Theatre Season, The Word is God, marks 
the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. A complementary series of events, The Heard Word: Pulpit 
versus Playhouse, will run throughout the year.

I hope you choose this playhouse.

Patrick Spottiswoode
Director, Globe Education


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