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Home :: Archive :: 2011 :: July ::
Thoughts on Ophelia as (a) Property?


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 22.0165  Wednesday, 20 July 2011

[1]  From       John W Kennedy < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
     Date       July 19, 2011 10:11:02 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHAKSPER: Ophelia; MV

[2]  From       Dan Venning < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
     Date       July 20, 2011 12:49:01 AM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHAKSPER: Change; Ophelia; MV

[3]  From       Steve Urkowitz < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
     Date       July 20, 2011 10:44:23 AM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHAKSPER: Change; Ophelia; MV


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:         John W Kennedy < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         July 19, 2011 10:11:02 PM EDT
Subject:      Re: SHAKSPER: Ophelia; MV

The plot of "Hamlet" makes Ophelia a victim; the actress should not usurp the plot's job. I especially remember Robin Leary's Ophelia in 1978 at the NJ Shakespeare Festival, but I am aware of only two other people on SHAKSPER who will remember that production. (Perhaps the phrase a reviewer recently used to describe Andrea Corr as "Jane Eyre" at the Gate fits here: "fierce and earnest".) Ideally, the audience should, at IV, 6, be able to mourn for themselves, "Oh, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown!" and wonder whether Ophelia, given time, could have become a very Paulina.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Dan Venning < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         July 20, 2011 12:49:01 AM EDT
Subject:      Re: SHAKSPER: Change; Ophelia; MV

In response to Anna Kamarelli's questions about Ophelia being viewed/used as a prop, and the way high profile productions treat her, I strongly recommend Lee Hyon-u's article "Shamanism in Korean Hamlets since 1990: Exorcising Han" in Asian Theatre Journal 28, no. 1 (Spring 2011). The article discusses how many Korean productions (or, more frequently, adaptations) have used the character of Ophelia as a shaman, possessed by spirits, as in the idiom of Korean ritual and myth. Various adaptations have thus played with Ophelia's agency and victimhood in the play. Lee's article is also just a terrific read. (By the way, that issue of Asian Theatre Journal, guest edited by Alexander C. Y. Huang is devoted to Shakespeare in Asia, and I actually have an article there on the Merchant Ivory film Shakespeare Wallah).
 
In my own personal theatre-going, I might label New York Public Theater's 2008 Hamlet (part of its annual free Shakespeare in the Park in the Delacorte Theater, with Michael Stuhlbarg as Hamlet) as a production of interest for Kamarelli. All in all, I found that Hamlet only moderately satisfying: the design felt like a rehash of various pseudo-fascist interpretations, and many actors' performances were unsatisfying. I thought, however, that Stuhlbarg was terrific in the central role. The real highlight was Lauren Ambrose as Ophelia, however. She clearly had more agency than anyone else, and seemed to have made the choice that Ophelia's madness, like Hamlet's, was put-on. During the mad scene where she hands out "flowers," she was actually giving out small rocks she had stuffed in her pockets: her suicide was already planned. She commanded every scene she was in with her forceful presence. I'm sure you can check out the production at the Theatre on Film and Tape archive at Lincoln Center, if you're ever in NYC.
 
Dan Venning
Ph.D Candidate in Theatre
CUNY Graduate Center
 
[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Steve Urkowitz < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         July 20, 2011 10:44:23 AM EDT
Subject:      Re: SHAKSPER: Change; Ophelia; MV

Ophelia ---

In both Q1 and Q2/F Ophelia gets swatted down after she is initially more lively. That achievement of Shakespeare's envisioned Elsinore as a ghastly philistine energy-sink took him some time. I've written about those engines of repression and the craftsmanlike tools by which they are controlled in several articles -- "Five Women Eleven Ways" and "Well Sayd Old Mole" and a more recent piece. But the best discussion of all the characters in this play is by Michael Long in his THE UNNATURAL SCENE (Methuen, 1975). He shows the sociopathic ugliness that passes for normal in Elsinore. (and, by-the-way, is not unlike the Venice of THE MERCHANT and OTHELLO ).  

Sitting out a soaking rainstorm in Prague, wanting to be on my rent-a-bike,
Steve the Wetkowitz

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