The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0068  Monday, 15 January 2001

From:           Paul E. Doniger <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 10 Jan 2001 19:39:04 -0800
Subject:        Re: Kent (now the Polonius clan)

Moira Russell wrote:

>It reminds me of business I have seen in productions of
>"Hamlet" where Ophelia teases Laertes behing Polonius's back during the
>early leavetaking scene.  I think an affection between brother and
>sister, and a certain perhaps affectionate impatience with their
>father's endless proverbs, is clearly in the text, but it's not written

I am curious if anyone else out there has the same reaction to such
stage business that I have: I have often seen this playfulness, which I
think is appropriate to the characters, generally, but inappropriate to
the scene.  What bothers me is when the teasing covers Polonius's advice
to Laertes to the point that it distracts the audience from what
Polonius actually says.  This is the first opportunity we have to see
how skilled and serious an advisor Polonius actually is (I have really
gotten exceedingly tired of seeing Polonius played as a one-dimensional
buffoon) , and it is important that we pay attention to what he is
telling his son. The "endless proverbs" are actually quite true and
useful, and the actor playing Laertes needs to listen to it attentively.
This also is the only opportunity we have to see the love Laertes bears
his father-certainly important in light of his heated vengeance later in
the play. I find that if Laertes and Ophelia show "affectionate
impatience" at this moment, although it is amusing and entertaining, it
detracts from the full presentation of Laertes and Polonius as fully
rounded characters.

Does anybody have any thoughts about this?

Paul E. Doniger

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