The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1664  Thursday, 29 September 2005

From: 		John Reed <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date: 		Thursday, 29 Sep 2005 21:29:32 +0000
Subject: 	Re: Joshua Logan and Hamlet

Although realizing this thread has had a lot of inactivity recently, 
it's still bothering me.  So once again I am going to presume upon your 
patience with another post, now that I've thought it over a little.

Getting back to the quotation we had to start with:

"A play should take its protagonist through a series of experiences 
which lead to a climactic moment...when he learns something about 
himself that he could have known all along but has been blind to.  This 
discovery comes as such an emotionally shattering blow... that it 
changes the entire course of his life, and that change must be for the 
better... the audience must feel and see the leading man or woman become 
wiser and the discovery must happen on stage in front of their eyes... 
it is true of Hamlet and Macbeth... You'll find it in every successful 
play.  For when the protagonist has this revelation, one which raises 
his moral stature, the audience can grow vicariously along with him. 
Thus, people leave the theater feeling better, healthier minded than 
when they arrived."

I like this observation, but again, I don't think it applies to Hamlet 
(or Macbeth).  Hamlet is active: he's the protagonist.  He walks, talks, 
thinks, interacts with others, and every once in a while talks directly 
to us, letting us know exactly what is going on in that pointy little 
head of his.  He makes decisions, and then goes on to put them into 
practice.  It's not enough.

Kenneth Chan might be right when he directs our attention to the 
audience.  Even the above quotation makes mention of it: "...that change 
must be for the better.  The audience must feel and see the leading 
man...become wiser."  In order for the change to qualify as an 
anagnorisis, the audience has to validate it - not the character.  The 
character can decide whatever he wants.  For these plays the audience in 
question is not necessarily us, but the original audience; the audience 
for whom the plays were originally written.

So, any prospective decision considered as a potential anagnorisis has 
to go through this filter.  I think there are two possibilities.  Either 
the decision by the character is in agreement with the standards the 
audience holds, or goes beyond them.  An author might do that; he might 
make a new standard (just like a judge might make a new law).  But if he 
does that it has to be a better, that is to say a higher, standard.

Is anyone going to argue that what Hamlet thinks, decides, and does 
towards the end of the play are things that are either in agreement with 
the standards the original audience had, or represents something better?

These interludes where Hamlet makes up his mind to do this and that are 
not anagnorises.  They're more like fake anagnorises; instead of 
realizing how bad he is and doing something all of a sudden better (if 
possible), Hamlet embraces an evil course of action, which is 
progressive (surprise).  It is as though he has a series of 

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