Q: Hamletism


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0016  Wednesday, 16 January 2013


From:        Michelle Assay <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         January 16, 2013 5:44:18 AM EST

Subject:     Question Regarding HAMLETISM


Hamletism is a notion particularly important in Russian culture. Turgeniev was an important figure regarding this notion. But I wonder if the term was coined beforehand?


Thanks for your help.


Michelle Assay

Université Paris Sorbonne, University of Sheffield

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Pale Fire


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0015  Tuesday, 15 January 2013


From:        Charles Weinstein <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         January 14, 2013 7:36:53 PM EST

Subject:     Pale Fire


Pale Fire:  Timon of Athens, directed by Nicholas Hytner (National Theatre Live) 


The lights come up, dimly, on a cluster of pitched tents. The time is the present, and this is the Occupy London movement. The One-Percenters do their best to ignore it while pursuing their sybaritic lifestyles: selling junk bonds, snorting coke, hitting on nubile women, etc. Timon is King of the Plutocrats, funding museum wings with one pudgy hand while throwing lavish banquets with the other. The global recession and his own improvidence destroy him. Bankrupt and embittered, he becomes an urban derelict, sleeping on cardboard and crawling through blighted streets. (“Timon will to the woods” is changed to “Timon will to the wilds,” which is not much more appropriate). Since roots do not flourish in concrete and macadam, he does not dig for tubers but sifts through garbage bags instead—not exactly the kind of nutriment supplied by the repeatedly-invoked “Mother Earth.” Of course, director Nicholas Hytner cannot alter Timon’s valedictory salute to the beach and the sea, neither of which is remotely in evidence. These design choices shift the register of the play from the primal to the topical, whereby every perceived gain entails a deeper loss.

 The Occupiers, we soon learn, are the followers of Alcibiades, who is now a radical populist rather than a military man. (His scenes in the first half of the play cannot accommodate this change, so they are all cut). Hytner’s attitude towards him is ambiguous. Is he Justice On The March or Jack Cade redivivus? In a final scene meant to suggest co-optation, we see him spruced up and wearing a suit, sitting at a dais while smoothly addressing the nation through a microphone. Michael Bogdanov used a similar tableau to conclude his Wars of the Roses cycle in 1988. It would be effective here if it weren’t derivative.

Hytner’s optical allusions to the current economic crisis are quixotic, since Timon of Athens is not about recession, class struggle or even income inequality. (Timon’s financial problems vanish when he discovers the gold. The point is that this doesn’t matter). The play as written does not allow these themes to be explored or even discussed, and importing a few lines from Coriolanus about the hungry plebeians doesn’t help. Without a textual basis, the production’s relevance must rest upon a visual overlay, a free-floating veneer implying that Something Is Being Said about our current situation when nothing of the kind is being said at all.

 Hytner is not even faithful to the play’s worldview, at least where Women are concerned. Thus, Phrynia and Timandra are no longer prostitutes, but card-carrying members of the rebellious underclass. The female masquers at the opening banquet perform an angular and sexless dance piece instead of the erotic entertainment that the text requires. Timon’s faithful steward Flavius is feminized into Flavia, as if only a woman could be so decent. These spasms of political correctness are not allayed by sprinkling a few women among Timon’s false friends, and they have the opposite of their intended effect. By pandering to a modern audience, by lacking the full courage of the play’s convictions, they are flatly offensive.

A great leading actor would be some consolation, but Timon is played by Simon Russell Beale.  Beale’s acting has long been marked by a self-protective contempt for other people, and Timon allows him to indulge his deepest instincts. He is less than sociable even in the early scenes, shrinking from kisses and wiping his palms after handshakes. His charmlessness confirms that his friends attends on him only for his money: there is certainly nothing else to like. When Timon devolves into a savage hobo, Beale is finally in his element, able to avoid all human contact that does not reek of defensive scorn.  In possible contempt of the audience, he delivers his speeches in distracted, off-hand accents. This robs the more resonant lines of their power, and is probably incomprehensible to anyone unfamiliar with the text. But perhaps a tangential approach to meaning is appropriate for a character who declares that “All’s obloquy.” Moreover, by subordinating sense to stage business, Beale does impart the illusion of variety to Timon’s repetitive rants.  In fact, given his peculiar harmony with the role, and despite his rhetorical mediocrity and emotional constipation, this is the most adequate work that I have seen Beale do. He is a tolerable actor for a second-rate Shakespeare play.

 The supporting actors portray Timon’s friends cartoonishly, without subtlety or taste. As Flavia, Deborah Findlay is less a moral exemplar than a querulous biddy. I last saw Hilton McRae as a curly-headed Orlando to Juliet Stevenson’s Rosalind (1985). Since then, he has acquired a seamed face, straight hair and a surprising amount of gravitas. Bleakly nihilistic yet humane, neither playing for laughs nor avoiding them, he is a more than respectable Apemantus.


--Charles Weinstein

Alice Dailey’s The English Martyr from Reformation to Revolution


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0014  Monday, 14 January 2013


From:        Kathryn Pitts <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         January 11, 2013 2:53:16 PM EST

Subject:     Alice Dailey’s The English Martyr from Reformation to Revolution


Alice Dailey publishes book on the martyr figure in Reformation England


NOTRE DAME, IN, January 11, 2013—Alice Dailey, associate professor of English at Villanova University, has published a new book titled The English Martyr from Reformation to Revolution. Observing how martyrdom is constituted through the interplay of historical event and literary form, Dailey explores the development of English martyr literature through the period of intense religious controversy from the heresy executions of Queen Mary to the regicide of 1649. 


“Alice Dailey’s innovative new study of English martyrology details the transformations undergone by the narrative forms, theological meanings, and visual imagery of sacred suffering in Reformation England. In the period stretching from the sixteenth century through the end of the English Civil War, the Catholic underground was stymied in its search for the glory of the martyrs by the rhetoric of treason wielded against them by the Protestant state, but periodically sustained by its own powerful and resilient treasury of religious narratives. In this broad and bracing study, Dailey conceives of the Catholic question in a pluralist manner, to include not only the fates of individual Catholics and Catholic communities, but also the survival of Catholic literary and architectural forms in post-Reformation England.”  —Julia Reinhard Lupton, The University of California, Irvine


The English Martyr from Reformation to Revolution is part of the ReFormations: Medieval and Early Modern series edited by David Aers, Sarah Beckwith, and James Simpson. Read more:




The English Martyr from Reformation to Revolution, published by the University of Notre Dame Press, is available as a paperback and in an ebook format. Read more:




Contact: Kathryn Pitts

Marketing Manager

University of Notre Dame Press

310 Flanner Hall

Notre Dame, IN 46556

574.631.3267 phone

574.631.4410 fax

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Performing the Queen’s Men: Website Change


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0013  Monday, 14 January 2013


From:        Helen Ostovich <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         January 11, 2013 11:45:00 AM EST

Subject:     Performing the Queen’s Men: Website Change


If you have been trying and failing to get into Performing the Queen’s Men, here’s the URL that works: http://thequeensmen.mcmaster.ca/


Happy hunting!




Helen Ostovich  <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Editor, Early Theatre <http://digitalcommons.mcmaster.ca/earlytheatre/>

Professor, English and Cultural Studies

McMaster University

Query about Attribution of Posts to SHAKSPER


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 24.0012  Thursday, 10 January 2013


From:        Laurie Johnson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         January 8, 2013 3:45:10 PM EST

Subject:     Query about Attribution of Posts to SHAKSPER


I’ve noticed that the latest post to SHAKSPER is Esther Schupak’s reposting of the Shakespearean Hokey Pokey, an item that has been doing the rounds on the Internet ever since it won the 2003 Washington Post contest. There’s no harm in reposting old classics, of course. But I wonder if there is something less than proper about reposting other people’s words about the classics as well. I also wonder if the poster might not have done a bit of digging on the web to identify the poem’s author and provide appropriate attribution.


Jeff Brechlin’s poem and Katerhine St. John’s spiel about it can be found here:  http://www.phantomranch.net/folkdanc/articles/hokeypokey.htm


You will see that Esther reproduces St. John’s spiel verbatim, without attribution.


I know copyright law is sketchy and inconsistent when it comes to internet content, so there’s probably nothing technically illegal here (indeed, a search for St.John’s spiel shows dozens of blogs and forums on which her spiel is reproduced verbatim without attribution), but as a long-time user of a number of discussion forums, I am noticing a sharp increase in this trend of contributors to forums or blogs repackaging existing internet content as a post in their own name. I wonder if other members of the SHAKSPER community share my concerns about this practice in general or, if not, could help me to learn to stop worrying and love the bomb?


Laurie Johnson

Associate Professor of English and Cultural Studies

Faculty of Arts

University of Southern Queensland


[Editor’s Note: Let me also say that in this instance the poem sounded familiar but then so do most of the stories I read in the newspaper daily. I edit SHAKSPER for the smoothness of the posting, occasionally correcting misspellings and punctuation, but there are not enough hours in the day for me to submit postings to the rigor of say an article in Shakespeare Quarterly or another academic publication. I strive to judge the appropriateness of submissions (yes, Virginia, SHAKSPER does not publish Oxfordian or other authorship postings), but I simply do not have the time to do much more than I already am doing and, therefore, depend on submitters to practice a degree of pre-formatting and pre-editing, making submissions as readable as possible. Thanks to everyone. –Hardy]


Subscribe to Our Feeds


Make a Gift to SHAKSPER

Consider making a gift to support SHAKSPER.