Archive for the ‘Culture’ Tag

Method Madness

Hamlet is not a very Danish name. Maurits, King or Prince of Denmark, would be more like it.

Anyway with Claudius, Polonius, Ophelia, and Horatio Shakespeare really fucked up his linguistic geography. This is Denmark, old boy! Not Verona!

And a guy named after a tiny village, doesn’t make much sense either.

Might as well have called him Boardwalk. Bo, for short.

Shakespeare borrowed a lot from the Greeks Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides and their treatment of the Oresteia, but Hamlet was no Orestes. Just like in a different context the Wizard’s Dorothy is no Alice in Wonderland, any more than Dan Quayle was John F. Kennedy by Senator Lloyd Bentsen’s stern yardstick.

And I know this is blasphemy but as story lines go Hamlet is a terrible play, neither head nor tail, for a normal spectator at least to follow, or else an endlessly convoluted plot with the dark Danish Prince stricken with grief, going mad, suicidal or simply cunningly paranoid. If not clarity, beauty only in its exquisite language. But even something that is said beautifully must make sense to someone like me.

Here’s the thing as Directors go, it’s dramatically very hard to demonstrate someone apparently normal, slowly going potty. It’s easier to show someone normal conniving his revenge, by faking he’s going potty. But what then is totally incongruous is his doubt about what he should do, commit suicide or not, murder or not, how and when, staging one thing, then the other, with whose help etc etc. For if there’s one thing true in this world or any other, highly motivated and morally ‘just’ counter-conspirators by temperament cannot and will never be pussy-footers or procrastinators. And that’s exactly what Hamlet’s made out to be.

And even Laurence Olivier’s steeply abbreviated cinematic version unable to cut all the fat or for that matter pass any muster. A terrible movie that refuses to fascinate and hypnotise, delivered around a dozen classic one-liners everyone knows by now. But no number of grave diggers, hip friends and ghosts, ooh, aah, woe, the fleet, the fleet…ah yes the completely redundant fleet, making this thing work.

A psychological play avant-la-lettre, dealing with moral and mental illness at the same time? Don’t you believe it, this is theatre for theatricality’s sake, sustained by overly reverent Shakespeare worship.

Growing prematurely bald himself, Hamlet could easily have looked up at the sky, sunk on one knee, stroke an even balder skull, and sigh: Toupée or no Toupée, that is the question! And be just as credible.

  1. And what’s this Laurence bit, Larry? It’s Laurent old boy, if you want to go French all the way, and with your Norman Olivier, instead of Oliver. Laurence’s a girl’s name, so be a good sod and from eternity…  change it back to Lawrence, old man. I mean, we did win at Agincourt, didn’t we? And don’t you remember the Hank Cinq you did?  (Henry V)

 

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