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Her heart felt deflected. Something held back her love for this fragile, high-strung, quick-tongued child. She had become a mother too soon, perhaps; a stage in life's journey had been skipped, without which she could not move from loving a parent to loving a child. Or perhaps the fault was in the child: as water will stand up in globules on a fresh-waxed table or on newly oiled leather, so her love, as she felt it, spilled down upon Amleth and remained on his surface, gleaming like beads of mercury, unabsorbed. He was of his father's blood -- temperate, abstracted, a Jutish gloom coated over with the affected manners and luxurious skills of a nobleman. Not merely noble: he was a prince, as Gerutha had been a princess.
She wondered if her own motherlessness was discovered by gaps of motherly feeling within her. She allowed nursemaids, tutors, riding masters, fencing instructors to intervene between herself and the growing boy. His games seemed designed to repel and exclude her -- inscrutable, clattering games, with sticks and paddles, bows and arrows, dice and counters, noisy imitations of war in which he commanded, with his high-pitched voice and tense white face, the buffoon Yorik and some unwashed sons of the castle garrison's doxies. The quiet hoops and tops and dolls of Gerutha's girlhood had no place in this male world of projectile fantasy, of hits and thrusts and "getting even" -- for a strict tally was kept in the midst of the shouts and wrestling, she observed, as in the bloodier accountings of adult warfare, much as Horwendil boasted of how King Fortinbras, in being slain, had forfeited not only the invaded terrain in Jutland but certain coastal lands north of Halland on the coast of Sweathland, between the sea and the great lake of Vanern, lands held not for their worth, which was little, but as a gall to the opposing power, a canker of dishonor. (PART ONE, pgs. 34-35)
"Young and tender, my daughter is, as I was saying," said Polonius, "and he (Hamlet) presumes upon his princeliness and melancholy to show his brusque, erratic humors too nakedly, jibing back and forth, so to speak, with too indelicate a hand on the tiller, for the maiden reared in the breathless hush of chastity. Laertes, yes, as befits a growing man, was not kept uncontaminate from the tavern and its adjuncts, the house of sale and the gambling den, my man Reynaldo keeping watch that his bruises did not become wounds." (From PART THREE, pgs. 187-188)
Shakespeare The Complete Works
Published by Castle, a Div. of Book Sales, Inc.
Osric: The king, sir, hath wager'd with him six Barbary horses: against the which he has imponed, as I take it, six French rapiers and poniards, with their assigns, as girdle, hangers, and so: three of the carriages, in faith, are very dear to fancy, very responsive to the hilts, most delicate carriages and of very liberal conceit.
Hamlet: What call you carriages?
Horatio(aside to Hamlet): I knew you must be edified by the margent ere you had done.
Osric: The carriages, sir, are the hangers.
Hamlet: The phrase would be more germane to the matter, if we could carry cannon by our sides: I would it might be hangers till then. But, on: six Barbary horses against six French swords, their assigns, and three liberal-conceited carriages; that's the French bet against the Danish. Why is this 'imponed,' as you call it?
Osric: The king, sir, hath laid, that in a dozen passes between yourself and him, he shall not exceed you three hits: he hath laid on twelve for nine; and it would come to immediate trial, if your lordship would vouchsafe the answer.
Hamlet: How if I answer no?
Osric: I mean, my lord, the opposition of your person in trial.
Hamlet: Sir, I will walk here in the hall: if it please his majesty, 'tis the breathing time of day with me; let the foils be brought, the gentleman willing, and the king hold his purpose, I will win for him an I can; if not, I will gain nothing but my shame and the odd hits. (Hamlet, Act V, Scene ii, p. 353)
Uncharacteristically gripping stuff for dull yet skillful Updike, who has at long last succumbed to the wisdom of P.G. Wodehouse's fictional lady novelist, Rosie M. Banks (aka Mrs. Bingo Little), authoress of such romantic classics as Only A Factory Girl and T'was Once in May. Updike's account provides a welcome and lyrical prequel adding to Shakespeare's tragic masterpiece and the personalities of Hamlet's mother and stepfather/uncle. The author also includes a helpful list of sources he used to develop his plot.
Documentary in which Derek Jacobi directs
Kenneth Branagh in the title role, one in which
he himself had excelled some years before.
We have nothing but sympathy for ESL students undertaking the bard's timeless play - not a project for the feint-hearted. This excellent documentary provides a unique and effective method of attuning the ear to Shakespeare's elevated language. Watching and listening to some of the best Shakespearean actors as they prepare and rehearse their roles provides invaluable insights into the play and its complex characters.
A Midwinter's Tale
A comical account of a small production of the play at an abandoned church in an obscure English village. Many of the actors in this one appear several years later in Kenneth Branagh's lavish film, which provides a rare opportunity to see the play in its entirety:
It's been said that the late British actor was the definitive Hamlet, and it's indeed possible to find snippets of him on audio cassette. Unfortunately, we find the recording quality too low to merit inclusion at present, though we await new, improved re-releases, which we'll post as they appear. Naxos has just released one, though its track record for sound quality is checkered. Please check back soon for updates.
Featuring the golden Gielgud lilt
Wow. Yea for technology that allowed Naxos to re-master the sound on this 1948 performance! Includes a CD rom with an impromptu lecture given by Gielgud on the role of Hamlet. Excellent narration between scenes reveals the cast's positioning to enhance visualization. No annoying musical interludes and all the actors have made diction an art form. The gold standard.
Black and white and the text is heavily edited, but what the film may lack in color the celebrated cast more than makes up for in diction and stage craft.
The Summer of a Dormouse A Year of Growing Old Disgracefully
By John Mortimer
My father could still see when he took us - I was then about twelve - to see Hamlet. We sat in the front row of the stalls in stiff evening clothes. ... As the curtain went up, I dug into the box of chocolates which was the equivalent, in the West End theatre of the thirties, of popcorn in the multi-screen cinema. And then I was in the black and brown, the autumnal Elsinore, lit by the glint on helmets and swords and the crown of Denmark.
The prince was thin, tall, nervous, handsome and ironic. I enjoyed watching him tease Polonius, telling him that old men's faces are wrinkled, their eyes purging thick amber and plum-tree gum and that they have most weak hams, a condition I never expected to attain. He may not have been a great physical actor (a critic once said that 'below the waist Mr Gielgud means absolutely nothing'), but his voice gave the poetry unforgettable music and meaning and, as he said himself, although he played other parts, he was Hamlet. As usual, my father, sitting next to me, joined audibly in all the soliloquies, giving the star some little-needed help.
... As I grew up the theatre was dominated by two stars. Olivier, of the clipped, icily clear diction, was the great physical actor, dropping from a great height like an avenging angel to kill Claudius, or hanging suspended by his ankles as Coriolanus dead. The other was Gielgud, the master of poetry whose voice could move an audience to tears. His own tears came easily, without effort, as a result of being a member of an old theatrical family, the Terrys, who had, he told me, 'excessive lachrymal glands'; his mother was 'constantly crying like a wet April'. (From Chapter 19, pgs. 173-179)
While many today would simply chalk up any misfortune surrounding a production to coincidence, actors and other theatre people often consider it to be bad luck to mention Macbeth by name while inside a theatre, and usually refer to it superstitiously as The Scottish Play, "MacBee," or sometimes, "The Scottish King".
This is said to be because Shakespeare used the *spells of real witches in his text, so witches got angry and are said to have cursed the play. Thus, to say the name of the play inside a theatre is believed to doom the production to failure, and perhaps cause physical injury or worse to cast members. A large mythology has built up surrounding this superstition, with countless stories of accidents, misfortunes and even deaths, all mysteriously taking place during runs of Macbeth (or by actors who had uttered the name).
An alternative explanation for the superstition is that struggling theatres or companies would often put on this popular 'blockbuster' in an effort to save their flagging fortunes. However, it is a tall order for any single production to reverse a long-running trend of poor business. Therefore, the last play performed before a theatre shut down was often Macbeth, and thus the growth of the idea that it was an 'unlucky' play.
A word about witchcraft:
The Spiral Dance A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess
When you have finished casting a spell, visualize yourself tying a knot in a cord wrapped around the symbol or image on which you have focused. Tell yourself you are setting the form of the spell, as a clay pot is set when it is fired. Say,
By all the power
Of three times three,
This spell bound around
To cause no harm,
Nor return on me.
As I do will,
So mote it be!
(From Magical Symbols, Excercise 43: Binding a Spell, p. 114)
Editor's Note: How powerful is this stuff? Spouting feminist theology and defending Starhawk's position as a pagan witch at a California university not long ago got recovering Catholic Matthew Fox officially silenced by the Vatican.
Another reminder if anyone needs one of how much Russia has to teach the west and the rest about dance. It's hard to imagine that this innovative, utterly original work is actually more than 25 years old. Despite the production's excellence, the video is tough to find. Neither Amazon nor imDB had a listing when we checked Nov. 2/07. No luck until Oct. 12/09!
Multimedia version of Shakespeare's Macbeth. Includes 1,500 annotations, 24,000-word commentary, audio reading by Dame Judi Dench and Sir Ian McKellen of the complete play, QuickTime video clips, essays on the history and language of the play, concordance, searching and note-taking functions, and karaoke section which allows the user to play the role of Lord or Lady Macbeth in two dramatic scenes.
A child asked me today to explain a picture it had found in a magazine, which showed some mailed warriors walking toward a castle carrying branches of trees in front of them. It was an advertisement for Scotch whisky, and the picture was Malcolm's forces advancing upon Macbeth's castle - Birnam Wood moving toward Dunsinane, in fact. I explained this to the child, and gave a rough and expurgated version of the Shakespeare play, in which I happened to mention that the Witches had told Macbeth that this very thing was likely to happen. "If a witch had told me that, I'd have cut down the forest right away," said the child. I agreed that this would been a wise precaution, but that if Macbeth had done so there would have been no tragedy, and the whole course of Scots history would have been altered. She looked up at me searchingly and said: "That's silly." Sometimes I think that the reins of government should be put in the hands of children. They have remarkably direct minds, and when a witch tells them something, they pay attention. (From The Table Talk of Samuel Marchbanks, p. 278)
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Based on the play by You-know-who
What - a bluffing bard? Maybe, at least according to this take on the immortal send-up. Those were definitely cards and poker chips at the fairy free-for-all. Quite a pleasant version, this, with just enough punters to cover for one or two Yank fakers - especially this one - ugh! Only in America.
The first evidence of gambling in London can be adduced from the Roman period, with the excavation of dice carved out of bone or jet. The unexpected turns of life, as then experienced, are also revealed in the elaborate equipment of a fortune-teller found beneath Newgate Street. In the early medieval period Hazard was played in taverns and other low houses, together with another dice game known as Tables. In medieval brothels, too, gambling and drinking were part of the service. Quarrels over a game were sometimes fatal and, after one round of Tables, 'the loser fatally stabbed the winner on the way home'. There was plentiful scope for fraud, also, and there are reports of the gaming was everywhere. An excavation in Duke's Palace revealed 'a piece of medieval roof-tile shaped into a gaming counter', according to a report in The London Archaelogist, and as early as the thirteenth century, there were rules in Westminster for the punishment of any schoolboy found with dice in his possession. A stroke of the rod was delivered for every 'pip' on the dice.
Playing cards were imported into London in the fifteenth century, and their use became so widespread that in 1495 Henry VII 'forbad their use to servants and apprentices except during the Christmas holidays.' Stow records that 'From All hallows Eve to the day following Candlemas-day there was, among other sports, playing at cards, for counters, nails and points, in every house'. They were found in every tavern, too: packs of cards had the names of various inns imprinted upon them. Their merits were widely advertised. 'Spanish cards lately brought from Vig. Being pleasant to the eye by their curious colours and quite different from ours may be had at 1/- [one shilling] a pack at Mrs Baldwin's in Warwick Lane.' The business in cards became so mid-seventeenth century an annual income of five thousand pounds which meant that 'some 4.8 million packs of cards' must have been traded.
Fulham earned a reputation as early as the sixteenth century for its dubious traffic in dice and counters; it is evoked by Shakespeare in The Merry Wives of Windsor, where
For gourd and fullam holds
And 'high' and 'low' beguile the rich and poor.
A fullam in this context was a loaded die...
... Gaming was declared illegal but, despite nightly raids upon certain selected hells in the city, it continued to flourish. There was always 'assembled a mixed crowd of gentlemen, merchants, tradesmen, clerks and sharpers of all degrees and conditions', ready to play at Hazard, Faro, Basset, Roly-poly and a score of other games involving dice and cards. Into these hells came the puffs, the flashers, the squibs, the dunners, the flash captains with a regiment of spies, porters and runners to give notice of approaching constables. At Almacks, a famous gaming club in Pall Mall, the players 'turned their coats inside out for luck'; they put on wristbands of leather to protect their lace ruffles and wore straw hats to guard their eyes fro the light and to prevent their hair from tumbling. Sometimes, too, they put on 'masks to conceal their emotions'. At Brooks's, the twenty-first rule stated that there whould be 'No gaming in the eating room, except tossing up for reckonings, on penalty of paying the whole bill of the members present'. There were othedr less agreeable occasions for a wager, as recorded in London Souvenirs. A prospective player once dropped down dead at the door of White's; ;the club immediately made bets whether he was dead or only in a fit; and when they were going to bleed him the wagerers for his death interposed, saying it would affect the fairness of the bet'.
... The traditions of public gaming were continued into the nineteenth century by such places as the Royal Saloon in Piccadilly, the Castle in Holborn, Tom Cribb's Saloon in Panton Street, the Finish in James Street, and Brydges Street Saloon in Covent Garden otherwise known as 'The Hall of Infamy' or Old Mother Damnable's'. On the other side of London, in the East End, there were gambling rooms and gambling clubs, to such an extent that one minister working among the poor of the area informed Charles Booth that 'gambling presses drink hard as the greatest evil of the day... all gamble more than they drink'. The street urchins gambled with farthings or buttons, in a card game known as Darbs, and betting on boxing or horse-racing was carried on through the agency of tobacconists, publicans, newsvendors and Booth's survey of the East End, 'Women as well as men...men and boys tumble out in their eagerness to read the latest 'speshul" and mark the winner.'
And then there was the lottery. It was first established in London in 1569... (From Chapter 42, A Turn of the Dice, at pgs. 381-385)
"Do you want to hear this stuff or not?" Yes, he'd nodded, his hand caressing one small, finely wrought breast. She put her hand over his and launched into her argument. Her proposition was that at the heart of each of the great tragedies were unanswerable questions about love, and, to make sense of the plays, we must each attempt to explicate these inexplicables in our own way. Why did Hamlet, loving his dead father, interminably delay his revenge while, loved by Ophelia, he destroyed her instead? Why did Lear, loving Cordelia best of his daughters, fail to hear the love in her opening-scene honesty and so fall prey to her sister's unlovingness; and why was Macbeth, a man's man who loved his king and country, so easily led by the erotic but loveless Lady M. toward an evil throne of blood? Professor Solanka in New York, still absently holding the cordless telephone in his hand, recalled with awe naked Eleanor's erect nipple beath his moving fingers; also her extraordinary answer to the problem of Othello, which for her was not the "motiveless malignity" of Iago but rather the Moor's lack of emotional intelligence, "Othello's incredible stupidity about love, the moronic scale of the jealousy which leads him to murder his allegedly beloved wife on the flimsiest of evidence." This was Eleanor's solution: "Othello doesn't love Desdemona The idea just popped into my head one day. A real lightbulb moment for me. He says he does, but it can't be true. Because if he loves her, the murder makes no sense. For me, Desdemona is Othello's trophy wife, his most valuable and status-giving possession, the physical proof of his risen standing in a white man's world. You see? He loves that about her, but not her. Othello himself, obviously, is not a black man but a 'Moor': an Arab, a Muslim, his name probably a Latinization of the Arabic Attalllah or Ataullah. So he's not a creature of the Christian world of sin and redemption but rather of the Islamic moral universe, whose polarities are honor and shame. Desdemona's death is an 'honor killing.' She didn't have to be guilty. The accusation was enough. The attack on her virtue was incompatible with Othello's honor. That's why he didn't listen to her, or give her the benefit of the doubt, or forgive her, or do anything a man who loved a woman might have done. Othello loves only himnself, himself as lover and leader, what Racine, a more inflated writer, would have called his flamme, his gloire. She's not even a person to him. He has reified her. She's his Oscar-Barbie statuette. His doll. At least that's what I argued, and they gave me the doctorate, perhaps just as a prize for brazenness, for my sheer gall." She took a big gulp of the Tignanello, then arched her back and put both arms around his neck and pulled him down to her. Tragedy vanished from their thoughts. (From Part One, pgs. 9-10)
What of the gamble?
74. Shakespeare's Othello, III III, 260-263
Journal article by Roscoe L. Fertick; The Explicator, Vol. 31, 1973
74. SHAKESPEAR'S OTHELLO, III, iii, 260-263
By the time the statement in Othello, III, iii, 260-263, is made, Othello is already entangled in Iago's web of deceit. The seed of doubt has been cast, and Othello will never seriously try to prove Desdemona's innocence.
He calls her haggard, a word that can be interpreted as "wild," although in falconry it properly refers to an adult, female peregrine falcon, as defined in the Oxford English Dictionary: "HAGGARD--A wild (female) hawk caught in her adult plumage. (With some, in 17-18th c.--peregrine falcon.)"
"Jesses" (line 261 ) are the leather straps that are put on a falcon's legs to bind her to her master. The analogy between jesses and heartstrings is clear and touching. But the vital part of the statement is found in lines 262-263:
"I'd whistle her off and let her down the wind, / To prey at fortune."
When a falcon is released or "whistled off," she is generally released into the wind, and not down the wind. The reason rests in the flight habits of the peregrine falcon. First of all, it is easier for a falcon to get airborne when she is released into the wind because she is stepping off an unstable perch, (the trainer's hand), and the incoming wind affords her additional lift on her take-off. Secondly, and more importantly,the chances for recovery of the falcon are much better when she is flown into the wind. This is true because, when the falcon is cast off, she will generally fly directly away from the falconer for some distance. Then she will climb from 200 to 1000 feet in the air and "wait on," or circle in the air as she watches for some prey below. As she is waiting on, the prevailing wind will cause her to drift back towards the trainer, if she had originally been released into the wind. As she drifts over head the falconer can then "call her to the hand."
However, if she is released down the wind, the breeze will quickly carry her away from the falconer, thus making her recovery very difficult, if not impossible.
To the audience of Shakespeare's time, when falconry was still widely practiced, this statement by Othello would have been easily understood and would have shown his utter despair of regaining Desdemona's love. Thus he would cast her off, with little hope of getting her back, "down the wind to prey at fortune," or let her make it on her own as best she could. (From Questia).
With Laurence Fishburne as the Moor
... Not bad, not bad...It certainly looks magnificent.
Probably the best acting of the lot but what's up with those Kipper Snacks? Why do they clothe such riches in rags? Do they really think it's possible to get Venice out of a BBC cleaning staff lunch room? I mean, I ask you.
The music is strong, reminiscent of Prokofiev, the moves are bold and the dancing is of a quality one might expect from the City That Knows How. The ship's return in Act II and Iago's pas de deux with Othello in Act III must be among the best in ballet anywhere, anytime - wow! Highly recommended for ESL students trying to get a better grasp who's who in the play and the emotional timbre at various stages of the plot.
When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
Shall I compare thee to a Summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And Summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And oft' is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd:
But thy eternal Summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wanderest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
The cost of production having been assessed at about 6s 8d a copy, the retail price can hardly have been less than about fifteen shillings. As Stanley Wells points out: 'The publishers' investment in a massive collection of play scripts was a declaration of faith in Shakespeare's selling power as a dramatist for reading as well as for performing. The declaration of faith and the investment may not after all have been the publishers'. If the publication was subsidized, the print-run could well have been small. In 1633, William Prynne was scandalised to notice that 'Shakespeare's Plays are printed on the best crown paper, far better than most Bibles,' which suggests that for someone cost was no object. Wells credits Hemmings and Condell with the actual editorial work; they commissioned a scribe called Ralph Crane to copy 'a number of plays specially for the volume' and chose 'which printed editions and manuscripts to send to the printer ... copy which must have been a printer's nightmare.' What is obvious from the appearance of the First Folio is that a house style has been imposed on all this disparate material, which suggests to me at least that the editors did not take the risk of giving the printers jumbled papers or leaving them to impose a house of style of their own. So far-fetched is the idea that Shakespeare's widow might have hired an amanuensis to prepare an edition of her husband's plays that no one has ever considered it.
As a widow Ann Shakespeare was entitled to make a will. If we could find it, and her inventory, we would know once for all whether she died a penniless dependant or whether she left money in trust to be spent on further publishing of her husband's work. If she did she would have left her executor no choice but to make available any funds remaining for a de-luxe second edition before he himself was gathered to his eternal reward.
All this, in common with most of this book, is heresy, and probably neither truer nor less true than the accepted prejudice. Ann Shakespeare cannot sensibly be written out of her husband's life if only because he himself was so aware of marriage as a challenging way of life, a 'world-without-end bargain.' The Shaespeare wallahs have succeeded in creating a Bard in their own likeness, that is to say, incapable of relating to women, and have then vilified the one woman who remained true to him all his life, in order to exonerate him. There can be no doubt that Shakespeare neglected his wife, embarrassed her and even humiliated her, but attempting to justify his behaviour by vilifying her is puerile. The defenders of Ann Hathaway are usually derided as sentimental when they are trying simply to be fair. It is a more insidious variety of sentimentality that wants to believe that women who are ill treated must have brought it upon themselves. The creator of Hero, Desdemona, Imogen and Hermione knew better. Ann might say like Lady Macduff:
I have done no harm. But I remember how
I am in this earthly world, where to do harm
is often laudable, to do good sometime
Accounted dangerous folly. Why then, alas,
Do I put up that womanly defence
To say I have done no harm? (IV. ii. 75-80)
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