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So please you, something touching the Timelord Hamlet. Captain Picard.
August 13, 2010 10:47 AM   Subscribe

The Royal Shakespeare Company presents Hamlet, starring David Tennant as Hamlet, Sir Patrick Stewart as Claudius and the Ghost, Oliver Ford Davies as Polonius, Mariah Gale as Ophelia, and Edward Bennet as Laertes. Directed by Gregory Doran.

Lauded for its keen and energetic humor, astonishing lead performance, and strong supporting cast, this RSC production of Hamlet has been filmed for television and uploaded to PBS' website for free viewing.

Interview with Sir Patrick Stewart. Check the sidebar on the right for more goodies, including a making-of.

Guardian review, Telegraph review.

Previously, Ian McKellen in King Lear (with another former Doctor no less!)
posted by Ndwright (102 comments total) 75 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Okay - so how do we look for this next season?"

Well... er. I hate to say this, sir, but not so good.

"Not so good? Why?"

Looking at the viewing figures for the past few seasons, we've been steadily falling behind. Fewer and fewer people seem to have any interest in watching Shakespeare. Our demographics in all areas – adults, young adults, middle class, lower class, upper class – have slipped at increasing rates. It's pretty inevitable that we're looking at being eclipsed by a wide range of other entertainments, and it's hard to see how the Company can seek viability in any market. Except...

"Except? Well, go on, man! If there's a way to keep us afloat, let's hear it!"

Well... nerds.

"Nerds?"

Yes. Nerds. Nerds are clearly happy to watch Shakespeare whenever we cast one of their gods in a production.

"Well, that's it, then! How many can we get?"

Well... er. Looks like two.

"Perfect! Enough dallying – get out there and make it so!"
posted by koeselitz at 10:57 AM on August 13, 2010 [15 favorites]


I love this performance so much. Easily my favorite recorded Hamlet.
posted by BaxterG4 at 11:02 AM on August 13, 2010


I was not a fan of the staging or Tennant's prince, but Patrick Stewart was brilliant as always. Some weird abridgements too.
posted by supercres at 11:03 AM on August 13, 2010


This is a really, really good Hamlet. Flawed in places, as any production is doomed to be, but one of the best I've ever seen. It's fascinating seeing the ways that Patrick Stewart's Claudius has changed since the 1980 BBC production with Derek Jacobi.

There seems to be something of a trend lately toward less sentimental Hamlets. Here's hoping that continues.
posted by EarBucket at 11:05 AM on August 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Perfect! Enough dallying – get out there and make it so!"

My other title idea was:

You live alone and you don't watch Shakespeare? ...good lord.
posted by Ndwright at 11:05 AM on August 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


Didn't we talk about this before? Anyway, I loved this version. I have over a dozen Hamlets in my collection, and while this may not be the best, it is my favorite. Perhaps because all the choices made: (Does Gertrude know she's drinking poison? Does Hamlet know Claudius and Polonius are eavesdropping? Is Hamlet's flaw indecision or too much ambition? Oedipal or not Oedipal?, etc. etc. etc.) are made the way I would plot them in the imaginary Hamlet I direct in my head every now and then.

Stewart is great, and plays the role far more interestingly than he did in the 1981 version, and Tennant is great in playing the second greatest character fiction has ever devised. (Oddly enough, Tennant has played the greatest one, too. ;-)
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 11:05 AM on August 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


Earbucket is corect by the way. The Jacobi/Stewart Hamlet was 1980, not 1981.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 11:07 AM on August 13, 2010


When I was still living in DC, Patrick Stewart was in town for a production of Othello. The flat he was staying in was near my office, and one day I walked into my local deli for a sandwich and he was standing in line, waiting to order. The whole place went quiet when he ordered. I remember that a writer for the WaPo called his voice "thunder dipped in honey," and it was entirely apt.

Anyway. I would totally see this production.
posted by rtha at 11:10 AM on August 13, 2010 [12 favorites]


For hardcore Hamlet fans, it's also worth checking out Alexander Fodor's Hamlet, which you can stream on Netflix Instant. (They also have the Jacobi BBC version, and a decent production with Kevin Kline from 1990.) Fodor makes some bold choices, and while they don't all work (Polonius becomes Polonia, Laertes and Ophelia's sister with some pretty cheesy Cruel Intentions-style overtones) some of them are really tremendous. It felt at times like I was watching the play for the first time, which is quite an accomplishment.
posted by EarBucket at 11:13 AM on August 13, 2010


With sorrow heartfelt I report: it seems
Perfidious "rights" that do scorn warrant
Shalt force me to seek this through clevr'r means,
Peer-to-peer systems? Mayhaps a torrent.
posted by Shepherd at 11:14 AM on August 13, 2010 [39 favorites]


rtha: “When I was still living in DC, Patrick Stewart was in town for a production of Othello. The flat he was staying in was near my office, and one day I walked into my local deli for a sandwich and he was standing in line, waiting to order. The whole place went quiet when he ordered. I remember that a writer for the WaPo called his voice ‘thunder dipped in honey,’ and it was entirely apt.”

Okay, I read that again, and I think now I understand. But for a few glorious seconds there, I drew from this story the conclusion that the Washington Post ran a review of Patrick Stewart ordering a sandwich at a deli.
posted by koeselitz at 11:20 AM on August 13, 2010 [33 favorites]


Of course, Patrick Stewart has plenty of experience playing Claudius with Doctor Who alums. This 1980 BBC production of Hamlet featured Stewart and Lalla "Romana" Ward, who not only co-starred with Tom "The Fourth Doctor" Baker for several years but also married the guy, likewise for a few years.
posted by Clay201 at 11:22 AM on August 13, 2010


If we're going Whovian, and we shouldn't, but that production also has The Master and The Doctor's mother.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 11:24 AM on August 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


OK, I'm three seconds in and it's cool as shit. There's security cam footage and a dude with a RIFLE.

Shakespeare WIN.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:25 AM on August 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Shattner does priceline, Stewart does Shakespeare
posted by edgeways at 11:28 AM on August 13, 2010 [11 favorites]


The Master and The Doctor's mother

The fanfic writes itself.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:30 AM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, is there a way to download this instead of watching it on the site? 3 hours of Shakespeare in a browser window isn't really my idea of fun, even though I'd really like to watch this.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:31 AM on August 13, 2010


To self link, for those interested in how different takes on Hamlet approach the material differently, including the version we're discussing today, here's a collection of comparisons I made a bit back with the same scene in a number of different versions. I've collected several more and will likely have a part III up eventually, but I'm rather pleased with the following:

Comparing Productions of Hamlet, Act II, Scene ii. (Part 1 of 2)

Comparing Productions of Hamlet, Act II, Scene ii. (Part 2 of 2)
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 11:32 AM on August 13, 2010 [11 favorites]


Okay, I read that again, and I think now I understand. But for a few glorious seconds there, I drew from this story the conclusion that the Washington Post ran a review of Patrick Stewart ordering a sandwich at a deli.

Toss in a preview of next season's "George Takei orders ribeye steak and a side salad," and I'm in.
posted by Tomorrowful at 11:33 AM on August 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


/makes angry forum post to nerd forum about how Hamlet figures out his step-dad is the bad guy and then just sits around doing nothing about it for ages, calling it a "plot hole".
posted by Artw at 11:41 AM on August 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


I actually did not care for David Tennant in this. I know I'm typecasting, but he played Hamlet with all the worst, imo, aspects of the Tenth Doctor. While a certain amount of that may be appropriate for the role, it felt very one-note and boring to me. Also, the shirt he wore during the soliloquy needs to be burned.

Patrick Stewart, on the other hand, could sit on a stage and read the phone book and I'd be absolutely enthralled.
posted by Ruki at 11:42 AM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Shattner does priceline, Stewart does Shakespeare

Shatner did Shakespeare way back in the day. There's an urban legend-ish story that he was playing the lead in Henry V and forgot some of his lines, and his struggles to remember them was interpreted by a reviewer as a bold new interpretation of the character, thus rising to his staccato line delivery style. How anyone could forget the speeches in Henry V is beyond me, but it's an amusing idea, even if bogus.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:44 AM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Er, "giving rise to."
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:45 AM on August 13, 2010




So, is there a way to download this instead of watching it on the site?

Get out your preferred rtmp downloading tool1 and point it at rtmp://pbs.fcod.llnwd.net/a1863/o6/tp-live/PBS_CP_Great_Performances/gper-hamlet-stream.mp4

I have a renewed appreciation for Hamlet since watching Slings and Arrows on DVD a few months ago, so I definitely plan to give this a watch.

[1] I use rtmpdump. There are alternatives listed on this page.
posted by Rhomboid at 11:51 AM on August 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


Stewart is a great choice as he's a Shakespearean first, and everything else he is an an actor second.

I saw him playing Othello with the Washington Shakespeare Company back in 1997. All the Venetians were black, and Lodovico and his men men were all Asians and Pacific types. It was a really neat reversal, and it wouldn't have worked half as well without Pat.

Painful moment: at curtain call an obvious Trekkie rushed the stage, trying to force an autograph tablet up at Stewart. He was politely ignored.
posted by clarknova at 11:56 AM on August 13, 2010


We watched this in the airport while waiting for a delayed flight - and the time went by incredibly fast. First time I've ever been bummed out at the end of a 3-hour wait in an airport - I wasn't done watching yet!

I thought it was a wonderful production. I loved the sets - all austere and shiny and black and mirror-like, Patrick Stewart was brilliant, and I really enjoyed David Tennant's portrayal of Hamlet - the audience was able to see glimpses of Hamlet's true and disturbing descent in to madness, as if it were against Hamlet's will, when he couldn't hold it together any more, on top of his fake insanity. There were some criticisms of Tennant's performance saying that he didn't capture the emotion of the role, but actually, I thought he did that really well - it's just that Tennant's Hamlet didn't want anybody to see what was really happening to him, and he tried to hide it, but ultimately couldn't.

Also, Polonius was great.
posted by Cygnet at 11:58 AM on August 13, 2010


The best Shakespeare-related book I've ever read was Marvin Rosenberg's The Masks of Hamlet - an exhaustive survey of the performance choices that directors and actors have brought to the play during its long history. Well worth seeking out through interlibrary loan if necessary. (It's pricey.)

Also highly recommended is Steven Berkoff's I Am Hamlet - which narrates his performance of the role in an interesting-sounding minimalist production he directed and took on tour:

The economy of playing other roles comes less from financial needs than from the idea that ten people can easily flow through other roles as required. To burden the stage with bodies is both unimaginative and wasteful. It is wasteful in terms of human energy and also clutters the course of the play. We are after all telling a story and if there is labour available than Laertes, Horatio and Rosencrantz quite easily double in the opening scene. This stretches the skills of the actors and intensifies the playing energy, rather than having able-bodied players sitting in a dressing room for hours waiting for an entrance.

...

Hamlet: A little more than kin, and less than kind.

It is really an aside that Claudius pretends not to hear, yet at the same time waits for - one of those annoying asides, half meant for his ears. But it is an aside since I break into speech before he can finish. I reply that I am too much in the sun (son) - oh yeah, ha ha.

So here in the beginning Hamlet is showing his wit, sending the old codgers up with a display of coarse with that clothes his disgust.

posted by Joe Beese at 12:04 PM on August 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sorry, that ended up sounding more simplistic than I meant it to. I don't think anybody's Hamlet wants the world to know that he's going mad - but I thought that this particular Hamlet was especially self-aware and frightened about it and kept trying to pretend to himself and others that it wasn't so.
posted by Cygnet at 12:05 PM on August 13, 2010


We are after all telling a story and if there is labour available than Laertes, Horatio and Rosencrantz quite easily double in the opening scene.

You can actually do the entire play with eleven actors. I think a minimalistic production in a small space with eleven actors and eleven audience members would be an interesting way to strip the play down and find some new facets to it. Maybe even use the First Quarto so it really moves along.
posted by EarBucket at 12:12 PM on August 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I saw him playing Othello with the Washington Shakespeare Company back in 1997. All the Venetians were black, and Lodovico and his men men were all Asians and Pacific types. It was a really neat reversal, and it wouldn't have worked half as well without Pat.

I saw this production too, and while I loved Stewart, the actor playing Iago was laughably bad. I remember one bit where he embraced Othello and then pantomimed stabbing him in the back while pointedly staring at the audience so we could see he was really EVIL! He and the assholes in the audience in Starfleet uniforms deserved each other.

I found myself enjoying Tennant's Hamlet less and less as the play went on. I initially complained that he was too self-indulgent, but I'm wondering if self-indulgence is a necessary component to playing the character. I love reading the play, but I've never seen a production where I didn't get overwhelmed by the acting about 1/2-way through.
posted by bibliowench at 12:21 PM on August 13, 2010


Any advice on how those of us who can't see the film on that site could obtain it? I'd really like to see it, but I get an error because I'm in the wrong region.
posted by neushoorn at 12:30 PM on August 13, 2010


"We're sorry, this bla is not available in your bla. Bla bla bla."

:-(

If anyone finds this somewhere else, please let me know.
posted by pyrex at 12:33 PM on August 13, 2010


Background: Patrick Stewart's 1980 performance as Claudius against Derek Jacobi as Hamlet was a really famous performance. Normally Claudius was played as a corrupt, greedy, villain; but Patrick Stewart played him as an intelligent, calm, controlled statesman. With Derek Jacobi as a particularly flaky Hamlet, you really thought that the Kingdom of Denmark would be a lot better off with Patrick Stewart / Claudius running things.

I thought Patrick Stewart kept a bit close to that performance in this one though. With David Tennant as a more capable Hamlet, I didn't think the contrast worked so well.

Still a very good production on the whole though.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:34 PM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's fascinating seeing the ways that Patrick Stewart's Claudius has changed since the 1980 BBC production with Derek Jacobi.

Oh man I had a weird misreading of that given Jacobi's turn as that other Claudius (which Stewart also appears in and was also a BBC production).
posted by juv3nal at 12:35 PM on August 13, 2010


Marvin Rosenberg's The Masks of Hamlet

There's also similar analysis for Macbeth, Othello, Antony/Cleopatra and Lear.

These books are a dream for any Bard Nerd. He goes scene-by-scene and character by character and compares the past several centuries of productions of these plays and all the themes, choices, additions, edits the director and cast did.

I grabbed a used copy of Masks of Lear on Amazon.
posted by ao4047 at 12:37 PM on August 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've seen zillions of productions of Hamlet, and this is easily my favorite. I love Tennant's performance; there are moments when he illuminates the character's motivations for me in a way that no other actor has ever done. I love his facility with the language. And I don't think I've ever seen the scene with Gertrude and Hamlet played better, with so many twists and turns and unexpected moments.

Wish I'd gotten to see it onstage, but glad it's available for the mass audience.
posted by OolooKitty at 12:42 PM on August 13, 2010


Toss in a preview of next season's "George Takei orders ribeye steak and a side salad," and I'm in.

"Sir, this salad comes with croutons..."

"Those croutons? They look...delectable."

"Yes, sir. Those croutons."

"Hmmmmm..." [eyebrow lifts] "...oh my."

[General gasps from the crowd, appreciate shouting; woman faints]
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:42 PM on August 13, 2010 [12 favorites]


I thought Tennant was terrific in the role; his very first soliloquy started with desperate, grieving silence that made the audience *really* uncomfortable. In the Hamlet's I've seen, we're "told" by him, and by others, how much his father's death has affected him, but to see a stage empty but for Hamlet, curled in upon himself in a black suit, silent, drove it home in a way that all the words in the words couldn't. From that moment on, I was hooked. Stewart, of course, was exquisite. If you've seen the Jacobi/Stewart/Bloom/Ward Hamlet, you see an astonishing progression of an actor.

The text was rearranged a bit, including moving up the "To be" speech to where it appears in the Bad Quarto, but used the known lines. Almost all productions of Hamlet move and/or cut stuff, so that didn't bother me, and I thought they made interesting choices that moved the play along nicely as a suspense piece, rather than a play focused on a single character and his woes. Also, they clearly knew that with Stewart and Tennant, they'd have a large contingent of audience members who had likely never seen Hamlet (or any Shakespeare)--using this knowledge, the director made a terrific choice for the interval (in my opinion). After Claudius' "O my offense is rank" soliloquy, he was kneeling and praying, eyes closed, center stage. Hamlet entered up right, and slowly approached behind him while saying "Now might I do it pat / now he is a-praying / and now I'll do it" -- and raises the dagger up over his head to bring it down into Claudius' back --

Black out. Intermission.

Think, if you'd never seen or read Hamlet, what the hell that would do to you.

Illuminations blogged the entire filming process.
posted by tzikeh at 12:44 PM on August 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


I was pleasantly surprised by Kline's Hamlet, back in the day. He did a neat little thing. In every other Hamlet I've seen, Hamlet's line to Horatio has been given:

There are more things in heaven and earth Horatio, than are dreamt of in YOUR philosophy.

Having it mean, "In your world view." But Kline gives it:

There are more things in heaven and earth Horatio, than are dreamt of in your PHILOSOPHY.

Making it about all the stuff Horatio's been away studying at Heidelberg. It's a little thing, but it's why I love seeing different performances of Da Bard.

Oh, to have seen Gielgud's. And oh, if someone had talked Olivier out of using voice overs for the soliloquies.
posted by Trochanter at 12:47 PM on August 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, thanks Joe Beese, for the pointer to Masks of Hamlet. Sounds great. I hope our library has a version.

(checks) Nope. Fie on't oh fie!
posted by Trochanter at 12:54 PM on August 13, 2010


Speaking of Shakespeare and Doctor Who, I've really got to get off my ass and see this version of Othello. It's got Eccleston playing Iago, and as far as I can tell, it just doesn't get much better than that for me.
posted by quin at 1:57 PM on August 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sir Patrick Stewart as anyone at all, you say?
posted by griphus at 2:02 PM on August 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm really excited for Branagh unabridged Hamlet coming out on Blu-Ray the 17th of this month. It skipped DVD, but since it was last film shot on 70mm, it should be a good release (as long as they don't fuck it up... I swear to god if they fuck up the transfer I'll pull a Titus Andronicus on the transfer team ...)
posted by geoff. at 2:07 PM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow, great to see so much feedback from you guys!

I was particularly impressed with the scene where Hamlet begs the Player to give the speech. Every production I've seen that even bothered to include that part has been unbelievably boring. Brannagh's movie doesn't even bother showing the player (Charlton Heston! 2nd-weirdest Shakespeare casting he's done behind Keanu Reeves in Much Ado) as he recites the speech, the story is enacted for us and voiced over.

I found Stewart to be oddly cold in this. I loved him in the Tempest (apparently I was the only one) and was perplexed by how still and flat he was as Claudius. The Tempest had him at his most physical, striding and jumping across the stage as a revenge-crazed Prospero who gradually comes to his senses as he interacts for the first time in ages with people who aren't his daughter/supernatural entities.

Tennant was amazing, the “too too solid/sullied flesh” speech was wrenching, really setting the stage for contrasting his outward humor to his inward anguish. I thought it was amazing how well it informed us that Hamlet’s manic funny is actually coming from a Very Dark Place, and that all the other characters (except maybe Claudius) are utterly oblivious to this and just confused by it.
posted by Ndwright at 2:08 PM on August 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


WHAT IS WITH THE RESTRICTIONS ON PLAYING VIDEOS IN "MY REGION" (Canada)??!! Are there ways to get around this, helpful tech-savvy mefites?
posted by Roachbeard at 2:10 PM on August 13, 2010


What does rtmpdump say when you try to download it from a non-US IP?
posted by Rhomboid at 2:15 PM on August 13, 2010


Do they not realize that we get plenty of american PBS stations on cable here in Canada?
posted by blue_beetle at 2:17 PM on August 13, 2010


I've seen a fair few productions of Hamlet on stage - including Trevor Nunn's terrific casting of Ben Whishaw at London's Old Vic a few years ago - and I thought Tennant's performance was one of the best. I didn't see it live in either London or Stratford, because Dr Who groupies made it impossible to get a ticket, but the BBC showed it here on TV recently, and I really enjoyed that.

I remember one critic said that Tennant's Hamlet was far and away the most intelligent person in the court, and that showed through very clearly. You could see his wit and quick brain dancing round the other characters' attempts to keep up in many scenes. It was far from just stunt casting, because Tennant had a formidable reputation as a stage actor long before he became Dr Who. I only saw him once during this period, doing The Pillowman at the National Theatre in London, but he was very good in that too.

Patrick Stewart's been enjoying himself as a Shakespearian actor ever since quitting Star Trek. He did a great job as Macbeth in Rupert Gould's recent production, and made a fine Anthony in the RSC's complete works season. He even shows up in the audience now and again, notably at a West End production of the Comedy of Errors a few years ago where a Star Trek fan behind me started bugging him to sign a Picard photo. Bless!
posted by Paul Slade at 2:21 PM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I found Stewart to be oddly cold in this. I loved him in the Tempest (apparently I was the only one) and was perplexed by how still and flat he was as Claudius.

I really enjoy that. You can see how absolutely cold-blooded and calculating Claudius is.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:24 PM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


koeselitz: ""Perfect! Enough dallying – get out there and make it so!""

Both Stewart & Tennant had extensive experience in the RSC long before they became well known through their respective TV work. I'm sure the extra audience didn't hurt of course, but plenty of people went to see this production because of the strength of the acting, not because "Dr Who" & "Picard" happened to be in it.

neushoorn: "Any advice on how those of us who can't see the film on that site could obtain it? I'd really like to see it, but I get an error because I'm in the wrong region."

Amazon will sell you a copy of the DVD. I'm sure there are less legal methods available for those who are willing to use such sources.
posted by pharm at 2:31 PM on August 13, 2010


Sorry, let me try that Amazon link again.
posted by pharm at 2:32 PM on August 13, 2010


OPHELIA

Lord Hamlet, with his doublet all unbraced
No hat upon his head, his stockings fouled,
Ungarter'd, and down-gyvèd to his ankle,
Pale as his shirt, his knees knocking each together
And with a look so piteous in purport
As if he had been loosèd out of hell
To speak of horrors, he comes before me.

CLAUDIUS

Oh, he tried to brace his doublet up
but it was too late, I'd seen everything.
I'd seen it all.
posted by chaff at 2:34 PM on August 13, 2010 [9 favorites]


Dammit, Blue_Beetle beat me to this joke, serves me right really.
posted by chaff at 2:36 PM on August 13, 2010


People outside the US wanting to watch might try using one of the proxy sites listed here.

And I'm with you, geoff. I really like the Branaugh Hamlet film a LOT. It just works for me.
posted by hippybear at 2:40 PM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've always loved the productions that portray Claudius as this one does: skilled, likable, effective. Brilliantly handles the martial situation lurking in the background, seems beloved by all, really is a great king. Except that he possibly killed the king, assuming the ghost really is an honest ghost and not a demon fucking with Hamlet for demonic kicks.

And ay, there's the rub. Hamlet isn't indecisive at all. He's ambitious. And He's greedy. He wants more than revenge. Revenge would be easy. Stabbing him at any point would be easy. But everyone loves Claudius, and killing him will just get Hamlet killed. And Hamlet, more than anything else, wants the throne.

That's the beauty of the "My offense is rank" sequence. FINALLY, Hamlet has a clear path to kill Claudius, and to get the throne, as everyone saw how Claudius reacted to the play. With the testimony of himself and Horatio against that background, Hamlet's victory is assured.

But that isn't enough. He wants MORE. Now he wants Claudius in hell, not in heaven. And that is a step too far. Olivier was wrong. Hamlet's flaw, and Tennant plays this perfectly, isn't that he cannot make up his mind. It's that he wants too much, things which aren't his right to control. And that's when it all falls apart for him.

And Tennant and Stewart play those two parts perfectly. The great and good king, who is only hated by the one person who knows what he did to get there, and that one person, frustrated by everyone's blindness to the truth and far too eager to take up arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, doom himself.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 2:48 PM on August 13, 2010 [7 favorites]


I'm really excited for Branagh unabridged Hamlet coming out on Blu-Ray the 17th of this month. It skipped DVD

It's available on DVD, actually.
posted by EarBucket at 2:52 PM on August 13, 2010


Do they not realize that we get plenty of american PBS stations on cable here in
Canada?


In my city in Canada, we get the Spokane PBS station, and since we're a bigger place, we provide more donations to them than the locals. So, yeah, kinda sucks. But it's not them, I think, it's the CTRC doing this blocking.

There is a way around it, I use it for the Comedy Central stuff, but I don't know how to do it for anything else.

It's been spoken of before.
posted by Trochanter at 3:15 PM on August 13, 2010


There's an easy to find and apparently high-quality torrent going around the major sites, by the way. It's a DVD rip.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 3:16 PM on August 13, 2010


I watched/listened to this this afternoon while I was futzing around with other stuff online. It was...okay, I guess. Love Sir Patrick, of course. But, and I know everybody's going to hate me for this, I always loved Mel Gibson's Hamlet. He managed to be insane and still likable, unlike Tennant. Mel Gibson is just so good at playing crazy. For, y'know, some reason.
posted by Gator at 3:16 PM on August 13, 2010


quin, the same BBC television series that contained Derek Jacobi's Hamlet, also had an Othello with Bob Hoskins doing Iago, and Anthony Hopkins' moor. The "seduction scene" in that one is a stunner. I mean a stunner.
posted by Trochanter at 3:24 PM on August 13, 2010


I actually did not care for David Tennant in this. I know I'm typecasting, but he played Hamlet with all the worst, imo, aspects of the Tenth Doctor. While a certain amount of that may be appropriate for the role, it felt very one-note and boring to me. Also, the shirt he wore during the soliloquy needs to be burned.

I see...a role for you in the live-action remake of The Simpsons. You have...a ponytail. I am tired. Leave my tent of wonders.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:30 PM on August 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


Great take on the Claudius prayer scene, JKF! Just when I think I have a reasonable interprestation of what the hell is going on in Hamlet someone comes along and offers an even more reasonable one that makes me think "of course! It's so simple, how could I have missed that!"

I get a revelation like that about Hamlet every couple of years and I fully expect to keep getting them my whole life. It truly hath no bottom.
posted by chaff at 3:36 PM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


It truly hath no bottom.

The kids from the local college do a Shakespeare in the Park every summer up here, and, well, they're awful. They barely make it through. But, every time, something jumps out of the text at me. Billy, he da man.
posted by Trochanter at 3:42 PM on August 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's available on DVD, actually.

Hmmm, I wonder if it was a limited release? I could have sworn hearing other people complain about it not being released, but IMDB lists it as 2007. Oh well, I just checked and if you can't wait for Tuesday, a little bird tells me it is available now ... only 720p however.
posted by geoff. at 3:44 PM on August 13, 2010


Hamlet's flaw... isn't that he cannot make up his mind. It's that he wants too much

I'm going to get this wrong, but I think it was Kenneth Tynan who said he could sum up Hamlet in one word, "MOMMY!!!"
posted by Trochanter at 4:15 PM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


There goes Metafilter again offering me something directly related to my latest obsession--out of the blue indeed. I'm currently reading the plays along with Bloom's Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. I've also been enjoying the BBC Television Shakespeare productions, a few of which contain performances by Stewart. What's more, tomorrow I'm seeing the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company's free performance of Othello on Boston Common (starring Seth Gilliam, aka Sargeant Carver from The Wire, in the title role)! What a nice way to end the week.
posted by inoculatedcities at 5:04 PM on August 13, 2010


I might give this a try, but my memories of Hamlet are that it is terrible and the best part of it are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, allowing Tom Stoppard to write Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. That was good.
posted by MrBobaFett at 5:27 PM on August 13, 2010


The American remake is going to swap Tenant and Stewart for Keanu Reeves and Sting.
posted by jenkinsEar at 6:20 PM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


You can thank the idiocy of NBC for Tennant's availability for this role. They passed on a show titled "Rex Is Not Your Lawyer" starring the ex-timelord as "a top litigator who becomes so crippled by panic attacks that he can no longer appear in the courtroom and starts coaching his clients to represent themselves". A concept that go anywhere from awesome to awful, but AT LEAST IT WASN'T ANOTHER COP SHOW. The show had a strong supporting cast including the usually great Jeffrey Tambor as Rex's therapist (FINALLY a chance to get back at Dr. Phil for stealing his mustache), Jerry "Sliders" O'Connell as an appropriately slimy lawyer and Jane "You Ignorant Slut" Curtin as I don't have a clue, they never told anybody. Still, I WANT TO SEE THAT PILOT. Don't you?
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:55 PM on August 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


You can actually do the entire play with eleven actors. I think a minimalistic production in a small space with eleven actors and eleven audience members would be an interesting way to strip the play down and find some new facets to it. Maybe even use the First Quarto so it really moves along.

It's on the to-do list. This is my company's specialty. We've done "Cymbeline," "Pericles" and "Much Ado" with six actors. Eleven is epic for us.
posted by grumblebee at 7:47 PM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


(Oh, and I just worked on "The Tempest" with four actors. What's my prize?)
posted by grumblebee at 7:47 PM on August 13, 2010


There are more things in heaven and earth Horatio, than are dreamt of in YOUR philosophy.

Having it mean, "In your world view." But Kline gives it:

There are more things in heaven and earth Horatio, than are dreamt of in your PHILOSOPHY.


I am not saying this was a bad choice or that one must always obey meter, but the Kline reading is a little odd metrically. If you obey the strict rules of iambic pentameter, YOUR should be stressed.

Than ARE dreamt OF in YOUR phiLOsoPHY.

Actually, I think the line is unnatural if you stick to a purely iambic pentameter rhythm. The natural way to say the first part is "then are | DREAMT of" -- to get technical, a pyrrhic foot (unstressed, unstressed) followed by a trochee (stressed, unstressed). Normal blank verse lines are composed of unstressed-STRESSED feet, e.g. in SOOTH | i KNOW | not WHY | i AM | so SAD.

But Shakespeare varied a lot from that norm.

One way to say the line, which is a nice mixture of variation and rule-following is "thenareDREAMTof ... in YOUR phil LO so PHY." In other words, you say the first four words really fast with the stress on dreamt. Then you take a mini pause and continue more slowly in regular meter. I also think this is a very natural way of saying this line. It's what my mouth just kind of wants to do.
posted by grumblebee at 8:05 PM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


You can thank the idiocy of NBC for Tennant's availability for this role.

Err, that is entirely wrong. He appeared as Hamlet on stage after the fourth series of Doctor Who and this filmed version was completed before production on the Doctor Who specials which ended his tenure in the role.

And I'd like to sing the praise of this production, too - particularly Tennant who brings a lot more humour to the role that I generally expect.
posted by crossoverman at 8:18 PM on August 13, 2010


I don't think that reading Shakespeare in strict iambic stress patterns is really the best way to communicate his language. I can see using it as a possible clue as to the line meaning, but when ever I've seen productions where people are leaning too hard on the poetry and not the flow of the language, it comes across as, well... awful.
posted by hippybear at 8:19 PM on August 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


I wouldn't argue with your explanation of the mechanics at all, but I don't think I've heard anyone do the proper meter. But, you know what? I wouldn't know it to hear it.

Like I say, I'd dearly love to find a recording of Gielgud doing it. Everybody says he was "our best speaker of verse." I'm just listening to his Cassius from the 1953 Julius Caesar movie and it's so beautiful and musical and yet full of sense, too. (And full of Cassius)
posted by Trochanter at 8:27 PM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't think that reading Shakespeare in strict iambic stress patterns is really the best way to communicate his language.

To do this would be to grossly misunderstand Shakespeare's use of meter. He constantly strayed from strict iambic pentameter. In fact, it's impossible to read many of his lines that way.

I also think it's a mistake to totally ignore the meter. It's part of what makes Shakespeare's language beautiful and easy to speak. If used correctly, blank verse should make line readings sound more natural, not less.

Usually, when I'm working with an actor and his readings sound overly metrical, it turns out that he's actually mangling the meter. Or he's trying to pound trochees into normal feet. Or he's end stopping.
posted by grumblebee at 8:43 PM on August 13, 2010


Like I say, I'd dearly love to find a recording of Gielgud doing it. Everybody says he was "our best speaker of verse." I'm just listening to his Cassius from the 1953 Julius Caesar movie and it's so beautiful and musical and yet full of sense, too. (And full of Cassius)

I'm not usually a big Gielgud fan. I often find him a bit stilted. But I LOVE him in that film. I think it's mostly that Cassius is such a great part for him. It seems to match his natural personality. He's best when he's playing really smart, really unsentimental characters.
posted by grumblebee at 8:45 PM on August 13, 2010


I haven't heard a lot of Gielgud Shakespeare. A BBC radio Lear that was done quite near the end of his life and which sounded a bit like a table reading, and a Tempest from the same source that I haven't gotten to yet.

You may be right. Styles change, and sometimes when a performance gets transcribed to film, it doesn't get scaled down enough for the medium.

(Paul Scofield's Lear is wicked.)
posted by Trochanter at 9:02 PM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


The pilot for Rex Is Not Your Lawyer wasn't filmed until well, well after both the stage production and the movie of Hamlet were finished.

On preview, I accidentally crossoverman.
posted by tzikeh at 10:35 PM on August 13, 2010


I have a deep and abiding obsession for Hamlet. A few years back I wrote a heavily abridged parody for three players, which is currently being performed at renaissance fairs the breadth of the breadbasket. For the last many months I've been teasing out a more dramatic adaption that -- in an appreciative nod to Stoppard's Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead -- noodles with a number of two-dimensional characters, and offers a distinctly different point of view; Yorick's, in particular.

I love Tennant's choices in this production. I'm awed by the casual magnificence of Stewart. I'm *floored* by Davies' turn at Polonius. And I found the whole production to be fresh, and energetic, and quite frankly exhilarating.
posted by deCadmus at 10:35 PM on August 13, 2010


You can actually do the entire play with eleven actors.

Eleven actors, you say? And...eleven Doctors...coincidence? Or the GREATEST version of Hamlet ever?

(This comes from the person who was once alternating writing her final Dramaturgy papers with watching Doctor Who and had a dream she was watching a production of Twelve Angry Men starring eleven Doctors and the Brigadier. I took it as a sign to get out of my apartment for a while.)
posted by ilana at 1:24 AM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh man I had a weird misreading of that given Jacobi's turn as that other Claudius (which Stewart also appears in and was also a BBC production).

Recommending once again BBC's I, Claudius by Robert Graves, with Jacobi as Roman Emperor Claudius, Stewart as bad-ass villain Sejanus, and a positively unhinged crazy mofo John Hurt as Caligula.
posted by ovvl at 8:23 AM on August 14, 2010


OK, i've now watched two hours of this, when I meant to just "see what it was like." This, frankly, is incredible. I'm not a Hamlet expert; I've seen the Branagh production (which I love, such great use of 70mm + closeups to give an almost claustrophobic sense of agonizing megalomania) and I've read the play, but that's about all. But I was utterly riveted.

Tennant plays Hamlet so YOUNG! And, I mean, Hamlet IS young; he's basically a kid home from college. But he's not often played that way, I don't think, in no small part because finding an actor who can play Hamlet who also looks 20 is kind of unrealistic. And Tennant is 39. but man alive, he really did a good job of playing a 20-year-old Hamlet for someone who is twice that age. And by doing that, I think he manages to capture a lot of that egoism and fixation and mercuriousness and megalomania as being part of Hamlet's youth, not his madness. And so Hamlet gets to play crazy on the square; his mom and uncle think that he's half delusional with grief over losing Ophelia, and don't want to upset the poor boy further, so he gets to really let rip with his naked contempt for his uncle as long as he buffers it up with sufficiently mawkish antics.

And Polonius? Oh my GOD. What a brilliantly subtle, nuanced take on that character, the wise man whose opinion is still needed and trusted, even as you have to start taking it with a grain of salt because he's sliding towards senility. Plus they found a lot of comic moments in places that aren't typically played comically, which I think can really keep the grittier bits of Hamlet moving along.

anyway. I'mma finish watching the show now, but suffice it to say, I really really think this is really really good.
posted by KathrynT at 11:47 AM on August 14, 2010


I don't think that reading Shakespeare in strict iambic stress patterns is really the best way to communicate his language.

Sorry to harp on this, but it's sticking in my craw. Which is because I'm a Shakespeare geek. Here's what I think is true: lecturing people (e.g. in a class) about iambic pentameter is not (generally) the best way to make people (especially newbies) like Shakespeare. By God, there's so much more accessible stuff! Sex, violence, amazing characters, exciting plots, beautiful words and phrases...

But I utterly reject this idea that if you speak the verse using the rhythmic plans Elizabethan poets used and intended, it sounds stilted an unnatural. I claim the exact opposite. So this may be a technical point, only worthwhile for actors and orators to think about, but it's true nonetheless. If you've heard stilted performances (who hasn't?), that's not because the actors were being too metrical. It's because they were doing something else wrong.

Sticking to the meter doesn't mean POUNDING it. We all stress certain syllables when we speak and leave others relatively unstressed. But that DOESn't MEAN we SPEAK like THIS. We don't say everything like Alec Baldwin in "Glen Gary Glenn Ross" when he says "PUT the COFFee cup DOWN." But we still stress some syllables more than others.

I just scanned the famous "to be or not to be" speech. I did it by the book. You'll see my attempt below. (Note: in that attempted, i DID use CAPS like THIS, which SEEMS like GOing OVerBOARD. But that's just because I have to somehow indicate stress here using typed characters alone. What I'm trying to convey is SLIGHT differences -- not pounded, shouted ones. For instance, if you say "always" using a standard American accent, you say ALways and never allWAYS.)

Here's what's interesting. After scanning the text for stressed and unstressed syllables, I watched Tennant do it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYZHb2xo0OI


I hope you agree with me that, whether or not you like his performance, that he doesn't sound stilted. If you're not looking for it, or if you're not trained in it, you probably can't even tell he's speaking metered verse. He sounds very natural -- just like he's talking using whatever rhythm he wants.

He's not. He's being ABSOLUTELY technically accurate. I was surprised and pleased to find that his interpretation matched mine EXACTLY! But I shouldn't have been surprised, because that IS the natural way to speak the verse.

Again, I would suggest he sounds natural and unstilted BECAUSE he's sticking to the blank-verse rhythm. If he tried to play against it, he would sound really odd. This isn't always the case. There are lines here and there you can play with without anyone (except a scholar) noticing. But if you stray too far from the rhythm, I promise you it will sound odd. It will sound like singing notes off key. When you don't notice it, that means it's working.

Here are a few notes for people who are new to blank-verse (a.k.a. iambic pentameter).

Standard blank verse is made up of five pairs of two syllable words, e.g.

In sooth I know not why I am so sad. (Opening line of "Merchant of Venice.")

1. In sooth
2. I know
3. not why
4. I am
5. so sad

in sooth | i know | not why | i am | so sad

Each two-syllable pair is called a "foot," so a standard line has five feet.

Standard feet stress the second syllable more than the first:

in SOOTH | i KNOWN | not WHY | i AM | so SAD

Don't try to force it. Just say the line naturally, and, if you're like most people, you'll find that without trying, you naturally stress it that way (remember, my caps are just meant to illustrate SLIGHT differences in stress -- not that you should shout or pound every other syllable.)

That's the basic rhythm, and it's sometimes called tee-TUM, tee-TUM, tee-TUM, tee-TUM, tee-TUM.

A main part of the fun is that Shakespeare and his contemporaries set up that rhythm and then vary from it. They stray away from it and then circle back to it, like jazz musicians flirting and improvising around a melody. And they generally don't stray from it any old way. They stray from it in very specific, formalized ways.

The most common stray is the "feminine ending," which adds and extra (unstressed) syllable onto the end of the line. E.g.

1. In sooth
2. I know
3. not why
4. I am
5. so sad
6. now

in SOOTH | i KNOWN | not WHY | i AM | so SAD | now

In fact, the opening line of the "Hamlet" speech -- and many of the subsequent lines in that speech -- have feminine endings:

1. to be
2. or not
3. to be
4. that is
5. the quest
6. ion

Actors often interpret feminine endings as less confident or more ruminative than masculine ones (sorry, sounds sexist -- don't shoot the messenger). This certainly makes sense in a speech like this, in which Hamlet is trying to work out something really complicated and painful. It's not an easy, confident speech for him.

Other recognized variations are "trochees" and "pyrrhic feet." A trochee is the exact opposite of a normal iambic foot. Instead of tee-TUM, it's TEE-tum. Instead of unstressed-STRESSED, it's STRESSED-unstressed. You most often find trochees, when you find them, as the first foot of a line:

Now is the winter of our discontent. (Opening line of "Richard |||")

It's more natural to start with "NOW is" than "now IS," right? Try saying it (the whole line) a few times and see if you agree.

Pyrrhic feet are feet where both syllables are unstressed:

My father is a man who loves to cook. (I made that one up. Like it?)

my FA | ther is | a MAN | who LOVES | to COOK.

Probably, most speakers won't stress either word more than the other in that second foot ("ther is").

Let me be really clear and say that there isn't a RIGHT way to scan a line. There are ways that most people (who have experience scanning) will feel are more right than others. Pretty much no one is going to accept "IN sooth *I* know NOT why *I* am SO sad." I find that hard to even say.

Other lines are open to debate -- and different actors will stress different syllables without breaking the meter. But it's a matter of degree. Those actors (if they are skilled and if they sound natural) are not totally dispensing of the meter, and they are not straying far from it. And they UNDERSTAND the meter, so when they choose to stray from it, they are making an informed, bold, conscious choice.

Finally, I'll mention that a trained classical actor scans all his lines, makes sure he understands the meter, talks over any difficult rhythms with his director or fellow actors, makes decisions about how to scan ambiguous lines... and then lets it go.

No one (if they want to sound natural) counts out the syllables as he's speaking them on stage. That's stuff for homework -- for early in rehearsal. By the time the play opens, the rhythm is in the actor's gut (hopefully), and he can just think about the juicy character/emotional stuff and feel totally confident that his preparation will make the rhythm take care of itself -- and that they rhythm, WHILE it takes care of itself, will HELP him sound natural and help him find the emotional power of the verse.

(And, by the way, almost every actor I've ever met has said that scanning greatly helps him learn his lines, and that verse plays are much easier to memorize than prose ones.)

Here's my scan. Try reading it once by yourself and then reading it while listening to Tennant.

to BE | or NOT | to BE | that IS | the QUEST | ion: [feminine ending]
WHETH er [trochee]| 'tis NOB | ler in [pyrrhic ]| the MIND | to SUF | fer [fem end]
the SLINGS | and ARR | ows of [pyrrhic] | out RAGE | 'ous FOR | tune, [fem end]
or to [pyrrhic] | take ARMS agAINST | a SEA | of TROUB | les [fem end]
and, by [pyrrhic] | op POS | ing, END | them. [beat] | to DIE | to SLEEP
no MORE | and by [pyrrhic] | a SLEEP | to SAY | we END
the HEART | ache and [pyrrhic] | the THOUS | and NAT | [chral] SHOCKS ["natural" pronounced as two syllables.]
that FLESH | is HEIR | to – ‘TIS | a CON | sum MAT | ion [fem ending]
de VOUT | ly to [pyrrhic] | be WISHED. | to DIE, | to SLEEP
to SLEEP,| per CHANCE | to DREAM. | ay, THERE'S | the RUB,
for in [pyrrhic]| that SLEEP | of DEATH | what DREAMS | may COME,
when WE | have SHUFF | led OFF this MOR | tal COIL,
must GIVE | us PAUSE. | [ beat] [beat] | THERE'S the [trochee] | re SPECT [difficult like -- just a guess/metrical interpretation]
that MAKES | ca LAM | i TY | of SO | long LIFE.
posted by grumblebee at 11:52 AM on August 14, 2010 [10 favorites]


That should have been "[difficult line -- just a guess/metrical interpretation]"
posted by grumblebee at 11:53 AM on August 14, 2010


For more info, see "Shakespeare's Metrical Art." (or the Kindle edition.)
posted by grumblebee at 12:04 PM on August 14, 2010


Goodness gracious.
posted by hippybear at 12:25 PM on August 14, 2010


(or maybe that should be GOODness GRAcious)
posted by hippybear at 12:26 PM on August 14, 2010


hippybear, I hope I didn't offend you by all of that. I don't really think I'm right and you're wrong. In the end, it's words on paper and/or sounds coming out of someone's mouth, and whatever gives you (or anyone) pleasure is worth way more than any theorizing. I just wanted to convey a point-of-view that I think often gets lost. And I blame all those teachers who made Shakespeare mechanics so boring that many students wound out hating the plays.

And those few who found ways to like the plays often had to do so by rejecting the mechanics and the dry academics. I understand that. I went through that process myself. But if you can manage to emerge from that tunnel unscathed, I think there's really a beauty to verse and to meter -- and also a utility.

By the way, Stephen Fry (yes, the comedian/actor) has a fun, neat, accessible book about verse called "The Ode Less Traveled."
posted by grumblebee at 1:13 PM on August 14, 2010


Still, I WANT TO SEE THAT PILOT. Don't you?

I've seen it, and... no. No, you don't.
posted by OolooKitty at 6:49 PM on August 14, 2010


Sorry, everybody, I didn't get the timeframe of the production from the FPP and hadn't dug any deeper when I made the "Rex Is Not Your Lawyer" comment. And, yes, OolooKitty, I still do want to see it even if it was a fiery trainwreck with no survivors because I occasionally write ABOUT TV and the disasters are easier to review (and more fun - but I'll bet you already knew that about us so-called Entertainment Journalists).
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:13 PM on August 14, 2010


I still do want to see it even if it was a fiery trainwreck with no survivors

Heh. Yeah. Kind of. Oh, and Jane Curtin played his mother, BTW. And all I can say is, Tennant dodged a bullet with this one. I'd have hated it to be his introduction to mass American audiences.
posted by OolooKitty at 9:40 PM on August 14, 2010


Also, his American accent, and I say this as a huge fan, SUCKS.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 7:09 AM on August 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, RSC member Keith Osborn has written a book chronicling that theater season, including the stage productions of HAMLET and LLL, as well as the filming of the movie version of HAMLET. It's an interesting diary-ish look at the life of a working stage actor, as well as a good insight into the way the RSC works. Title is the somewhat cringy "Something Written in the State of Denmark". I enjoyed it.

Oh, and JKF? Yeah. I love Tennant but I never want to hear him speak with an American accent ever, ever again.
posted by OolooKitty at 7:26 PM on August 16, 2010


Holy moley. I loves me some Tennant, I really do, but that American accent is even worse than Keanu's English accent. I'm being totally serious. It is completely awful in every way. He can't even act through it.

Curiously, though, Tennant the Scot is able to do a superb English accent without a problem.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:58 PM on August 16, 2010


Oh, wow. Tennant's accent in that clip edged perilously close to the Uncanny Valley for me.
posted by EarBucket at 7:30 PM on August 17, 2010


I linked previously to my Hamlet comparison vids. Just added Part 3 so figured I'd link it here too.

Part 3
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 7:51 AM on August 21, 2010




Okay -- I'm a big David Tennant Geek Girl. And I actually saw this a couple months ago when it was on PBS, and thought he did great.

But...I also found things to love about two other Hamlets I've seen; Mel Gibson's, and (and most of you wouldn't know this one) Heather Grayson's. Heather first -- she was the lead in a production I worked on here in New York in the late 90's, where the director didn't just have Hamlet played by a woman in drag (like Sandra Bernhardt did) -- they gave the character a sex change, so Hamlet was now the Princess of Denmark. It did all sorts of interesting things to the character (they left Ophelia and Horatio the same, and Hamlet and Horatio's chemistry became all kinds of nifty). May have looked like a stunt casting choice on the face of it, but Heather was also phenomenal in her own right. (I'm not sure what she's up to now; I hope she's doing well.)

Someone else said that Mel Gibson "does crazy well" -- I think I appreciated that about his Hamlet, that kind of lurking sense that he was just inches away from snapping any second but didn't even know that himself, about himself. It was a crazy, but it was a dangerous crazy.

Which is a good contrast to Tennant's crazy -- Gibson's was "I'm crazy because I've been pushed way too far and I'm juuuuuuuuust starting to connect all the dots and get to the bottom of how I'm being screwed over". But Tennant's was "I'm finally old enough to take charge of my own life, dammit, but just when I'm about to take the tiller for the first time I get all THIS crap dumped on me and it's just too much all at once". (But he's still young-guy immature enough to put a heavy-handed spin on the line "Did you think I meant COUN-try matters?")

Three totally different interpretations from three different actors, and all of them strong enough for me to not be able, even today, to decide which one is my favorite. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to.

(I may have a least favorite -- Richard Thomas in the Hartford Stage production in 1986. ...But the show overall was pretty flippin' weird, so I may have just written everything about it off. Seriously, Laertes should not wear camoflauge print tights and brandish an Uzi.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:07 PM on August 23, 2010


Thanks for the II.ii scene comparisons, John Kenneth Fisher. Good fun. Best Polonius award goes to Felix Aylmer in the Olivier.

Also, just to go back to the metre discussion: The Kline switcheroo of meaning I was talking about was made more by timing than stresses. As I understand it, Homer and the Greeks were about timing more than stresses: daaa-da-da daaa-da-da daaa-da-da, and like that. So I think Kline hit the accents properly, he just used pauses to switch up the sense of the line.
posted by Trochanter at 9:27 AM on August 24, 2010


Thanks for the II.ii scene comparisons, John Kenneth Fisher. Good fun. Best Polonius award goes to Felix Aylmer in the Olivier.

See, I'm rather partial to Hume Cronyn. There's just something in his delivery that balances the buffoonery and cleverness of Polonius better than most to me.

Part 4, by the way, with Kevin Kline and Adrian Lester.

As for meter, I think the meter is, well, over-done. Or over emphasized. Or something. Will's done the work for you. He's chosen words with a certain stress pattern. I tend to prefer performers that just say the lines the way they think is natural. It flows better, and maybe we need different beats and readings to get the meaning now than they did when that language was commonplace. If you say the line the way you would just... say the line... the meter is generally already there for you and the audience can "feel" it even if we don't "hear" it.

I do think the meter is a good guide for the actor as to how the line was intended to read, at times. As Grumblebee said, it tells us Kline is likely not doing it as Burbage did. But I'm okay with that. I've heard putting on shakespeare compared to being asked to do a cover of a song you only have the lyrics to, and maybe 2-3 seconds of music here and there. You hardly know the music, you don't know the instruments, you don't know the tempo, and you don't know if it's a polka or a waltz or heavy metal, or...

All you have are the lyrics, and the covers other people have done - some polkas, some waltzes, some heavy metal. Oh, and the lyrics? Some of the words might be wrong, actually. And sometimes you get two different sets of lyrics and have to decide what to pick or merge. And that's the fun of it. I'd love to see Burbage's Hamlet, but in my opinion it has only somewhat more canonicity than anyone else.

So yeah. the meter is a guide and a roadmap, but not one that should be followed too closely. Because sometimes you just want to take a different route so you can visit thae worlds largest ball of twine, you know?
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 5:16 AM on August 29, 2010


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