English, Hamlet AO5

RESTORATION: – “A sophisticated preference for refinement of taste and classical rules of decorum steered both productions and published texts towards correctness and elegance.”- “Hamlet was refashioned as exemplary hero”
ANTHONY ASHLEY COOPER: – Characteristic Advice to an Author- The play “is almost one continual moral, a series of deep reflections”
DAVID GARRICK: – Made alterations to take away Hamlet’s “bloodthirsty thoughts of wishing to send Claudius’s soul to hell and his responsibility for the deaths of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern”- Focused on the family and on filial emotions in his interpretation of Hamlet. – Audiences were thrilled by the naturalism and emotional power of Garrick’s acting.
DR SAMUEL JOHNSON: – “Defended Shakespeare’s right to transcend the classical “rules” of time, place, and action and his mixing of comedy and tragedy”- Saw Shakespeare as “a great moralist”.
WILLIAM RICHARDSON: – Essays on Some of Shakespeare’s dramatic Characters, 1784- Hamlet is “moved by finer principles, by an exquisite sense of virtue, or moral beauty.”
GEOTHE: – Led the way towards a new psychological insight into Hamlet as one who hesitates to act.- The hesitation and delay are “the key to Hamlet’s whole procedure.”- “Amazement and sorrow overwhelm the solitary young man”
SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE – A major aspect of Shakespeare’s genius is his ability to fathom the “deep and accurate science” of “mental philosophy.”- We can see in Hamlet “a great, an almost enormous, intellectual activity, and a proportionate aversion to real action consequent upon it, with all its symptoms and accompanying qualities.”- The effect of hamlet’s “overbalance of the imaginative power” is “the everlasting broodings and superfluous activities of hamlet’s mind.”
AUGUST W. VON SCHLEGEL – “The weakness of his volition is evident: he does himself justice when he says there is no greater dissimilarity than between himself and Hercules.”- “His far-fetched scruples are often more pretexts to cover his want of resolution.”- Hamlet “is too much overwhelmed with his own sorrow to have any compassion to spare for others.”
GEORG WILHELM FREIDRICH HEGEL – Hamlet’s hesitations and doubts are indicative of an inward struggle to know himself, but fail of their purpose when Hamlet achieves revenge only through chance and not through a full self-realization.
RALPH WALDO EMERSON – In his essay on Shakespeare, or The Poet.- Comments that the very speculative genius of the nineteenth century is itself “a sort of living Hamlet.”
ANNA JAMESON – From Characteristics of Women, 1832.- Says that Ophelia’s helplessness can only melt us with profound pity.- Ophelia’s madness presents us with “an astonishing picture of a mind utterly, hopelessly wrecked! Past hope, past cure!”
HENRY IRVING – Production of Hamlet, 1874- Saw Hamlet as a man stricken with love for Ophelia.-It was difficult to tell at times whether Irving’s Hamlet was really mad or only pretending to be. – Along with many other critics, had sympathy for Ophelia as a tender, innocent and beautiful woman suffering.- Deleted Hamlet’s soliloquy of determination to send Claudius’ soul to hell.- Ended the production with Hamlet’s “the rest is silence”, literally giving him, rather than Fortinbras, the last word.
JONES VERY – 1839- Hamlet is a thoughtful and tormented man, “more than commonly liable to the fear of death.”
FERDINAND FREILIGRATH – 1844- Compares Hamlet’s hesitancy to act to that of Germany in its seeming inability to move toward liberty and political reunification: as he puts it, “Deutschland ist Hamlet.”- Deliberately political reading.
WILLIAM MINTO – 1874- Finds the explanation of the delay not in fear or in psychological paralysis, but in Hamlet’s final reliance on “a blind, inexplicable, vague trust that some supremely favourable moment will occur.”- Destiny “is ripening the harvest for him.”
HERMANN ULRICI – 1839- Sees the delay as not by psychological paralysis but by Hamlet’s perception that the code of revenge cannot be reconciled with Hamlet’s own Christian faith.”- “We behold the Christian struggling with the natural.”
ALGERNON CHARLES SWINBURN – 1880- “The signal characteristic of Hamlet’s inmost nature is by no means irresolution or hesitation or any form of weakness, but rather the strong conflux of contending forces.”
FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE – 1872- Argues that Hamlet I held back not by excessive thought but by tragic knowledge of the utter futility of action in the corrupted world in which he has found himself.- Action is as pointless as the world is corrupt.
H.K.AYLIFF – Birmingham Repertory Theatre in 1925. – The play held its mirror up to nature, using flapper dresses and bobbed hair, fashionably dressed as their audience.- Polonius played as as a domineering father and shrewd councillor. – Ophelia’s sexually explosive mad scenes were the direct result of the persistent suppression of her natural desires and wishes by the men around her
LAURENCE OLIVIER – The Old Vic in 1937. – Athletic and fiery Prince- Interpretation of Hamlet’s delay based on Freud’s analysis of the Oedipal complex, in which the son unconsciously desires to kill the father and possess the mother.
HANSGUNTHER HEYME -Cologne in 1979 – An exploration of the boundaries between illusion and reality. – Actors videoed each other with hand-held cameras which then multiplied every action via a wall of television monitors.
RICHARD EYRE – Royal Court in 1980 there was no Ghost to be seen.- Speeches were wrenched out of Jonathan Pryce’s Hamlet as he writhed in the grip of a psychic possession.- Opening scene cut.
DEREK JACOBI – Directed Kenneth Branagh in the Renaissance Theatre Company’s production in 1988.- In the play’s closing moments, Fortinbras’s command, ‘Go bid the soldiers shoot’ was obeyed by his armed guard promptly killing Horatio and the other lords of the Danish court.- Emphasis on politics
GRIGORI KOZINTSEV The Russian director, Grigori Kozintsev, produced a powerful and highly atmospheric version of the play on film in 1964, with Innokenti Smoktunovsky as the Prince.
FRANCO ZEFFIRELLI – 1990- Recognised that the long and complex play benefits from radical cutting. – His version cut Fortinbras and delivered a highly charged picture of dysfunctional families.
KENNETH BRANAGH – 1996, – Directed a full text film of the play, – Set in the Edwardian period and exploiting the architectural splendours of Blenheim Palace for the Danish court.

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