Media Thursday (kinda): new (old) plays to read…

So, not really a review for today’s Media Thursday.

Instead, I’ll share two plays I’ll be reading over the summer.

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The Winter’s Tale: Hamlet and fardels and bears, oh my

As I’m re-reading The Winter’s Tale (while in my final days in Ashland, watching some really good Shakespeare, and while attempting to write a paper on King Lear with a medical diagnosis of narcissism–the former successfully and happily; the latter…not so much), I’m noticing some words coming up with more frequency than I expected: “fardel” and “bear.”

Oh, my.

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King Lear: An analogy

A quick analogy for these Lear-y times:

Remember when we were discussion madness in Hamlet (both the character and the play), and I said that depression may be the closest we can get to a diagnosis of Hamlet…and even that’s from what he shows himself, not the act he puts on for others.

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Foreshadowing: Murdered by pirates is good–I mean, bad, really REALLY BAD

Anybody catch the subtle foreshadowing of piracy in Measure for Measure?

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Theater/Cinema Capture Review: Hamlet at the Barbican

Thursday night, I skipped watching my Bruins play Stanford in a college football game (thank goodness… we got our asses kicked), and instead headed down to my local cineplex to watch the “live” stream of Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet from the Barbican in London, as part of the NTLive (National Theatre) series. I’m going to be very curious to hear what any of you thought… because I’m thinking I may be in the minority here.

I’m sure Benedict Cumberbatch is a great Hamlet or has one inside him. It’s just that this ain’t it, people.

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Two characters under the same inky cloak

As I dive back into the first scene of All’s Well That Ends Well, I’m struck by Helena’s first words:

I do affect a sorrow indeed, but I have it too.
  • I.i.53-4

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Podcast 104: Hamlet: A Concept, a Cast, and the Wrap-Up


This week’s podcast concludes (finally) our three month-long discussion of Hamlet with a look back at the play, wrapping up with some opinion, a concept and a casting.

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Hamlet: the Wrap-Up

It’s been three months since kicking off Hamlet, and at that point, nearly two decades since my last reading and teaching of the play, I began thinking this was a play about royal succession, maybe some kind of oblique metaphor or literary handwringing over the future passing of Elizabeth. That didn’t last long, and it melded into a vague discussion of what it means to be a king, and how and why Hamlet would never reach that height. I toyed with the theme of madness for a while, but I just couldn’t (and still don’t) see this play in any way, shape or form, about real mental illness (at least not so far as Hamlet is concerned… and as I’ve mentioned before, I’m not so sure that Ophelia is mad so much as situationally desperate). No, as I continued to go over this play, I kept coming back to the same motif:

Not madness, but playing madness. Playing at what isn’t real. Which is fascinating in the same way baseball is philosophically interesting. But intrinsically interesting? Not so much. I know I can’t take a three-hour long baseball game. Give me an hour-long water polo game, any day.


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The heart of Hamlet: the play

Using Professor Rodes’ midpoint theory, let’s take a look at Hamlet.

There are 3728 lines in the play, which means the midpoint is at line 1864, or at Act Three, Scene Two, line 161. Now, Rodes’ theory postulated that you could find at the midpoint (or within twenty lines either way) a speech that perfectly summed up the major theme of the play. The 20-line leeway was to help remove the differences in prose line lengths between individual editions. Of course, given Hamlet’s amount of prose (a solid 27%) and its notorious differences between quarto and folio releases, you’ve got to wonder if this theory still works, or if there will be something rotten in the texts of Denmark.

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