Who knew that what the world really needed was a nightmarish empty-eyed Anglo-Saxon/Medieval blend production of Hamlet?
Edwin Austin Abbey did, apparently.
Or so The Play Scene in Hamlet, which he painted in 1897, evinces.
It combines a number of Abbey’s interests, as he (the Encyclopædia Britannica writes) “specialized in large literary and historical works encompassing the various period revivals then in fashion: [including] medieval, [and] Shakespearean….”
Its subjects maintain more humanity than do those in Daniel Maclise’s more traditional take, and their reactions speak more tellingly.
But that isn’t the only difference in Abbey’s scene.
We, dear reader, seem to be the play.
Claudius stares us down (evenly, stoically—but certainly tensely). Gertrude shrinks away from him as much as from the players. Polonius stares proudly in…entirely the wrong direction? Well, never mind him.
Ophelia seems a little glazed. But I’d be distracted by Hamlet’s carryings-on, too. Sitting on a heap of wolf furs, he seems less interested now in the lap he so insisted upon claiming than his uncle—a gaze shared by Horatio, who stands guard-like at the side with one hand on the hilt of his sword, to see how Claudius responds to this enactment of his guilt.
Meanwhile, one of the gravediggers has crashed the party, crouching beside the usurping king.
Everyone else peers out at us with flat affects and black eyes.
Including, disconcertingly, a child with a hunting horn.
so because I’m a giant nerd I was just reading one of the appendixes in the arden edition of hamlet and its talking about doubling in the casting and it’s saying that other than hamlet (obv) horatio is the one character that really can’t be doubled (the only options are reynaldo and fortinbras’s captain - even the actor playing hamlet could concievably double four other characters) and although I already knew that what stuck me was the little discussion about that fact
because the other character not easily doubled is gertrude, and it was being suggested that this highlights her special relationship to hamlet within the play (because hamlet obv isn’t going to be doubled, and the queen is also unlikely to double), reinforcing the centrality of their relationship to the play. and then it says that the fact that horatio is the one role, aside from hamlet, that is almost certainly never going to be doubled really reinforces the importance of their relationship:
'the fact that the actor who plays horatio should be someone who can never be anyone else is striking…does it reinforce hamlet's own view of horatio as an ever-fixed mark, who must be encouraged to go on being himself to the end of the play?'
like horatio isn’t just constant and unchangeable and straightforward in personality. he literally cannot be anything else within the play. he can only ever be himself
IF THERE IS HORATIO APPRECIATION I WILL FIND IT
I think I made a joke. Additionally if you look at the earliest published version of Hamlet (The First Quarto) in 1603 the statement by the gravedigger that he started working on the day that Hamlet was born and worked “man and boy, for thirty years” has been completely omitted and Yorick has been deceased for 12 years rather than 23. But, of course, the matter of how significant Hamlet’s age is more important than the fact itself:
I understand that there’s more to Hamlet than his moping, such as the fact that Hamlet’s underlying hatred of women is spurred on not by the death of his father at the hands of his uncle, but the systematic oppression of women in general that becomes represented in his relationship with both his mother and his girlfriend Ophelia. Ophelia and Gertrude are displayed as victims constantly being blamed by the men around them and I really have to appreciate how revolutionary Hamlet was in showing that the disgusting behaviour of the men is NOT something to praise. Such lines like “Frailty - Thy name is woman” really manages to paint a villainous picture of such a once-simple concept; that women obey whilst the men command. Polonius is the father figure that Ophelia must follow, but in the process her devotion to both her manipulative father and her abusive boyfriend lead to her own demise. Gertrude’s promiscuity that is even directly stated to be no different to that of a man and yet much more cruel is supposedly the cause for Hamlet’s father’s death. Hamlet speaks words that put in his mouth and can be so cruelly unjust, so ridiculously fiendish and so conservatively hung up on his devotion to the Presbyterian Church’s form of patriarchy constructed by the development into a hierarchical system that places a king next to God and a woman directly under him. In the same way that Ophelia is extremely heavily devoted to his father and Hamlet seeks revenge only after his father’s ghost tells him to do so, there is clearly a childish sense of obedience to one’s father.
The villain in Hamlet is not Hamlet. The villain is the father. This could either be the father that uses his daughter to prove that her abusive boyfriend is made. This could be the father that kills the other father and marries with the queen. This could be the father that the prince states that, despite being a mother, is the father due to her marriage to the father. (She is an accessory.) It could be the father of all, the God that is so heavily mentioned throughout the play. Or it could be the father that speaks to his son in his death and demands for revenge, for more blood. The father that tells the children how to act, and had the play been any other story we would have seen a tale of a child beginning to question these patriarchal concepts. Hamlet is not a father.
Hamlet is an impressionable boy, childishly impressionable. He takes everything said by his father to heart. He takes everything said and uses it as guidance in a manner similar to a lack of independence. He is not full of life experience which is why he is questioning what the point in going forth to get it really is. He worries about his girlfriend cheating on him, but never actually getting married to her. He’s constantly clinging onto his childhood because, unlike a 30 year old man, he is beginning to move into a different stage in life. He’s rebelling against his mother when his parental guidance becomes prematurely lost. He’s hung up on his mother’s sex life. He’s hung up on his girlfriend’s sex life (who is worried that she might be pregnant.) He’s a smart-ass. He’s immature. And he is young. If he weren’t, then the idea of the patriarchy being as oppressive as it is influential on the youths and how such a concept can be destructive to ALL parties would be severely distilled. It would distort a large portion of Hamlet’s character, his motives and his afflictions.
Whilst I understand that simply stating something along the lines of “Hamlet must have been a whiny kid” would give the impression of a lack of understanding, please don’t mistake a joke for a genuine opinion because you may be greatly misled.
|—||Harold Bloom, from Hamlet: Poem Unlimited|
Hamlet and Ophelia D.G Rossetti
Hamlet and Ophelia, 1854, pencil on grey paper
Hamlet and Ophelia,1858, ink on paperHamlet and Ophelia, 1866, watercolour
Hamlet and Ophelia, 1865, pen and brown ink
The First Madness of Ophelia, 1864, watercolourHamlet and Ophelia, 1854? pen and brown wash
In principle the difficulties of such an undertaking might seem a strong deterrent to all but the most subtle historians; but they have not proved so, and Miss Prosser is not the first scholar to read the mind of Hamlet's audience and author. What, in the prescribed period, did people think about revenge? What were they told to think, in the theater and out of it? If we know that, we shall know what Shakespeare intended. Leaving aside the argument about Intention, it is probably enough to say that Hamlet, as Miss Prosser knows very well, is remarkably unlike other revenge plays; that it is a play by a writer of sufficient merit to have distinguished himself from the run-of-the-mill dramatists who “gave the public what it wanted”; and that it is in many ways the strangest and most crucial of his works, a sort of Demoiselles d’ Avignon, painted and repainted, a piece of the past technically prepared for a new age, changing theater, drama, and audience as it changed itself. It would have to have been some extremely dull member of the audience who did not sense any of this, but stared stupidly through Hamlet to some diagrammatic ethical revenge play beneath. Nowhere did Shakespeare do more to disconcert his audience, and quite possibly much of the initial interest lay in wondering what in God’s name was going to happen next to the familiar story. One can, certainly, imagine a man dull enough to see only what matched his commonplace expectations, but who wants to know him?
Frank Kermode, "Reading Shakespeare’s Mind"
(Excellent summation of what’s wrong with so much historical criticism, or even contemporary pop criticism in the TVTropes mode.)
yes because all “gay readings” must add nuance and characterization otherwise they’re USELESS!! respect my opinion as a straight man on this trust me i’m good
people interpreting hamlet and horatio, fictional characters as gay harms me, a straight man, personally. they are just very very close friends that have endearing pet names and offer to die and fight for the other’s sake. check out this cool meme i found that supports my opinion!
people (usually actual lgbt+ people but who cares about them lol) interpreting the fictional characters as gay feeds the FRIENDZONE!! a real thing that affects real women and not fictional gay men. please trust me on this, i am a straight man and i am very knowledgable
"Give order that these bodies high on a stage be placed to the view, and let me speak to th’ yet unknowing world how these things came about. So shall you hear of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts, of accidental judgments, casual slaughters, of deaths put on by cunning and forced cause, and, in this upshot, purposes mistook fall’n on th’ inventors’ heads. All this can I truly deliver.”