Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Objective Correlatives"

The term "objective correlatives" was coined by T.S. Elliot in his essay

from the following essay : " Hamlet and His Problems"

T.S. Eliot (1888–1965). The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism. 1922.

Hamlet and His Problems

"FEW critics have even admitted that Hamlet the play is the primary problem, and Hamlet the character only secondary. And Hamlet the character has had an especial temptation for that most dangerous type of critic: the critic with a mind which is naturally of the creative order, but which through some weakness in creative power exercises itself in criticism instead. These minds often find in Hamlet a vicarious existence for their own artistic realization. Such a mind had Goethe, who made of Hamlet a Werther; and such had Coleridge, who made of Hamlet a Coleridge; and probably neither of these men in writing about Hamlet remembered that his first business was to study a work of art. The kind of criticism that Goethe and Coleridge produced, in writing of Hamlet, is the most misleading kind possible. For they both possessed unquestionable critical insight, and both make their critical aberrations the more plausible by the substitution—of their own Hamlet for Shakespeare's—which their creative gift effects. We should be thankful that Walter Pater did not fix his attention on this play. 1
Two recent writers, Mr. J. M. Robertson and Professor Stoll of the University of Minnesota, have issued small books which can be praised for moving in the other direction. Mr. Stoll performs a service in recalling to our attention the labours of the critics of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, 1 observing that

they knew less about psychology than more recent Hamlet critics, but they were nearer in spirit to Shakespeare's art; and as they insisted on the importance of the effect of the whole rather than on the importance of the leading character, they were nearer, in their old-fashioned way, to the secret of dramatic art in general.

Qua work of art, the work of art cannot be interpreted; there is nothing to interpret; we can only criticize it according to standards, in comparison to other works of art; and for "interpretation" the chief task is the presentation of relevant historical facts which the reader is not assumed to know. Mr. Robertson points out, very pertinently, how critics have failed in their "interpretation" of Hamlet by ignoring what ought to be very obvious: that Hamlet is a stratification, that it represents the efforts of a series of men, each making what he could out of the work of his predecessors. The Hamlet of Shakespeare will appear to us very differently if, instead of treating the whole action of the play as due to Shakespeare's design, we perceive his Hamlet to be superposed upon much cruder material which persists even in the final form. 3
We know that there was an older play by Thomas Kyd, that extraordinary dramatic (if not poetic) genius who was in all probability the author of two plays so dissimilar as the Spanish Tragedy and Arden of Feversham; and what this play was like we can guess from three clues: from the Spanish Tragedy itself, from the tale of Belleforest upon which Kyd's Hamlet must have been based, and from a version acted in Germany in Shakespeare's lifetime which bears strong evidence of having been adapted from the earlier, not from the later, play. From these three sources it is clear that in the earlier play the motive was a revenge-motive simply; that the action or delay is caused, as in the Spanish Tragedy, solely by the difficulty of assassinating a monarch surrounded by guards; and that the "madness" of Hamlet was feigned in order to escape suspicion, and successfully. In the final play of Shakespeare, on the other hand, there is a motive which is more important than that of revenge, and which explicitly "blunts" the latter; the delay in revenge is unexplained on grounds of necessity or expediency; and the effect of the "madness" is not to lull but to arouse the king's suspicion. The alteration is not complete enough, however, to be convincing. Furthermore, there are verbal parallels so close to the Spanish Tragedy as to leave no doubt that in places Shakespeare was merely revising the text of Kyd. And finally there are unexplained scenes—the Polonius-Laertes and the Polonius-Reynaldo scenes—for which there is little excuse; these scenes are not in the verse style of Kyd, and not beyond doubt in the style of Shakespeare. These Mr. Robertson believes to be scenes in the original play of Kyd reworked by a third hand, perhaps Chapman, before Shakespeare touched the play. And he concludes, with very strong show of reason, that the original play of Kyd was, like certain other revenge plays, in two parts of five acts each. The upshot of Mr. Robertson's examination is, we believe, irrefragable: that Shakespeare's Hamlet, so far as it is Shakespeare's, is a play dealing with the effect of a mother's guilt upon her son, and that Shakespeare was unable to impose this motive successfully upon the "intractable" material of the old play. 4
Of the intractability there can be no doubt. So far from being Shakespeare's masterpiece, the play is most certainly an artistic failure. In several ways the play is puzzling, and disquieting as is none of the others. Of all the plays it is the longest and is possibly the one on which Shakespeare spent most pains; and yet he has left in it superfluous and inconsistent scenes which even hasty revision should have noticed. The versification is variable. Lines like

Look, the morn, in russet mantle clad,
Walks o'er the dew of yon high eastern hill,

are of the Shakespeare of Romeo and Juliet. The lines in Act v. sc. ii.,

Sir, in my heart there was a kind of fighting
That would not let me sleep...
Up from my cabin,
My sea-gown scarf'd about me, in the dark
Grop'd I to find out them: had my desire;
Finger'd their packet;

are of his quite mature. Both workmanship and thought are in an unstable condition. We are surely justified in attributing the play, with that other profoundly interesting play of "intractable" material and astonishing versification, Measure for Measure, to a period of crisis, after which follow the tragic successes which culminate in Coriolanus. Coriolanus may be not as "interesting" as Hamlet, but it is, with Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare's most assured artistic success. And probably more people have thought Hamlet a work of art because they found it interesting, than have found it interesting because it is a work of art. It is the "Mona Lisa" of literature. 5
The grounds of Hamlet's failure are not immediately obvious. Mr. Robertson is undoubtedly correct in concluding that the essential emotion of the play is the feeling of a son towards a guilty mother:

[Hamlet's] tone is that of one who has suffered tortures on the score of his mother's degradation.... The guilt of a mother is an almost intolerable motive for drama, but it had to be maintained and emphasized to supply a psychological solution, or rather a hint of one.

This, however, is by no means the whole story. It is not merely the "guilt of a mother" that cannot be handled as Shakespeare handled the suspicion of Othello, the infatuation of Antony, or the pride of Coriolanus. The subject might conceivably have expanded into a tragedy like these, intelligible, self-complete, in the sunlight. Hamlet, like the sonnets, is full of some stuff that the writer could not drag to light, contemplate, or manipulate into art. And when we search for this feeling, we find it, as in the sonnets, very difficult to localize. You cannot point to it in the speeches; indeed, if you examine the two famous soliloquies you see the versification of Shakespeare, but a content which might be claimed by another, perhaps by the author of the Revenge of Bussy d' Ambois, Act v. sc. i. We find Shakespeare's Hamlet not in the action, not in any quotations that we might select, so much as in an unmistakable tone which is unmistakably not in the earlier play. 6
The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an "objective correlative"; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked. If you examine any of Shakespeare's more successful tragedies, you will find this exact equivalence; you will find that the state of mind of Lady Macbeth walking in her sleep has been communicated to you by a skilful accumulation of imagined sensory impressions; the words of Macbeth on hearing of his wife's death strike us as if, given the sequence of events, these words were automatically released by the last event in the series. The artistic "inevitability" lies in this complete adequacy of the external to the emotion; and this is precisely what is deficient in Hamlet. Hamlet (the man) is dominated by an emotion which is inexpressible, because it is in excess of the facts as they appear. And the supposed identity of Hamlet with his author is genuine to this point: that Hamlet's bafflement at the absence of objective equivalent to his feelings is a prolongation of the bafflement of his creator in the face of his artistic problem. Hamlet is up against the difficulty that his disgust is occasioned by his mother, but that his mother is not an adequate equivalent for it; his disgust envelops and exceeds her. It is thus a feeling which he cannot understand; he cannot objectify it, and it therefore remains to poison life and obstruct action. None of the possible actions can satisfy it; and nothing that Shakespeare can do with the plot can express Hamlet for him. And it must be noticed that the very nature of the données of the problem precludes objective equivalence. To have heightened the criminality of Gertrude would have been to provide the formula for a totally different emotion in Hamlet; it is just because her character is so negative and insignificant that she arouses in Hamlet the feeling which she is incapable of representing. 7
The "madness" of Hamlet lay to Shakespeare's hand; in the earlier play a simple ruse, and to the end, we may presume, understood as a ruse by the audience. For Shakespeare it is less than madness and more than feigned. The levity of Hamlet, his repetition of phrase, his puns, are not part of a deliberate plan of dissimulation, but a form of emotional relief. In the character Hamlet it is the buffoonery of an emotion which can find no outlet in action; in the dramatist it is the buffoonery of an emotion which he cannot express in art. The intense feeling, ecstatic or terrible, without an object or exceeding its object, is something which every person of sensibility has known; it is doubtless a study to pathologists. It often occurs in adolescence: the ordinary person puts these feelings to sleep, or trims down his feeling to fit the business world; the artist keeps it alive by his ability to intensify the world to his emotions. The Hamlet of Laforgue is an adolescent; the Hamlet of Shakespeare is not, he has not that explanation and excuse. We must simply admit that here Shakespeare tackled a problem which proved too much for him. Why he attempted it at all is an insoluble puzzle; under compulsion of what experience he attempted to express the inexpressibly horrible, we cannot ever know. We need a great many facts in his biography; and we should like to know whether, and when, and after or at the same time as what personal experience, he read Montaigne, II. xii., Apologie de Raimond Sebond. We should have, finally, to know something which is by hypothesis unknowable, for we assume it to be an experience which, in the manner indicated, exceeded the facts. We should have to understand things which Shakespeare did not understand himself."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Literature and Film Quarterly of Salisbury

While going through possible sources for the paper, I found that this journal had a lot of potentially relevant articles, not only to Kozintsev's King Lear, but to other Shakespearean works and adaptations as well (along with general articles about adaptation, criticism, and analysis). I hope the link works, because I couldn't figure out any other way of getting to this page of articles!

Literature and Film Quarterly of Salisbury State University

Kozintsev's King Lear

This is the first scene of the movie. Since I could not figure out how to specifically clip the parts I'd like to highlight (the masses of moving people and the way Kozintsev introduces the characters), the times need to be found manually:
from 1:50-4:30 (masses of people), and from 6:39 - 8:01 (introduction of characters).

Monday, December 6, 2010

I also fell upon this poem which has some relation to Hamlet,

here is the original text:

"Н А Д Е Ж Д А"
от Ивайло ДИМАНОВ

Добрите хора си отиват рано,
а лошите остават на банкет.
Живота е лотария с награди,
но кой е печелившия билет?

Добрите хора често са самотни,
а лошите живеят на стада...
човек привиква някак неохотно
да казва "НЕ", когато мисли "ДА".

Добрите хора страдат от невроза,
а лошите са с нерви от въже.
Отдавна Хамлет е решил въпроса-
Бъди злодей, за да не ти е зле.

Добрите хора падат първи в боя,
а лошите зад тях крещят: "УРА!"
Нима при Ботев имаше за свои
облаги от народната мера?!

Добрите хора пеят тъжни песни,
а лошите-тържествен дитирамб!
Животът е прекрасен, но нелесен,
когато нямаш сигурен гарант...

Добрите хора вярват във доброто,
а лошите разчитат на късмет.
Но днеска за победата над злото,
не е достатъчно да си поет!

Разправят, че добрите ще изчезнат,
разпънати от свойта доброта.
Но аз живея с искрена надежда,
доброто надживява и смъртта!

This is where I found it :

Here is the translation with thanks to Google.


by Ivaylo Dimanov

Good people go early
the bad are left at the banquet.
Life is a lottery with prizes
but who is the winning ticket?

Good people are often lonely,
and poor live in herds ...
man accustomed somewhat reluctantly
say "NO" when thinking "YES".

Good people suffer from neurosis,
and the bad with nerves of rope.
Hamlet long ago decided the question-
Be a villain to do you bad.

Good people fall first in the paint
and the bad behind them shouting: "Hurrah!"
Have at Botev was their
Public benefits from land?

Good people sing sad songs
a bad-solemn dithyramb!
Life is good, but uneasily,
when no reliable guarantor ...

Good people believe in good
and rely on bad luck.
But today the victory over evil
is not enough to be a poet!

They say that good will disappear
stretched from its goodness.
But I live with my sincere hope
good death and survives!

I think because of the many tenses that they are in Bulgarian, the translation suffers as it seems like the language is poor when it really isn't. This is just due to the different tenses used which "do not exist" in english.

Hope you guys enjoyed it.


Bulgarian Song Named Hamlet "Хамлет"

I tought I must post this one here when I fell upon it on youtube.

Shturcite "Щурцитe" is a very famous old group from Bulgaria. My parents have listened to them for years, and I have grown up on some of their songs. I think I have seen this song before, just never realized it said "Hamlet" until now..

Here is the video and below I have provided another video, of a song that is very good by them:

Good songs:

Here is the original text and translation of the Hamlet video :


Искате да свирите на мен?
Държите се сякаш познавате
всички дупчици на ума и сърцето ми.
Искате да изтръгнете
скрития звук на тайната ми,
да ме просвирите от най-ниската
до най-високата ми ноти?
За какъвто щете
инструмент ме смятайте -
можете да ме разстроите,
но не и да свирите на мен!

О, в такава нощ минава само трамвай,
като последна стража.
Последен звън и друго няма.
Сега и аз мога да ви кажа.

Във спор със свойта млада памет
един връстник на всяка младост,
съвременен объркан Хамлет
пресича сред нощта площада.

О, все още крачи Хамлет в мрака,
трепери от студа среднощен,
по дънки и със тънко яке
той чака своя знак все още.

Сред булевардите се вглежда
във непознатия прозорец.
Там будна е една надежда,
там някой днес ще му отвори.

Къде момче, сега отиваш
и наш`те сънища тревожиш?
Дали все още Хамлет жив е -
средновековно невъзможен?...

О, в такава нощ минава само
трамвай, като последна стража.
Последен звън и друго няма.
Какво не мога да ви кажа?

Все още сам е Хамлет в мрака,
трепери от студа среднощен,
по дънки и със тънко яке,
той чака своя знак все още.

Дали все още Хамлет жив е?
Дали все още се тревожи?
Да бъде или да не бъде -
средновековно невъзможен...

translation: ( with thanks to google )

Want to play me?
You act like you know
all the holes of my mind and heart.
Want to extort
hidden sound of my secret,
let me play the lowest
the highest my notes?
For whatever you like
Instrument consider me -
you upset me
but not to play me!

Oh, in one night just passing tram
as the last guard.
Last ring and no other.
Now I can tell you.

In dispute with his young memory
a peer of each youth,
contemporary confused Hamlet
crosses one night square.

Oh, Hamlet still walking in darkness,
shiver midnight,
in jeans and a thin jacket
he waits for his character yet.

Among boulevards looks
stranger in a window.
Awake there is one hope
there one day will open.

Where a boy, now go
and our dreams' they worry?
Whether Hamlet is still alive -
Medieval impossible? ...

Oh, such a night passes only
tram, as the last guard.
Last ring and no other.
What I can not tell you?

Still Hamlet himself in darkness,
shiver midnight,
in jeans and a thin jacket,
he waits for his character yet.

Whether Hamlet is still alive?
Do you still worry?
To be or not -
Medieval impossible ...


- Kalina

"The Tango" A short play by Kalina Nikolova

This is Act Three Scene One of an adaptation on Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Set in present day Argentina, the characters are of the upper-class, and express themselves through the use of dance. The play centers around Hamlet’s indecisiveness about his love for Ophelia, and how the death of his father exacerbated his inability to decide if he wants to love her or not. This scene has Claudius, Gertrude, Polonius, Hamlet, and Ophelia present, as well as five dance couples who represent the bourgeoisie circle of Hamlet’s family. While on stage, Hamlet and Ophelia will be dancing the tango passionately, with Hamlet in the lead. Ophelia’s naïve character will show trough her lack of dancing skills, yet her “feistiness” will be represented trough her attire and abrupt comments. Hamlets’ character will emphasize his disgust with Ophelia’s naïve character, and at the same time his love for her. The rest of the actors will be spectators of Hamlet and Ophelia.

Act Three: The Tango

Scene 1:

Claudius, Polonius, Gertrude, Ophelia and dancers are seated on various tables encircling the dance floor. Ophelia is shoved onto the dance floor by Claudius and Polonius. The spotlight is on a red gift bag on a piano chair, with a card for Ophelia. Ophelia picks it up and reads the card aloud, while taking out the gifts.

OPHELIA: “For my exquisite O, with love. Yours forever, H.”
Smiling, she perfumes herself with “Mille et Une Roses,” wraps the radiant red silk Belisi scarf around her, and places the Swarovski Erythrina flower in her hair.Hamlet enters. The song “Diferente” by Gotan Project plays in the background.

HAMLET: At the front of the stage, looking out at the crowd.
I love her, but do I?
Is it better to remain silent and suffer
The fervent desires for her,
Or to act upon them
And, by all means be with her? To dance, to love-
No- but love would end my sleepless nights and endless desires
That my heart is prone to- it would devour me
But I wish that it would! To dance, to love.
To love, to imagine- yes those are the steps,
In that dance of love our imagination takes us
To a world beyond this materialism,
A world where we can pause. That is the reason
That makes our pain so enduring.
Who else would waste their time,
Waiting for her to learn the steps,
To follow the lead, and to mature.
She is beautiful, yet cannot follow.
Maybe I should stop dancing, and seek another?
But if I stop now, I will arrive at the undiscovered country,
From where no one returns.
If I don’t dance with her now,
I may never have the chance again.
My cowardice will lead me there,
For love does not come twice.
But why can’t she see?
My feet dance faster than my heart,
My dance is my love, my love is my Ophelia.
My love is my sickness,
I beg you learn to lead me, to cure me.
Hamlet turns around, as he hears her steps approaching.

OPHELIA: Hamlet, how are you? I shall dance for you, with you.

HAMLET: Oh Ophelia, I am fine, fine.

OPHELIA: Thank you, for the presents. You know so well that Belisi scarves are my favorites.

HAMLET: What presents, maybe from an admirer? Yes, I do see you have a lovely scarf on as always.

OPHELIA: The presents you left for me? Did you not, you know you did. No one but you knows me so well to choose them so fittingly.

HAMLET: My little gullible Ophelia, have you gone mad? I left no such presents for you.

OPHELIA: Pardon? Who do you dare call mad? She pushes him, her scarf flies off, and they passionately begin the tango.

HAMLET: No one, are you beautiful? I think you are desirable. But you need to open your eyes; can’t you see the world around us?

OPHELIA: Hamlet? What are you saying? It is you who has gone mad.

HAMLET: You wear your fancy Gustave Cadile dresses, and your Swarovski ornaments, only to hide yourself. Women, you are all disgusting. Naive and silly, all you think about is materialistic items, what happened to thoughts, to dancing, to loving? That is why you are such a poor dancer, because you bought your red dress, before you cared to learn the steps.

OPHELIA: But the Erythrina flower was from you! Why would you give me something you don’t want me to wear?

HAMLET: There you go again. I have given you nothing, but tried to teach you to dance, to appreciate the basics steps of life. You are so desirable, but be careful that is not all a dancer needs. Your good shoes won’t help you.

OPHELIA: Make up your mind Hamlet, you confuse me as always. Do you not love me?

HAMLET: I love you, but now is not the time to love you. Think my fair Ophelia, what has happened?
Hamlet takes the Erythrina flower from her hair, and leaves the stage. Ophelia sits on the floor with her disheveled hair, breathing heavily she takes off her shoes and begins to sob.

OPHELIA: Oh how he used to love me, to caress me, to lead me in my steps. I tried to learn, but could not. What is it that troubles him so much, that he cannot focus on our love? What a miserable girl I am to love him, who dares he call naïve? I know he loves me; he is the one who can’t make up his mind.
Claudius, Polonius, and Gertrude come forward. They stare at Ophelia with puzzled visages, the music ends, the stage goes black.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Emilia's Handkerchief Scene

Here is the behind-the-scenes view (according to me) of what goes on in Emilia's head as she takes the handkerchief and as she lies about it.

Devil (left) – wearing black or red,
Angel (right) – wearing white or light blue,
Emilia – wearing something that isn’t either of the above

Act III. Scene III.
Othello –Your napkin is too little. Let it alone. Come, I’ll go in with you.
[drops the handkerchief]
Desdemona – I am very sorry that you are not well.
[they leave]
[Emilia comes in, picks up the handkerchief] [The angel and devil come in from their respective sides. In the following conversation, Emilia tends to whip her head from angel to devil and back, as each character talks]
Emilia: I am glad I have found this napkin. This was her first remembrance from the Moor.
Devil: Oh, you should give it to Iago! He has been asking for it for ages and ages, you know.
Angel: Your husband is up to no good. He wanted you to steal it from Desdemona, and it means a great deal to her! She loves it so much that she always keeps it with her, kisses it, talks to it. Don’t take it from her.
Emilia: My wayward husband hath a hundred times
Woo'd me to steal it; but she so loves the token,
For he conjured her she should ever keep it,
That she reserves it evermore about her
To kiss and talk to.
Devil: He didn’t mean to steal it. He only wanted to borrow it. He has been asking so very persistently for it. Don’t you want to make him happy and be a good wife?
Angel: Desdemona is your mistress, and all she ever does is treat you with respect. That’s more than Iago does. Why don’t you give it back to her and make her incredibly happy?
Devil: Because serving Desdemona is so static. It feels like you’ve done that your entire life! You’ve been employed in Brabantio’s house for years, serving Desdemona day in and day out. You were the only one to go with her when she left her father’s house. You’re an exceptional attendant, and all you ever do is help Desdemona, follow Desdemona, listen to Desdemona. All of your energies go towards her. Don’t you deserve some reward? Don’t you deserve to give yourself some attention and help yourself, for once?
Angel [speaking only to the devil]: Why are you suddenly so interested in helping her?
Devil: When devils will the blackest sins put on,
They do suggest at first with heavenly shows,
As I do now.
Angel: Don’t listen to the Devil, Emilia! This wouldn’t give you any reward at all.
Devil: Ph, Desdemona herself is a fair devil, isn’t she? Come on. Iago would think so highly of you! It’ll be almost as if you were newlyweds again, without these years of miserable baggage weighing you down. He’ll be so thankful – it might change your entire life.
Angel: Iago is a demi-devil – a liar and manipulator just like *you* are. She knows that better than anyone! Do you really believe that he’ll be thankful? Or that he’ll help you in any way? The only person he’s interested in is himself!
Devil: And you, Emilia, could use some more of that self-interest. Come on. You have to think of yourself, at least some of the time!
Angel: This will only hurt you, though. Desdemona will be absolutely heartbroken by this betrayal, she will never trust you again, and will probably fire you.
Devil: [pacing, shoving the angel aside] Why would Desdemona need to know about this “betrayal”? Who knows where it went? She probably just misplaced it, don’t you think so, Emilia? Goodness knows you’ll have plenty of other instances to serve Desdemona. This one thing really couldn’t hurt her, and it could really help you if you bring it to Iago. Even if you doubt he’ll be grateful, you can agree that he’ll finally think you’re fulfilling your role as a good wife. You’ve always wanted that, haven’t you? Your marriage hasn’t been the way you imagined it for years, already. This might be your chance to make things right. You’ll also do something good for yourself, instead of just for everyone around you. You might finally get all the good things you deserve – respect, even power. You can dangle it in front of Iago until he agrees to follow YOUR rules. You’ll have the upper hand! You’ll be in control of yourself AND of him. But this only works if you take this chance and give him the handkerchief. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime shot. You’ll spend the rest of your life wondering what could have been if you don’t take it. Figuratively and literally! Go for it!
Emilia: [forceful] I'll have the work taken out,
And give it to Iago: what he will do with it
Heaven knows, not I;
I nothing but to please his fantasy.
Act III. Scene IV
Narrator: Desdemona and Othello have just had a vicious fight about the handkerchief. Othello wants Desdemona to produce it; Desdemona does not have it, but claims that it isn’t lost in order to mollify him. He tells her about the history of the handkerchief and warns her that losing it would be “such perdition as nothing else could match”. Desdemona and Othello degenerate into having two separate conversations – Othello persistently, almost madly, asking for the handkerchief, Desdemona steadfastly trying to argue on Cassio’s behalf. Throughout this entire conversation, Emilia sits in the background, not saying anything. This is what’s going on in her silent reverie:
Angel: Emilia! What are you doing? Can’t you see you’re hurting everyone? Desdemona just wants the handkerchief back. Othello just wants to see the handkerchief. All of their problems would be fixed if they just had the handkerchief again! Tell them what you did with it.
Devil: What would telling them accomplish?
Angel: You would ease all their misery! This massive fight that they’re having right now wouldn’t happen! You have that power.
Devil: You wouldn’t do anything. They’d just be mad at you as well as at each other. Especially Othello. He’ll just be mad no matter what! It’s not your fault that this is happening. Othello is off his rocker and being completely unreasonable. It’s just a handkerchief! He’s losing perspective. You need to help Desdemona see that – she’s going to be upset by this argument, but you should explain to her that it’s Othello’s fault. The only reason this argument exists is that Othello is overly jealous.
Angel: You’re going to listen to the Devil? That has already gotten you involved in this mess. It’s only going to get worse! You know that the right thing to do is to confess what you did.
Devil: If you tell them what you did, nothing good will come of it. The number one rule for defendants is not to implicate yourself, right? Theft is definitely grounds for firing you, and since you stole it for Iago, he will also be exposed. Both of you will be entirely undone. Your life will be unimaginably worse as a result! All your hopes for a better relationship with Iago or a better position for yourself will be completely dashed. Listen, what Othello and Desdemona don’t know can’t hurt them, right? You can get the handkerchief back from Iago later, but telling them what you did with it will solve absolutely nothing. Right now, it’s time for immediate damage control.
Emilia: Is not this man jealous?
Desdemona: I never saw this before.
Sure, there's some wonder in this handkerchief:
I am most unhappy in the loss of it.
Emilia: 'Tis not a year or two shows us a man:
They are all but stomachs, and we all but food;
To eat us hungerly, and when they are full,
They belch us.

Osaka Hamlet

Osaka Hamlet Trailer
This is a trailer for a movie released in Japan in 2009. Set in modern day Osaka, the plot is very loosely based off of Shakespeare's Hamlet, but more interesting than the plot is the portrayal of the character of Hamlet. Here, Hamlet is split into three brothers: Masashi, Yukio, and Hiroki. Politics are completely removed from the story. I translated the trailer below. In order to keep my own translation from being colored by my personal interpretation of the movie, I tried to keep the translation as literal as possible (which makes some of the lines kind of awkward). One interesting fact that is not reflected in the translation is that the actors are speaking "Osaka-ben" which is a Japanese dialect quite different from what is known as standard Japanese ("Tokyo-ben"). There is also a website for the movie, which is in Japanese but also has lots of pictures.


Mom: Dad? DAD!! [referring to her husband]

Hiroki: One day, my dad suddenly died.

“Osaka Hamlet”

Uncle: Welcome home.

Yukio: What’s up with that uncle?
Masashi: Think about it on your own.

Yukio: You were bad-mouthing me, weren’t you?
Teacher: All I said was that you’re like Hamlet.
Yukio: Yamaguchi told me that Hamlet is another word for hamster. Do I look like a hamster to you??

Hiroki: I want to be a girl. I’m serious so please don’t make fun of me.

Teacher: This is the new teacher, Akashi Yuka.
Yuka: I know that one week is a short period of time, but yoroshiku onegaishimasu [idiomatic phrase, means something like “please regard me kindly”]

Masashi: People tell that I act like a middle aged man but…
Yuka: I like people like that.

Mom: Wow! You look pretty!
Hiroki: Don’t look at me!

Yukio: Between this book and the book you’re reading, which is more intelligent?
Girl: I guess that one.

Yukio: What is this?!

Hiroki: Time passed for us brothers, each wrapped up in our own troubles.
“Everyday life while dealing with troubles

Mom: I’m pregnant

Punk kid: [???]
Yukio: Don’t put me together with that wishy-washy, wishy-washy spoiled kid! [Hamlet]

Hiroki: If the two of them get married, our uncle will become our dad right? If that happens, I wonder what our dad will become. Will it be like he never existed?

Uncle: I’m not confident that I’m right for this family.

Masashi: What is “dad”?

Yukio: Why does Hamlet say, “To be or not to be, that is the question”?

Yukio: It’s that people can’t just go on laughing all the time. That guy Shakespeare was pretty interesting huh?

Hiroki: Whether you’re troubled or laughing, as long as you’re with your family who will accept you as you are, no matter who you are, you can come to like yourself.
Hiroki: Osaka Hamlet.
“As for whether (you) should be or not be, as long as (you’re) alive that’s enough.” [No actual pronoun in Japanese, ambiguous]

Uncle: I bought these for all of you. They’re brand-name!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Scene I wrote for the Second Essay

The Al-Hamlet Confusion

by Alexandre Todorov


Olivier's Hamlet (Oli)

Gamlet (Gam)

Al-Hamlet (Al)

Not the Hamlet You Used to Know (Meh)

German Hamlet (Ger)

The Voice of God (Intercom)

Guards and the Assassins (Offstage)

Ophelia (Ophelia)

Setting- Empty throne room (Claudius is off enjoying a good dinner)

Time- Hamlet is universal and thus outside of time.

A Hamlet bursts into the room, dressed in medieval garb and carrying a skull

Oli- I do not know if this will change anything, but: CLAUDIUS! You killed my father! Prepare to die!

Another Hamlet strides in clad in traditional Islamic garb

Al- NOT SO FAST IMPOSTER! It is I who will kill him!

An extremely handsome Russian charges in (you can faintly hear the fangirls screaming)

Gam- In the name of the people, I WILL AVENGE MY FATHER! And right the injustices and undue the wrongs and create a true people's republic!

A sheepish looking Hamlet walks in dressed in a bathrobe

Meh- I would complain about the noise, but what is noise? Is there any purpose of trying to have a good bath when joy is so fleeting? So easily destroyed? Is there even something as joy? Or is it an il-

He is swiftly interrupted by Gamlet's fist

Al and Oli- Thank you

Gam- Now, where were we?

All take an aggressive stance and point at someone

All together- You were accusing me of being an imposter, you imposter!

Oli- Come on people, I am obviously the real Hamlet! Do you not sense my contemplative nature? I truly am the man who gave birth to modern man! A philosopher, a tender soul, a torn soul, reluctantly forced into action

Gamlet- (while pretending to clear his throat) Woman!

Oli- Leave it to some testosterone addicted Russian action junky to think he is the real Hamlet. Where is your vulnerability? Where is your indecisiveness? If you are Hamlet then why are you so confident?

Gam- Maybe because your version is false? Maybe because he was created by the British to compensate for not being French?

Al- Maybe because your Hamlet is deluded by his secular values! I am guided by GOD in my actions and I bring his words to purge this land of sin

Oli- Interesting. And God told you to turn a mosque into a war-zone? And if you took power, what would you do?

Al- Create a state based upon the purity of the faith! Create a land where Morality reigns triumphant!

Oli- So, you are going to recreate Somalia

Al- No, completely different

Oli- Afghanistan

Al- No, I will do a far better job than those ignorant Pashtuns

Oli- Iran

Al- (gets flustered) Well Mr. British know it all (is there any other kind?), what is YOUR grand plan for what happens after you kill Claudius?

Oli- I really have not thought much about that, probably take power, I guess. Oh God, making decisions can be so difficult sometimes.

Meh- (having recovered) What difference does it make? This is an endless cycle of brother against brother.

Gam goes to punch him again, but Al cuts in

Al- Allow me, I have to deal with him as a neighbor.

Meh collapses as 8 years of frustration is condensed into one blow

Gam- So you plan on becoming king even though you took eons just to decided if getting mad because someone killed your father was the right thing to do.

Oli- Oh shut up, like your ideal state is going to be a paradise. (takes a pause and collects himself) I hate to say this, but you're right. Problem is, Claudius is not that bad of a ruler.


Oli- He did deal with the whole Fortinbras situation quite nicely. Though he is kind of pushy, he does take advice.

Al- You are as blind as you are arrogant! Claudius is a corrupt lackey of foreign powers whose only purpose is to get rich!

Gam- No, the real Claudius is an independent dictator! He is no lackey.

Oli- Who really knows, I guess it all depends on the version you see-

He is interrupted by a massive crash


Gam- Probably some workers tearing down that old building outside. I noticed that they had taken down three of the walls when I was walking in, that was probably the fourth one being destroyed.

Oli- Oh, its only the fourth wall being smashed into pieces, that makes sense. As I was saying, it all depends on the version you see, of which mine is obviously the right one, considering that I am the original.

Al+ Gam- Oh?

Oli- Centuries of scholarly tradition can't be wrong.

Gam- Tell that to the alchemists. You do know that there are two "original" versions of the play, right? And that the second has to be edited in order to be producible?

Oli- (stammering as his world is shattered) But, but I have big scholars on my side! They have written big books, with, with fancy names! I have the longest tradition! I, I, I'm English, that obviously makes the the right one by default!

Al- “Right one by default”, you're English all right. But just because people have interpreted you that way for centuries does not make it right.

From offstage a voice with a German accent states

Ger- I beg to differ

He walks into the room dressed in the purist of white.

Ger- Your pitiful arguments are meaningless, for the real Hamlet, the German Hamlet has arrived! Is it not clear that Hamlet represents the German nations? Is it not clear that his choices are the same as those faced by Prussia? Is it not clear that I would do all I could, if there only were not powers holding my perfection back? Run along kids, the adults have nation building to do.

Al- It's always white men in white suits! God, you really need to be more creative when creating trouble for me.

Intercoms magically appear in the room and proclaim:

“Thou shalt not make demands of the one whom is already irritated by your misguided fanboy-ness”

Al- Sorry for all that, I guess I have been getting presumptuous again. I am sorry that I have disappointed thou a second time.

Intercom- Oh, HELL NO! You did not just thou me!

Al- (terrified and incredibly surprised) i-i-i-is it n-n-n-not the more formal way m-m-m-my Lord?

Intercom- No, that's you.

Al- I always thought that it was the other way around.

Intercom- Ugh. damned pop culture (Oli realizes that he really should not have that skull with him and drops it), I have got to deal with it one of these days. Anyway, just don't do it again and please stop using my name as an excuse to avoid dealing with your women issues. (the others start to snicker) That goes for the rest of you too! I created them as a partner for you losers and all you do is blame all of your insecurities on them. Your mom remarried, get over it! Ugh, and the angels always wonder why I have a headache! Bloody irritating wanna be philosophers (The voice trails off into muttering)

Ger- Now that that's over, I still see several people pretending to be me in this room. Did I not just tell you to go away?

The others glare at him

Ger- Why are you staying? Is it not obvious that the prince of Denmark is really German? Hell, Denmark pretty much exists depending on my whims. Only I have the combination of philosophical nature and will to act that makes up the real Hamlet!

Oli- You impudent kraut! I AM THE PHILOSOPHER KING! The mantle of the real Hamlet you can try to take, but hands off my role as the philosophical Hamlet!

Ger- Silly Englishman, you were born from a misinterpretation of the texts


Ger- Wrote them incorrectly, as for the rest of you: (turns to Gamlet) Russian, go home, this is for multi dimensional characters only. (turns to the staggering Meh) You are an indecisive weakling with nothing but some bullcrap philosophy. Just go to a monastery. (turns to Al) As for you, I have no need for your religious extremism. You are nothing but another dictator in the making. Go home, the German nation has nothing to do with people who will refuse to assimilate.

Al- Have you seen the German nation these days?

Ger- As if you are one to talk about national problems

Al- At least I have God.

Ger- Did you not read version from which I come? I am perfect! Why would I need a god?

Meh- (who has approached him from behind) Because of me. (punches him) You can claim to be the real Hamlet. (punches him again) You can call me weak. (again) You can call me indecisive. (again) You can call me useless. (again) But. (again) Don't. (again) Insult. (again) The. (again) Philosophy! (final punch)

The rest stand still and gape at what seems to be a demon in a bath robe.

Meh- Wow, so this is what doing something feels like. Feels pretty damn good. Okay, time to take my bath, kill Claudius and reconcile with Ophelia. About damn time I got my act together.

He exits offstage

There is a pause for a few seconds

Oli- What just happened?

Al- Something that would have been really useful 43 years ago.

Gam- We still have not settled on who is the real Hamlet and thus the one who gets to kill Claudius.

(Offstage)- Okay, on three we stab him. One, two, thr-OH GOD! He just shattered my sword with his fist!

The rest don't realize what's happening

Oli- Are we ever going to?

(Offstage)- MY BLOOD! He just punched out all my blood!

Al- Probably not, why try? None of us are really complete considering how many versions there are. The only aspect we all share is the desire to kill Claudius

(Offstage)- Guards, defend the King!

Gam- I am beginning to question even that. Considering what we have done, are we in any position to be considering ourselves the good guys?

(Offstage)- He just killed the guards! RUN, YOU FOOLS!

They are too busy discussing the philosophical nature of what it means to be the real them to notice that Claudius and some guards have run past them and made their stand next to the throne

Al- Yeah, we did kind of drive the lady who we loved to commit suicide.

Meh purposefully walks into the room, covered in blood and wielding two swords. He is wearing a pair of pants and the tattered remains of his now blood drenched bathrobe.

Meh- Claudius! You killed my father, tried to rape the one who I love, turned this kingdom into a prison state and ruined a bath to which I have been looking forward to for several days! Prepare to die!

The rest are completely lost in self contemplation.

Oli- And really hurt mom, who was just trying to look out for us

They are too consumed by the conversation to notice that the guards have been swiftly dispatched by Meh in a way so graceful that it would bring Bruce Lee to tears

Gam- Plus, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern really did not have to die. Rosey was going to be married in a few weeks!

Meh approaches the king with his bathrobe flapping behind him quite heroically

Meh- Your reign of terror ends now. Maybe, two sarcastic grave diggers will philosophize over your skull. (Decapitates Claudius) Lets spare the audience another one of those scenes (throws head out the window)

The rest are still ignorant of what was happening

Al- Let's face it guys, we really have not done much good over the past few days or months or years. None of us are going to make good rulers and quite frankly we have probably killed more innocents than the King. It would probably be best if we just let go of this. Let's forget the whole thing and get something to eat, all of this is making me hungry.

Gam- I know a great fish place near here, I'll pay.

Oli- Amen to that

All three of them walk out and don't notice Ophelia walking in, which is quite a shame considering that she is very pretty. And it would also be a good time to apologize for being a complete asshole to different versions of her.

Ophelia- What was all of that noise? Hamlet what are you doing here? I thought I told you to go to a leave and never come ba-

She is interrupted by Meh passionately kissing her. There is a rather long pause as both people try and fail to regain full composure.

Ophelia- You can keep my letters. Just one thing, what happened to you?

Meh- It's a long story. Now, if you don't mind, there has been a nice bath in my future for quite some time now and it is about damn time it moves into my present.

They begin to walk out of the throne room when they run into Laertes who for some reason is naked and purple.

Meh- Already took care of it.

The End!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Student email dialogue with Sulayman Al-Bassam

While the author's insights into his work are never definitive, they are often very useful.  Alexandre and Kalina initiated the email exchange below as part of their "contexts, subtexts & intertexts" presentation during our class's reading and viewing of Al-Bassam's "Al-Hamlet Summit."

On 16 Nov 2010, at 15:03, amptod wrote:

As-Salamu Alaykum, Mr. Al Bassam,

Our names are Kalina Nikolova and Alexandre Todorov. We are students at Boston University, and are taking the Global Shakespeares Course offered here by Professor Margaret Litvin. We are writing to you today to ask you some questions about your play The Al-Hamlet Summit. We thank you in advance for taking time to converse with us.

Our list of questions:

1.What inspired you to create the “horse of war” scene? Did you intend for it to be an interpretation of the troupe-play that Hamlet wanted performed for Claudius?

2. Why did you decide to use the five daily prayers as a way to order the acts? Could you give us some more insight on the moods they are supposed to convey?

3.When Laertes and Ophelia converse in Act I, they seem to be sexually charged towards one another. The conversation and sexual annotations seem similar to those between Hamlet and his mother. In your point of view, was this a natural progression of the original relationship between Laertes and Ophelia in Hamlet, or were you adding a new dimension to Laertes?

4.Is there symbolism the color of the clothing decided for each actor? In particular, the while suit that the Arms Dealer (who is an excellent character) is wearing, is there an underlying message behind his clothing? He seems less of a devil figure, and more a western Djinn, who grants wishes, is this representation just a matter of perspective, or was it intentional? Is there personality or group that had an especially large influence on your creation of him, or is he an overall representative of the groups playing for power in the Middle East?

5. Hamlet's father is almost absent in the al-Hamlet Summit, the most we hear of him is that there were less whores back when his father was in power. Is this consecutive with the general theme of the endless cycle (Claudius has grand plans, fails, Hamlet's attempts at
reforming the system start a civil war which fails, Fortinbras fails to announce his plan)?

6.Claudius seems to define God as he defines himself (corrupt, deceiving), while Hamlet defines himself through God (bringing back morality and purity). What does this juxtaposition really symbolize?

7.Ophelia seems to almost merge with Horatio in the al-Hamlet Summit, was this intentional? Also, if it was, what made you want to merge their characters?

Thank you very much for your replies and for your willingness to answer our questions.

Thank You,

Kalina Nikolova and Alexandre Todorov

On 11/20/2010 2:23 PM, sulayman al bassam wrote:

Kalina and Alexandre,
Here are some answers to your questions.

1. The Horse of War:
Yes, this scene is an adaptive riff on the play within the play, "The Mousetrap", that Hamlet presents in order to expose Claudius' guilt before the assembled spectators.
I wanted to create a scene that would mirror the heightened theatricality of the play within the play structure, without having to rely on the classical references used in the Shakespeare- Phyrrus, Hecuba etc.
This is achieved through the context of a farewell party that the court has arranged for Hamlet with its heightened 'public' atmosphere of sandwiches, cocktails and- most importantly- live public broadcast. Hamlet arrives dressed entirely inappropriately in a warrior costume, riding a hobby horse. He is making a spoof on the epic literary tradition of the noble Arab warrior / horseman. This tradition replaces the Greek / Classical one in the original. Hamlet then proceeds to use the public platform provided by the farewell party to give voice to his various obsessions, fantasies and suspicions.

2. The timeline of the events in the play stretches over several days or several months, it's not specified. The act names are indicators of mood, as you suggest, but also provide a metaphorical temporal structure for the development of the action over a single unit of time- a mythical day and night. The atmospheres of the acts are carried essentially by the rhythm of the scenes, but the act names - their associated prayer times in equatorial countries- describes for me describe a quality of light it's principally the quality of light, half light, bright light, warm light, twilight, darkness....

3. The charged linguistic sexual tension between Laertes and Ophelia was suggested to me by the original text in A.1 sc.3 of Shakespeare
.... your chaste treasure open
To his unmast'red importunity.(35)
.... keep you in the rear of your affection, etc
In an Arab linguistic and social context the vividness of Laertes' sexual imagery does not necessarily entail sexual intention on Laertes' part, though this is ambiguous....He wants to frighten and shock her.

4. White pinstriped suit- the perfect outfit for a post-colonial opportunist in a hot climate!. The Arms Dealer is the kind of character that turns up in Joseph Conrad's novels, equally he has a cheap thrill Ian Fleming- Bond element to him, too. In earlier production this role was played by a woman, which I found interesting. Costumes in my productions of the piece tended mostly towards the naturalistic, so no outright symbolism there. Gertrude wore peacock feathers- Ophelia had a flower in her dress...

5. Hamlet's father is referred to several times-
The Arms Dealer, act 1 : Your father was a great man; the world is not the same for his loss.
Gertrude refers to him, ac t 4 (Hamlet: He murdered my father! Gertrude: Your father died of his own failures! )

What I think is worth considering is how the function of the Ghost is taken over by the Arms Dealer
The unreliability of the ghost as narrator, becomes the unreliability of the Arms Dealer.
The psychological instability proposed by the Ghost becomes a concrete political agenda in the hands of the Arms Dealer.

6. They are different readings of power:
Claudius defines power (God) as a material structure built on corruption, betrayal, sordidness.
Hamlet defines power as an ideological structure built on faith, purity, heritage.
These are the two sides of the contradiction that envelops the Arab World's political structures today: on the one hand we have corrupt, autocratic, mostly western supported rulers that are running the countries into the ground and on the other hand, we have radical Islamist parties proposing moral and social systems that do not reflect the aspirations of the people.

7. Horatio was superfluous to the needs of the adapted text.
Laertes, Ophelia and the Arms Dealer all provide Hamlet with types of companionship.

Best wishes to your class and Professor Margaret,

Sulayman al Bassam

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Some clips from earlier, English-language Al-Hamlet Summit

Here's a 17-minute promo montage of the earlier, English-language version of Sulayman Al-Bassam's Al-Hamlet Summit. This version features Neil Edmond as Hamlet, Nigel Barrett as Claudius (you'll recognize him as the Arms Dealer of the Arabic version), Tea Alagic as Ophelia, Olivia Williams as Gertrude, and Simon Kane as Polonius. The rest of the cast and production credits are on page 26 in the published play.
Don't be alarmed by the skipped pieces and the jumping between scenes. You can see that it's recorded during a performance. In some ways the production became sharper and more professional during its Arabic-language run, but this shows you the development process.
This first version did not include Hamlet's prayer at his father's grave (the whole open space/grave came later - it was just the "summit" setup) or the Horse of War skit. The Arms Dealer was female, played by Marlene Kaminsky. All the dialogue was in English. How would you compare it to the Arabic version? What does the mixing of languages add?

Vysotski as Hamlet

Taganka Theatre, 1971-.  A missing link between the Russian and Arab Hamlet traditions.  Lots of info here:; a performance video (vintage VHS tape of him doing "To Be or Not To Be") here

; and a longer documentary (without subtitles but with excellent footage of that big curtain) is here:

The Taganka production used the same translation -- Boris Pasternak's -- as Kozintsev had.  See if you can recognize some of the cadences from Kozintsev's film.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

For the Arabic Hamlet plays

If you come up with questions for Sulayman Al-Bassam as you are reading and watching his Al-Hamlet Summit, please add them to this post.  I will see if we can ask him to respond!

Meanwhile, some links on the production:
An interview with Al-Bassam

Shirley Dent: So who - or what - did you have in mind when you choose to 'strap Shakespeare's Hamlet to a theatrical warhead'?
S Al-B: That phrase was used in some of our publicity for the production. It refers to the explosive political meanings of the piece. Ironically, it also plays on the Western media's obsession with equating the idea of 'Arab' with ideas of violence or war.
More praise for the original English-language version:

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Shakespeare the Rapper?

Interesting, admittedly funny and sarcastic way of making Shakespeare modern and getting our generation to appreciate him.,11161/

Thursday, November 4, 2010

To Be or Not to Be

In class today we talked about the differences between Q1 and Q2's "To Be or Not to Be" soliloquy, and how they have different focuses. This is a clever play off of Q2's version, focusing explicitly on suicide. It seemed somewhat relevant...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Curious about different editions of Hamlet, appropriation in different parts of the world, or just about anything else Hamlet-related?  This is the HamletWorks web site created by Bernice Kliman and colleagues.
See also, where you can look up and even annotate and share several different quarto texts of Hamlet.
More links and resources at Hamlet Online.  Full text with glossary links online at MIT:

Monday, November 1, 2010

Intergallactic Shakespeares: Hamlet in Klingon

Cute Comic about Hamlet

BU Shakespeare Society

Their fall show (a "Shakespearean mashup") was last weekend, but stay tuned for next semester:
Since its creation in 2003 by a small group of Shakespeare enthusiasts, the Boston University Shakespeare Society has worked tirelessly to bring the good word of the Bard to the community. The Society is certainly not your average theater group. In a few short years, we have put on ten shows, hosted trips to local plays and Renaissance festivals, and brought Shakespeare's words to the wider world. We are always looking for new members--auditions are held at the beginning of every semester.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Djanet Sears Interview

For those of you who asked, here's the link for the interview of Djanet Sears, the playwright of Harlem Duet.

"O" Othello ( it really is good :))

"O" is Hollywood's interpretation of Shakespeare's Othello, we have talked about this production a few times in class, and I tought I would try to find a version for you to watch.

If you follow the google videos you may open the other parts (part 2, 3, 4 , etc ) to watch the full movie.

This is just on Google Videos, thus I don't believe I should be infringing on copy-right-laws.

Enjoy, it really isn't bad, I quite love the movie.

Othello syndrome

Othello syndrome definition - Medical Dictionary definitions of popular medical terms defined on MedTerms
Othello syndrome: The delusion of infidelity of a spouse or partner. The Othello syndrome affects males and, less often, females. It is characterized by recurrent accusations of infidelity, searches for evidence, repeated interrogation of the partner, tests of their partner's fidelity, and sometime stalking. The syndrome may appear by itself or in the course of paranoid schizophrenia, alcoholism, or cocaine addiction. As in Othello, the play by Shakespeare, the syndrome can be highly dangerous and result in disruption of a marriage, homicide and suicide.
The Othello syndrome was named by the English psychiatrist John Todd (1914-1987) in a paper he published with K. Dewhurst entitled "The Othello Syndrome: a study in the psychopathology of sexual jealousy" (Journal of Nervous and Mental Disorder, 1955, 122: 367). Todd was also the first to name the Alice in Wonderland syndrome.
The Othello syndrome is also known as delusional jealousy, erotic jealousy syndrome, morbid jealousy, Othello psychosis, or sexual jealousy.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Amateur productions of "Goodnight Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet"

Various groups have staged this play (which we won't be reading in class after all).  Here's a trailer for what looks like a fun production.  So you can see what you missed...

Monday, October 18, 2010

"To Bitch or Not To Bitch"

A while back I was sitting in a floor mates room and just scanning trough one of her magazines. I am not really a "magazine-type-of-a-girl", but I stumbled onto something very interesting and unexpected as I was flipping the pages.

In bold letters " To Bitch or Not to Bitch" -a.k.a. "To Be or Not to Be" - Hamlet.

I was very amused by having read this title, however as I read trough the article I found that it was not at all related to Hamlet, or Shakespeare , in any way possible. Nevertheless, I found it a very amusing and interesting title, and have been bothered to put it ever since, I just wasn't sure if the language in the title was appropriate.

I hope you all enjoy it, that toast does look scrumptious!


Fishburne and Branagh: "I am bound to you forever"

This 1995 film starred Laurence Fishburne as Othello and Kenneth Branagh as Iago; Oliver Parker directed. What do you think of Parker's interpretation of the key Othello-Iago scene (3.3.90-261)?

Sunday, October 17, 2010


As I began reading Othello, I was reminded that my mom grew up in a town called Othello (in eastern Washington). She grew up on Macbeth Avenue and there is also a Hamlet Street, Desdemona Drive, and Elsinore Street. I'm not really sure why the town has a tie to Shakespeare - it's just a small farming town.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Solomon Mikhoels plays King Lear

This is not the ending of Gordin's Jewish King Lear, obviously, but a Yiddish translation of Shakespeare's King Lear. This was one of the most famous plays of the Yiddish theatre in the Soviet Union. The clip is from 1935 (Yiddish theatre was permitted and even encouraged under Stalin). Mikhoels' performance influenced actors and directors even outside the Jewish community, in the mainstream Russian theatre.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Shakespearean Authorship

We haven't really discussed it in class, but there is a lot of speculation about the true authorship of all the plays traditional attributed to Shakespeare. I found this article and thought it was really interesting; it refutes many arguments against Shakespeare and also provides links to other sources and evidence that are helpful in defending Shakespeare's name. Whether or not you agree, it's pretty interesting to see the arguments for and against Shakespearean authorship.

Ran on YouTube

Hey everyone, you can find the whole video of Ran on YouTube at:
If this doesn't work, if you search for Ran Akira Kurosawa, it should be the first one that comes up. You need a YouTube account so that you can confirm that you are 18 or older, since it's rated R. It might be helpful if you can't make it to tonight's showing.

Hamlet, Baby Style

For an extremely adorable picture of a baby (and the Hamlet reference found in the title/caption), Click Here!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Hamlet in the Water

Found in the New England Aquarium. Its internal psychology has not yet been studied =)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Tempest movie

The trailer for a new adaptation of The Tempest, directed by Julie Taymor starring Helen Mirren, Russel Brand and many other stars has hit the web. It look interesting considering Helen Mirren seems to be playing Prospero and that Prospero is a female. Check out the trailer below:

Monday, September 27, 2010

Global Shakespeares archive

MIT's Global Shakespeares video archive has gone live, with an amazing range of footage and commentary (and a lecture by yours truly where Sulayman Al-Bassam's Hamlet adaptation ought to be):
This is part of the lab we'll be touring on Friday, Oct 8.  Meanwhile, check it out online!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Romeo and Juliet and Vampires

The young adult market has cashed in on the trend of vampires and the supernatural and put a new twist on an old tale. Here is the summary for Romeo and Juliet and Vampires:

"You are deluded, Romeo. Vampires do not have the capability to love. They are heartless." 

The Capulets and the Montagues have some deep and essential differences. Blood differences. Of course, the Capulets can escape their vampire fate, and the Montagues can try not to kill their undead enemies. But at the end of the day, their blood feud is unstoppable. So it's really quite a problem when Juliet, a vampire-to-be, and Romeo, the human who should be hunting her, fall desperately in love. What they don't realize is how deadly their love will turn out to be—or what it will mean for their afterlives. . . . 

This riotous twist on the ultimate tale of forbidden romance is simply to die for.

This re-working of a classic to suit a new generation is an interesting new trend in the young adult world. Romeo and Juliet and Vampires fits right in with books such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Android Karenina, and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. While I personally would not have the desire to read a vampire version of Romeo and Juliet, I do think that there is a potential market for a book such as this. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Gnomeo & Juliet

The English language's most famous love story has been adapted yet again. Coming soon to theaters near you is Touchstone's Gnomeo and Juliet. Judging by the preview, the film is a colorful adaptation of Romeo & Juliet, featuring warring garden gnomes and jokes for parents and children alike. I think such an artistic rendering warrants a class field trip.

Two Shakespeare References

This weekend, I spent the day in Bluemont, Virginia at a fall fair. While perusing the local arts and crafts for sale, I found these:
They were purses made out of shells of classic books. I saw a few Shakespeare ones. It's not a huge or intellectual reference to Shakespeare, I just thought it was a funny way to use the books.

Also, another small Shakespeare reference I've found was in my Italian book. I am taking first semester Italian, and in the first chapter of the book, in the section about the verb "essere," which means, "to be," there is a picture of a teacher pointing at a blackboard that says "essere, non essere," or, "To be or not to be." Just a small funny reference to Hamlet I wanted to share.

Monday, September 20, 2010

HyperHamlet quotation database

A just-released research tool that can provide some interesting material (or just hours of nerdy procrastination) for our class: the HyperHamlet quote database.  They have compiled quotations from all kinds of contexts, in an astonishing array of languages.

The web site says:
Search four centuries of Hamlet quotations in context – a completely new kind of evidence for the cultural position held by Shakespeare and his language.

Find quotations by 3259 authors from different periods, languages and genres.

Find out which texts use quotation marks or indicate Hamlet as their source.

Browse the core collection of 7930 quotations, attached to the lines they refer to or sorted by the characters and scenes they mention.

Or investigate the complete collection of 9047 entries, which includes indirect references, vague anonymous traces and even earlier occurrences of phrases found in Hamlet.

Have you come across any Hamlet quotations recently? Contribute your findings to the database!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Russian Hamlet

Grigori Kozintsev directed Boris Pasternak's translation of Hamlet in this movie, released in 1964. This Wikipedia Article does a good job (I think) of talking about how it was adapted and the style used. Noticeably, the Russian version focuses heavily on the political aspects of Hamlet, which is something we discussed in class (Eastern European appropriations focusing more heavily on political messages).

If anyone is interested, the entire movie (in 15 parts) can be found on youtube, starting from here

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Schizophrenic Caliban: Aaron Posner's Tempest

I want to mention this in class today: what happens if we see Shakespeare's Caliban in terms of class and social belonging, not necessarily colonial imperialism and race?

This was one innovation of Aaron Posner's production of The Tempest at the Folger Theatre (Washington, DC) in 2007.  More on this amazing production here, and a negative review here.  Above, Caliban (Todd Scofield) has a conversation with his imaginary friends, Trinculo and Stephano. (Photo by Carol Pratt.)
If you've ever walked around DC, you can imagine the effect of a highbrow Shakespeare production (in a theatre right on Capitol Hill, in Northeast DC) that turned a major character into a contemporary street person, schizophrenic and alcoholic.  He was completely recognizable, and some of his lines (e.g., the music he alone hears) made a new kind of sense.  His sock puppet versions of "Stephano" and "Trinculo" were mostly sad rather than funny.  It was really a Caliban for our time and place.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

LFO and Shakespeare

In memory of Rich Cronin, the lead singer of '90s boy-band LFO, who recently died, my friends and I decided to listen to some of the band's most famous numbers. LFO's hit West Side Story features a couple profound references to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet:

"Everyday, I see her friends talkin' 'bout me
But I know there's somethin' there that no one can see
It reminds me of Romeo and Juliet
Montague and Capulet"

This incorporation of Shakespeare into a '90s pop ballad demonstrates Shakespeare's pervasiveness in our culture. To listen to the song, click here.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

On Sonnet 66 - overflow

There is much more to say about Sonnet 66 and Manfred Pfister's article.  If you have further thoughts that you didn't get a chance to express in class, please go ahead and post them as comments to this message - we can have part of the discussion online.

Shakespearean Insult Gum

I heard about this awhile ago and luckily just remembered about it. It is product that is sold using Shakespeare's name and his insults. The gum is packed as seven of his books, including the plays Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Othello, Richard III, King Lear, Macbeth and Henry V. Each set includes different Shakespearean insults along with some gum.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Simpsons & Shakespeare On Stage

A shining example of the many different ways Shakespeare is present in modern culture. Rick Miller staged Macbeth as a one-man show using voices of Simpsons characters. He did over 50 voices during the staging, using mostly Shakespeare's original words. Check out the review at ""> and the website of the show - "">

The Reduced Shakespeare Company

The Reduced Shakespeare Company is a three man stage troupe that performs ridiculously hilarious abridged versions of Shakespeare's plays. They performed all of Shakespeare's plays (including lesser known ones such as Troilus & Cressida) in an 88 minute long movie entitled The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. In this brilliant piece of work, the Reduced Shakespeare Company combines all of Shakespeare's comedies into one play, performs Hamlet backwards, and raps the story of Othello. Their witty and creative productions give Shakespeare and all of his classics a new twist.

Ophelia by Millais

The British painter John Everett Millais did a painting based on the scene in Hamlet right before Ophelia drowns. The painting captures the moment where Ophelia sings while floating in the river, blissfully unaware of her impending doom.

The most interesting aspect of the painting to me is Ophelia's facial expression. Her gaping mouth and dazed eyes suggest that she has retreat deep into madness, unable to

Shakespearean Insulter

This is a fun website that randomly creates Shakespearean insults, using different combinations of "bad words." It's really interesting to see, because many of these terms would have been considered the very essence of depravity, and yet today we have no idea of their etymology, what they mean, and why they were so derogatory. And it's just always fun to insult someone and have them completely befuddled as to what you mean.

Shakespeare for Kids

I found this website that has adapted two Shakespeare plays for elementary school students. I find it odd that Shakespeare would be adapted for children. Shakespeare's plays have very mature and complex plot lines, with complicated writing style and language. Yet, to simplify the plot and language would lose a lot of the beauty of the original. Although it's awesome to expose youngsters to Shakespeare, I almost feel it would be better to wait to expose them and keep the meaning of the original plays true so that kids' image of what Shakespeare is is not tainted by the first impression they had from the adaptations.

Macbeth in Space and Other Childhood Memories

Luckily I remembered this from my childhood. It is from Jimmy Neutron an old kid's show and is about the school's production of 'Macbeth in Space". It was already pretty funny, but with the information we know now about plays and Shakespeare interpretations in particular it is simply hilarious.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Shakespeare goes viral

In a series of youtube videos created by The Second City Network, the female leads of Sheakespearean tragedies have their deaths prevented by a character known as Sassy Gay Friend.
In a "what if" moment before each woman takes her own life/accepts death, Sassy Gay Friend quickly intervenes and convinces each one to live rather than die.
It's a very interesting and modern twist that brings Shakespeare to youtube.

Watch as Sassy Gay Friend saves the lives of Juliet, Ophelia, and Desdemona.

Warning: The videos, though quite amusing overall, are a bit explicit language-wise and can at points become slightly offensive with their stereotypical portrayal of gay men.