April 24, 2003

Blood, Love, and Rhetoric

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In the weeks preceding the Schwartz’s new production of Hamlet many ideas have been thrown around about how the production would solidify. In this series, we have traced Hamlet’s origin from one of the many plays on artistic director’s desk, to architectural clippings, to set creation, on to rehearsals, and finally culminating with tonight’s production.

Hamlet is commonly called the greatest play in the English language, Shakespeare’s masterpiece, and a giant pain in the ass. The first two designations have been given by generations of awed Professors, critics, and scholars. The last one has been bestowed by generations of aggravated actors and directors. Hamlet is, quite simply, always problematic to stage. There are three problems: the myth, the speech, and the play.

Everyone knows this play, or something about it. An ideal version of it lives somewhere in our collective imagination. It’s the dramatic equivalent of the Mona Lisa — we’ve seen so many homages, parodies, and copies, that by the time we finally encounter the real thing there’s almost no way it can live up to the version in our dreams. Hamlet is at once fiercely original and hopelessly clich