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August 12, 2004

Olivier's Hamlet: Take One

Since I happened on the UK Google News, I've been on a little bit of a Olivier trip. Last week I purchased two of his DVDs. Hamlet and Richard III. I've discovered a neat tool that allows me to watch DVDs on my PC in the background of translucent windows. So I can read the script of Hamlet (via Gutenberg or others) and watch Olivier perform.

That got tedious - interpreting text and watching acting is a bit much, even for a multitasker like myself. So I started watching it straight. Although I fell asleep last night shortly after Hamlet's admonishments to Ophelia (that was cold-blooded) I am gathering that Olivier's Hamlet is nothing like the weasel other interpretations have floated by my ears.

If memory serves me correctly, the good prince's elaborate ruse is masterfully rendered up to the end, but that he must sacrifice his best man in a swordfight in order to reveal the duplicity of his uncle the usurper. All of his protestations at the beginning of the play are in recognition of his new sworn duty.

The time is out of joint: O cursed spite, That ever I was born to set it right!

Loaded words for sure, and yet sets the mood for all of the rest of his action and plotting. That's the way I take it watching Olivier, who truth be told, makes wearing tights look cool. Don't tell anybody from my old 'hood that I said so though. Plus, I've got to hand it to Olivier in doing the scene where he goes through all of the expressions that Ophelia describes without overacting. Amazing.

The most fun about watching Shakespeare is hearing his phrasing which has come down to regular use in the language completely outside of the context of the play and then reconciling it in real time to the situation on stage. It's like (OK I'm going to hear it for this) Mystery Science Theatre 3000, and actually gives a new dimension to watching. But then again, Polonius is supposed to be a cagey old fool.

Anyway, that's what I'm doing this week, as well as listening to the new Modest Mouse and breaking out a few new action DVDs and XBox games.

Posted by mbowen at August 12, 2004 06:58 AM

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Mystery Science Theater 3000...

I just got back to Texas after 4 years in Belgium, and I was worried that show had died off in my absence.. nice to see a contemporaneous reference to it.. is it still on? Comedy Channel?

I'm still waiting to see Jim Carrey take on King Lear.. "BLow, wind, crack your cheeks!"

great blog, thanks for writing!

Posted by: Dave Perkins at August 13, 2004 02:29 AM