Radio Hamlet & Twittering Hamlet
We listened to Garrison Keillor’s 6-minute Hamlet (on his English Majors DVD, which is delightful) and discussed how abbreviating a text brings out the ridiculousness of tragedy. The students really enjoyed the clip, and we had a good discussion about how adaptations can change the mood, style, and even genre of a text. Talking about The Lion King is another way to approach the topic of adaptation as interpretation. To build on Miriam Gilbert’s activity on abbreviating a speech to discuss what is lost, I had my students do a “Twitter” feed for I.V (father’s ghost scene): 140-character descriptions.
We watched several clips on a particular scene, and for each one, the students rated the film from 1-10 on the following qualities:
- Value as a Shakespeare experience
- Value as TV or film
- Value as a record of the text
- Value for discussion
- Value as archive of Renaissance period
They enjoyed ranking and evaluating, and they were really perceptive about how the different versions offered different interpretations. Afterwards, we discussed which categories are more important than others, and they had surprisingly strong opinions about what makes a “good” Shakespeare film.
Charles Lamb has a romantic-period essay that argues Shakespeare should be read rather than watched; it’s rather brief, and it’s a provoking argument.
I made a slideshow of Hamlet costumes over the years, and we had a good discussion of how costuming shapes interpretation of Hamlet’s character.
It’s amazing how many of the traditional “problems” with Hamlet’s action/inaction appear in a new light once we think of Hamlet as a very early example of a character who suffers a fairly pronounced case of AD/HD. [Brooks Landon, email@example.com]
As with any play, it can be useful to examine specific performances from it to help the students see how production decisions significantly affect the way characters and moments in the play are perceived. [Miriam Gilbert, firstname.lastname@example.org]
Ethan Hawke (to be or not to be in a video store)