Informing Bethany Lutheran College's Spring 2013 Production. Shows at: April 19, 20, 26, 27 at 7:30pm and April 21 at 2pm
I was reading this article by Robert E. Wood called “Space and Scrutiny in ‘Hamlet.'” Something that jumped out at me was how Shakespeare alienated the English audience, in a way, by making the English court allies with Claudius. Claudius sends a letter to the English court with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern telling the court to kill the young prince Hamlet. Thus, England is united with the villain, Claudius, against the protagonist. At this point in the play the audience is clearly on Hamlet’s side, they have watched his world turned upside down and sympathetic to his feigned insanity. Shakespeare has created a barrier in his production between his English audience and their home country.
While this theory is, in and of itself, fascinating, Wood’s article got some wheels turning in my head. The rest of the article is about how “Hamlet” takes up space differently than other classics. By making the stage less of a series of destinations and more of what Wood calls “an altar” for the theatrical action taking place, there is a sense of the audience being removed; both because they are removed from what would be a normal theatre experience for them, and because the physical action of the production alienates them. By this concept Shakespeare has completely removed the audience from their comfort zone.
The Globe Theatre: Alienation Center
I don’t know if I entirely agree with Wood, after all, Hamlet spends much of the play talking only to the audience, so while they might be removed from the action of the play, the audience is certainly not emotionally alienated in any way. If anything they are the opposite of alienated, they hear Hamlet’s most intimate thoughts during the most vulnerable point in his life. So while they might be out of their comfort zones with the physical space of the production, that discomfort could certainly deepen the audience’s emotional connection with Hamlet.
What do you guys think? Does Wood’s theory hold water? How can this idea impact our production?
You can find Robert E. Wood’s article on JSTOR here: http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/3199996.pdf.
Lydia Grabau, Dramaturg