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TOPIC: Preparation and resources for editing & directing

Preparation and resources for editing & directing 5 years 8 months ago #2349

What resources and knowledge do you think are needed by any editor or director of Hamlet? I am looking for ideas of dictionaries, play editions, film editions, criticism, sources, historical knowledge, etc.


What I need:
I am working on creating a film adaptation of Hamlet. My project is a bit unusual since I plan on essentially using computers instead of humans for every part of the process. I will be the only human involved in the production. This means that, for better or worse, every single decision is up to me, from writing the "script" (several programs) to designing and directing the "actors" and "sets" (animation + speech synthesizer).

To give you some idea of the information that I need to provide in my programs, say that English has a rule to indicate that a clause is a question by using a certain pitch pattern when it is pronounced. Including this rule in my speech software, I could tag a clause in Hamlet as a question, and the software will adjust the pronunciation according to the rule. Along the same lines, I could write rules for and tag phrases as being ironic, sarcastic, truthful, lies, etc. so that the computer knows how to pronounce them. Similar information will go into the visual animation.

So for every utterance in the play, I need to decide:
What exactly does it mean?
What is the purpose of it being there?
How does it relate to the rest of the play?
What rhetorical devices does it contain?
How do the characters feel about it (do they believe it, are they lying, does it make them sad, angry, etc.)?
What are the positions and expressions of the characters during it?
And so on.

So I need to know a lot, or a lot more than I know right now.

And in short, I was afraid. :^\

My general approach is to go with Shakespeare's intentions when possible. When his intentions aren't clear enough or don't make sense, I am willing to make my own creative additions or deletions. I am willing to be somewhat bold with these. (Hm, "somewhat bold" doesn't sound very bold, huh? Cautiously bold? Hah. Moving on...) The only limitation that I think I want to impose on myself is that the play be internally consistent and complete.


What I have:
  • I have access to too many editions of the play to name. Notably, I have and have read the Arden second series and Norton critical edition (criticism & background); familiar with Q1, Q2, FF.
  • I'm familiar with but not an expert on Early Modern English. No access yet to OED. I have studied linguistics, so not anticipating difficulties there, though perhaps time-consuming studying.
  • I have read about but have read only excerpts from sources: Belleforest, Saxo, Kyd.
  • I have little patience for fanciful theories or pointless bickering, so I haven't surveyed the literature thoroughly. Read or browsed a few dozen papers, at least aware of most points of contention.
  • Modest familiarity with Shakespeare's contemporaries, Montaigne, London theatre, etc.
  • Decent but spotty familiarity with relevant philosophy, cultural and religious beliefs. Little Latin, More Greek.
  • Seen on film: Olivier, Branagh, Almereyda, Kozintsev, and a few other small productions.

Where should I go from here?
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Preparation and resources for editing & directing 5 years 8 months ago #2350

That sounds like a fascinating project....and a lot of work too. I think your greatest challenge will be expressing emotion. Here's an interesting project as well though the voice is human:

http://www10.dcccafe.com/nbc/articles/v ... eid=330607

Studying the human face, as shown in this great documentary with John Cleese, would surely be of help:

http://www.amazon.com/Human-Face-John-C ... 860&sr=8-1

There's also volume and intensity in a character's voice...and how these may build and grow over the course of a speech or scene.

You may also benefit from taking a look at the Arden role-playing game that never quite made it a few years back. While it made many promises, it failed to deliver on most.

http://www.greatgamesexperiment.com/game/arden
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All that being said, don't forget that you are "attempting the impossible". :)
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Preparation and resources for editing & directing 5 years 8 months ago #2353

Thanks, those are really cool. :mrgreen:

I am actually leaning more towards a dreamy, mind's eye, Alice-in-Wonderland type visual experience. I don't know if I will try to make the characters look or sound human. I don't know if that's the most expressive form for them to take. I want Shakespeare's imagery to be the focus, so being more suggestive and ambiguous than definite and precise might be the way to go. So Polonius' presence might be signaled by only his voice, a walking cane, and a simple bearded silhouette. Polonius makes me think of a walking cane, one that he can shake at people as he scolds them, scratch his beard with as he's plotting, hobble along without as he's hiding or sneaking, etc. I don't know. I haven't settled on anything yet. My first task is a solid script.

I feel like my greatest current deficiency is knowledge of things that were common knowledge to Shakespeare and his audience. For example, their beliefs about ghosts, medicine, psychology, the geopolitical layout, symbolism of plants and flowers. I don't need to know everything that they knew -- just what's relevant to Hamlet. But I don't know where to find that info. Has someone ever put together something like that?
shakespeare wrote:
All that being said, don't forget that you are "attempting the impossible". :)
Yeah, but when you're in love... sigh.
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Preparation and resources for editing & directing 5 years 8 months ago #2354

honestrosewater wrote:
I feel like my greatest current deficiency is knowledge of things that were common knowledge to Shakespeare and his audience. For example, their beliefs about ghosts, medicine, psychology, the geopolitical layout, symbolism of plants and flowers. I don't need to know everything that they knew -- just what's relevant to Hamlet. But I don't know where to find that info. Has someone ever put together something like that?
.

You may want to look into a book we recently reviewed here:

http://www.playshakespeare.com/stories/ ... erformance

It's a pretty detailed walkthrough, though maybe not as complete as you're looking for.
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