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The first Hamlet on film was Sarah Bernhardt. Probably the first Hamlet on radio was Eve Donne. Ever since the late eighteenth century, leading actresses have demanded the right to play the role - Western drama's greatest symbol of active consciousness and conscience. Their iconoclasm, and Hamlet's alleged 'femininity', have fascinated playwrights, painters, novelists and film-makers from Eugène Delacroix and the Victorian novelist Mary Braddon to Angela Carter and Robert Lepage. Crossing national and media boundaries, this book addresses the history and the shifting iconic status of the female Hamlet in writing and performance. Many of the performers were also involved in radical politics: from Stalinist Russia to Poland under martial law, actresses made Hamlet a symbol of transformation or crisis in the body politic. On stage and film, women reinvented Hamlet from Weimar Germany to the end of the Cold War. This book aims to put their half-forgotten achievements centre-stage.Read more
- Includes an historical survey of the international appearance onstage of the female Hamlet from the mid-eighteenth century to today
- Discusses the female Hamlet in relation to politics and popular culture
- Documents diverse film genres: silent and sound, avant-garde and commercial
- Selected as Book of the Season by Shakespeare's Globe
Reviews & endorsements
"This masterly study is encyclopaedic in its coverage of the history of both theatre and film, extraordinary in the international breadth of its coverage, sophisticated in its coverage of both governmental and sexual politics, and at every point deeply thoughtful and critically engaged."
- Professor Stanley WellsSee more reviews
"Howard, himself a multi-talented man of the theatre, clearly is on the side of actors and directors who tend to find ’straight’ productions uninteresting or boring, which gives his rich account a strong sense of personal commitment and often enthusiasm. He begins his survey with a rather glowing review of Angela Winkler’s Hamlet in Peter Zadek’s widely lauded production of 1999 (there were dissenting opinions), and this sets the tone for his review of a surprisingly multi-coloured area: there is throughout a genuine sympathy with serious theatrical experiment as well as sincerely human interest in the widely different individual biographies behind each Hamlet, whether he be female, male or one of the many stages between. Cambridge University Press has added another exciting book to the alarmingly increasing library on Hamlet."
"Tony Howard has done a splendid job in tracing this rich trans¬genre and trans-gender tradition, and in restoring to the light a multitude of fascinating but largely forgotten texts and performances."
- Robert Shore, Around the Globe
"Scholars and students of theatre will find in Women as Hamlet a huge store of source material for further analysis and an acute sense of the manner in which socio-political contexts, scenography and staging convention, theatre spaces and technologies produce meaning in performance...This is a fascinating, lucid, meticulously researched, and thoroughly enjoyable contribution to work on Hamlet.
-Bridget Escolme, Early Theater
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- Date Published: September 2009
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9780521117210
- length: 344 pages
- dimensions: 229 x 152 x 20 mm
- weight: 0.51kg
- contains: 20 b/w illus.
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
List of illustrations
1. Introduction: The drama of questions and the mystery of Hamlet
Part I. The Women in Black:
2. Playing Hamlet, writing the self
3. 'Is this womanly?'
4. Virile spirits: Sarah Bernhardt and her inheritance
Part II. Case Studies: Hamlet, the Actress and the Political Stage:
5. 'I am whom I play': Asta Nielsen
6. 'Why are you looking at me like that?': Zinaida Raikh
7. Behind the arras, through the Wall: Poland 1989
8. Hamlet from the margins: Spain, Turkey, Ireland
Part III. Repression and Resurgence:
9. Films and fictions: Hamlet, men's eyes and the ages of woman
10. Women's voices in the cathedral of culture
11. Beyond silence, imagination
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