I have enjoyed getting to know you during the last couple of weeks through your kind replies to my last email. Thank you for taking the time to write back. I’m really looking forward to our first conference call on April 20. Many of you have quite a bit of experience reading Shakespeare; some of you even have experience teaching Shakespeare! I think we’re all going to learn a lot from each other.
This email contains some important information about first discussion. Please read it carefully, and email me if you have any questions or concerns.
Goals of Our First Discussion
Our first discussion on April 20 will serve as an introduction to the reading group. To that end, I’ve identified five goals:
1. Introduce ourselves and get to know one another a bit
2. Discuss our hopes and expectations for the reading group
3. Go over the schedule of discussions and readings
4. Introduce the main themes of the reading group and begin thinking about them by looking at the beginning of Hamlet
5. Familiarize ourselves and become comfortable with the conference call format
In order to make our first discussion as productive as possible, I’d like to suggest we all do the following:
1. Prepare a brief (2- or 3-sentence) self-introduction to share with the reading group at the beginning of the discussion. (Later, I will collect and distribute these.)
2. Read “Shakespeare’s Career in the Theater” (pp. 217-31 in the Modern Library edition), “Introduction” (pp. vii.xxiii), and Act One of Hamlet (pp. 4-34).
3. Think about the Reading Questions, listed below. (For future discussions, I will ask one or two participants to prepare answers to each Reading Question to help kick-off discussions.)
1. What mood does Shakespeare create for the play in 1.1 (Act 1, scene 1)? How does he create it? Try to pinpoint specific words or phrases to back up your observations.
2. Imagine that I am producing Hamlet on Broadway this spring, and that I have hired YOU to direct the play. How would you stage the first scene? To put this another way, what specific directorial choices would you make to translate your “reading” of the scene and its mood to the stage?
3 One of the perennial debates in Shakespearean studies is whether we should consider Shakespeare a writer or an entertainer, a composer of literary masterpieces or a creator of wildly successful and popular stage productions. What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of each view? Which do you find more convincing? Is it possible to hold both views simultaneously?
4. Consider the relationship between Hamlet and the Ghost. How would you characterize it? What does it tell us about Hamlet? Does anything about the relationship or the encounter trouble you? “Rest, rest, perturbed spirit” (1.5.200). Why does Hamlet call the Ghost a “perturbed” spirit? How does Hamlet think he can bring him “rest”?
That’s it! I can’t wait for our first discussion. In the meantime, have a happy spring, and feel free to email me with questions.