Lord Larry Was a Lousy Hamlet

images-2.jpgSeveral years ago I suggested to my daughter, who was in High School and reading Shakespeare’s Hamlet, that perhaps she should speculate on whether Claudius was actually the bad guy in the play. Did Claudius interpret Hamlet’s activities (especially the play-with-the-play) as evidence that his crime was known or perhaps that Hamlet was planning to kill the new king, Claudius himself? Should we trust the ghost on the parapets?

As I said, it was speculation and should have resulted in a lot of careful reading of the play looking for clues and interpretations to support this alternate hypothesis. When I was at university it was made clear to me that in the humanities, having the right answer was less important than clearly representing the supporting evidence.

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What Time’s the Next Swan?

When I was in High School my mother was reading Walter Slezak’s autobiography and she shared this with me (as referenced in Wikipedia):

The book’s title refers to an alleged incident in the career of his father, heldentenor Leo Slezak. During a performance in the title role of Lohengrin, the elder Slezak was supposed to finish his aria by stepping into a swan boat and then being pulled offstage. When a stagehand removed the boat prematurely, Slezak supposedly reacted to the error by asking the audience “What Time’s the Next Swan?”.

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Nabokov’s Double

LolitaIn 1934 Vladimir Nabokov wrote the novel Otchayanie (Отчаяние) in Russian. The English translation is Despair. I read the translation since as an American I don’t feel I need to learn the language of another country … just kidding, I’m too old and lazy. I suppose you should consider Despair to be an early work by the author, with most of the major works coming in the 1950s and 1960s.

When did you first read Lolita? I was in High School and just old enough to slip into the age restricted showing of the 1962 film adaptation. My fondest memory of the movie was that Sue Lyon was not old enough to see the movie she starred in … oh, and James Mason played a quite presentable dirty old man. I understand that the Jeremy Irons’ 1997 remake was superb but I haven’t seen it (I’ve been too busy being my own dirty old man).

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