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  • Introduction:Hamlet and the Still Image
  • Genevieve Love

When I proposed a special issue on Shakespeare and the still image, my notion of its probable contents was defined by what I took to be the boundaries of the topic: from early modern woodcuts with possible relationships to performance, to modern film stills. The essays collected here, happily, fall between these boundaries. Concerned with theatrical performance in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, they bring a diverse array of images to the pages of Shakespeare Bulletin: images from engravings to paintings to digital screen captures; images of, in, and as performance. This special issue on the still image is also, as it happens, a special issue on Hamlet. While it may be fortuitous that all three essays printed here focus on Hamlet, the convergence of stillness and Hamlet makes a nice kind of sense, provoking reflections on the connection of physical frozenness to inaction; of physical stillness to contemplation, inwardness, subjectivity; of auditory stillness to "the rest is silence."

Along with exploring images that capture both immobility and dynamism—that is, still paintings and engravings that evoke movement and/or the passage of time, these essays suggest ways in which live performance gains power by working against its own most obvious markers of "liveness": kinetic and temporal movement. Todd Andrew Borlik's "'Painting of a sorrow': Visual Culture and the Performance of Stasis in David Garrick's Hamlet" examines Garrick's dramatic pauses in relation to the genre of the theatre portrait in the eighteenth century. Borlik argues that the actor's performance of stasis, shaped by physical stillness and psychological dynamism, crafts a potent interiority. His essay investigates not only the relationship between theatrical performance and the visual arts in mid-eighteenth-century London, but also the relationship between "frozen moments" in eighteenth-century England and eighteenth-century Japan, where both moments of theatrical motionlessness and theatre portraiture also flourished. In his essay, "Maclise and Macready: Collaborating Illustrators of Hamlet," Frank Nicholas Clary also focuses [End Page 1] on the relationship between theatrical performance and the visual arts— between one actor and one painter—this time in nineteenth-century London. As he explores the association between Macready and Maclise, as well as the history of artistic representation of The Mousetrap, Clary explores the tension between animation and repose that arises from the comparison of the scene in performance to the scene on canvas, as well as within each. Nicoleta Cinpoes¸' essay, "'Lose the name of action': Stillness in Post-1989 Romanian Hamlets," moves to the twentieth century and away from London, but maintains a focus on the arrested moment in Hamlet. For Cinpoes¸, moments of stillness in two Romanian Hamlets, which are also moments of interruption, are crucial as sites of disrupted temporality: stasis, which includes not only theatrical tableaux, but also the appearance of still images on stage, is the means by which these productions negotiated their relationship to Hamlet's history—particularly its history in Romania.

Taken together, the essays suggest two scenes in Hamlet that are particularly potent for the consideration of the arrested moment. In Clary's reading, Maclise's representation of the play scene collapses time by capturing the stimulus of The Mousetrap, Claudius' response, and Hamlet's reaction to that response. The play scene is equally the site of temporal disruption in Cinpoes¸' analysis of Tompa's production, in which one moment of interruption came when The Mousetrap's stage collapsed, crushing the players at Claudius' command. Cinpoes¸' essay also suggests the importance of the appearance of the Ghost, upon which Borlik's essay focuses as the instance of one of Garrick's most significant "starts": the Ghost's appearance incites both physical and temporal arrest. That scene, and these essays, provoke consideration of the relationships among stillness in all its meanings: physical immobility—"freeze thy young blood"; silence—"List List, list, O, list!"; and temporal blockage—"Remember me."

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-1427
Print ISSN
0748-2558
Pages
pp. 1-2
Launched on MUSE
2007-04-12
Open Access
No
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