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Language And Body Interaction In Theatrical Performances Of "Hamlet"

730 words - 3 pages

This essay is an attempt to answer why audiences respond more strongly to watching people interacting in a three dimensional space than on the screen. The keyword is the body.Let's start with an example of the dumb-show in Hamlet. At the end of the dumb-show Ophelia asks:OPHELIA What means this, my lord?HAMLET Marry, this is miching malicho. It means mischief.Ophelia has difficulty in understanding the dumb-show and asks Hamlet, the director, for interpretation, which implies that the actor's body can only "mean" something if it can be translated into words. This is the moment where the question of the meaning of body is raised. Hamlet's opaque answer seems to say: "you make sense of it" and the fact that the phrase "miching malicho" is deliberately left untranslated implies that any audience will have to work out what the show means without Hamlet's explanation.THE BODY DISCURSIVE thus implies the body being realized through words, the body given interpretation by the text.The best examples of the body discursive normally occur at a spatial or temporal distance. Gertrude's portrait of drowned Ophelia ('Her clothes spread wide, / And mermaid-like awhile they bore her up ...' 4.7.175) is an offstage scene frequently visualized or 'embodied' in paintings. Another good example is the case of Polonius whose body becomes a major point of reference only when dead and offstage.The words of the text have another function and that is to create a bridge between the actor and the world of dramatic fiction by alluding to what the body of the actor must do in performing the character. This process can be reversed and the body can give meaning to the text where too much deixis (words such as I, here, now and demonstratives this and that etc.) obscures the meaning. The most famous example is:POLONIUS Take this from this if this be otherwise.The utterance does not make any sense if left unaccompanied by body movement.THE BODY DRAMATICThe body dramatic means: the fictional character as played on the scene, the dramatic actor coming together with the language of the play. If we go back to the dumb-show we realize that the figure of Hamlet's fictional Duke is what we...

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