A really interesting lecture form Trevor about the opening of Hamlet yesterday in Early Modern Drama. We looked at just the first ten lines or so and in doing so really marvelled at the way Shakespeare was able to craft an opening.
There's a surprise right from the off with Bernardo - the guard arriving to take up the watch - asking 'Who's there?' a revealing sign of his nervousness and a clear signal to the audience that something is up.
Francisco quickly re asserts the natural order of command 'Nay, answer me: stand and unfold yourself.' But the mood has already been disturbingly set.
There's a quick exchange before Francisco tells Bernardo that he comes 'most carefully' upon his hour. Is this a man trying to maintain a semblance of sanity by reinforcing the precision of time? The double meaning here of carefully is brilliantly chosen to keep us on guard.
Shakespeare then gives us some more expositional cues. 'Tis now struck twelve' and 'Tis bitter cold' before Francisco reveals that he is 'sick at heart.'
Bernardo asks whether he has 'had quiet guard?' Francisco says 'not a mouse stirring.' Which suggests the fear comes from a deep disquiet rather than noisy crashes and bangs. As he's leaving Bernardo wishes him 'good night' as a half line. He pauses here before adding almost as an after thought 'If you do meet Horatio and Marcellus, The rivals of my watch, bid them make haste.'
Shakespeare's London was full of soldiers. English campaigns in the 1590s took men to France, Ireland and the Netherlands. War was a constant and, barely ten years after the defeat of the Armada, the Elizabethan audience knew the bravery needed to face down invading forces. So it's fascinating that Shakespeare chooses the toughest men in Elsinore - these professional soldiers to introduce such this atmosphere of paranoia and uncertainty.
The ghost is on his way and the play is about to unfold itself.
Mark is the Academic Director of the Drama Programmes at St Mary's University in Twickenham. He has worked internationally as a theatre director and educator for the past 15 years, focused mostly on youth, community, and conflict resolution work.
As a lecturer Mark taught at Goldsmiths College, Coventry University and was Head of Performing Arts at Canterbury College prior to joining St Mary’s in 2006.
His Professional directing credits include Henry V (One of US?) and Valhalla for RSC Education; The Wind in the Willows, Jack Cade, The Red, Red Robin for Sevenoaks Playhouse; Tender Souls, The Quality of Mercy and Playhouse Creatures for the Ambassadors Theatre group.
Mark is a director of subVERSE Theatre company for whom has directed fringe premieres of Chief, Dinnertime and OxfamC**t at Theatre 503.
Site specific work includes Purka and Shadow on Icelandic volcanoes and Novocento with students from the University of Genoa.