Academic journal article Shakespeare Bulletin

Introduction: Hamlet and the Still Image

Academic journal article Shakespeare Bulletin

Introduction: Hamlet and the Still Image

Article excerpt

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 test 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 on the relationship between theatrical performance and the visual arts--between one actor and one painter--this time in nineteenth-century London. …

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