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Products for grant FT-54887-07

Serious Travesty: Actresses and the Making of the Modern Hamlet
Amy Muse, University of St. Thomas

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Portrait of a Lady Hamlet (Article)
Title: Portrait of a Lady Hamlet
Author: Amy Muse
Abstract: Tyrannizing me is an odd little watercolor sketch hidden away at the Folger Shakespeare Library, which seems to reveal Jane Powell dredging up a dark, young, sexy Hamlet at Drury Lane, channelling Kean twelve years before Kean. This intensity could explain why critics were so confounded with her performance. If, that is, the picture is indeed of Powell. To the unsuspecting eye, all looks legit: the leather-bound portfolio whose title page reads “George Henry Harlow, Original Drawings of Contemporary Theatrical Characters, Originally Belonging to Lady Hamilton, 1802-1806”; the charming watercolor of the “Closet Scene” on the first page, beneath which is handwritten: “Here is your husband,” “Mrs. Ansell & Mrs. Powell 1802," and “D.L.” Taking it at face value, I confidently paraded the sketch in my dissertation and a subsequent article, but recent correspondence with a more experienced theatre historian has brought me to a crisis of doubt. Harlow as artist has since been disproved; could the same be true of the subject? How much is my emotional entanglement clouding the case, as I conveniently overlook the fact that the figure in this sketch does not closely resemble Powell in her other portraits? For I so want this to be Jane Powell.
Year: 2011
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description: "In this volume you will find engagements with documents from late medieval Russia to the present-day digital cloud, referencing a broad range of performances, from commedia dell'arte to burlesque revival, from 18th century opera to South African drag, from Mazeppa to the desperate, life-or-death miming of a lost arctic explorer. You will find a range of writing styles here as well, including some engaged explicitly with the idea of the detective in manner and tone--cold cases, femme fatales, deep mysteries, trick endings and red herrings--and some more personal, more elegiac, lamenting the loss of certainty, the passage of time, the disintegration of any links to the ephemeral event. There is a good deal of hard-boiled detective work in this volume, invoking and interrogating the most recent scholarship in the field; and there is also poetry."
Format: Other
Periodical Title: Performing Arts Resources 28: A Tyranny of Documents: The Performing Arts Historian as Film Noir Detective: Essays Dedicated to Brooks McNamara
Publisher: Theatre Library Association

Actresses and the Making of the Modern Hamlet (Article)
Title: Actresses and the Making of the Modern Hamlet
Author: Amy Muse
Abstract: Between about 1770 and 1817, Hamlet became modern; that is, he became a psychological figure who transcended the play and reflected the present era, as seen in Hazlitt’s famous pronouncement, “It is we who are Hamlet.” In the process, he was rendered androgynous, a result of his having been abstracted from the play and from his own body as interpretations increasingly focused on his seemingly universal consciousness rather than on the distinctly male revenger plot. The first female Hamlets, Sarah Siddons and Jane Powell, have not yet been fully recognized for their contributions to the making of this modern view of Hamlet. Siddons’s interpretation reinforced the notion of a universal Hamlet as aesthetic artifact, exemplary literary character. Powell’s performances initiated the notion of a passionate Hamlet fighting for authenticity in the midst of deceit. They helped transform Hamlet from Renaissance revenger-hero to figure of modern mankind.
Year: 2008
Primary URL:
Secondary URL:
Secondary URL Description: Text & Presentation is an annual publication devoted to all aspects of theatre scholarship. It represents a selection of the best research presented at the international, interdisciplinary Comparative Drama Conference. This anthology includes papers from the 31st annual conference held in Los Angeles, California. Topics covered include Chicano theatre, the Vietnam War and 9/11 in the French theatre, actresses and modern Hamlet, Asian theatre, Antigone in pre- and post-communist Germany, adapting an Internet comic strip for the stage, and the future of dramatic literature in the academy, among others.
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: Text & Presentation, 2007
Publisher: McFarland

The Wish-Fulfillment Hamlet (Conference Paper/Presentation)
Title: The Wish-Fulfillment Hamlet
Author: Amy Muse
Abstract: Let’s start on Wednesday, December 26, 1900. We’re at the Garden Theatre in New York City. William Dean Howells is there to watch Sarah Bernhardt play Hamlet, and finds himself deeply pained by it. After running through a long inventory of points of evidence for the failure of her performance—wrong line readings, flattened dramatic arcs, a bad wig—he moves to a generalizing mode in which he concludes that women just should not be playing Hamlet. “The strongest reason against any woman Hamlet,” he declares, “is that it does violence to an ideal. . . in a true civilization such a thing as that Hamlet would be forbidden, as an offence against public morals, a violence to something precious and sacred.” How had things gotten to such a point to where Hamlet had become precious and sacred, an object of idealization, that women and other interlopers would want to claim for themselves, and that critics would become apoplectic fighting to keep their own interpretation?
Date: 3/25/2011
Primary URL:
Conference Name: Comparative Drama Conference