Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Hamlet for Francophiles

We have a lot of versions of Hamlet here: there is the First Folio version, two different 19th-century musical versions, Hamlet in miniature, a giant copy, the Lawrence Olivier movie script and Hamlet executed in woodblocks. It seems people will consume Hamlet in any way they can get it, but we were surprised to find this playbill in the collection. Hamlet performed at the Tremont Theatre in Boston in 1894 by a French touring company... in French by Alexander Dumas and Paul Meurice.

You have to wonder about that theater-going experience. According to one contemporary review from The Illustrated American, the play ran four hours and served primarily as a vehicle for M. Mounet-Sully's highly emotive over-the-top performance. Dumas and Meurice took considerable liberties with the story as well. The Illustrated American said, "The shell of the English play is here, the story is set forth, but its substance, no less than its sublimity, is entirely lost." But, if four hours of an actor crying and screaming through Hamlet in French for a Boston audience isn't sublime, I don't know what is.

See the program (with its advertisements for bicycles, ice cream, and corsets) by asking for Playbill PR-MA/Bos-Tre2/8940507.

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