Hylton Performing Arts Center

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Season Event

Holding Mirrors Up to Nature: Shakespeare, Stoppard, and the World of Hamlet

by Rick Davis, Executive Director, Hylton Center

  • February 27, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Gregory Family Theater

Revenge, tragedy, Oedipal nightmare, sublime masterpiece or artistic failure?  Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” has been called all of these things and more.  The source of some of the most quoted lines in the English language, Hamlet holds, as it were, a mirror up to nature, asking fundamental questions such as “to be, or not to be?” while demonstrating that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy-- or our drama.  This lecture will examine a few of the contested aspects of this inexhaustible play, including Hamlet’s alleged indecisiveness, the nature of tragedy, and the existence of a reliable text for the stage or library.  Turning to Tom Stoppard’s early masterpiece, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” the discussion explores how a 20th century playwright with a gift for the absurd creates a parallel universe to Hamlet, illustrating the simple yet profound existential (and theatrical) truth that “every exit is an entrance somewhere else.”  Stoppard’s witty play riffs on the perverse destiny of two minor characters from Shakespeare as they attempt to navigate the churning offstage world that Hamlet allows us merely to glimpse.   

The lecture is free but we ask that you RSVP by emailing Hylton@gmu.edu.  In the subject line please reference "Shakespeare Weekend."