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[xmca] Vygotsky and Gordon Craig's Hamlet

Does anyone happen to know whether Vygotsky personally saw the Gordon Craig version of Hamlet in Moscow in 1912? He would have been sixteen, I guess, and it was about the time he was starting to write about Hamlet.


I'm reading a book which attempts to reconstruct the Gordon Craig version of Hamlet (directed by Stanislavsky). It has the interesting that the production was greater than the sum of its antithetical parts. Craig saw the play in intensely psychological terms (Craig believed that only Hamlet was a real person, and everybody else in the play has the same status as the ghost). Stanislavsky, on the other hand, saw it in equally intense sociological terms (Stanislavsky believed that it should be historically accurate, and that is why he insisted on a medieval rather than a Renaissance setting).


And so of course it occurs to me that Chapter Eight of Psychology of Art is an attempt to square the circle. But on p. 172 he speaks disapprovingly of the 1924 revival of the Gordon Craig version by Michael Chekhov, because it transforms Hamlet into an action hero, puts Claudius in the role of nemesis, and confers extraordinary depth of character on Hamlet.


Kozulin seems to think that Vygotsky really sided with Craig against Stanislavsky, that is, he saw the work as a mystery play and not a bit of realism. I am not so sure: The way I read Vygotsky, he really turns Craig upside down: Hamlet is the ONLY person in the play who has no real character at all.


I also think that reading Hamlet as a myth or a mystery play makes it quite impossible to achieve what Vygostky is really trying to get out of the play: a little model of the mind as a sociological backstage and a psychological proscenium, with the great midstage occupied by various forms of speech. 


David Kellogg

Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

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