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Not Hamlet: Meditation on the Frail Position of Women in Drama [Hardcover]

Janet Suzman

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Book Description

Oct. 23 2012 1849432015 978-1849432016

"A thoughtful and considered kick up the arse to conspiracy theorists and to patriarchy" – Michael Boyd, Artistic Director RSC

Cleopatra, La Pucelle, Ophelia, Shaw’s St. Joan and Ibsen’s Hedda – a handful of seminal roles for women in the classical canon. Janet Suzman has played them all and directed some. Here she examines their complexity and explores why only Cleopatra has an independence that allows her to speak to modern women.

None of these, regrettably, matches up to a Hamlet, but as she is grateful for the parts he did write, Suzman feels a lightly-barbed attack on those who doubt Shakespeare’s authorship is way overdue. She also takes issue with received ideas on boy-actors playing mature women in Shakespeare’s company, and reflects on how female characters in classical drama have not been on a level with their male counterparts. Today, on TV, film and the stage, this remains the case. Not Hamlet but Hamlette, please.

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"A thoughtful and considered kick up the arse to conspiracy theorists and to patriarchy." – Michael Boyd, Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company

"An absolute gem of a book. Clever, witty, original, backed up research and analysis, a stunning voyage around some of the greatest stage characters from Saint Joan to Cleopatra." - Kate Mosse, author of Labyrinth, Sepulchre and Citadel

"I really enjoyed Not Hamlet - feisty, sensible, continually engaging and very well written. I have always suspected that intelligent actors know at least as much as scholars do about Shakespeare, and this proves it. And it is dead right about the absurdities regarding which overeducated aristocrat wrote Shakespeare." - Robert Brustein (Theatre Critic, New Republic)

"I was delighted with Janet Suzman's marvellous piece about Shakespeare. It is the very first thing I've ever seen defending the Stratfordian from the perspective of working theater. This is exactly my view. Suzman with her lifetime in the theater is absolutely correct to point out the practical absurdities of the Oxfordian fantasy!" - Camille Paglia

"Cerebral but also highly readable and entertaining." - Stage

"The essay on Cleopatra is the best I have ever read." – Michael Dobson, CEO Shakespeare Institute

"The book is a wonder. I raced through each provocative and insightful chapter, nodding agreement throughout. It should be in all the best-seller lists, many a Christmas stocking." – Sir Ian McKellen

About the Author

Janet Suzman moved to London in 1959. As an actress she started her career in the UK with the RSC and also filmed for TV. She won The Evening Standard Best Actress Award, and had Academy Award and Golden Globe Nominations for Nicholas and Alexandra. She made her debut as a director with Othello which won an AA Vita Best Production Award. Janet is a Patron of The Market Theatre in her native Johannesburg. She has also written and directed her own versions, radically changed to contemporary South African settings, of Brecht’s Good Person of Setzuan. She was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2011 Birthday Honours for services to drama.

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