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Hamletmachine


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A: Heiner Müller Pf: 1979, Paris; 1979, Essen Pb: 1977 Tr: 1984 G: Drama in 1 act (5 scenes); German and some English prose and verse S: Indeterminate place and period C: 1m, 1f, extras(1) Family Scrapbook. Hamlet recalls his father's funeral procession, which he stopped so that he could cut off chunks of his father's flesh to distribute for the mourners to eat, while his mother and uncle had sex on the coffin. He greets Horatio, and confesses his love–hate for his mother: ‘A mother's womb is not a one-way street.’ (2) The Europe of Women. Ophelia rejects her suicide and rebels against male oppression. (3) Scherzo. In the university of the dead, Claudius and Ophelia emerge from a coffin. Hamlet dresses in Ophelia's clothes, poses as a whore, and dances with Horatio. (4) Pest in Buda/Battle for Greenland. Hamlet has given up his role. He envisages a violent popular revolt which is crushed: ‘the hope has not been fulfilled’. All that remains is the ‘nausea’ of television. Marx, Lenin, and Mao preach revolution, but Hamlet splits open their heads with an axe. (5) While two men wrap white gauze round Ophelia in a wheelchair, she rejects ‘the happiness of submission’ and threatens vengeance: ‘When she walks through your bedrooms carrying butcher knives you'll know the truth.’This postmodernist treatment of Hamlet was the distillation of a 200-page play, which East German Müller wrote about a young man rebelling against Communist oppression. The present text, what Müller called ‘the shrunken head of the Hamlet tragedy’, is barely penetrable, its themes of political unrest, neurotic obsessions, and female emancipation being communicated in obliquely powerful poetic language and strikingly surreal theatrical images. Robert Wilson staged Hamletmachine in 1986.

A: Heiner Müller Pf: 1979, Paris; 1979, Essen Pb: 1977 Tr: 1984 G: Drama in 1 act (5 scenes); German and some English prose and verse S: Indeterminate place and period C: 1m, 1f, extras

(1) Family Scrapbook. Hamlet recalls his father's funeral procession, which he stopped so that he could cut off chunks of his father's flesh to distribute for the mourners to eat, while his mother and uncle had sex on the coffin. He greets Horatio, and confesses his love–hate for his mother: ‘A mother's womb is not a one-way street.’ (2) The Europe of Women. Ophelia rejects her suicide and rebels against male oppression. (3) Scherzo. In the university of the dead, Claudius and Ophelia emerge from a coffin. Hamlet dresses in Ophelia's clothes, poses as a whore, and dances with Horatio. (4) Pest in Buda/Battle for Greenland. Hamlet has given up his role. He envisages a violent popular revolt which is crushed: ‘the hope has not been fulfilled’. All that remains is the ‘nausea’ of television. Marx, Lenin, and Mao preach revolution, but Hamlet splits open their heads with an axe. (5) While two men wrap white gauze round Ophelia in a wheelchair, she rejects ‘the happiness of submission’ and threatens vengeance: ‘When she walks through your bedrooms carrying butcher knives you'll know the truth.’

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Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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