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  1. #1
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    DK - Insane or not insane? on the culpability of Hamlet: the mock trial

    Yes, chances are, we've most of us encountered the play at one time in our lives, some of us sitting in desks or at tables on one side of the podium, others merrily pontificating about Shakespeare's brilliance on the other. .

    The mock trial of Hamlet, Prince of Demark, the "brainchild of Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy," has been staged twice, once in 2007 and the newer version quite recently.
    To be, or not to be.

    That was the question Hamlet famously pondered in Shakespeare’s renowned play. But the question discussed Monday night at Bovard Auditorium, during a staged trial held by the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles, skipped past the philosophical questions to the legal: Can Hamlet be held criminally responsible for the murder of Polonius?

    Hamlet gets modern day trial at Bovard
    ---
    Before [the jury] was a simple question that had long proved difficult to answer: What was the mental state of Hamlet in the time leading up the killing of Polonius? Or, as his defense attorney, Blair Berk, phrased it in her opening statements: “Is Hamlet to be sane or not to be sane at the time in question? That is the question.”

    Berk contended he was not: Hamlet was struck by grief, after the death of his father, King Hamlet, while he was away at university. He became even more distraught when his mother, Gertrude, married her late husband’s brother, Claudius, soon after his death. It was said that the union came so swiftly that the meats from the funeral were still good for the wedding celebration.
    ---
    The defense argued that Hamlet suffered from a "major depressive episode," or melancholia. He was, Berk said, a “still brilliant but decompensated man.”

    The fatal stab to Polonuis was a "stroke of impulse,” she said. “Hamlet had tragically succumbed to a disease of the mind when he allegedly committed this crime.”
    ---

    To be sane or not to be sane? For Hamlet, a question still unanswered
    I think we all recognize the tendency, when a court hearing is held to discuss the possible mental illness of a defendant at the time of his or her crime, or on the rare occasions when an insanity defense is used, to fly up in arms and to feel that the defendant is, well, faking the whole thing, in order to escape punishment.
    ---
    The prosecution agreed that Hamlet was, indeed, a brilliant man — that’s exactly why he’s claiming to be insane now. It was the method by which he tried to manipulated his way into the throne he thought was rightfully his, countered Danette Meyers, a prosecuting attorney (by day, she’s a veteran of the L.A. county district attorney’s office).

    “He was not insane, he was grieving,” she said. “He was cunning, he was cold, he was calculating.” What he wanted, she added, was revenge.

    Much of the debate concerned the symptoms of such a melancholia — loss of mirth, change in weight and so forth — and whether he appeared to have them. Also, the ghost of his father, of course, had a great deal of bearing: What meaning, if any, can be divined from a spirit seeming to pop up everywhere, according to Shakespeare’s documentation, yet only offer commands to his son?
    ---

    To be sane or not to be sane? For Hamlet, a question still unanswered
    In the end, following stirring closing arguments, the jury - as it had in 2007 - found itself deadlocked, 10-2 for conviction in the most recent trial; in 2007, the tally was split evenly at 6-6.

    Although it was a mock trial, the logic and rhetoric both sides of the council brought before the jury was smart, thorough and professional.

    “Hamlet is divided from himself and good judgment by the disease of the mind,” Berk argued, pointing to the instance when Hamlet blindly stabs at the curtain and then has a “delusional” chat with his dead father.

    “Hamlet needs Prozac rather than jail,” Hirsch declared in his closing statement.

    Meanwhile, Meyers argued that Hamlet’s decision not to kill Claudius while he was praying, in hopes of preventing his uncle from going to heaven, was a “brilliant, calculating, rational and logical play.”

    Hamlet gets modern day trial at Bovard
    Washington Post article about the 2007 trial:

    Is He to Be Guilty, Or Not to Be Guilty?

    Thoughts on the play itself, or, more importantly, on the issues it raises?

  2. #2
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    Oh what a good topic. Hamlet was always my favourite WS play.

    It's a long time since I last read it or saw it though so my memory is sketchy but I could never decide whether the king really did murder his father to get the crown then have it in for Hamlet, or whether Hamlet had a very unhealthy love for his mother, generally made an almighty pest of himself and king just hated his guts.

    Either way, I think in modern day, talking to his friend's skull at nght in a graveyard and driving his girlfriend to suicide (albeit she was a whining clingy pain in the ...) wouldn't go down too well with the media or in court

  3. #3
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    I'm assuming that, in the mock trials, participants had access to the full text of the play; however, it is much more interesting to assume that Hamlet's private thoughts - the soliloquies - would, in a court of law, be deemed protected speech. But what if he'd spoken them to another, over his cell phone, and the conversation was hacked, and the public and thus the trial jury had access to his private thoughts?

    Good piece here in the Guardian from Charlie Brooker about the topic.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by wfgodot View Post
    Yes, chances are, we've most of us encountered the play at one time in our lives, some of us sitting in desks or at tables on one side of the podium, others merrily pontificating about Shakespeare's brilliance on the other. .

    The mock trial of Hamlet, Prince of Demark, the "brainchild of Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy," has been staged twice, once in 2007 and the newer version quite recently.



    I think we all recognize the tendency, when a court hearing is held to discuss the possible mental illness of a defendant at the time of his or her crime, or on the rare occasions when an insanity defense is used, to fly up in arms and to feel that the defendant is, well, faking the whole thing, in order to escape punishment.


    In the end, following stirring closing arguments, the jury - as it had in 2007 - found itself deadlocked, 10-2 for conviction in the most recent trial; in 2007, the tally was split evenly at 6-6.


    Washington Post article about the 2007 trial:

    Is He to Be Guilty, Or Not to Be Guilty?

    Thoughts on the play itself, or, more importantly, on the issues it raises?
    When I saw the thread title, I thought it was asking if *I* was sane or insane, LOL! We don't need to be debating that!


    Follow me on the Twitter! @EricDiesel1972

    Deuteronomy 18:10-12 (KJV)

    10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. 12 For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord. (KJV)

    Follow me at my Biblical Blog: http://scripture-demystified.blogspot.com

    Baruch ha Shem Adonai.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dark Knight View Post
    When I saw the thread title, I thought it was asking if *I* was sane or insane, LOL! We don't need to be debating that!
    LOLOL. DK = Denmark, in no way a reference to the quite sane Dark Knight!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by wfgodot View Post
    LOLOL. DK = Denmark, in no way a reference to the quite sane Dark Knight!
    *whew* For a second I thought you were finally on to me, lol!


    Follow me on the Twitter! @EricDiesel1972

    Deuteronomy 18:10-12 (KJV)

    10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. 12 For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord. (KJV)

    Follow me at my Biblical Blog: http://scripture-demystified.blogspot.com

    Baruch ha Shem Adonai.



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