RE: RARA-AVIS: Tragedy Vs. Noir

From: Bruce Makous (
Date: 30 Sep 2005

Clendon said:
> So let say for instance you were doing a production of Hamlet set in gangland Chicago. (Gabriel Byrne for Hamlet if you ask me.) Instead of the royal family of Denmark you have a powerful mafia family. Instead of brother killing brother, partner kills a partner, and marries the widow. Instead of Hamlet's uncle ruling, his godfather.
> Now i don't think you can make it Hard Boiled without also leaving out a lot or changing around. To be or not to be is not HB.
> Would it not be noir though? Hamlet is fairly well screwed. His father whom he loved is murdered and the man who did it is in Hamlet's seat, and sleeping with his mother.
> Hamlet's choices and his tendancy to keep putting off, doom him in the end. If he had killed off the murderer early, then he could have taken the throne and that would have been that. By waiting and acting all funny, he inspired two atempts on his life, the second of which succeeded. Not to mention contributing to the suicide of Ophelia, a woman he loved, by killing her father.
> I think clearly I don't get it. I happily await enlightenment.

I agree that Hamlet is noir or noirish, and would add, isn't Oedipus pretty damn screwed in Oedipus Rex? I really liked the distinction Charles Ardai drew recently in speaking with him privately after his fine B'con panel on noir. He said that the Greeks felt their universe was determined by the gods, and when a Greek tragedy suggests that the gods were acting completely arbitrarily or unjustly, as in Oedipus Rex, it created a noir universe. The same should apply to Shakespeare, as in King Lear and Hamlet, and even going back to Biblical literature, like the story of Job which suggest an unjust God and a noirish universe. In this analysis, then, noir is a subset of tragedy.

Best, Bruce

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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 30 Sep 2005 EDT