Hamlet, Thy Name is Woman. | Sara Clark | TEDxCincinnatiWomen

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Women have been playing Hamlet since the 1700s. So why does the choice to cast a female actor in Shakespeare’s largest role still matter today? Sara Clark is an actor, playing Hamlet as a woman at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company in 2020. She talks about how the decision to play the Bard’s most temperamentally capricious and preternaturally intelligent character as a woman can help us imagine a better world. Learn more at: https://cincyshakes.com Sara Clark is a philomath and a storyteller, who believes wholeheartedly in curiosity, empathy, and the power of words. She is a resident actor, director, producer, teaching artist, and grants administrator with Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, currently serving as its Associate Artistic Director. As a fourteen-year member of the CSC Resident Ensemble, she has racked up over 75 productions with CSC, tackling such roles as Rosalind, Juliet, Marc Antony, Elizabeth Bennet, Lady Macbeth, and in the spring of 2020, Hamlet. Sara is a Shakespeare mythbuster and loves teaching with CSC’s Shakespeare Summer Camp and Groundlings Program, a year-long Shakespeare intensive for high school students. She genuinely believes that one person talking to one person is the only thing that will ever change the world. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx <br> <h3>Auto Generated Captions</h3>

[Music]
[Applause]
when you’re an actor and someone offers
you the opportunity to play the largest
role in the most famous play by the most
popular dramatist in the English
language you say yes when you’re a woman
and someone offers you that chance you
say hell yes and most people you
encounter are cool with that probably
because it’s just not that new of an
idea
women have been playing Hamlet since the
1700s but the question you inevitably
have to answer is will you choose to
play it as a man or as a woman now both
are valid and both are interesting but
there’s something important right now in
playing the character as a woman I mean
if you were to present me with a
character who idolizes their father has
a complicated relationship with their
mother needs to talk through every
problem struggles with impostor syndrome
and takes the bulk of a three-and-a-half
hour play to do one thing I’d guess you
were talking about a woman but in
searching for a real answer to that
implied question why does it matter now
to see Hamlet played by a woman as a
woman we first have to go back a bit in
time in shakespeare’s england the very
concept of equality between the sexes
would have been unthinkable to most
people england at the dawn of the 17th
century is a world that exists on the
binary your noble or your common your
Protestant or your Catholic you’re a man
or you’re a woman and in shakespeare’s
england a woman cannot vote in an
election her income her possessions her
property are all legally her husband’s
she can be chastised or beaten with
impunity by her husband as long as he
does not actually kill her and it almost
goes without saying she can
perform on stage so in a world in which
no two men are born equal how could we
possibly conceive that a woman might
possess the intelligence or complexity
of thought equal to that of a man yet
throughout the latter half of the
century a woman occupied the throne of
England by the time she died in 1604
Elizabeth the first had ruled for over
40 years and in this world ruled by a
powerful and rhetorically skilled a
female monarch that young William
Shakespeare begins to write plays and
the beautiful thing about the
Elizabethan theatre is that it is for
everyone everybody goes to the theatre
young old rich poor Noble common men and
women and young Will Shakespeare is no
dummy
he knows that half his audience will be
comprised of the fairer sex and so as he
matures as a playwright he begins not
only to write some of the most fearless
resolute high-spirited and intelligent
heroines in the Western canon but to
continually blur the lines between the
masculine and the feminine thereby
creating characters both male and female
that refuse to be defined by their
archetype they’re no longer a king a
soldier a lover a shrew
they are wonderfully infuriatingly
bafflingly undeniably human fast forward
four hundred years multiple waves of
feminism have washed over us voting
rights property rights reproductive
rights female sexuality family dynamics
workplace inequality sexual harassment
intersectionality mansplaining the
Bechtel test the female gaze me too and
yet if life worked like the modern
American theatre four out of five things
you would ever heard
would have been spoken by a man
we tell ourselves that we live in a
modern world and we do and we don’t
because we still live in a world in
which our language our emotions our
professions and our societal
expectations are gendered despite all
our strides forward women are still
grossly underrepresented in leadership
across business technology politics arts
and entertainment we might be able to
conceive that a woman could possess the
intelligence or complexity of thought
equal to that of a man but our reality
doesn’t yet reflect that thinking so how
do we move from conception to reality we
have to be able to imagine it and there
is no better place to exercise our
imagination than in the theater in the
prologue to henry v shakespeare implores
his audience let us ciphers to this
great a common area forces work but it
is your thoughts that now must deck our
kings so why does it matter now to see
Hamlet played by a woman as a woman it
matters for the generation before me who
for most of their formative years a
woman could not sit on a jury apply for
a credit card in her own name expect
equal pay for equal work get an Ivy
League education or report sexual
harassment in the workplace so what
might it mean to them to imagine Hamlet
as a woman to watch her embark on
vigilante justice
Sharon alma mater with Martin Luther and
be both the victim and the aggressor it
matters for the generation after me who
for most of their formative years have
lived in a world where their privacy is
virtually non-existent
rates of depression and anxiety have
skyrocketed and girls in particular feel
enormous pressure to be superhuman every
opportunity marred by self-criticism
overthinking and fear of failure so what
might it mean to them to imagine Hamlet
as a woman to see her walk through a
world where she is kept under close
surveillance battle with the extremes of
depression anxiety and grief and spend
most of her journey on a path marked by
self-criticism overthinking and fear of
failure
it matters because Shakespeare’s female
characters are wonderful but there just
aren’t enough of them 16 percent of the
roles in the whole canon are written as
women in Hamlet the two female
characters Gertrude and affiliate
together speak 9% of the play it matters
because at a sum total of one thousand
four hundred and ninety five lines
Hamlet is Shakespeare’s noisiest
protagonist and we still live in a world
that struggles to accept noisy women it
matters that our daughters can imagine a
woman saying those words it matters that
our sons can imagine a woman thinking
those thoughts it matters that we take
the opportunity to imagine the way the
world could be thanked
[Applause]
you

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