A Documentary Review of PBS: America’s War on Poverty

Paul Fischer
1.25.2015
Felicia Kornbluh

 

A Documentary Review of PBS: America’s War on Poverty

 

               The Public Broadcasting Service takes on the War Against Poverty, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s brainchild in a television series. The series shows how poverty touches the entire American political and economic system. As racial divides are thickly drawn with a black marker, a massive redistribution of wealth is found to be necessary. This is in contrast to the prosperity victory in World War II brought to the United States.
               The director uses political footage, interviews from authors, citizens, and politicians alike to show the dramatic widespread effect of poverty, as well as the machinations that made change possible and the vehicles for effecting that change in operation. Combining black and white footage, with modern colour film drives home that this film is part of American history, as much as it is the present. Sadly, the American history of poverty, and Native American struggles are ignored. Racial divides are not absent, but are set aside to the second half of the film, as the film has a dialectic focus on the Equal Employment Opportunity Act and the Civil Rights Act. However, this is appropriate because the War Against Poverty is a specific time-place referring to the 1960’s, though those unacquainted with this, will be confused by the title and content.
             “The very things that made America great its inventions… were causing some Americans to be left behind.” The joint continuous miner brought the story of John Henry, in which a man labours to death against a machine, to reality on a societal level. Coal miners found steady work and good wages evaporating to the hypnotizing diligence of the mechanical workers. By 1960 nearly half of residents in some counties in coal-mining Virginia relied on government aid. In the words of John F. Kennedy, “automation did it.” An exodus of former coal miners seeking work and african-americans fleeing racism arrived in the North and changed the country. In the capital as well, a march on Washington signalled a substantive movement towards change in the country. Poverty was geographical, and with the help of unions and politicians like Kennedy, racial lines became shattered.
             Violence broke out. Homes and bridges were bombed. A decade before the race riots became bloody, and years before the Vietnam war, destitution was driving Americans to fight for their right to live, or death by starvation. Before the political promises of Kennedy could be carried out, he was assassinated. Carrying out his promises was a medical necessity. In states such as Mississippi, poverty and lack of healthcare caused parasites, lethargy, and severe anemia in children. Nowhere was poverty greater.
But all was not lost. There was no initial confidence in Lyndon B. Johnson, but using a variety of political and legislative means, he was able to “continue” both domestically and abroad, the goals of the administration and American people. The African-American movement was growing in the public conscious, but the backlash against it would have killed what chances there were had it not been for Head Start and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. By ensuring the poor could vote, and that race did not factor into this, the end of segregation was in sight. More importantly, this minority, which had a lower population growth than the Jewish population in Germany due to economic impoverishment, was given opportunity to become full partners in the make-up of this nation.
            Surviving the depression, Johnson made significant inroads to Americans, enacting the first anti-poverty legislation since the Great Depression giving needed alleviation to Americans, to “replace their despair with opportunity.” He created a task force, and began a movement to change the country. In some states, it was a matter of saving lives. The idea that black Mississippians could control anything was considered to be ludicrous, and this was seen in their oppression, and reversed by their first true liberation, with economic and political equality. Before they could lose their job, their welfare when they voted.
Sargent Shriver was appointed head of the War Against Poverty, and with what some would call blind optimism, energetically took on the job. He had expertise setting up the Peace Corp, and was able to use this domestically with efficiency. Unable to levy higher taxes, and without a comprehensive job program the questions existing are problematic. Investigating voting problems made enemies, but it was a political sacrifice that had to be made. As workers protested discrimination and were incarcerated, the CDGP made allocations of federal money to post bail for these workers under the auspices of work salary advances.
The mixing of the Civil Rights movement with the War Against Poverty created humiliation for Shriver, and was seized upon. Yet these were two movements intertwined, and impossible to separate. As the opposition insisted “don’t you ever give up that gun, that is all you’ve got to protect that little baby in that crib” the documentary shows the backlash was not one which could be stood up against without great courage. Klansmen were marching unhooded and unafraid of retribution, despite their violent message, and African-American protestors needed the same protection, though without the threat of violence.
As planes began to fly in the South Asian peninsula, Johnson signed the Equal Employment Opportunity Bill into law. Suddenly the education programs and hand-up (not hand out) the federal government had offered America’s poor looked smart; the country was going to send a conscript army into war. Racial equality would also figure in importantly towards preventing this war from tearing the nation apart at the seams. This would seem to be an appropriate direction for the documentary, but for better or for worse the film begins discussion in the last section of reorganization and scandal in anti-poverty movements.

Societal Impacts of Alcohol and Marijuana, Revisited: the German Model.

    In Germany, over the last 25 years the consumption of alcohol has fallen by a third. Legal marijuana use rates (in the Netherlands or abroad, or in decriminalized settings at home) have increased in 18-24 year olds from 7% to 28% during this time period. The economic growth has been enormous, suggesting a link between the two, in order to confirm it would be advantageous to compare the numbers with those outlined in the data from my previous paper on societal impacts of alcohol with a low to moderate impact on the national IQ. In this paper it was demonstrated that while the first 5-10 points of IQ decrease would remove 80% of the geniuses or highly gifted workers from a community, more than this had limited effects until the damage reaches 20 or 30 points. This is because the population begins to move along a straight line on the bell curve, where the initial damage from lead, or once the pollutants in the environment are removed, from illegal or decriminalized marijuana (it should be noted that in a legalized setting, marijuana has been associated with a societal increase of 5 points in IQ, while contaminants or parasites in illegal or decriminalized pot have been connected to a decrease) or alcohol, moves along a steep exponentially defined curve.
    Lead was removed around the same time as this trend in drinking occurred. According to the DAX, the Deutsch (German) stock market, the value has risen by over 4 or 5 times since then, as seen in this graph (1989-2014) from under 2000 points to over 9000 points. The GDP, which is predicted by the DAX, a list of around 30 of the heavyweights in the German economy, to a great extent, also has increased in this period from under 1500 to nearly 4000. These are both in keeping with the increase indicated by an increase in geniuses of 500% in an intellectual property dominant economy (such as Germany or America) as found in most of the modern world.
DAX index of German listed companies:

German GDP from 1970-2014

     While this can seen initially as true and true and unrelated, the fact that previous research in SPECT scan imaging has made the connection between responsible drinking and low cognitive functioning concrete in the last few years seems to indicate that this link is more causal than correlative. This can be seen in previous research into light and moderate alcohol or marijuana use this year. That the hypothetical model outlined in the research into societal impacts of these substances fits exactly to the statistics gathered in the real world is encouraging as well, and demonstrates that this is a legitimate and probably accurate method and application of the scientific information available.

http://blog.uvm.edu/pfischer/2014/07/12/effects-of-under-regulated-or-decriminalized-regular-or-light-marijuana-alcohol-and-tobacco-use-on-the-brain-single-photon-emission-computed-tomography/
http://blog.uvm.edu/pfischer/files/2014/11/germany-stock-market-300×137.png
http://blog.uvm.edu/pfischer/files/2014/11/germany-gdp-300×137.png
http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/germany/140619/germany-non-alcoholic-beer
http://blog.uvm.edu/pfischer/2014/09/23/societal-impact-of-currently-under-regulated-legal-substances-alcohol-and-marijuana-in-comparison-to-lead/

Frances with Ha-ha, but where is the boohoo? Or goosepimples?

Paul Andreas Fischer
VTIFF
10/2013


Frances with Ha-ha, but where is the boohoo? Or goosepimples?


My expectations were surpassed in the film Frances Ha. The use of sitcom like interpersonal relations as a facade to entice the viewers into struggling with greater life phenomena regarding sexuality and human interaction was staggering. While at first impression the cast was amateur and the story tangled, the mastery of cinematic devices to captivate the audience, gave the distinct and lasting impression of an important message, if only the viewer could decrypt what that message was. Ultimately due to the exposure of intimate details of personal lives in a certain manner, the conclusion is drawn that the statement is on the society that nurtured, created and maintains the girl; that America is a materialistic society unbound by substantive difficulty.
The cast takes on an almost neorealist situative commentary on the life of a young woman who has exactly what she needs to prosper, and yet there is a tragic underpinning to her interactions with those around her and to her self-communication. The nature of this tragedy is surreal; her being “undatable” as described by her roommate forces her to re-evaluate her own sexuality and in turn the film scrutinizes the gender performance of those around her. But the vehicle has a distinctly neo-realist quality, one that extends beyond the black-and-white empirical nature of the roll and seems to seek truth in setting while imparting an urgent and necessary message of understanding in character development.
Perhaps the most memorable moment in the film is as Frances lights a cigarette against an apparently clear sky and in the unique blustering winds as the music rises in excitement, in tempo and volume. With a triumphant and yet demarked step she lurches out of the way and the Eiffel tower is revealed: she has made it to Paris! While she does not succeed in resolving her social problems at this point, a certain turning point in the film has been reached.
The completion of the film was ill conceived, while appropriately happy and still comically contemplative, this picture of her resolutely, gleeful but still troubled, stepping away from the Eiffel tower smouldering cigarette in hand would have made a classic ending, given the appropriate cinematography and character development beforehand. Where the Italian Neo-realism film movement consisted of perhaps a dozen films, and spawned many more similarly related movements since then, each showing devastation on a scale not available to any individual studio or entity, it was reality, in a similar track Frances Ha shows true beauty and strength in the setting and the characters, a sense of contentment and placidity, struggle logically met with triumph, that reflects the fundamental change in the European outlook in the times since.
Part of what makes this such a strong emotive response to the film was the use of real world settings, and more apparently of real world characters. As close as the cinematography and music came to capturing the legendary psychological effects of the neorealist cinema, though lacking the goosepimples and teary eyes that accompany the tragic suicides and deaths of protagonists in neorealism, the character development and plot progression was decentralised in a most similar manner to Soviet era films.
One in particular comes to mind, the film Daisies, in which two cohabiting girls or sisters perhaps explore their own temporal existence, stagnant lifestyles, and ultimately harsh realities in Yugoslavia, then a satellite of the Soviet Union. In both films there is an intense struggle occurring in the plot with a status quo of intolerance and with incompatibility to the social norms extant. Then in a variety of settings these norms and intolerance are torn apart without apparent consequence. While the themes of love and friendship are certainly more classically epic in Frances Ha (this is not said as a very positive statement), there is a shared dipolar structure to the films in which independent theses are tested on two protagonist characters through interaction of a number of people less important to the themes and plot.
What makes Daisies perhaps one of the most distinctive films from the region and time, and holds Frances Ha from achieving similar contemporary success is the ability to break solidly from social norms in order to prove their validity. Though both films’ decentralisation of characters make them delightfully unreachable with standard methods of evaluation seeking protagonist and antagonist, or of seeking out a definite hypothesis and proof, the neorealist stylistic choices and comedic relief speak out against a silent censor. In Daisies, this occurs in a grand finale, with the destruction of state property and final smashing of a chandelier and expensive banquet, which at the time infuriated senior Soviet officials. Without a hypothesis, the film successfully proves that, at least in the satellite states, the Soviet Union was a classless society obsessed with materialism.
In Frances Ha the silent censor is outlined, in this case the interpersonal feelings tumultuously clashing inside of a confused girl unsure of her sexuality, her datability, and at times her ability, but is not properly confronted. The picture of Frances moving away from the Eiffel tower, impatient yet hopeful could have communicated the conclusion of this confrontation classically, but that is hopping too deeply into the director’s seat. What can be said, however, is that it is clear that the problems internal to the character Frances such whether she is happy with herself, without a volatile reaction to the silent censor in everyone, and the nature of her social acceptance are neatly folded up and finished, while external ones, such as who exactly she will find, what kind of relationship she will pursue, and her credit card debt are unresolved.
Leaving these unresolved questions combined with unrequited confidence from peers and in herself proves a most intriguing posit: that the United States as this girl has known it is a materialistic society utterly unbound by substantive difficulty. A better proof for the stylistic and cinematographic nature of this film is that America is a materialistic society bound by the pressures of substantive difficulty, but freed through the token of true and open friendship or love as the case might be.

The Act of Killing review and Q and A with producer

Paul Andreas Fischer
VTIFF
10.20.2013


As someone who has virtually no experience with the mass killings in Indonesia, seeing The Act of Killing was incredibly shocking. The fabulous lives of members of the former dictatorship who had become wealthy by indiscriminately killing over 2.6 million people was shown, and then the psychologies of these murderers at the time and today was explored. Less obvious but still tangentially present was the role of the government, many of whose officials were still in power and able to purchase their elections. I was struck by just how similar to A Clockwork Orange these executioners seemed in their time, and the interviews with them now almost seemed a thought experiment into an alternative sequel to that film. They killed and played, intertwining the two into a gruesome myriad of images that to some, still alive today, is still vivid in their mind and haunts them, others managed to move on. Political interrogation under this system became synonymous with torture and perjury committed by these monsters. The act of incarceration simply fell to being pushed in a car. A guilty verdict only had to be suggested. And finally, in the execution capital punishment was carried out in a stealthy but still open matter, efficiently in a silent admission to the inherent evil of these deeds, fueled by hard drug use as well as drinking and marijuana use, in futile attempts to cope with the guilt and pain of committing these atrocities. Sometimes behind closed doors at night, other times simply running down the street and stabbing anyone with a chinese demeanor or appearance, sometimes just driving through the night with a body in the back seat waiting to be hurled out into the abyss in a weak and vague impersonation of the out of this world gangster personas of Hollywood.

After the film was finished I asked about the producer’s struggle to dance the line between presenting factual historical accuracy and representing the often conflicting memories of surviving executioners. She responded that the film was not a historical film by any means, and that she herself was not a historian, but had a stronger focus on the psychology of the executioners. She explained that the film was meant as a sort of view into this unique situation that had panned out in Indonesia. Other questions in the Q and A ranged from what levels of censorship had existed, whether hidden cameras had been used as many admissions were shocking to say the least, and what power still remained in Indonesian paramilitary organizations such as the ones headed by the anti-communist former executioners. While it is not in my place to take sides or to comment on issues outside of the scope of this film, I am completely aware of the dangers of communist purges and the ten thousand executed in China even today every year, the hundreds of millions of girls killed only because of their gender, I cannot emphasize how shocked I was as to the scope of the killings, how the executioners saw it as a lifestyle and way of life, and how the society they lived in, while it was not yet a democracy, found no way to communicate for outside help or intervention. One can only assume that the vital nature of Indonesia to international shipping, and its oil reserves and refineries had a significant amount to do with this.
Another comparison to A Clockwork Orange is the pathological nature of the killers. They would do it again. I would have liked to see survivors, and to hear their accounts. but according to them there are none, and if there were they would be killed. Some justify it by claiming that the time was one of war. Others that they had no job, no real other options. No one was brought to them unless they were going to kill them. Evidence or the reality of a nuanced political situation made positively no difference. These men acted as institutionalized and even celebrated serial killers, harboring similar perversions and drug abuse as the sort in A Clockwork Orange who raped, drugged, and ultimately killed at their leisure without apparent backlash, although a key difference is that ultimately the dystopian society portrayed in that film does take punitive action at some point. I have included a typed version of the Q and A, which I took notes on to better shed light on the motives and themes of the producer.

Question and Answer:
Q: At points of violence or struggle in the filming, how was this done?
A: In the massacre scene women and children went through an extensive casting process, and the rest were former executioners bringing their old deeds back to life. The children were surrounded by family, and the film was shot in very short segments, after crying and wailing, the children were frequently given the chance to be reassured by their mothers. As for the actors, the only actual survivor from the village burning was an accident when the cameraman was shooting on a day when the producer and director were not there. The cameraman did not speak Indonesian, so he did not have the opportunity to differentiate, and after the survivor’s death two years later before the release of the film, his family contacted the film makers and gave them posthumous permissions.
Q: Is there an actual film? Or only the documentary as we saw it?
A: There was never the intention to make an actual film, the process of helping the former executioners imagine their own representation of events was merely a psychological tool to help them recount events accurately.
Q: Were there any hidden cameras used? At one point it seems as though they really think they are off tape, or just preparing?
A: At no point were hidden cameras used, and the former executioners were always aware of when the film was rolling.
Q: What was the reception in Indonesia, especially from the complicit government?
A: We started the work with survivors, showing the film to art house critics and stuff from Jakarta. We later expanded to 500 screenings across the country and now offer free downloads of the film.
Q: How did crew stand by while these gangsters took money from street sellers and were these merchants reimbursed?
A: The crew informed the merchants beforehand and had to stand by, but it was agreed the entire time that the merchants knew they were being reimbursed.
Q: Coming from Rwanda, I am curious how the government allowed this to be filmed, as in my country such an endeavour would be futile and even a fictional film such as Hotel Rwanda was nearly impossible to pull off, did the government allow this, were there special permissions needed?
A: The regime used to be a dictatorship, but is now currently a democracy. These war criminals were unpunished and even welcomed by top politicians as seen in the film. Workers unionzed against globalization are still beaten, and intimidation of family members for union membership still occurs, so the effort had to come from outside. There is a strong fear of speaking in public.
Q: What is with the list of anonymous names?
A: Indonesian crew members took part in a film with sensitive matter and we found it best to keep their identities anonymous.
Q: The number 2.6 million killed sort of splashes out, bringing a whole new level of seriousness to the film from serial murderers psychology to the psychology of a genocide was it difficult to dance the line between historical accuracy and factual information and the fantasies and personal anecdotes of the killers?
A: The film was never intended as a historical film, I am not a historian. What we sought was a stronger investigation into the psychologies of the killers and to show how they cope and live with their crimes, and success, today.
Q: What did the subjects [executioners] think of the film?
A: Most in process [missing word?], Anwar did not want to see the film originally, but decided to at some point… looking to a fishing platform. Anwar is loyal to the film, and has backed us up, keeping his word as he felt it was an important endeavour. Hermann has a sort of ‘axis’ loyalty to the film, and glorifies what it does. The paramilitary organizations did not especially approve and saw the filmmaking process as “Anwar vs. us”.
Q: What is the power of the paramilitary organizations today in Indonesia?
A: Still very powerful. If you are not portraying them well they will shut you down, but still the film does show that the country is moving forward.

A Knife in the Water: Editing

Knife in the Water: Editing
Paul Fischer
Portfolio, Cinema Studies
5/27/2010


The cuts in Knife in the Water are mostly long, and luxurious, or they seem to mix sporadically with the jazzy soundtrack to build tension. Polanski’s shots, as discussed in mis-en-scene, are carefully crafted, and the editing helps to impart the sense of sweltering heat, the lazy privileged day, and the ambitions of two rivals spiraling out of control.

As the hitchhiker wades through rushes, which cross him in sharp, interweaving lines, the jazz is fast, and distracted (5a). A fight breaks out between the sailors soon after, quick shots follow in succession, until the exasperated hitch hiker runs off, with the others following him.

When the boat slowly sails across the lake, Polanski offers long, establishing shots, accompanied by slow music and long shots of the sailors wasting time, lying around or examining a map. As the intensity of the music and action in the movie pick up, along with the tension between the characters, the cuts become shorter and more hectic. At the end of the movie, as the wife confesses her unfaithfulness, the shots relax again, slowing and focusing on establishing elements (the car, trees) instead of the actors.
A characteristic of the film is Polanski’s use of an actor or object to frame his shot, focusing the shot while still exposing the audience to all elements of the scene. This is critical to his development of the fighting men. The tensions that slowly build up are emphasized by Polanski’s flawless grasp of depth and spacing, which he uses extensively to translate the emotions of anger and competition in the film. He is able to use one actor as a sort of reflector, the surprise on the husband’s face imparts a cinematic value that the audience might perceive as coming from the back of the hitchhiker’s head.

Problems with Hamlet and His Problems

Paul Fischer
John Zimmerman
11/1/08
     Problems with Hamlet and His Problems


    Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, is among the greatest works of arts in the English language; for centuries the play has been rehearsed, performed and reviewed. The gloomy Prince of Denmark, Hamlet, is undoubtedly among Shakespeare’s greatest feats of characterization, appealing to audiences through his many human weaknesses, most notably his indecisiveness and inconsistency. At least this was the tragedy’s reputation for over three hundred years until a stinging critique by TS Eliot changed the way in which teachers and students looked at Hamlet forever.

    TS Eliot wrote the essay Hamlet and His Problems in 1920 as an attempt to redefine the manner in which critics looked at literary work. Right at the beginning of his essay, Eliot makes it clear that critics have failed in their attempts at critical insight, claiming they stretched their interpretation of the play “by the substitution—of their own Hamlet for Shakespeare’s.” (1) Rather than looking at Hamlet the play, former critics such as Coleridge and Goethe instead focused on Hamlet the character, who they easily identified with.
    The main argument is that, in fact, as a work of art, the play Hamlet fails completely. In order to prove this, Eliot invents a standard, the objective correlative, that never existed before. He defines the objective correlative as “a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked” (7). For example, a writer who presents the audience with a thump outside a house, a scratching at the door, and a hideous scream would expect the audience to feel fear when the main character felt fear.
    Where Hamlet fails, Eliot writes, is that “Hamlet (the man) is dominated by an emotion which is inexpressible, because it is in excess of the facts as they appear” (7). Eliot goes on to suppose that Shakespeare finds himself in a paradox, as Hamlet’s disgust for Gertrude (his mother) is occasioned “because her character is so negative and insignificant that she arouses in Hamlet the feeling which she is incapable of representing.” If Shakespeare changed Hamlet’s character, there would be no plot, but as he made the mother even more despicable the play is rapidly exposed as illogical.
    Perhaps the most illogical part of Hamlet, however, is Hamlet’s complete disregard for the throne. To a contemporary reader, it would seem that an even greater offense than the murder would be Claudius’ usurping the throne. Yet only one line in the last act is devoted to resolving why Hamlet did not simply inherit the throne himself. Hamlet tells us in the last act that Claudius has “Popp’d in between the election and my hopes.” In fact, in 1600 when Hamlet was written, Denmark did not have a hereditary monarchy but actually held elections among a council of nobles. Claudius was elected to be king following his brother’s death. Certainly this must have been an unforgivable affront to Hamlet and his supporters.
    The “madness” of Hamlet is not, as Eliot writes, “the buffoonery of an emotion which can find no outlet in action” (8) but instead is the legitimate anger and confusion conflicting within Hamlet because of the horrendous crimes his mother and uncle have committed. When Eliot writes his criticism a difference was drawn between biological and foster parents so he is unable to feel the rage that Hamlet feels. He writes that “we must simply admit that here Shakespeare tackled a problem which proved too much for him,” (8) that Shakespeare was unable to artistically portray, with objective correlative, the intense emotion that Hamlet felt.
    This is where Eliot’s own logic falls apart. The objective correlative is among his greatest contributions to the literary community; it remains a standard for determining the artistic validity of many works, but Eliot failed in his own application of the objective correlative to Hamlet. The audiences of Shakespeare in the early 1600’s  would be able to feel the anger that Hamlet felt, for at that time marriage was binding, and Claudius was, in Hamlet’s mind, marrying his own sister after killing his brother. Indeed, this would have been viewed as a crime against God and Christianity, justifying Hamlet’s need to seek not just Claudius’ death, but also his eternal damnation. Eliot writes that Hamlet’s emotions are in “excess of the facts as they appear” (7). In fact, Hamlet’s emotions are precisely in keeping with the complete revenge which he not only expects, but which the audience expects. An Elizabethan audience would have felt aghast, not out of mere “adolescence,” but out of genuine hatred for the villain Claudius and contempt for the fool mother Gertrude.
    The burning passion for justice to be served is not portrayed disproportionately, rather Shakespeare accurately reflects Hamlet’s emotions. Eliot writes that Shakespeare cannot handle the “guilt of a mother” as he “handled the suspicion of Othello, the infatuation of Antony, or the pride of Coriolanus” (7). Eliot attempts in this to erase the validity of Hamlet as an artistic work and a failure in its attempt to convey a concrete emotion. He even attacks the consistency of the play, writing the he found, “Shakespeare’s Hamlet not in the action, not in any quotations that we might select, so much as in an unmistakable tone which is unmistakably not in the earlier play” (6). What the reader would be well advised to keep in mind, however, is that in the beginning of the play Hamlet did not know for sure that Claudius had murdered Hamlet’s father. Indeed, a modern viewer would be justified to express some concern over how quickly and rashly Hamlet affirms the guilt of his uncle.
    Eliot’s does have a point in this, that to a modern reader or viewer, there are multiple discrepancies in the play. Where an Elizabethan viewer would have been horrified with the marriage of Claudius and Gertrude, a modern viewer cannot be expected to feel the same way. Today we have a concept of uncles, aunts, and “in-laws.” At a time before a family member could be just “in-law” but not related by blood, Gertrude and Claudius are committing a horrible act of incest and every action of theirs would be viewed with suspicion. Eliot claims “the ‘madness’ of Hamlet lay to Shakespeare’s hand; in the earlier play a simple ruse,” (8) that Hamlet’s madness is merely a play on the audience as Shakespeare attempts to stretch a character over a much larger emotion. This is completely logical and lucid with a modern viewer in mind, but an Elizabethan viewer would understand that Hamlet’s madness was not merely a literary device, but an actual emotional reaction to the incest that was surfacing around him.
  It is with this viewer in mind that Shakespeare writes Hamlet, and therefore the play is vindicated as a work of art. Assuming, then, that Hamlet’s “madness” is no blunder of Shakespeare’s writing, but actually an important theme in the play, Eliot’s problems with Hamlet begin to evaporate, as the rest of his arguments fall by the wayside. To an Elizabethan audience, Hamlet, the gloomy prince of Denmark, resolved the issue of confused revenge, feeling appropriate suspicion of the incestuous couple, finding them to be in murderous wedlock, and acting with decisive vengeance, standing up for the throne that was bought out of his grasp and the familial honor that was stained by the hateful sexual relationship of his own blood.

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