The Hamletmachine and Polski Hamlet

Ophelia (c) Teatr Polski Wroclaw

A more formal review by me of this production is published in the journal Shakespeare, Volume 8, Issue 4, 2012 available by clicking here

I’ve just read Heiner Müller’s The Hamletmachine (1977, translated by Dennis Redmond, 2001) and realised that it was not just Titus Andronicus that had informed Monika Pęcikiewicz’s Hamlet (Polski Theatre: see post for 3 May 2010).

‘I am Ophelia.  She who the river could not hold […] The woman with the slashed arteries’ (Müller trans Redmond, 2001:3)

She is a soldier, a terrorist, a revenger.

‘Yesterday I stopped killing myself. […]  With my bleeding hands I tear the photographs of the men who I loved and who used me on the Bed on the Table on the Chair on the Floor […] I go onto the street, clothed in my blood’ (Müller, translated by Redmond, 2001:3)

She is Electra.

But whose Electra?  The Electra whose identity was usurped by Freud? The Electra who continues to be silenced and abused, not just by men but by women who think that little girls ask for it? That little girls secretly want it?

‘Girl children have deep, subconscious sexual feelings for their fathers,’ the psychotherapist said, perpetuating myths in that room full of vulnerable people.

‘He protected you from your mother, so you paid him off by letting him touch you,’ she said.

‘You protected him,’ she said.

Pęcikiewicz’s Polish Ophelia wasn’t having that crap either, as she gloated at the horror she evoked in Gertrude the collaborator, as she forced her to confront her part in her pain.

‘Here speaks Electra,’ said Müller’s Ophelia. ‘In the Names of the Victims […] Long live hate, loathing, rebellion, death.  When she walks through your bedroom with butcher’s knives, you’ll know the truth’ (8).

In Pęcikiewicz’s Hamlet, it was Shakespeare’s Ophelia who ran off the stage during the ‘Get thee to a nunnery’ scene, but it was Müller’s Ophelia who came back on.

2 thoughts on “The Hamletmachine and Polski Hamlet

  1. Pingback: Globe to Globe’s Polish ‘Macbeth’: no sex please, we’re British. « Shakespeare Travels © Saffron Walkling

  2. Pingback: Ophelia does a Hamlet: Polski Theatre (Poland) « Shakespeare Travels © Saffron Walkling

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