An extract from 'Hamlet Fold on Fold' by Gabriel Josipovici

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Gabriel Josipovici's new book Hamlet Fold on Fold explores how we should focus on the physicality of the play itself, the experience of watching it over metaphysical interpretations. This book is a refreshing and uplifting look at Hamlet, a breath of fresh air in Shakespearen criticism. Gabriel Josipovici will be in the shop on 19 May to discuss Hamlet Fold on Fold with author and Shakespearean biographer Charles Nicholl.


Mallarmé’s notion of the fan, which can be both shut tight and opened up wide, catches precisely what I feel is characteristic of Hamlet, the way that, as the play unfolds, each moment seems to carry vertically on top of it all the other moments in the play, and how any attempt to talk about it must be alert to both this and to the way it unfolds. For unlike the word ‘scene’, the word ‘fold’ has a physical quality to it, it is palpable, not abstract. As if to alert us to this, the play opens with the words: ‘Who’s there?’ uttered by one of the soldiers on the battlements of Elsinore, and back comes the riposte: ‘Nay, answer me. Stand and unfold yourself.’ The word can be translated here as ‘reveal’, a word Shakespeare could have used but chose not to, going instead for a word with primarily physical connotations and only a secondary metaphorical meaning, perhaps in order to stress the physical and gradual nature of such revelation.


…By examining Hamlet fold on fold I want to take a journey through the events that is not driven by the need to draw up a charge sheet against this or that individual, but aims to identify the decisions taken in the course of the play and to understand the reasoning or emotions behind them. I want to let the why answers grown out of the how – not ‘Why does Hamlet act as he does?’ but ‘How does Hamlet act?’ In so doing, I believe, we will achieve a better understanding of this extraordinary and mysterious play.

Book now to see Gabriel Josipovici and Charles Nicholl in conversation.

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