Submitted by singfurimmer.
I found Susan Bennett’s review of Tony Howard’s book Women As Hamlet: Performance And Interpretation In Theatre, Film, And Fiction. I’m curious about this book myself, and this review was very helpful. I would link to it, but it’s a PDF. So here is the whole text:
“Tony Howard’s lively and informative study draws our attention to the fact that the extensive history of Shakespeare’s most famous character includes an extraordinary and rather unexpected presence of women including, remarkably, the first Hamlet on film and, in all likelihood, the first Hamlet on the radio (1). Howard tells us that since the mid-nineteenth century more than two hundred professional actresses across the globe have played the role of the procrastinating protagonist and his Women as Hamlet impressively examines a wide selection of those performances in the theatre and on film as well as looking to representations in other media including the visual arts and fiction.
The project starts by situating some of the most famous female Hamlets among the number of travesti roles on the professional stage. This includes, of course, Sarah Siddons in the eighteenth century along with Charlotte Cushman and Sarah Bernhardt in the nineteenth. Detailed and carefully nuanced accounts of their performances—for example, Howard creates a vivid picture of Cushman’s Hamlet, drawn from the actress’s own prompt book—provide a fine sense of how their presentations were realized and received. Howard also looks specifically at this historical trajectory in the context of emerging discourse and activism around women’s rights: for example, he notes of Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s popular “sensation” novel, Eleanor’s Victory, that it was a rewriting of Hamlet “as a feminist social critique” (73).