Acta Litteraria Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 12. (1970)

1970 / 3-4. szám - Hankiss Elemér: Shakespeare's Hamlet

298 E. Hankiss 2. The Method If we want, however, to take the next step and add up informations re­ceived via the different channels — and this in order to obtain the total mes­sage of the play , we are immediately faced by a serious problem. How to sum up such heterogeneous qualities as linguistic information, visual informa­tion, dramatic information, and so on? How to find a common unit of measure­ment which can be applied to all this variety of phenomena? From among the potential solutions of the problem we have chosen the simplest. The fol­lowing one. Information streams flowing through the various channels of a work of art have all in common that they are composed of elementary particles, elementary quanta, which, eliciting elementary reactions in the spectator’s mind, gradually build up the total impact of the play. Linguistic information may obviously be decomposed into elementary units; into sounds, syllables, words, colons, lines, metrical feet, poetic devices, etc. whichever one may deem the best for one’s purposes. The same can be done with kinetic informa­tion as bodily movements can be divided into beats and taken down just as tunes are taken down, or, by the help of Gestaltist methods, they can be bro­ken up into elementary configurations. Just as the personality of a dramatic hero can be decomposed into those elementary thoughts, emotions, gestures, acts, events that the spectator experiences in connection with him. These elementary information units, words, emotions, metrical feet, gestures, lighting effects, metaphors, have not all the same value, the same intensity. Some co-efficients may be introduced later on, however, to level off these differences. For the time being, let us disregard this additional difficulty and make a preliminary experiment by just registering all the elementary information units we may find in the play. Registering them, first, “alia rin­­fusa”, i.e. regardless of the channels through which they have been transmitted to us. 3. The First Experiment We asked sixty-odd undergraduates, who had not yet attended lectures on Shakespeare, first, to go and see Hamlet in a theatre, then, to read through the play carefully and, finally, to reread several times three scenes of the play (III/l, IV/3, V/2) putting down all the feelings, thoughts, associations they happened to have when watching and reading these scenes. They were told not to comment upon the scenes but just to mark down, in simple catchwords, as many elementary impressions as possible; and not to explain, for instance, the dramatic, didactic, philosophic, or aesthetic importance of, say, Ophelia’s death, but only to indicate their own reactions to this event by appending Acta Litteraria Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 12,1970