Working Papers



The Director's Notes for Designers

The director's notes to the play's designers communicates the vision of the play so that everyone shares the same goals.


Directors need to communicate their ideas before the play's designers begin their work on the sets, costumes, and lighting. There's no set list of topics for these notes; rather, the director articulates an overall vision of the play so that everyone is working towards the same goals. This vision is itself only a starting point for the ongoing conversations that take place as production goes forward. As such, it's subject to revision, as new creative possibilities emerge and others fade.

What follows is the September 2008 version of Patrick Finn's notes to the play's designers.


Hamlet versus Claudius over the affections of Gertrude.


1. Hearing

a. The ineluctable modality of the aural
b. The porches of mine ear
c. Listening to speeches
d. Playing upon pipes
e. Thunder to the gods
f. Graves as ears
g. Heavy footsteps

2. Seeing

a. Spying
b. Watching the play
c. Impeded vision
d. Witnessing (as in Ophelia's death)
e. Images (pictures of Old King and Claudius)
f. Watching Claudius control Gertrude
g. Shadows

3. Taste

a. Meats from a funeral for a marriage
b. Poison in food
c. Guts of a beggar
d. Fish
e. The flavour of words
4. Smell
a. Something is rotten
b. Bodies in proximity
c. You'll nose him under the stairs
d. The smell of Yorick's skull compared to Alexander
e. Sex as in pheromones an uncontrollable force exerted by Gertrude

5. Touch

a. Proximity for a knife kill
b. Handshake forgiveness or challenge, or control
c. Touch in fencing measuring performance
d. Sexual touch appropriate and inappropriate
e. Touching dead bodies
f. Control
6. The Sixth Sense
a. Prophetic soul
b. Ghosts/Hauntings
c. Ophelia's intuition
d. Gertrude's intuition
e. Hamlet's intuition
f. Sin/Guilt/Forgiveness
g. Suspicion

Characters (14 Actors)

Claudius' Court

Hamlet's Family

1. Hamlet The Lion, The Boy Prince, called to be The Hero King.
Student, lover, friend, actor. One main costume needs coat to
go outdoors, major fencing battle. Dagger. Faces the question of
whether or not to live a perfectly happy life with Ophelia and
inherit the throne or to accept the cup of poison in the form of
revenge offered by his father.

2. Claudius The Badger, The Conqueror. Uncle to Hamlet, the
opportunist, the politician, the realist. One main costume, must
who mourning for Ophelia when outside. Dagger. Interested in
his appearance. Not as tough as his brother, but more politically
savvy. In love with Gertrude from the moment he first saw her.
Some form of relationship with Gertrude must have been
preexisting. Does he wonder if he is Hamlet's true father?

3. Gertrude The Queen and Mother. The essence of all that is
powerful in Denmark. To have her allegiance is to have the
crown. Everyone wants her. Sexual, nurturing, passionate, wise.
Plays her cards close to her chest. Needs to be alluring,
bedchamber clothes, goes outside, royal showing. Shows some

Polonius' Family

4. Polonius (also Attendant) The Sage. The witty, wise old
counselor who sees the best in everyone. Tries desperately to
find a path out of the darkness. Father, advisor, actor. One main
costume. Dagger (drawn in arras scene?)

5. Laertes The Shadow Prince. Son, brother, student,
swordsman. A noble knight whose only vulnerability is his open
heart. Remains committed to the old ways, though is trying to
learn about the new world order. One main costume, goes
outside. Dagger.

6. Ophelia The Princess / The Crone. Daughter, Sister, Lover.
Jubilant beauty who through curses she cannot escape becomes
the all-seeing Crone who rails at the evil around her. Two
costumes (or just a big change) sane and insane. Clothing
covers her from neck to wrist to ankle, but is semi-sheer hinting
at what lies beneath, but has yet to ripen. Outside/inside



7. Marcellus The Watchman. Trustworthy, steadfast and
courageous. The soldier. Thinks before speaking. Physically very
strong. One costume soldier. Dagger and more

8. Barnardo The Observer. Moves with great fluidity. Sees all
and stays safe by avoiding gossip and intrigue. Profits by
knowing the ins and outs of courtly politics. Walks between the
old and new worlds. One costume courtier. Dagger.

9. Osric The Fantastic loves clothing, courtly ways, dinner
parties and the attention of those in power. Treats servants and
anyone beneath him with disdain. Will sell out to the highest
bidder in order to stay central at court. One costume dandyish.
Elaborate Dagger or ornate blade and sheath more for show than


10. Horatio The Student/Poet. More mind than body, living for
the ideal. The friend. The writer, the scholar, the witness. One
costume starving student, goes outside. No Dagger. (Glasses
could be good, but the first wearable eyeglasses are not
recorded until 1284 hand-held lenses were used by the 9th
Century). Does not care about power.

11. Rosencrantz (Attendant) The Lost Soul. Student, friend,
bon vivant. Wishes to find joy in life and tries to make the best
of every situation. One costume. Dagger. Ambitious.

12. Guildenstern (Attendant) The Bitter Youth. The cynic,
who wishes to have fun, but chafes at the inanity of those
around him. Wonders why people have to take things so
seriously, but when there is levity pursues seriousness. One
costume. Dagger. Ambitious.

The Fawns [in Mask they exist between
Courtly Visitors and the
Land of the Dead)

13. Player King (also Attendant) The Shadow King Two
costumes (or marked change) arriving and performing.

14. Player Queen (also Osric, Attendant) The Shadow Queen
Two costumes (or marked change) arriving and performing.

15. Player Villain (Trickster) -- (also Ghost, Attendant) The
Smokey Mirror, The Challenger, The Villain, The Usurper, The
Conqueror Two costumes (or marked change) arriving and

16. Player Prince (also Gravedigger, Attendant) The Witness
Two costumes (or marked change) arriving and performing.

17. Player Princess (also Marcellus, Barnardo, Prologue,
Attendant) The Tormented One Two costumes (or marked
change) arriving and performing.

Land of the Dead

18. Gravedigger (also Attendant) The Hermit the one who
knows all. The Ferryman of the dead. The keeper of the history,
the wise old man of the woods. The only character who never
enters the castle. The outsider. One costume.

19. Gravedigger's Apprentice The Mute the wraith. Partly
from this world, partly from the next. As someone never fully
accepted into either world the wraith is defined by haunting and
acts without allegiance to anyone on either side of life or death.
The Apprentice's only loyalty is to the Gravedigger and briefly to
the souls that hover in the nether world that is The Apprentice's

20. Ghost The Slain King. Hamlet's father. Warrior, Brother,
Husband, he is punished for inattention and for being too
trusting. One costume. Voice not always coming from the same
place or where we would expect it.



Act 1 Time

1. The Graves are ope'd Midnight Feb. 1
2. Something is rotten: The Call Dinner Hour Feb. 1
3. The Princess in her Tower Midday Feb. 2
4. The Threshold Midnight Feb. 2
5. The Messenger brings the Challenge After Midnight Feb. 2
6. From the Mouths of Babes Early Morning Feb. 2
7. Deceptions in the Mist Mid Morning Feb. 2
8. Farewell Love Late Afternoon Feb. 2
9. The Trap After Dinner Feb. 2

Act 2

1. Things Known and Unknown After Dinner Feb. 2
2. Refusal of the Call Early Evening Feb. 2
3. Mother & Murther Late Evening Feb. 2
4. Fury in the Belly of the Whale Nighttime Feb. 2
5. Cassandra Cries Midmorning Feb. 13
6. Letter from a Friend Noon Feb. 13
7. Call to the Shadow Prince Mid Afternoon Feb. 13
8. Journey to the Land of the Dead Dusk Feb. 14
9. Reckoning Evening Feb. 14


World of the Play