Sunday, October 3, 2010

II.i. Reynaldo - BBC '80

This version of the scene makes me realize how much it hinges on Reynaldo's performance. In the Branagh adaptation, Reynaldo is a sinister figure, and thus the scene is played in a more sinister vein by Polonius. Here, he is a comedic sycophant, and it's hard to think of Polonius as much of a villain. Reynaldo is visibly shocked by Polonius' suggestion that he sully his son's name, but Polonius comes across as being naive and misguided, not sinister and manipulative. These are just very bad ideas he think are the right thing to do. The implication is that the King's chief counselor has no moral compass. He isn't choosing wrong like Claudius did; he is just unable to tell right from wrong.

The way Reynaldo is played as a smiling yes man mirrors Osric's role in Elsinore later, and even that of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Polonius seems to surround himself with aides who are excellent at singing praises, but not much else. There is no one in the Court who can tell truth to power, which will prove to be why Hamlet is so disruptive. Polonius is a fool who surrounds himself with clowns, and who is played with a distractedness bordering on senility. He really loses his place and seems confused even after Reynaldo's prompting in this scene.

I should also mention some fun bits of comic business in the scene. Reynaldo tries repeatedly to take the notes he's meant to deliver from Polonius' hands, but can never get at them through the older man's animated speaking. He also grabs the coins himself and doesn't wait for Polonius to remember to pay him. Though played for comic effect to keep the audience interested, this again goes to Polonius' failing faculties.

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