Friday, November 12, 2010

II.i. Ophelia Affrighted - Classics Illustrated

The original
Ever keen on dispelling ambiguity, the original comics adaptation prefaces Act II with a short, informative scroll:We learn that time had definitely passed, and that Hamlet is in part mad and in part faking it (north-north-west, if you need proof in the text). Artist Alex A. Blum shows us the scene as "reported" by Ophelia, but his less than expressive figure work leaves the scene without much intensity. Ophelia sits through it and though sad, is not "affrighted". A much more timid character, then, who doesn't hold against her father the romantic detente he ordered.
Similarly, Polonius is incredibly calm when he decides to tell the King and Queen about Hamlet's madness. This adaptation continues to be... functional.

The Berkley version
Tom Mandrake gives up a whole page to the scene, and has it take place in a lush, green garden (perhaps the orchard where the murder took place?). Mandrake plays a lot with contrasts in his adaptation. Just before this scene, Denmark was painted as an austere, foggy netherverse. Here, it is an Eden. It may be his way to indicate time has passed, from the bitter cold of Act I, to the false promise of spring in Act II. Mandrake uses the comics medium to good effect, placing both the tale and the telling next to each other on the page and managing perhaps one of the better exits for Hamlet, truly walking without the help of his eyes.

In both adaptations, Ophelia remains sitting during her visit from Hamlet, making her a passive character things happen to. Is it a visual indictment of her role as motor/catalyst for the action? The passivity shown here (and frankly, in the text) can be used either to show that Hamlet isn't motivated by love at all, or more ironically, that Ophelia moves the action without meaning to. In some ways, she's a red herring and a diversion. She puts Polonius et al. on the wrong track vis-à-vis Hamlet's madness, later interrupts Laertes' vengeance schemes (twice), makes Hamlet lose his focus at the graveyard, etc. even for the audience, she is an abortive romantic subplot.

No comments: