Wednesday, December 22, 2010

II.ii. Brevity - BBC '80

Another strong performance from Eric Porter as Polonius. His speech starts out practiced, with formulas that shows him to be just as much a sycophant as his own Reynaldo, but soon starts improvising amendments, distractedly opening parentheses and making jokes ("have while she is mine") to cover an uncomfortable awkwardness. This may well be due to Gertrude's reaction to his calling Hamlet "mad". The word immediately gets her dander up and he tries to quickly explain why he used the word. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern continually do this as a double act; Polonius does it for himself. The Queen's ire no doubt motivated her first line "More matter with less art" and at that point, Claudius takes her hand to pacify her, though he soon loses his smile as well due to Polonius' trademark tediousness.

Polonius reads the letter as if for the first time, or if not, at least picking up on key words for the first time. "Beautified" becomes a vile phrase only here - he has not pre-judged the words - and he covers up any post-bosom awkwardness with an "etc." (as per the text, of course). The word "machine" makes him stop and hesitate, as if not expecting it nor really understanding the turn of phrase.

There is a slight cut before Polonius offers to have his head cut off. He no longer asks if he's ever been wrong before, and so Claudius no longer responds with ambivalence. Nothing major, though we do lose a small touch of irony on a point already well made.

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