Sunday, April 10, 2011

II.ii. Rosencrantz & Guildenstern - Kline '90

In Kline's version, we likewise only meet R&G at this point. They are played by Philip Goodwin (a nerdy Rosencrantz) and Reg. E. Cathey (a cool Guildenstern). Though the latter's casting gives the part some pizazz (Cathey could never be anything but cool), and despite the obvious differences in the two characters, we find they are still twinned. I had not noticed before how often they use the pronoun "we", even when stating opinion. "We think not so," says one, instinctively knowing what the other thinks as well. It's an example of how the text innocuously supports the ideas of the play. Another is Hamlet's "To speak like an honest man," which prods us into questioning his words. Is he not honest the rest of the time? Even in that moment, he speaks LIKE an honest man, not AS an honest man. Should we trust him even here?

Sincere or not, Hamlet seems genuinely happy to see his friends here, at least, until he senses their betrayal. Kline is especially strong in this section, internalizing that betrayal before going into a manic state (for their benefit?). He clasps them to his breast in an awkward position, violence and love mixed. He lets out his anger at them in the guise of madcap love, in a sense ACTING like an honest, sincere man, but not AS an one. We might remember, at this point, how Hamlet questioned whether wearing the trappings of grief was in any way equivalent to feeling grief profoundly and truly. The same could be said of the trappings of friendship and love, and the play continually toys with the theme of "representation" both on stage in in our lives.
There's a nice bit of staging for the "What a piece of work is a man" speech, as Hamlet forces R&G to join him on the floor to look at the ceiling/sky. They are upside down, and indeed the speech itself is an inversion of the natural order.

At the end of the sequence, the Players are announced, but the gossip (as usual) excised. As Hamlet confesses his partial madness, he pickpockets his book back from Rosencrantz's jacket pocket, even though the viewer probably didn't notice him putting it there. It's an interesting symbol for Hamlet picking their brains, or even of having put words/thoughts in their mouths/minds (the reversed confession). Again we have acts of violence (theft is a form of outrage) cast as love and friendship. Teasing, but meaning to do more than tease.

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