Wednesday, July 13, 2011

II.ii. O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I - Fodor (2007)

Hamlet's thought process via-à-vis this speech was almost all played out in his head during the previous sequence, through hallucinations that matched each of the Players with members of the Court. The effect the Players have on him is thus played rather than discussed (he doesn't unpack his heart with words). So the speech starts at "I have heard that guilty creatures sitting at a play", and because Horatio is present, those words are spoken to her. The soliloquy is turned into a (one-sided) conversation. Hamlet informs his friend of his plan, as he must do according to the text - Horatio is aware of the plan by the time the play rolls around - but there is no reaction from her (none are scripted, obviously). We simply fade to black.

Though we can of course mourn the loss of Hamlet's quest to better understand himself - these many cuts are part and parcel why William Belchambers is a weak Hamlet - we can still enjoy with interest the greater importance given to Horatio in the adaptation. She is present and even active through most of Act II, even though Shakespeare never included him/her in the text. And this element does work quite well. It makes the friendship more believable, and deepens the Horatio character. She is steadfast in her friendship to Hamlet, backing him up silently and thus, without judgment. Yes, it weakens Hamlet and any cuts made to the scenes where she is present seem to speak to some kind of self-censorship on his part (though the impression is only in the mind of the well-informed viewer who knows the text). Another reason it works as smoothly as it does is because the film takes place in the modern era, an era largely devoid of class issues. This Horatio may move about Elsinore, attend Hamlet and even face up to more highly placed "courtiers" (in the play's normal hierarchy, that is) without the social boundaries that would have prevented the "historical" Horatio from doing so.

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