Wednesday, December 28, 2011

III.i. The Nunnery Scene - Classics Illustrated

The originalWhile this adaptation sometimes feels like a "boys' adventure", it does surprise the informed reader with a full page devoted to what is essentially a relationship scene. Though cut for space, all the emotional beats are there, even Ophelia's oft-cut speech (in brief). Hamlet doesn't get violent, or even manic, and simply leaves a dejected Ophelia, almost mid-sentence. When she prays for his sanity to be restored, it is in reaction to what, in this context, seems a non sequitur. Devoid of the emotional context actors (or a stronger cartoonist) gives the scene, Ophelia can only conclude Hamlet is spouting nonsense, and never understands those words to be about her. She feels the sting of his telling her he never loved her (not that he ever says this in this cut version, he merely tells her she should not have BELIEVED him - a very different thing - he loved her, but she should not have reciprocated seeing as how things turned out), but nothing more. Claudius, behind the arras, may well conclude that love is not the cause of madness here because Hamlet shows none. There is hardly any passion in the character.

The Berkley version
Tom Mandrake's adaptation is more sensitive. He allows Ophelia's reaction to play in close-up. Hamlet isn't violent, but he does tower over her, his hands placed in vaguely menacing places. It seems an awkward drawing (middle panel, above), but I believe it is Mandrake's native expressionism that distorts the figures for conscious effect. Ophelia's voice is almost swallowed up, her words get smaller as her spirit is smothered. The staging that sets this adaptation apart is that she runs off during Hamlet's curse. He is left behind shouting as she quickly goes - one might assume - to that nunnery. As she exits, a tapestry is revealed.
Mandrake plays the arras as a progressive reveal. First, Hamlet mentions Ophelia's father. Then, we see the arras they said they were going to hide behind. In a third panel, they are in shadow. Claudius seems to uncover the fourth panel himself and shed light on the spies and his plans. (A final panel on the next page returns the figures to shadow as we transition to the next scene, and restores the scene's final scene.)

No comments: