Wednesday, January 18, 2012

III.ii. Instructing the Players - Zeffirelli '90

In Zeffirelli's adaptation, the scene has been slashed to shreds. From "the play's the thing", we cut directly to the Player Queen putting on his/her wig, pipe music blaring, and Hamlet running through the backstage area with made-up lines like "'Tis almost time". He's checking scripts, adjusting crowns, giving silent approval, but not giving any kind of verbal instructions. Even his talk with Horatio is brief and to the point, explaining briefly his plan, not giving his friend a single compliment or task, and then stating he must be idle and get you a place. No wonder Horatio looks so sombre.

In cases such as these, the question to ask is what effect these cuts have on our understand of the play. Obviously it is impoverished by the lack of relationship between these characters and Hamlet, and by the innate ironies of the scene. The story isn't changed, though from Horatio's expression, he might be thinking Hamlet's indeed gone mad and has about as much patience for his antics as everyone else. And would he have more when he's apparently kept out of the loop like this? Cutting out Horatio's part would make Hamlet more alone, but he's there just enough for that not to be the case. And yet, Horatio's not present enough to really make an impact in the prince's life. Like the Players who have suffered the most cuts, Horatio is merely an accessory to Hamlet's plans, advancing the plot but not the relationship.

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