Wednesday, February 8, 2012

III.ii. Instructing the Players - Classics Illustrated

The original
The bottom of page 15 shows how the comic restructured the sequence leading up to the play:First, Hamlet thinks up his Mouse-Trap plan. The very next panel shows Hamlet seeking out Horatio to ask for his help. It's all very brisk, and not surprisingly for the pacey comic, omits the instructions to the Players. In a way, we have the off-stage scene, often inferred in performances, in which Hamlet first reveals his plans to Horatio. As often played, Hamlet seems to be reminding Horatio of the plan, with the only new information being what role Horatio will play in it. The artist has drawn them out of the way (Elsinore is in the background), creating a more conspiratorial feel, though the harsh, bright white does work against this. The bottom panel goes back one scene to reveal, in a caption, that Rosencrantz & Guildenstern have been unsuccessful, though it seems like they didn't work very hard at it because we haven't seen them AT ALL since they bowed their heads in front of the King and said they'd give it the old Wittenberg try. Though the caption back tracks, the image pushes us forward to the play, with the audience already in their seats (or sitting on the floor, or standing). Hamlet is most definitely NOT in Ophelia's lap, lounging on the ground with Horatio, neither particular well placed to catch Claudius' expression. Polonius and R&G are left standing, servile.

The Berkley version
Tom Mandrake's adaptation also omits the instructions to the Players, but does set the Hamlet-Horatio scene backstage, with the players getting ready. In a reversal of the expected staging, Hamlet finds Horatio there, rather than the opposite. So it's not possible to imagine a time skip that would have allowed Scene ii to have occurred between panels. It's fairly understandable for both comics adaptations to do away with the sequence, and not just for space reasons. Comics cannot do sound or movement in traditional terms, which would make directions as to voice and gesture difficult to gauge later when the play begins. Concentrating on Horatio then:
Mandrake has cut into the compliments section of the speech, but retains the longer text of Horatio's mission. He also sets the scene in among the Players, and keeps it confidential through the tried and true method of a dotted line around the speech bubble (as well as slightly smaller lettering). As the Royal party appears, they are in shadow, a darkness Hamlet means to dispel with his play, one that ends when Claudius will shout for light.

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