Wednesday, April 25, 2012

III.ii. The Mouse-Trap - Slings & Arrows

The very brief part of this scene used in Slings & Arrows amounts to Hamlet's opening insults to Ophelia, but there are still lessons to be gleaned from it. On staging, you'll note that Ophelia and Hamlet are sitting/crouching near the ground, which fits the low-brow humor of the "country matters" line. Hamlet is in full madcap mode, rubbing his hands with devilish glee as Ophelia is continually hurt.

Hamlet turns to the audience to say "That's a fair thought to lie between maids' legs" and gets a laugh without need for Ophelia's questioning retort. The audience gets it because the punchline precedes the joke. In the text, the fact that Ophelia asks for the joke to be explained isn't strictly necessary, though it does inform her traumatized character and works within the rhythm of the scene. By making Hamlet's line an aside, Ophelia does not have to react to it and comes off as even more wounded, unable to properly interact. An aside at this point, and once that elicits a laugh at that, makes the audience share in Hamlet's cruelty. Because he shares his lewd thought with us, we empathize with him, which makes us his accomplices. Subtle, but subversive stuff.

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