Thursday, June 21, 2012

III.ii. Critical Reception - Kline '90

In a small ironic twist, Hamlet runs around with a dagger at the beginning of this sequence - false fire indeed! And euphoric, he lets himself fall into Horatio's arms from off the stage, a foreshadowing piece of staging, as well as a call back to his feeling faint after meeting the Ghost. This is the midpoint between getting the mission and seeing it done, the turning point, and each one a blind fall backwards. Does Horatio believe Claudius showed his hand? Or does he just play along with the Prince dangerously swinging that knife around? There's simply no room to play the ambiguity as Hamlet jumps right back onto the stage and starts playing the recorder.

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern come running, and spin out their speeches while Hamlet pipes through them. The recorder is his weapon, used either to drown out their words, or swung as a dueling sword. Rosencrantz seems particularly earnest in trying to reason with him, honestly trying to save him from this reckless path he's set himself on. The old friendship appears more tangible in this adaptation. Consequently, Hamlet is less manic, though there are still moments of mad energy, such as on the "pickets and stealers" line, pulling handkerchiefs out their pockets like a stage magician. Regardless, Hamlet is more in control of his words. For example, "I lack advancement" is said with a smile, like he's pulling unconvincing reasons out of the air just to see how they'll respond.

A moment that made me stop and think is Guildenstern's contention that "if [his] duty be too bold, [his] love is too unmannerly" met with a real pause from Hamlet before answering that he doesn't understand that. He pauses, so we do as well. What surprises him in that line, or alternately, what makes him point out Guildenstern's delusion or hypocrisy? To paraphrase, Guildenstern's lack of manners are attributable to being oh so worried about Hamlet. Oh really! The Prince goes on to attack his credibility, so he clearly doesn't believe a word, that somehow these former friends care about him more than they do themselves. And he's very serious and calm throughout the sequence, adding to the earnestness. The scene is usually played with Hamlet being "idle", playing up his madness, and R&G as panicking hypocrites. In this adaptation, it is closer to an honest portrayal of a friendship breaking down. Or any relationship, in fact, because Hamlet is much the same with Polonius.
Of course, Hamlet's claims about imaginary clouds seems like madness no matter the tone. At least, Polonius thinks it so, looking sideways at R&G, trying to get a sign from them about the Prince's state of mind. He awkwardly agrees with everything, trying not to wake the beast, so to speak. Hamlet, too, is giving meaningful looks. Polonius IS the weasel that inspires the cloud simply for accepting the initial premise. A white lie, but one told by a liar nonetheless.

The soliloquy has a trigger: Midnight bells, rung at the "witching hour", giving the whole of the speech a funereal air, and giving the dagger, pulled back out, a fatal and dread resonance.

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