Saturday, July 21, 2012

III.ii. Critical Reception - Classics Illustrated

The original
The black comedy of the recorder exchange between Hamlet and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern cannot be easily reproduced on the comics page, not with the page count inherent to the format, so I'm sad to report the sequence was cut from both version of Classics Illustrated. R&G still show up to deliver the Queen's message, but it acts merely as prologue to Hamlet's soliloquy. This is especially true of the original comic, which has Hamlet spare his cruelties, unless one considers an abrupt answer "cruel".Note also how the bloodier language was excised from the speech, pitching it to its younger audience.

The Berkley version
Tom Mandrake's adaptation uses an entire page, but is still very economical. Hamlet's delirious rhymes are kept, but spoken over the panel in which the King runs off, showing more clearly that he is the "stricken deer" of Hamlet's song. Mandrake's gloomy Hamlet has a very different expression from the original Classics Illustrated too, replacing joy with anguish. Gone is the euphoria, and in its place is the realization that now he must carry out a bloody revenge. For this Hamlet, it's made things worse and it seems he'd rather have been told that the Ghost was lying, tormenting him.
R&G's arrival restores a lot of dialog lost in the original comic, but still no recorder business (which would probably have been bitter and violent rather than manic). In fact, Hamlet's response, cutting to a later line in the scene, is almost a non sequitur. "By and by is easily said" seems strange here, but it is basically Hamlet telling them what answer to go, without the prompt of it being their own, plain answer. The comics form shows another of its weaknesses at adaptation when Hamlet starts his speech in the same panel he dismisses his friends, making it look like they'll hear that part of it. However, it does kind of work, and makes the witching hour the reason for their dismissal. Instead of saying it's late, Hamlet goes into poetic detail the likens night to evil. I could see this used in a proper staging of the play as a way to give Hamlet another "madness" moment in front of the traitors, putting a mirror up to their own evil or acting as a veiled threat.
The rest is the speech is as written and performed alone, either with Hamlet in close-up, or walking towards his mother's closet.

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