Sunday, April 21, 2013

Act IV, Scene 4 - Kline '90

Three things distinguish Kevin Kline's staging/acting of the scene from the other performances studied at Hyperion to a Satyr. First, proximity. This sticking quite close to the way they did it on stage, Hamlet is only a few few away from a young, dashing Fortinbras who has just walked off-screen/stage after giving his orders. Norway's army might be only 40 feet before Hamlet, and the drumbeat to which it walks is heard through the entire scene, practical music that spurs Hamlet on. In a sense, he becomes the army, though his cause is his alone.

The second difference is the sense of suspicion surrounding Hamlet. The Captain makes a face when Hamlet asks him about the army, as if deciding what exactly he will tell him. Is this a sign that the entire Polish campaign is a lie? Doubtful, as he gives too many details. Or perhaps it's all part of a cover story, since obviously, people (including Claudius) might question why Norway attacks this useless piece of land. And the Captain isn't just an officer, he's an ambassador, trusted to deliver a message to the Danish King. He could be skilled in the art of diplomatic deception. If Hamlet is lied to, it creates a layer of irony. Fortinbras, doubling back to attack Elsinore, is at once on the same mission he is - dethroning/killing Claudius - and mimicking Claudius' own actions - usurping Hamlet's rightful place on the throne. Claudius is the alternative to Hamlet Sr., and Fortinbras the alternative for Hamlet Jr. Rosencrantz & Guildenstern also treat Hamlet with suspicion, taking a long time to go "a little before", as if fearing Hamlet might escape their custody. This possibility is made entirely more possible by the army's proximity. He might easily lose himself in the crowd. But as usual, they get it wrong.

The third major difference in the performance is that tears stream down Hamlet's face during his speech. Kline's Hamlet is a rather weepy one, but why here? The scene is done mostly in tight close-up with a bitter Hamlet, getting louder only later as his anger and determination grow. But is he crying for the men who will lose their lives, for the Ghost of his father still trapped in limbo, or because he's disappointed in himself?

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