Saturday, May 11, 2013

Act IV, Scene 4 - Classics Illustrated

The original adaptation omits this scene entirely, but the Berkley version doesn't, though by staging the action just as Hamlet's party leaves Elsinore does have a variety of effects.
First, it puts Fortinbras' army very close to the Danish throne, and reinforces the idea that Claudius is a fool to trust Norway. We're looking at a huge army within a stone's throw of what looks like a largely undefended castle, overgrown with weeds and surrounded by crumbling walls. Denmark is on the wane, and artist Tom Mandrake represents this visually. Another change is that the Captain's lines seem to have been given to one of Hamlet's guards, which justifies the cursory information given when you cut most of the Captain's lines.
Removing the Captain's lines about the futility of this particular battle means Hamlet's condemnation of it as a "trick of fame" is really a condemnation of all war. He doesn't need to know the details of the Norway-Poland engagement to know many men will die and for what? Their leader's glory and some patch of land? This tells us something about Hamlet's relationship to his father, reputedly a great warrior. He's an academic and as the play has made clear to date, a man more of words than actions. He sees something of his father in Fortinbras, and that compels him to finally act, but he's also critical of the type of action. Even in a speech about finally committing to action, there is still a resistance, an attempt to justify why HE might act when others' violence is so distasteful to him. To become one's father, or to forge one's own way, is in many ways Hamlet's dilemma.

Mandrake's active pose in the last panel does a good job of visually representing that leap into a new mode of being for our Prince.

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