Sunday, July 21, 2013
IV.v. Ophelia's Madness - Tennant (2009)
Ophelia begins with a sad song, but as soon as either of the royals try to touch her - as Claudius walks in with papers that later prove to be news of Laertes' rebellion - she grows manic, screams "PRAY MARK" and starts whirling about the room. She's a dangerous creature to the realm and that sense is given by sudden moves, like her jumping at the Queen's hair, or ripping off the King's jacket. Director Greg Doran apparently rehearsed Ophelia separately from the other actors at first, so that their reactions would be truthful and the mad girl's antics all the more surprising. As she moves to the mirror and goes to touch a sharp shard of glass, they fear she might do a desperate outrage to herself (and she will, through something else that gives a reflection). Some of her madness is real, as in the moment where she looks vacantly into the distance reliving her father's burial, but sometimes she feigns madness to terrorize the royals. The story about the owl, for example, is accompanied by an epileptic fit to mime the transmogrification. This ties her more solidly with Hamlet. She's his mirror, but perhaps in more realistic psychological terms, her imitator. Note also the hilarious reading of the line "I hope all will be well" as a mockery of Patrick Stewart's mannerisms and voice. As such, it means Ophelia does not hope all will be well, and indeed wishes doom on this entire family at her brother's vengeful hands.
The production does not shy away from the more sexual aspects of the scene. In her manic state, Ophelia quickly removes her dress and slip during the tumbling song and refuses the Queen's attempts to drape a shawl over her nakedness. Although Ophelia still has underwear, Claudius looks away embarrassed, contradicting Hamlet's portrait of him as a lust-filled beast. She runs off, clothes in hand, when she suddenly finds herself vulnerable with the thoughts she'd been avoiding all along, those touching her father's death. But make no mistake, this was a coded attack on the royal family.
Claudius, ever the unctuous politician, seems all too calm about the situation, his priority to cajole the distance Gertrude into his frame of mind. His smooth tones betray his intentions, this is a spin job, and he makes sure to blame Hamlet for their problems, an accusation she shrugs off angrily, as if it's been his mantra now for a while and she's tired of hearing it. But he's not exactly wrong.