Sunday, October 13, 2013

IV.v. Laertes Returns - Classics Illustrated

The original
Interestingly, the old Classics Illustrated shows us Laertes outside Elsinore, leading the rabble at the gates. That might have given the sequence a bit more menace, but Laertes is then immediately seen to enter the unguarded throne room. It's notable that no mention is made in the play, nor all that frequently in the adaptations, of guards who could have met their end in Laertes' action. The Switzers are inquired after, but aren't guarding the door. The dramatic effect is to show a deserted Elsinore where the Royals have been abandoned in the wake of the country's instability. In the comic, the mob enters the room while Claudius protests his innocence to a determined Laertes, and I'd like to think their swords have been blooded. But then Ophelia walks in.
That song and that one flower are all that remain of the sequence as scripted. It's a terrible piece of shorthand that gives Laertes pause, but diminishes this adaptation's already slim portrayal of Ophelia. As usual, this is part of the old Classics Illustrated remit of "boys' adventure" comics, with female characters sidelined in favor of sword fights and ghostly apparitions. The adapters probably didn't know how to make the flower-giving scene meaningful to their intended audience.

Strangely, Laertes is immediately cowed by this short excerpt and follows the royals out of doors, while the mob exits from another doorway entirely (and not the one they came in through; one might imagine a quiet massacre going on behind the scenes).

The Berkley version
The newer adaptation makes the same kind of outrageous cut. The confrontation is here again cut short by Ophelia's appearance (very short, he doesn't even have time to say he wants revenge for his father), though she just appears out of nowhere, sings the same song and a snatch of another in the same panel, drawn from afar, and that's it. She doesn't even have flowers with her. The character's last speaking appearance is thus wasted. Grant and Mandrake are just racing through this sequence for the plot's sake. They need their page count for things that interest them more.

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