Friday, November 1, 2013 Hamlet's Letter - BBC '80

A most unusual staging, but completely supported by the text. We're in a public space, with plenty of people milling around. Horatio is reading at a table when the two sailors walk in. They look around them, not so much to find the one learned man in all of Elsinore, but to make sure they aren't noticed. The lead sailor has a smile on his face, one that might indicate he knows something others don't, a fact that amuses him. The body language speaks to a covert mission, but then, so does the dialog.

Note for example how Hamlet's name is not spoken. They call him the "ambassador bound for England" instead. Then, they make sure the man they are speaking to is indeed Horatio. When Horatio tries to steps away to read the letter, the sailor grabs his arm, restrains him. He won't let Horatio out of his sight, or perhaps it's the letter he's been told not to lose sight of. It mustn't get into the wrong hands, even by accident. One might imagine the sailors taking back and destroying the missive between scenes. And the letter is complimentary to the messengers, as if Hamlet knew full well it would be read in their presence, ennobling the pirates by calling them "warlike".

As they leave, the camera lingers on gamblers throwing dice. A comment on the situation's precariousness?

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