Thursday, November 14, 2013 Hamlet's Letter - Classics Illustrated

The original
A strange choice from comics makers so focused on the "boys' adventure" elements of the play. This would have been a perfect place to insert a visual flashback with ships and pirate battles. Instead, though the adaptation is often merciless with its cuts, we get the entire letter in what is practically a splash page. In other words, the authors have given a lot of weight to what is essentially a linking scene, but did not use that space to do Hamlet's story justice. The most we get is a sailor with an eye patch. So what effect does this rather poor decision (in terms of medium) have on the story? It may tell us Hamlet's story is at least in part a fabrication, and we might imagine a Machiavellian Hamlet who had a ship loyal to him waiting to take him off his stepfather's. The letter to Horatio would be a smokescreen filled with tall tales in case it was ever intercepted. Perhaps Horatio knows this is coded, perhaps he doesn't, but the image above makes clear he's taking a pirate into Elsinore. Why would he provide access for an outlaw if they weren't part of the same rebel faction loyal to the prince? No, I don't think the adaptation thought it through this much, but the creative team's poor visual choice does evoke staging and interpretation ideas.

The Berkley version omits the letter entirely.

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