Saturday, November 2, 2013 Hamlet's Letter - Zeffirelli '90

Zeffirelli doesn't use the scene in which Horatio reads Hamlet's letter, going straight from Ophelia's last scene to her suicide. He does use some visual shorthand to present the necessary information, however (though it removes the perhaps unnecessary complication of the pirate attack) in a cut-away to Hamlet just before Laertes arrives in Elsinore.

We see Hamlet skulking about the ship while Rosencrantz&Guildenstern sleep, ferret the King's letter out of their bags and read it (it's a voice-over in Claudius' voice, basically the lines that end with "Do it, England!"). He then switches those letters with new letters of his own writing. He makes the sign of the cross over their prone bodies, crossing them as he crosses them, a visual pun. Seeing it in these terms makes Hamlet quite ruthless. He has the letters sending R&G to their deaths before he even finds the King's letter, making us wonder if he would have had them killed regardless.

And we cut straight from that to R&G getting hauled to an executioner's block, where the axe falls on Michael Maloney's neck (out of frame, thankfully). So in very quick succession, we find out the contents of Horatio's letter (no longer needed) and the fate of R&G (which may cut more dialog down the line). Those are some efficacious chops for both Zeffirelli and Hamlet!

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