Sunday, December 29, 2013

IV.vii. Claudius' Seduction - Kline '90

The scene suffers a number of cuts, starting slightly later, removing Lamond (as often happens), and any mention of the wick or snuff that could make Laertes hesitate. This Laertes is consequently all anger, and Claudius has no reason to challenge his commitment. One could almost believe Laertes had always held a certain malice against the prince who was wooing (if we're being tactful) his sister, who had more privileges than he did, who perhaps flaunted his wit and education around the castle. These events have just exacerbated an already tense relationship. One could also believe Laertes already has murder on his mind, and that he comes off thinking he's manipulated the King into giving him permission (which he does, in the sanctuary line). This might explain why his body language is so conspiratorial, giving Claudius a signal to keep quiet when a messenger comes in (after all, he has no reason to think Hamlet's already been sent to his death). Still, Claudius can't know the boy's mind, so does manipulate him a little bit, mostly by repeating the fact that Hamlet is returning, fueling that crucial anger.

This Claudius isn't as cold as some of the others, however, and Brian Murray lays fear into his performance. He's breathless, distracted, has to sit down. He almost shows his hand to the messenger, unwarrantably surprised and angry that the letter comes from Hamlet. It makes his plans sound more improvised and desperate. He's no mastermind, and we understand that it's all getting away from him. And Laertes is foolish to think it's a done deal, smiling like some psychopath and acting suspiciously when Gertrude comes in with some terrible news...

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