Sunday, January 5, 2014

IV.vii. Claudius' Seduction - Hamlet 2000

Though it does suffer some important cuts, the scene is well-played and well-staged, and features some interesting innovations. For example, there's a bodyguard in the room, which makes sense after Laertes tried to kill Claudius. They can't be left alone together. It also means Claudius has soldiers loyal to him - his power is still real - or else he wouldn't conspire to kill the Prince in front of a third party. The other interesting idea is to stage the scene so Gertrude is in the next room. Low voices, furtive glances, the tension is raised considerably and the conspirators made more conspiratorial as a result.

Laertes accepts Claudius' excuses and is shown the gun Hamlet used in an evidence bag, but his expression is clear. The Royal Family survives while his own pays the price. The State screws the People over (though obviously, the Polonius family wasn't exactly middle-class). He is otherwise cold towards the King, his mind elsewhere perhaps, as he fiddles with Ophelia's hair comb, but that gives a nice spin on the line about warming the sickness of his heart, which in turn highlights Claudius' own about an "ulcer". The only emotion Laertes will allow himself to have is that sickness, a need for revenge, a hate beyond all hate.

Among the many cuts, we of course find the Normand material, which doesn't fit the setting, but also the details of the assassination scheme. In fact, what the characters fear throughout actually happens and Gertrude walks in on them, earlier than in the play. She cuts them off just as Laertes was about to answer Claudius' question about what he would do to show himself his father's son.

A final note: The fax machine used to deliver Hamlet's message turns this "modern-day" version into a period piece after all.

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