Sunday, August 10, 2014

V.i. Ophelia's Funeral - Kline '90

Kevin Kline does something very interesting in this scene, using Ophelia's body a character in its own right. Seconds into revealing himself, he's weeping and using that strange melodramatic voice he sometimes falls into over the course of the play; that's standard for him. Hamlet's emotion is strong enough, especially in comparison to the more steady (or perhaps less able to put things into words) Laertes, who is stunned by it. But then in a mirror of the other boy's interaction with Ophelia's corpse, Hamlet kneels down, caresses and even kisses the dead Ophelia. It's an intimate moment in which he tells her that the dog will have his day, a comforting promise. Deliciously ironic, because he killed her father and drove her to desperation, so he's also the dog that will be put down (a promise that is carried out). The moment comes right after he lets go of his anger and sadness at Laertes' own. There's a mental break there. And all the while, the other characters just let him go, just as they did when Ophelia made her mad speeches (I'm also reminded of Queen Margaret in Richard III; this is a Shakespearean tradition). In the throes of this madness, he then simply gets up and walks away without looking back.

Kline's adaptation is played as if on stage, and the planks are visible in this scene. There is no grave to put Ophelia or leap into. The sequence is played as a rest from the walk to the cemetery, and made to work. Claudius then has the rest of the short trek to remind a still shocked Laertes of their plans. Perhaps he senses the boy's reticence. This is not a particularly angry Laertes, and nothing, except Hamlet's presence, really inflames him. The priest is kind to him, answering his surprise at the slim rites kindly. His request to take Ophelia in his arms once more is dramatic, but shown by Hamlet's ranting to be somewhat insincere, like something he think he ought to do, not something he profoundly feels. Confronted by true emotion, he's no sure what to do. And perhaps are sewn the seeds of doubt, an empathy with the Prince.

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