Friday, October 24, 2014

V.ii. The Readiness Is All - Zeffirelli '90

Having already shown Hamlet switching the letters on the ship, the sequence actually starts with Osric walking in. But this isn't the comic relief we're expecting. Zeffirelli's thuggish Osric is a threatening presence, contemptuous of the Prince. He's deadly serious, impatient with what he views as Hamlet's much-touted madness, refusing the "reality" the King's nephew would impose on him. When Hamlet tells Osric to put his hat on his head, the latter just starts talking of royal wagers, and leaves with a nasty smirk and putting his hat on a little too deliberately, as if in defiance. Zeffirelli really wants Osric to be a harbinger of Hamlet's death here, and Hamlet certainly responds with foreboding, letting as little emotion as possible cross his face, unflinching in the face of this obvious threat. Massive cuts are required to make this work, of course. We have no reference to Osric being a lowly sycophant, nor do Hamlet and Horatio share banter mocking the man. Osric's lines have been severely curtailed to remove the appearance of foolishness. The film is the poorer for it, but there's a certain efficiency to it as well.

After "we defy augury", we cut back to Laertes and Claudius, still plotting. As far as the time line goes, we must assume the duel/wager was called and only later did the conspirators think of it as an opportunity for assassination. Or else Claudius set things into motion before insuring Laertes' participation, which works too. It provides motive for his seduction of the younger man. When we cut back to Hamlet, he is now alone, looking out a window at the sea, smelling in the sea air, ostensibly for the last time. The short "readiness is all" speech is turned into a soliloquy, something he comes to terms with rather than a comfort to his friend. There's something slightly ironic about his enjoying one last sight of Denmark, a country he has railed against steadily since the start of the play, or perhaps we're meant to look at the water and think of the undiscovered country on the other side, Hamlet's final destination.

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