Sunday, December 6, 2009

I.ii. Ghost Stories - BBC '80

I admit it, I have trouble sizing up Derek Jacobi's Hamlet sometimes. He always gives wonderful line readings, but I'm not always sure how they fit together from moment to moment. His Hamlet is incredibly mercurial, perhaps unstable from the first. Is his Hamlet truly mad? And since when has he been so?In this case, Hamlet does embrace a hesitant Horatio. This Hamlet is cut off from other characters ("poorly attended") and latches on to the first friendly, or should I say neutral, face he sees. From Horatio's awkwardness, one can imagine Hamlet making him a closer friend than he really is, letting him into a secret and personal world he would not have been privy to outside of this crisis. The same goes for Marcellus to a lesser extent. He REALLY doesn't know Bernardo, Jacobi throwing in a moment of non-recognition beautifully. Throughout the scene, the soldiers will stay back, accentuating the hierarchical class structure we discussed in previous articles. Farther from Hamlet in class than Horatio is, they stand at a remove from him even on their lines.

As in Olivier's staging, Horatio does a double-take when he hears that Hamlet sees his father. Jacobi's Hamlet responds differently though. He's hurt, as if Horatio is joking and/or being insensitive. This may spur a quick change in Hamlet's mood, as he becomes rather argumentative after this point. Perhaps it's Horatio's fault in trying to get back into Hamlet's good graces after this faux pas, but Hamlet is troubled by his friend seeming to tell him what he wants to hear (compare to the fawning Rozencrantz and Guildenstern). Is this yet another false friend?
The questions about the Ghost have very much the bent of a test. Hamlet hardly lets him answer before he asks another question, keeping him unbalanced and holding a distrustful expression.

If Hamlet and Horatio are mirrors of a kind, then we can also interpret Hamlet's reaction as that of a skeptic. He doesn't wholly believe the story of a ghost, just as Horatio didn't. Even once he accepts their story, he remains sarcastic with them, even in his show of love. When he then talks about foul play, does he fear a hoax? Usually, the line is about some foul deed that has led to a revenant leaving its grave, but here may refer to the revenant's validity. Is it that he thinks his father SHOULD NOT be in armor if he does walk the earth? Say he wasn't buried in his armor, for example, in which case, that hoax may be from hell itself (a spirit, but not his father's).

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