Friday, August 27, 2010

I.v. Swearing Oaths - Classics Illustrated

The originalThat is all. It's actually surprising that the return of the Ghost isn't included given this adaptations fascination with that supernatural element. There is no conflict between the men that requires ghostly intervention, although the narration is almost oxymoronic. "I won't tell you anything, but I'll swear you to secrecy." And that's the interesting bit, I suppose. Summed up that way, it seems a little absurd, but we do have a scene here in which characters are forced to swear to reveal nothing while also being told nothing. While that's not strictly true, it's not entirely false either.

The Berkley version
The sequence gets the better part of a page, with Hamlet immediately asking his companions to swear. There is no room here for madcap zaniness, and Hamlet seems to remain his same old dour self through the entire first Act. We do not see him change, though he does tell Horatio that he'll affect a madness. In other words, this Hamlet isn't mad or even distraught. His actions will be well planned (presumably). The Ghost appears one last time:
Instead of other the earth, he's above ground. The relevant lines are of course cut. Strangely, though Hamlet proposes the oath, we do not hear the men swear to it. There is a disjointed quality to the comic book form, with things (especially speech) occurring in a single sustained moment within the same panel, and actions and words possibly lost in the space between panels. Sequences can read as a montage in which things must be inferred (mostly movement). As readers of Hamlet, we know the men swear even if that is not depicted here. This is an artifact of the medium (and the difficulties of adaptation) rather than a conscious disjointedness.
At the end, Hamlet and friends go back to Elsinore. As usual, artist Tom Mandrake gives us moody images, though I'm not always sure if they thematically match their scenes. This panel gives the impression of three heroes going boldly into the night. As we know, Hamlet really goes it alone from this point. We have the darkness and uncertainty, but where is Hamlet's isolation and doubt? Again, something may be lost in the frozen moment.


Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who sees a resemblance to Olivier's Richard III in the first panel? :P

Siskoid said...

Now that you mention it!

Anonymous said...

It's the hair.