Sunday, January 2, 2011

II.ii. Brevity - Kline '90

Having omitted the first part of the scene, Act II here begins with Polonius' address to the King and Queen. It seems artificially staged, with the three of them just standing there. However, the acting more than makes up for it. Josef Sommer's Polonius is excellent here, chuckling through the entire encounter, his tension and discomfort realized as laughter ("a vile phrase - haha!). His foolishness is presented as mirth while addressing a serious matter, which culminates with irony when he says "and all we mourn for". No wonder Gertrude loses her patience with him.

The Royals are initially warm with the old man, Claudius especially so. There is a kindness there for an old man who has been, at the very least, a friend of the family. When Polonius says that Hamlet is mad, Gertrude acts like this is new information, or at least a new diagnostic. Where we usually have an ironic turn in which Polonius asks conference only to state the obvious, we now have a revelation. It's true that without the front end of the scene, we've lost the Royals' concern over Hamlet (they do not recruit Rosencrantz & Guildenstern before our eyes), but even had we had it, it is his melancholy that's the problem, not outright madness. The Royals were simply not aware of how badly things had become. Kline's vision does not afford them the weariness we've seen from the Royals by this point in other versions.

No comments: