Thursday, August 23, 2012

III.iii. The Confessional - Zeffirelli '90

As frequently happens, Zeffirelli chooses to infer a lot of what's being said rather than use the dialog, but the net effect is to deny the audience insight into Claudius' character. Rosencrantz & Guildenstern's role in the sequence is entirely, cut as is Polonius announcing his plan, but this is par for the course for a trimmer Hamlet. Where we lose the most is in Claudius' confession. He finds himself in the chapel, crossing himself before a tapestry of the crucifixion, directly(?) from his emotional outburst at the play. The scene picks up at "My offenses rank" and doesn't get much farther than "a brother's murder" before he kneels and prays silently. It's enough to show his guilt, but not enough make us empathize with his situation. There is no internal debate about the impossibility of his redemption, and most egregious of all, the final line about words without thoughts has been excised. As Hamlet does his thing from the doorway, Claudius at times sobs loudly, and croaks out parts of his speech in prayer ("wretched state" etc.), so this King feels very guilty indeed. However, we're left believing he might yet be redeemed, or that he at least thinks he can be. So Hamlet is right to stay his hand, and the scene's irony is completely lost.

A great disappointment.

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