Saturday, November 29, 2014

V.ii. The Readiness Is All - Classics Illustrated

The original
Classics Illustrated spends two thirds of a page on Hamlet telling the story (with the help of forward-moving captions) of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern getting their comeuppance. Uncommon for this comic book adaptation, the artist uses the staging to reveal something about Hamlet:
Shrouded in flames from our and Horatio's point of view, this is a hellish Hamlet who thinks nothing of sending former friends to their deaths, one who will become a devil to destroy a devil. What a king is this, indeed. The scripter isn't as kind to the Danish prince. In the scroll-shaped caption that replaces Osric's appearance entirely, he explains Hamlet's motivation in accepting to take part in a duel:
"Somewhat distressed by his quarrel with Laertes, [he] falls easily into the trap set for him". This is a new, and not particularly compelling interpretation, made possible by the removal of the "readiness is all" speech. This Hamlet may be more ruthless, but he is not at peace with his fate, merely unaware that it is to come.

The Berkley version

The more modern adaptation spends almost three pages on this sequence, even moving the action to a new venue (from graveyard to kitchen) mid-speech. While Hamlet tells Horatio about R&G, as is usual, he handles a knife and gets more animated (through the emphasis placed on certainly words in his speech balloon, not through any real moments of action) when he talks about the King. Artist Tom Mandrake gives us a preview of what Hamlet is planning for Claudius.
And then Osric shows up with a massive comedy hat. He stays for all of three panels, scarcely enough time to play up the comedy. The script cuts to chase quickly, with Osric getting mocked only for his response about Laertes' twin weapon, and from the art's standpoint, his general discomfort. As Horatio shares one last barb, Osric runs off and - this amuses me - seems to trip on the link between two word balloons. Accidental?
In the sequence's last panel, Horatio warns Hamlet, and the Prince defies augury, while practicing his moves. He does not, however, say the famous speech. Cutting to "has aught if what he leaves" makes his attitude even more fatalistic.

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