A second favorite moment in Richard Armitage’s narration of Hamlet

tumblr_n5ocdxPOv11qlhck1o1_250[Richard Armitage reads Hamlet: Prince of Denmark by A. J. Hartley and David Hewson, from the “making of” video. Animated GIF from tumblr, and I’ve forgotten where; please let me know if it is yours and you would like credit or me to substitute a different picture for this one.]

What I’m enjoying on the end curve of my third listen-through: Richard Armitage’s narration of Ophelia’s funeral. This is in my second file, at about 3 hours 44 min. At 3:49, Hamlet approaches the coffin, and Armitage tells us of his perception of “a smell of incense, perhaps, or something more familiar.” I particularly enjoy the switch here between the narrator, who is almost affectionate, caressing, in discussing Hamlet’s movements, and Hamlet as speaker, who lets out a rush of his emotions for his former beloved. Here the narrator, in discussing the smell that Hamlet picks up (I won’t tell you, as it is plot relevant), joins his emotion to Hamlet’s, with a skillful intensification of emotion up toward Hamlet’s outburst of accusation. We hear grief, sorrow, rage, and power all in one voice as Hamlet responds to what he perceives on Ophelia’s breath. And then the narrators pulls us out of Hamlet, slowly backing up the energy of the scene so that Hamlet can deal in relative sobriety with Laertes’ confrontation and anger to see him at his sister’s funeral.

Really impressive, the way that Armitage takes (or lets himself be taken along with) the energy of the scene to show a complex combination of emotions around Hamlet’s grief and potential madness, while still managing to steer the framework in such a way that the listener gets pulled out of that miasma in order to look at the scene from Laertes’ perspective. The narrative in this work is much more complex than those of Armitage’s earlier book, and he does an amazing job of using his voice(s) to make sure not only that we can get subsumed in the emotion, but that we can keep our place in the story and know where we are.


~ by Servetus on May 23, 2014.

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