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Act IV, Scenes 1-3 - Classics Illustrated

The original
With no space to spare after that giant ghost visitation double-page splash, this three-scene sequence is reduced to a single panel, with a caption box explaining what happens and Claudius, finally alone, reveals his true agenda - the execution of Hamlet at England's hands. The original Classics Illustrated was nothing if not precipitous when it came to talking scenes. The single panel is more or less used as a punchline, a surprise twist that Hamlet has been sent to his death.

The Berkley version
In three panels, going from a claustrophobic close-up to an airy wide shot - perhaps representing how Claudius feels trapped by the situation, and freed by his decision - Tom Mandrake's Hamlet also reduces the sequence to a single moment. Once again, Hamlet has been caught offscreen, and no final confrontation between Prince and King is to be had on the page. Thrift, thrift, Horatio. Strangely, Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are allowed to stand there while Claudius pronounces his usually secret soliloquy. This makes them more obviously complicit in Hamlet's murder. They know the contents of the letters they carry and perhaps better deserve their deaths. Of course, part of this is the freeze-frame aspect of the comics form. A panel's action represents a single second, but the dialog takes far longer. Might R&G have left in between the two speech bubbles, and thus never heard the King's more private words? It's an ambiguity that wouldn't exist on the stage or on film.

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