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Comments about the soundtrack for Hamlet (Patrick Doyle)

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The remark about Claudius and Ophelia's themes mystifies
• Posted by: franz_conrad   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Sunday, February 26, 2006, at 3:16 p.m.
• IP Address:

Remember firstly that this one hour CD is about half of the film score in total, so if the structure of the score seemed disjointed, it would not be overly-surprising.

Even with that in mind though, the remark about Claudius' and Ophelia's themes is strange.

>"Doyle also wrote themes for Claudius and Ophelia, however neither of these >themes is realized beyond the tense string section and occasional woodwind >fragment"

Ophelia's theme, a string-led elegy, is presented first in counterpoint to Hamlet's in 'To Thine Own Self Be True' (Laertes lectures her on purity and tells her to be careful of Hamlet), it then assumes the fore in 'Oh what a noble mind is here o'erthrown' (as Ophelia mourns Hamlet's madness after the 'get thee to a nunnery scene'), reappearing appropriately in 'And will a not come again' (Ophelia slips into madness) and 'Sweets to the Sweet - farewell' (as Hamlet and Laertes struggle at her funeral).

As for Claudius, well his theme is a litte more subtly varied through its uses. The texture that connects to Claudius is high-end strings. It assumes his sinuous theme in 'Ghost' as the death of Hamlet's father is re-enacted and Hamlet broods on the incestuous remarriage of his mother. As Hamlet passes over the opportunity to murder his penitent uncle ('Now Could I Drink Hot Blood'), the theme is reprised in its classic form. At the start of that track, as Claudius is repelled by the play Hamlet has presented for him, the theme is given a suspenseful variation. The theme appears in a variation one last time in 'Part them, they are incensed' in a string interlude to the final duel.

And there more versions of both themes in the film, not to mention the incorporation of 'Ophelia's Theme' into 'In Pace'. Far from being the occasional woodwind fragment or tense string section, these themes are key secondary material in the structure of the score.

The review also neglects to discuss Doyle's interesting modernist ideas in 'To be or not to be' and 'Alas Poor Yorick', two of his best film compositions, if amelodic.

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