Thursday, May 14, 2009

Hamlet's Soliloquy

Kenneth Branagh’s Act 3 scene 1 of Hamlet’s soliloquy is the representation of Hamlet’s current state of mind compared to the two different clips of the same scene by Laurence Oliver and Alexander Fodor. The scene makes the viewer question about his sanity but also allows the viewer to see his deep thoughts. Laurence Oliver and Alexander Fodor both portray Hamlet’s deep thoughts. However, Kenneth Branagh’s scene displays Hamlet’s questionable state of mind more than the other two.


In Kenneth Branagh’s scene, Hamlet starts out by stating the famous line “To be or not to be, that is the question.” (Act 3 Scene 1 Line 55) The actor delivers the line in a low and hissing tone. The Hamlet in this scene seems maniacal because of his hissing tone as he talks to himself whether it is worth living or not. As he goes further into his thoughts, his voice picks up and becomes quicker and louder. Hamlet seems to become angrier as he delves deeper into his own ideas. His voice picks up as he thinks about the people “who would bear the whips and scorns of time.” (Act 3 Scene 1 Line 69) He then proceeds to become happier as he talks about the undiscovered country in which “no travelers return.” (Act 3 Scene 1 Line 79)  The happiness in his tone as he talks about the afterlife also makes the viewers wonder about his mental state. Hamlet seems happy that he is able to view death in such a way but angry in which how little humans know about death. His combination of happiness and anger in his tone gives him a maniacal image as if he is ready to commit murder at anytime.


            The actor’s actions and facial expression also makes the viewer see Hamlet is this insane man. As Hamlet starts his soliloquy he intensely stares into the mirror image of himself and never breaks eye contact. In this scene he is literally talking to himself. The way Hamlet talks to his mirror image of himself as if only Hamlet’s reflection would understand his thoughts. As he stares into the mirror, he must feel proud of himself as if he is saner than anyone else.  He also brings up a tightly gripped fist by his side. The fist shows his anger and passion about humanity and the after life. He points out his fist in front of him like someone who is giving a passionate speech. He then quickly draws out his dagger and points it at his mirror image as he talks about the after life. With his blade, he seems proud and maniacal. He has such a powerful glare to his mirror image while bending his forehead forward with the knife tapping next to his head. He also expresses an evil grin that makes the viewer wonder what he is capable of. Just by his actions alone the viewers can see his mental state.


In Laurence Oliver’s clip, Hamlet is on a cliff and over-looking the rapid and aggressive water below him as he says his soliloquy. The clip gives the viewer and uneasy feeling because of the fast pace and chaotic music. The music seems to give a warning like a large storm is coming or something evil is brewing. The actor delivers the first line in a poetic and philosophical way. By listening to the actor the viewer can see that Hamlet is in deep thought and is questioning the afterlife. Hamlet questions if taking “arms against a sea of troubles” (Act 3 scene 1 line 58) is actually worth doing. If the sea in front of him represents his troubles then it seems that Hamlet is more troubled and worried than insane. As the actor shuts his eyes and begins the think with his knife, he is sweating and the music shoots up when he opens his eyes. He seems panicked about his situation and is trying to make the most sense. The scene is surrounded in fog, as if he is searching for an answer for his problems but it is hidden away in the fog. The scene gives the image that Hamlet is confused and is confronting his problems, rather than giving a menacing image of him.


In Alexander Fodor’s clip, Hamlet is a more modern person reciting the soliloquy to a voice recorder. In clip, Hamlet is a wide-eye young man that seems to be lost in his thoughts. The clip makes constant flashbacks to his dead father to incorporate his thoughts on death. Hamlet’s voice remains mostly philosophical throughout the clip as he records his thoughts. However he does express some anger when he realizes that “conscience does make cowards of us all.” (Act 3 scene 1 line 82). However, he never expresses any real insanity. It feels like he is just trying to get his thoughts straight. He seems sane as he is not talking to himself, but recording himself. His tone remains calm and thoughtful and his facial expression remains calm. The scene shows his deep thoughts but it does not make the viewers question his sanity.


Kenneth Branagh creates the best reenactment of Hamlet soliloquy. Branagh creates a scene where Hamlet expresses his thoughts and insanity simultaneously. While Hamlet makes the viewers think about death and the afterlife by his insightful thoughts, his tone and actions makes the viewers question his sanity. He allows the viewers to believe that he is in control of his insanity which becomes a major part later on in the play. Unlike the other clips, this scene gives the best foreshadowing that his is capable of murder himself. Branagh’s scene perfectly intertwines Hamlet’s philosophical ideas with his questionable state of mind. 

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