Monday, March 9, 2009

Act 3: Scene 1 (Laurence Olivier)


Post your essay in this comment stream if you think this is the best version of the soliloquy.


markr6 said...

All three versions of Hamlet had something to offer the viewer; each had a different approach to Hamlet’s soliloquy in act 3 scene 1. The first version with Kenneth Branagh was done very well. This version was presented in a way that stayed very true to the book. Out of the three its probably the closest to the book. It’s the only version that has Claudius and Polonius spying on Hamlet, the only thing it didn’t stay true to was the time period.

The second video with Alexander Fodor as Hamlet was a very modern take on Hamlet. Out of three it was directed and shot the coolest. The film was very light, almost whitewashed, and had a lot of tint, mostly a green and blue tint. This was by far the furthest from staying true to the Hamlet Shakespeare wrote, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s very much like an art film with all the angles it is shot. The way Hamlet delivers the soliloquy is a lot easier to follow to, it either seems shorter or it actually is shorter.

And lastly the third video, which is also my favorite, has Oliver Laurence as Hamlet. This would be the closest interpretation of Hamlet according to the text; if it was not for the fact it was shot outside, and did not have Polonius and Claudius spying.

According to the text Hamlet is contemplating suicide, now whether he’s purposely trying to act crazy or if he’s truly dealing with problems, could his speech possibly be a ploy to make people think he’s crazy? It doesn’t really say. Anyways, Claudius and Polonius are spying behind a curtain while Hamlet is “performing”. Polonius believes the cause of Hamlet’s odd behavior is because of his for Ophelia. Claudius believes there may be something more to Hamlet’s recent behavior; he’s skeptical and suspicious of Hamlet. After Hamlet’s soliloquy he has an encounter with Ophelia which was very odd, it was before this encounter that he ran to her, most likely scared out of his wit, fore he had just seen a ghost, but whether that was another ploy or not is another thing. But now he’s telling her off and burning his bridges with her, destructing his own relationship. He goes off about how inhumane humanity is and about how everyone’s a sinner. He tells her she should enter the monastery and not partake in the breeding of any more sinners. Perhaps he may not have gone crazy but truly does have issues with humanity, after all he is in a very odd situation with his family, and if what he believes turns out to be true, then how can he trust any one afterwards.


The Oliver Laurence version is shot in black and white, most likely due to the fact there was no color film yet. The opening shot of the scene is of the waves crashing against the side of the building and then a voice over of Oliver Laurence begins while the camera is still focused on the thrashing waves below. Speaking slowly with a tone of sadness, after a few lines the shot moves up and on to Hamlet. He is crouching down looking over the edge of the castle at the waves below. Hamlet’s wearing a white long sleeve shirt with a vest over it. What’s moving about this is that the viewer gets a sense of desperation. Here’s Hamlet all alone contemplating suicide. It’s because he went out of his way to go to the top of some tower and think about death over looking a body of water. While he’s talking to himself and trying to decide what he should do either suffer and live, or end the pain and not live. This version makes his situation seem a lot more serious than the others made it out to be. He’s really stuck on whether he should end his life or not, and if he should decide to be no more he’s only a matter of inches from the necessary means of disappearing with out any one knowing. There is no one to witness his death, he’s all alone. That’s also why I like this version more than the others. The other two show Hamlet with some company, in this one it’s just him, the knife and the cliff. He’s all alone, like in the play. His father’s dead and he can’t go to his mother because she’s married to his Uncle, who may have had something to do with the demise of Hamlet’s father. It’s easier to feel what he’s feeling. This version to me gives off the most emotion.
The scenery plays a big part in the scene as well. He’s on a tower without any sort of barrier going around; it’s like an open area. All around Hamlet is a foggy mist which just makes the scene that much more sinister. Below Hamlet is a thrashing body of water. Everything together makes for feeling of despair. That’s another reason why I prefer this version, the others had just them speaking in a room, what made them interesting was how they were filmed, there was no sort of set manipulation like there was in the Oliver Laurence version. They added a mist, put him on top of a tower, and added a body of water below. It seems the other videos either relied on the actor to deliver and sell the soliloquy or make the shots cool looking.

Throughout the scene there is some background music. None of the other versions of Hamlet really had any music. The opening shot opens to the faint sound of violins. When Hamlet begins his speech the violins take to the background. The only time they are louder than Hamlet’s voice, and he’s speaking very softly and slow, is when he mentions death and the violins make a sort of high pitched sound to make his scene more dramatic.

Although all three were well done in their own way, this one just struck a key. It’s a lot more emotional than the others. If someone were to rate this version, it would probably take every category besides proper setting. Other than that it was the best version.

Aggnes Z. 6 said...

The video shows the best version of Hamlets speech is the video by Laurence Olivier’s. Laurence best shows the meaning of the speech in the play through the use of sound, the tone of the actor which was very sad and intense in. Each of these provides the viewer with a better sense of what Shakespeare wanted to do with Hamlet’s speech. In Hamlet’s speech, Hamlet thinks to commit suicide and the director does this through this first video.
In the video, the camera first showed us to the waves of the sea. The waves were huge and very angry. They represent Hamlet’s feelings and troubles. This choice of background provides deeper look at Hamlet’s mind.
The camera then slowly moved downward to show the actor’s head and shoulders. It focused on the actor’s head. The focus on the actor’s head shows the importance of Hamlet’ thinking in life, because the head is usually the body part that’s used to think and to keep the other body parts functioning. This motion shows Hamlet’s personality and how it changes depending on his state of mind. Hamlet’s speech begins with the line, “To be, or not to be, that is the question,” (line 55) in which he is basically questioning himself, if he should die or continuing living. What is the point of life sometimes.
Later, the camera showed us the actor’s entire body with the position that he was standing high up on the edge of a mountain, while saying the same words from the first line. Maybe he wants to kill himself at that point.
The music in the video also sets the mood of almost each line in Hamlet’s speech. The music was fast, slow or suspenseful depending on which part of the speech was acted. It also provided the audience with mystery and suspense to the lines as he spoke the words.
As Hamlet goes on, he expresses his feeling saying, “...Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, / and by opposing, end them. To die, to sleep-” (lines 59-58) where hamlet is able to show every bit of emotion that the words describe. The actor says in his mind showing that the thought Hamlet has over ending his life. Finally the music at the end of the video provides the audience with a sense of sadness and aloneness, as Hamlet slowly walks away from the edge of the cliff. However, Hamlet leaves his thoughts on suicide when he says “perchance to dream” (line 64), maybe it’ll be better, he reminds himself that he has a dream as to revolt the power of the king. Hamlet despairingly says “ay, there's the rub” (line 64) or “obstacle”, because “in that sleep of death [we don’t know] what dreams may come.” (Line 65) Hamlet concludes that this “obstacle” or dream is what “makes calamity of so long life” (line68) or makes us to live so long to suffer.
The tone that the actor chooses to shows the different parts is also equally important. The actors tone varies at almost every line of the speech. At the moment when Hamlet takes out his knife his tone seems unsure. As the camera comes closer Hamlet’s mind it seems as if the tone of the actor becomes weaker and also seems distant. After the camera pulls away from Hamlet’s face, his tone goes to a scared one. This is done to show that Hamlet is afraid to kill himself as he pulls the knife away and brings it toward his lower body. Overall the tone of Hamlet throughout the whole speech in this video is calm until the moment when the knife is pulled out. The whole feel of the video as well as the actor’s tone has changed from desperation to calmness.
Hamlet then explains the benefits of death that no one would have to bear with the sufferings in earth such as the “whips and the scorns” (line 59) anymore. No matter if it is “the oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely [or rudeness], the pangs of despised love…” no one would any longer bother himself since he can just simply take out his “bodkin” (line 75) or dagger to end his life. At this moment, the actor took out his dagger and slowly pointed it toward himself, because Hamlet has the intention to kill himself again. However Hamlet gives up his thoughts of suicide when he thinks of “the dread after death” (line 77), and the actor turned the direction of his dagger and sat up when he begins the line: “who would fardels bear to grunt… but that the dread of something after death”. Hamlet fears to die because he can not face the torture in hell or imagine himself suffering the same pain he father suffers. He believes that this is the cause for so many of us, including him to choose to “grunt” and “sweat” (line 76) through the tired lives. The actor then looked serious when he was looking at the camera to speak the line “The undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns”. (Line 79- 81) Hamlet is referring “The undiscovered country” to hell. He seriously emphasizes the mystery and horror of hell when he addresses it as a country with “no traveler returns”. The fear of hell shows Hamlet’s courage to die; Hamlet has to keep enduring “the ills” (line 81) or burdens in life, than to “fly to others” (line 81) or the burdens after death that “[he] know not of?” (Line 81) Hamlet feels frustrated that he cannot die yet. And at this moment, the actor then turned his head to his left to be looked depressed. He also dropped his dagger into the sea, which is an action to prevent suicide. The actor created this imagery really well because Hamlet has no more intention to kill himself in this soliloquy.
At the end of the scene, Hamlet’s tone seems to quiet down, as if he realized that he did not have the courage to commit suicide and that he would just have to deal with his problems, which is also when he, while repeating the last few lines, gets up from the rock and walks away in a confused way. All in all, the tone of Hamlet’s voice helped describe the words and the meaning of the lines from the speech. Also, the music in the background created a rushed affect when he would talk about actually dying, or killing himself. Hamlet’s facial expression of being in a complete confused also helped interpret Hamlet’s confusion and his inner conflicts with all the problems he is going through.