Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Video Critique on Hamlet, Act III, Scence I

The first version of Hamlet’s soliloquy best interprets his soliloquy in Act 3, Scene1. The film maker Laurence Olivier successfully delivers Hamlet’s emotions and his feelings deep in heart. He does this through the setting, actor’s facial expression, actions and his tone when speaking the lines in Hamlet’s soliloquy.

In the video, the camera first showed us to the waves of the sea. The waves were huge and turbulent. They represent Hamlet’s agitated feelings and great agonies. The camera then slowly moved downward to show the actor’s head and shoulders. It focused on the actor’s head by moving itself toward the center of his head. The screen was finally blackened once the camera was almost touching the actor’s head. The focusing on the actor’s head reveals the significance of Hamlet’ thinking and life, because the head is usually the body part that’s used to think and to keep the other body parts functioning. The camera soon showed the waves again, and this time it combines the waves and the actor’s eyes to create a picture that has the waves to be the actor’s forehead. Olivier refers to the madness of Hamlet’s mind when he replaces actor’s forehead with the waves. Also, at this very moment, the actor starts the first line of Hamlet’s soliloquy: “To be or not to be” (line 55) which is a question that asks “Is it better to be alive or dead?”

Later, the camera showed us the actor’s entire body with the pose that he was sitting on the rock and looking down to the sea. The actor is sitting on the rock that is above the sea because Hamlet wanted to fight “against a sea of troubles” (line 58) Soon the actor starts performing again Hamlet’s soliloquy as he tilts his head up. When the actor reached to the words “end them” (line 59) following “And by opposing” (line 59), he took out his dagger and held it toward himself. This is symbolizing Hamlet’s impulse to simply kill himself. Because Hamlet does not want to “suffer” (line 56) or “submit [himself] to” the “outrageous fortune” (line 57), he confirms himself that he has to fight against “troubles” (line 58) by putting him “to die, to sleep” (line 59) The actor then closed his eyes and listened to the background voice speaking the lines “To die, to sleep - no more, and by a sleep to say we end the heart-ache..‘tis a consummation devoutly to be wish’d.” (Line 59-63) Hamlet wished to just die here. However, Hamlet abandoned his thoughts on suicide when he says “perchance to dream” (line 64), he reminds himself that he has a dream as to revolt the power of the king. The actor suddenly put down his dagger and looked scared at the thought of dying. He then switched his facial expression of being scared to being disappointed, since Hamlet knows that dying might not grant dreams and one wouldn’t know what would happen to his dream. 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.

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 despis’d 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 intention 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 tiresome 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 demeans 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. Olivier brilliantly created this imagery because Hamlet has no more intention to kill himself in this soliloquy.

Toward the end, the actor grievingly delivers the lines “Thus conscience does make cowards of us all” (line 82). He turned his body to his right to not show his entire face as he says the word “coward”. The actor is expressing Hamlet’s fear to be seen through his cowardice. In fact, Hamlet is frustrated at himself for not bravely killing himself. He is unsatisfied that he has neither ended his life nor accomplished anything. Nevertheless, “conscience” (line 82) is what Hamlet blames on for his cowardice. It means the “reflection” or knowledge of what would happen; Hamlet knows about the terrifying hell from his father’s ghost. He also blames on the “thoughts” (line 84) or thinking of hell to be weakening his “native hue” (line 83) or “natural (ruddy)” bravery. Hamlet concludes that knowing and thinking about hell lessened his courage. By this time, the actor walked over to the brink and delivered the line “with this regard their currents turn awry” (line 86) which means that people courage would diminish. Olivier creates an imagery when the actor turned away from his left exactly at the words “turn awry” and another imagery when the actor walked toward the background as he delivers the last line “and lose the name of action”. (Line 87) According to the last line, Hamlet is “losing” his passion or ability to pursue actions; he cannot accomplish his dream as to get revenge and at the same time end his life. Thus, the actor’s walking to the background cooperates with the meaning of the last line.

Overall, Olivier’s version best interprets Hamlet’s soliloquy from Act 3, scene 1. Olivier cleverly matched his setting and the actor’s tone, facial expressions and actions with Hamlet’s mood in his soliloquy. He deserves to have his version standing out to be distinguished.

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