“Hamlet” by William Shakespeare [Kenneth Branagh Film 1996]


i just watched kenneth bRanagh’s (with kATE WINSLET = Ophelia) hamlet version. powerful!

hAMLET rEVIEW by James Berardinelli.

The play, Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, was first performed around 1600.  Since then, it has proven to be one of the English language’s most enduring stories, and there has never been a decade that hasn’t seen dozens of new productions.

To Be or Not to Be“…

This soliloquy is about taking violent action that could result in Hamlet being killed, rather than the contemplation of suicide, which was against his religious beliefs.  In an earlier speech he says:

“O…that the Everlasting had not fix’d his canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! “

Hamlet has seen his father’s ghost who ordered him to seek revenge on the man who murdered him, took his throne and married his wife, Hamlet’s mother. The speech is about his disgust with the world.  Although his own death will be a consequence, he sees his life as of no value and feels compelled to avenge his father’s murder.

This predicts the course of the rest of the play – and results in the death in Hamlet and most of the other characters.  At this point he turns into a desperado, who considers himself already dead. He decides to risk his own life to punish the wicked.

Hamlet’s distress and strange conduct have become obvious to other members of the cast,  especially to Polonius and his daughter Ophelia.  Some of the subsequent victims are just innocents who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Like Polonius who was killed when Hamlet thought he was Claudius hiding behind a curtain in his mother’s chamber – and  indirectly Ophelia who is driven insane and dies of grief after the death of her father.  By the end of the play most of the rest of the cast are dead too, including Ophelia’s brother, Laertes.

Gertrude, his mother, is poisoned by wine intended for him by wicked uncle Claudius, who has also poisoned Laertes’ sword.  Hamlet does not know about the poisoned wine nor the poisoned sword.

In the duel between Hamlet and Laertes the swords are switched and both sustain minor wounds – meaning that they will both die.  Hamlet did not intend to kill Laertes – and nor does he realise he himself will die until Laertes tells him so:

“Hamlet, thou art slain; no medicine in the world can do thee good; in thee there is not half an hour of life…”

Hamlet acknowledges,

“The point!–envenom’d too! Then, venom, to thy work.”

Hamlet then he stabs uncle Claudius with the poisoned sword and forces him to drink the poisoned wine, saying

“Here, thou incestuous, murderous, damned Dane,
Drink off this potion…follow my mother”.

Horatio then takes the cup, saying there’s some poison left and saying,

“I am more an antique Roman than a Dane”

meaning that he’s about to drink it to die with his friend.  But Hamlet forcibly takes the cup from him and charges Horatio with the task of telling his story to the world as  the only living witness.

Thus Hamlet did not kill himself, he was murdered.  It was a risk he knew he was taking because Claudius had already murdered his father.

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die, to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to: ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause – there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment,
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action. Soft you now,
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remembered.

In the play this is a soliloquy because when Hamlet speaks it he is alone onstage, speaking to himself. All others leave the room with the king, Claudius, and the queen, Gertrude. In some versions Ophelia, Claudius and Gertrude remain and spy on Hamlet during this, making it a monologue. In this soliloquy, Hamlet struggles with his internal conflict of whether or not to kill himself because of the recent events that have happened which have depressed him so greatly.

 In the First quarto, Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be” speech appears as follows:

To be, or not to be, aye there’s the point,
To Die, to sleepe, is that all? Aye all:
No, to sleepe, to dreame, I mary there it goes,
For in that dreame of death, when wee awake,
And borne before an euerlasting Iudge,
From whence no passenger euer retur’nd,
The vndiscouered country, at whose sight
The happy smile, and the accursed damn’d.
But for this, the ioyfull hope of this,
Whol’d beare the scornes and flattery of the world,
Scorned by the right rich, the rich curssed of the poore?
The widow being oppressed, the orphan wrong’d,
The taste of hunger, or a tirants raigne,
And thousand more calamities besides,
To grunt and sweate vnder this weary life,
When that he may his full Quietus make,
With a bare bodkin, who would this indure,
But for a hope something after death?
Which pusles the braine, and doth confound the sence,
Which makes vs rather beare those euilles we haue,
Than flie to others that we know not of.
I that, O this conscience makes cowardes of vs all,
Lady in thy orizons, be all my sins remembred.

Rea Berg’s Blog:

Those who have read Beowulf in their studies of Medieval History, will find it interesting to note that Hamlet derives its original story from Norse myth. Indeed much of the plot comes from the Norse myth Ameleth–and one can easily see how Shakespeare merely transposed the “h” at the end of the word to arrive at Hamlet. While in Beowulf there is a very clear mix of Norse superstition with emerging but primitive understandings of Christianity, one will not see monsters like Grendel in Hamlet. Of course, the ghost of Hamlet’s father plays a key role in this tale, but clear understandings of Christian notions of morality are evident in Hamlet’s constant wrestling with his conscience.

To Be or Not to Be”  Soliloquy Analysis. 

“To be Or Not to Be” Hamlet Act 3, Scene1 Soliloquy by Kenneth Branagh. It is so brilliant. I know for sure, that I’ll be watching it over and over again.

The Ghost Scene. Yeah! Mark Me, indeed! Riveting Stuff!


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