You will analyse three different productions - Sample Essay
> What setting does each director choose and how does this contribute to the overall effect? > What does the soliloquy show the audience about Hamlet’s state of mind and motivations and how is this conveyed to the audience in each production? > What impression is given in each production of the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia and their motivations for behaving the way they do? > Which Production do you think makes the nunnery scene and the soliloquy most moving for a modern audience?
Our three productions of William Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ were Michael Almereyda’s 2000 production staring Ethan Hawke and Julia Styles, Franco Zefferelli’s 1990 film with Mel Gibson and Helena Bonham Carter, and Kenneth Brannagh’s 1998 production where he himself played Hamlet and Kate Winslet played Ophelia. In Zefferelli’s production Mel Gibson plays Hamlet in a medieval Danish castle. This gives a certain feeling of tradition and heritage throughout, and seems to emphasise the stature of a royal family.
The film begins with the funeral of Hamlet’s father in an old chamber underneath the castle, where many bodies lay to rest and in the centre of this is Hamlet’s Father’s Crypt. Many are stood mourning, and Hamlet is leaning upon the crypt weeping, and glaring at his mother in a very aggressive manner. This displays Hamlets feelings of disgust and hatred toward his mother at this point who is in the arms of Claudius.
I think to choose to open this production this way rather than with the appearance of the ghost as in Shakepeare’s text not only keeps the film more original rather than a word for word remake, it also helps to let the audience relate to the characters better. It allows them to be seen in this fragile, delicate state which helps the audience to see what kind of people they really are, especially Hamlet whose mental disposition is made all the more visible and the audience can grasp this concept more easily because of this one scene.
In the Brannagh version Hamlet is the prince in a Palace in the 1840’s, the Costume is much more grand and extravagant which gives, again, a feeling of high stature, Which helps emphasise the characters nobility. Hamlet uses the huge palace to lose himself and be alone with his thoughts a lot, yet it has somewhat of a romancing effect on the scenes involving Ophelia The Hawke version is in a modern city, New York, and although he is not a prince, he is a hugely rich and well-known person, and his Father owns a large business called the Denmark Corporation and is very wealthy.
Almereyda uses bars and nightclubs and interweaves the language into today’s setting, using technology in place of imagery, e. g using a wire on Ophelia rather than eavesdropping in the same room. This approach is certainly very original, and gives a personal touch to the film, but in my opinion it loses the tense atmosphere than a more traditional approach would have. The soliloquy scene is definitely the most important scene in any production of Hamlet, as it is one of the most famous scenes in all of English literature, it displays universal questions.
One infinitely complex question is put forward in just 6 words, “to be or not to be”, the basic question of whether life is worth living of which after many thousands of years of study no one can yet answer. This Scene also helps the audience to relate to Hamlet and to perhaps allow them to see how Hamlet is thinking, and spark off philosophical thoughts of their own. If acted well, this scene has the power and ability to touch any audience, and can make the whole production seem an astounding masterpiece.
In Zefferelli’s film the soliloquy takes place in his fathers crypt, (which helps to add a feeling of heritage and family to the scene) it is a dark, spooky place where Hamlet contemplates his life, and what role he plays in the current situation, and ponders on whether life is really worth holding onto. His situation with Claudius is what enrages him, and specifically the fact that he has not taken action already against Claudius. The ancient setting seems to emphasise the meaning of Claudius’ crime, and also emphasise’ the use of severe punishment.
Hamlet’s humanity has a large part to play here, because he is pondering on philosophical questions, asking himself whether he should kill Claudius or not, as he witnesses Claudius seemingly repenting for his sins. Hamlet also wonders whether suicide would be the best answer to all of his problems, he seems to be thinking that if he kills Claudius he will be committing a sin, but yet if he does not then he is not fulfilling his role as a son. This demonstration of humanity helps the audience relate to hamlet, and Gibson’s acting through this scene is wonderful at conveying that effect.
In the Brannagh version, his soliloquy takes place in a hallway in front of a mirror, which his Uncle and Polonius watch from the other side, of which Hamlet is unaware. He uses a dagger to illustrate the mortal side of his dilema. He remains very quiet in speaking, yet displays emotions on his face in a very strong manner. He makes the audience very aware that he is not sure of what really keeps him going in his world of murder, ghosts and affairs.
The Hawke version of the soliloquy at first takes place in a video rental shop, and is a voiceover of his thoughts in his head. As he thinks of what his situation is, and of what he needs to do, he looks toward the ‘Action’ section, which implies he needs to take action on his father’s murder and to seek revenge through the death of Claudius. He shows that Hamlet is very enraged inside, though it does not show so much on the outside, as his facial expressions are unchanging, he seems as if he is in deep thought, contemplating his life.
The settings for the soliloquy in this production are very good at getting a simple message across, and show that Hamlet is thinking about taking action. It is a more simplistic setting, not as deep as the traditional productions, but is better for a more modern audience, as it is more to the point. Personally, I find it a little weak, with images of death and violence on the T. V screens in the shop, and a more simple view of the soliloquy, but it suits a modern audience well.