Performances of Shakespeare’s Hamlet

Performances of Shakespeare’s Hamlet
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    Jun 25, 2019
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Being a philosophical piece, this most prominent fourth soliloquy (Act 3, Scene 1) in Shakespeare’s Hamlet has a variety of interpretations emanated to films, plays and other forms of creative expression. If I were to choose three among the six interpretations given, I’d choose to compare Laurence Oliver’s film, Hawke’s Hamlet and Jacobi’s version, as this three interpretations are very different from each other. Rating the three from worst to best: Jacobi’s, in my opinion, is the best followed by Oliver’s, while Hawke’s version is the worst.

Focusing on the performance of the actors, I think that the actor in Jacobi’s version of this particular soliloquy exudes the right and sincere emotions for every word he utters. The actor gives his audience the right balance of confusion, rage, weariness, controlled temper but at the same time is able to think clearly and critically to make a wise decision. This is the performance I envisioned when I’ve read the soliloquy and I think these are the kind of emotions that Shakespeare would want to see as his novel comes to life. The actor delivers the lines with grace, with proper body movement and expressions, and even the perfect intonations that goes well with every word he utters. The acting alone brings justice to the lines that need not much require additional elements of a film. The acting of Olivier, on the other hand, lacks power in the delivery; not to mention the awkward positions of Olivier all throughout the scene, hence, distracting the viewers to the strong impact of the lines. Lastly, the actor in Hawke’s Hamlet seems like he just passed through a store and deliver the lines in the most boring and uninteresting way, although, the sadness and depression can be felt. The connection between the words he says and the emotions he conveys are confusing and unrelated.

One good point of Olivier’s Hamlet is the use of metaphorical elements that aids in creatively and effectively relaying the meaning of the scene to the audience. The long ascending stairs symbolizes the hardships and obstacles that come with the power you are bestowed upon. The loud pounding water underneath the edge of the cliff signifies the danger, confusion and uncertainty of Hamlet’s mind and the difficulty of the decision that he has to make. These metaphors depicted in the film and at the same time the intensity of the sound created the emotions needed for the soliloquy. If only, the acting matches the overall ambiance of the scene, it could have been better. It is also noteworthy how all the scenes are building up from the chaotic sound building up in the darkness, to the escalating stairs, to the head of Hamlet and excavating his thoughts that signals the start of the monologue. I also would like to point out that Branagh’s interpretation of the scene with mirrors as the background and Hamlet talking to himself in the mirror is genius and very commendable. The subtlety of the background music also accentuated the scene. However, I think that the acting does not translate the emotions required by the scene. The acting is flat.

Why do I despise Hawke’s version? I understand that the film is trying to interpret a modern version of the soliloquy, but it is not well executed and not well thought of. Modernizing it must also imply change of words. It doesn’t make any sense how a person in a modern environment with modern clothing suddenly deliver old English lines. The character obviously would want to end his life and choose death as depression and misery are radiating in his actions and emotions, although the fire shown in the televisions depicts his knowledge [and not really hesitation] of the pain he might meant to suffer in the after-life, but that is not the case of the soliloquy.

Jacobi’s version captivated me because I admire the simplicity and straight-forward feel of the scene focusing more on the Hamlet’s character and emotion, and staying away to elaborative elements of creative plays and films. I think that the strong and riveting words of Shakespeare can already give justice to the monologue; what these words need are proper delivery and point blank emotions. Just an additional insight and suggestion, it could better translate the overall objective of the scene if Hamlet is not talking to his audience but rather talking to himself, far-away looking and would only look at his audience when he wants to accentuate some parts of his lines, similar to Tennant’s interpretation. I think that would embody the definition of soliloquy. Further improvement can also be made in terms of the props in the scene, though, it may not be necessary. With today’s continuously advancing technology in movies and even in plays together with the talented actors and high caliber directors of this generation, no wonder if there would be better interpretations that would arise of this most celebrated soliloquy of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

“To be, or not to be: that is the question.” It is this phrase and the uncertainties in between that hinder us from choosing death to end the miseries and sufferings of our present lives.

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