Act III: “To Be or Not to Be” soliloquy interpretation

Having seen all three film versions of Hamlet’s famous “To Be or Not to Be” soliloquy, which one do you like the best and why?  Your choices are Gibson, Branaugh, and Hawke. (These are the actors who play Hamlet.)

My apologies to Laurence Olivier, who got “canned in class” due to time constraints.  He is the one of the most famous Hamlets who has been on stage or screen.  For those of you who don’t want to wait until Wed.’s class to see this version, you can easily get it from “you tube.”.

In your posting, you must cite at least several lines from the soliloquy (properly cited) as well as use supporting detail that includes characterization, setting, symbolism, or other detail that you noted on your analysis chart.  Word limit is about the same:  two to three hundred words.  Deadline for comments to this posting is Tuesday Oct. 27th by midnight.

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~ by Ms. Cox on October 25, 2009.

37 Responses to “Act III: “To Be or Not to Be” soliloquy interpretation”

  1. The four version of the “To Be or Not to Be” soliloquy:

    Gibson: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwFzvg3L2Qg

    Branaugh: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JD6gOrARk4

    Hawke: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YHMYkUrV7A

    Olivier: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-R9neKwczo

    Each interpretation of Hamlet’s Soliloquy in act 3 has it’s own merits while giving us a unique window into Hamlet’s mind. The four actors portraying Hamlet onscreen give us varying expression, emotions, and overall psychological impression.

    My preference was the Sir Laurence Olivier version due to the stronger emotions I felt as a viewer. The dramatic music enhanced the powerful effect these lines exude. A good example of the orchestral music playing a vital role is during the lines: “To die, to sleep;/ To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub” (3.1.65-66). At the word “perchance” the slow and lulling music makes a sudden change to a more active melody. In coordination with the music’s change, Olivier’s recital of the soliloquy also assumes a more aggressive tone.

    In addition to the dynamic music, Olivier’s film also demonstrated more creativity with the presentation of the lines. In the opening of the scene we find Hamlet at the edge of a cliff. The camera view slowly closes into his head, symbolizing that the soliloquy will offer the viewer insight into Hamlet’s mind. Also, Olivier does not limit his Hamlet to saying the lines aloud. The lines: “To die: to sleep:/ No more;….Devoutly to be wish‘d. To die, to sleep;/ To sleep:” (3.1.61-66) are said in voice over, signifying that Hamlet is thinking these words in his head.

    The Olivier version of Hamlet’s superior use of music and camera techniques are demonstrated perfectly near the end of the soliloquy. At the lines “With regard their currents turn awry/ and lose the name of action.” (3.1.88-89), Olivier uses stage direction, dramatic music, and an expressive voice to conclude the soliloquy. For these final lines, Olivier changes the tone of his voice to match the meaning of the words. The emphasis he puts on these last lines, coupled with the sombre music played afterwards, greatly charges this conclusion with emotion.

    Despite the fact that each interpretation of Hamlet’s act 3 Soliloquy have their own advantages and disadvantages, I believe that Olivier struck a balance of music, lines, and stage movements that is difficult to match.

    But to be honest, the Arnold Schwarzenegger version is unmatched in all respects.

    “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark… and Hamlet is takin’ out the trash!”

  2. I liked the Branaugh Version the most. I thought that this version was very good. I thought that everything made sense about this version. Although I thought that every version portrayed the characterization of Hamlet differently, this version portrayed Hamlet the best. I felt that the actor who played Hamlet in this version, really had a solid and good interpretation of Hamlet himself. It was very believable because he really got into character. I thought that this version was extremely creative because this was the only version to use a mirrored effect. When I think of the soliloquy itself, I think of Hamlet talking to himself in a mirror. After all the soliloquy was “To be or not to be”, so I automatically thought of speaking into a mirror because Hamlet’s deciding whether to continue to exist or not – whether it was more noble to suffer the unbearable situation, or to declare war on the sea of troubles that afflict one, and by opposing them, to end them, or to die. He pondered the prospect. I thought that this was very intense because he’s deciding whether or not he should kill himself.”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 wish’d. To die, to sleep;
    To sleep: perchance to dream”(3.1,lines57-66). He’s speaking into a mirror with a dagger deciding whether or not he should kill himself. Hamlet himself questions this as he mopes away after his father’s death and his mother’s marriage to his uncle. He comes upon this morbid thought because he realizes that no one really cared that his father died. They cared in the sense that they felt remorse because he was their king, but after all was done and through they just went to their everyday lives. His death had no true impact on how they lived and they seemed to forget about his death, instead focusing on the new king and his marriage.At the same time with his soliloquy, I wondered if he was thinking about Claudius at the same time because he’s mad at him for killing his father. I felt that this could have been a jab at him because you could have interpreted these words differently. I thought that the imagery itself was good, very intense but very good at the same time. I felt that it had a very strong psychological impact. I felt what the director was trying to convey. There was a lot of emotion in this version. The actor did a really good job of portraying both Hamlet himself and the soliloquy. While watching the clip I actually wondered whether or not he was going to commit suicide or not. I think that was what the director was trying to do-make the audience wonder. And that’s just what I did.I felt that this was very believable. It was also good because Hamlet was unaware that there were people on the other side while he was saying the soliloquy. Overall it was very good. I felt that both the actor and the director did a fabulous job of interpretating this scene. Although we were not able to view the Olivier version, I still felt that this one did a pretty good job.

  3. I felt that there were two stronger versions of the “To be or not to be” soliloquy by Hamlet which stood out slightly more. However my favourite of all four was the Gibson version. As i watched all four, i came to the realisation that the Gibson version gives me the most “Elizabethan feel”. When i think of Hamlet, or Oedipus Rex, or several other shakespeare plays, i think of them taking place in large stone buildings such as the castle portrayed in Gibson’s version. Besides the castle itself, much of the setting in Gibson’s version was very interesting and was quite useful at times. I thoroughly enjoyed how the argument between Hamlet and Ophelia was in a large open stone walled room in the castle and that it was very clear they were being spied on from an above room by Claudius and Polonius. During the soliloquy itself, i liked the use of the castles mysterious chamber of death as it created a dark mood for Hamlet as he moped around the basement. Hamlets speech also becomes very intense at moments. When Hamlet first walks down the stairs and mutters “to be or not to be that is the question”(3.1.57). Gibson depicts a shot of the coffin infused death chamber which sets a negative mood for the rest of the speech. As Hamlet walks through the room he becomes more and more dramatic both vocally and visually, and i think that Gibson does a great job of directing how he wants Hamlet to move around and fall to his knees in the scene at the truly dramatic parts. This method really caught my attention and when Hamlet said: ” For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, the oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely”(3.1.71-72) i felt as if the dramatic effect in the scene had reached a whole new level. There were definitely pros and cons to each version which i would also love to discuss with everyone, but i feel that Gibson’s death chamber version had the most “realistic” stone castle feel to it, which made me feel the closest to actually being apart of the scene.

  4. Of the four dramatic interpretations of Shakespeare’s “To be, or not to be” scene, the Kenneth Branagh version was the one I found most interesting. While the others all had certain aspects that were unique, it seems that the Branagh adaptation of the famous scene was done with much thought. Kenneth Branagh, being the director of the film as well as the protagonist, portrayed an eerie Hamlet that was extremely believable. The reflection in the mirror shows the Prince in deep in thought, and no other actor mastered it quite as well as Branagh. His beginning is powerful, yet calm, starting off with “To be or not to be” (3.1. 57) in an intense trance. This scene is quite possibly the most famous of all of Hamlet, as these words are known all over the world; making this line essential to be executed to perfection. As he whispers to himself “that is the question” (3.1. 57), his voice has such a great affect on the audience, captivating their attention from that very moment on. Compared to Gibson’s version, where these crucial lines are said much too fast, this version gives the viewers a chance to absorb these powerful words and consider them.

    The camera angles that were chosen for this version are also very effective, as the over-the-shoulder shot is intimate and seems like the audience is standing right behind Hamlet, yet he is completely unaware. Although this shot is usually used in a dialogue scene, incorporating this angle in the soliloquy was strategically used for the audience to get lost in the mirror image of Hamlet. During his speech, the audience finds themselves lost in the words, almost in the same trance that the protagonist is in. Then suddenly, as Hamlet questions “When he himself might his quietus make with a bare bodkin” (3.1.76-77), and his digger is revealed, we are pulled back to reality and focused once again on his words. Later on in the scene, as he is still questioning his life, his dagger hits the mirror, and he says

    “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.”
    (3.1.84-89)

    This is a moment where it seems like he has reached his climax of insanity, anger and regret, and would make an irrational decision at this time. I think that the mirror represents life and how delicate it is, and if Hamlet were to tap this mirror too hard with his dagger, it would break into a million pieces. This is symbolic as well, as he must decide whether or not to kill himself, or if he will go through with the revenge his father seeks. Kenneth Branagh did a fantastic job of entrancing his viewers and really understanding the insanity that is slowly taking over Hamlet’s mind.

  5. Hamlet’s famous “To Be or Not To Be” soliloquy in the third act of the play has been interpreted and presented in many different ways. The various perceptions of the mood, settings and emotional content lets the viewer grasp the ideas present and connect to Shakespeare through visual representation.

    Kenneth Branaugh was the most effective in displaying the visual concepts of mood, setting and emotions while being able to evoke a strong psychological connection to the viewer as well. The director uses a two-way mirror to include a lot of character development and emotions. With Hamlet, looking at himself in a mirror, not only is he further confirming what he sees in himself, the confidence to kill, but also shows Hamlet`s great strength by not flinching. It seems like the director uses this technique to play upon Hamlet`s doubt throughout the written script of the play. With him looking into the mirror, it is almost like he is visualizing himself doing the deed of killing his uncle. Also, when Hamlet says, “When he himself might his quietus make/With a bare bodkin,“(3.1.76-77) Hamlet releases his sword and points it toward the mirror as if he is killing himself and as if he is going to kill Claudius. What is interesting is that, the director chooses to put Claudius behind this two-way mirror so that he sees the dagger being pulled out towards him. Also, the mirror between Claudius and Hamlet seems to signify some sort of barrier that is stopping Hamlet from completing the murder.

    Other than the two-way mirror, the director also effectively uses a dull yet eerie music as the background to the soliloquy. This creates a mood, of seriousness and impending horror. This was unlike the, Gibson version because they chose to have pin drop silence which made it more personal but took away the mood of the situation. The Hawke version was completely off and even though it had music, it seemed to be more distracting and made the soliloquy irrelevant.

    As mentioned before, when Branaugh does not flinch through his soliloquy, his words and meanings become very effective. As Hamlet says, “To die: To sleep/ No more; and by a sleep we say to end/ The heart-ache, and thousand natural shocks/That flesh is to heir, `tis a consummation/ Devoutly to be wish`d.“(3.1.61-66)Branaugh displays Hamlet as a character who does not fear death whereas some versions, such as the Gibson version, show Hamlet as exhausted and even fearful of death.

    Branaugh is a also a very good actor who seems to be able to put himself in Hamlet`s shoes. The passions, the direct eye contact and hand movements all match to the words in the speech and makes Hamlet become more than just a character in a play but a emotional and realistic human being.

  6. Each version of Hamlet has its own point of view focusing at Hamlet’s mentality. They all keep expression, feelings, and emotions as well as good portrayal which increase the psychological impact on audiences. As a spectator I think that the best version of Hamlet is Gibson’s versions. It is because of the feelings it gives me as a viewer. From the beginning to end of this as Hamlet talks to himself, he stays in a dark and silent place which shows that Hamlet is very lonely and in a wickedness place. As he begins his words,”To be, or not to be: that is the question” (3.1.57), his eyes are moving with his words in such a way that gives expression of sadness and loneliness. Words are not describing everything, but his eyes also are giving the feelings that he wants to get out this darkness somehow. Moreover, background, the design of castle gives expression of reality. Additionally, when Hamlet says, “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 wish’d. To die, to sleep; / To sleep: perchance to dream” (3.1.62-66), he is looking at tombs with statues on them. Flesh in this quotation is referring to life. In this part, the way Hamlet looks at the statues expresses that the people who are dead had done dealing with all their pains and so Hamlet too wants to die to overcome to his pain. Lastly, Hamlet walks and loudly he says, “For who would bear the whips of scorns of time”(3.1.71). This gave me expression the he was angry and was referring to his uncle as he was talking about harsh experiences. Overall it was very good and full of different expressions showing all together which is viewing confusion in Hamlet`s life like he wants to cry, but also take off his anger somehow. Thus, I think this version did a pretty good job in showing Hamlet as it created the most psychological impact on me.

  7. Hamlet was portrayed in unique ways by different actors over the years. One scene that has significant differences between the four main versions of the play is the “To be, or not to be.” (3.1.57) Soliloquy in act 3 scene 1. Some versions of this scene show Hamlet as an insane person (talking to a tombstone), and others show him as someone who is actually struggling with inner demons. Personally, I felt more of an impact watching the Kenneth Branaugh and Sir Laurence Olivier versions of this scene.

    The Kenneth Branaugh version has a very close connection to real life. The setting looks like a believable royal palace, and is appropriate for Hamlet to be in. The emotional impact that this version has was produced by Hamlet talking to himself in the mirror, which can show that he is mad, and by him pulling out his dagger. At the time he says “ The undiscover’d country from whose bourn no traveler returns,” (3.1.80-81) the music becomes slightly more aggressive, a slight increase but enough to make an impact on the audience. Another piece of the scene that has a dramatic impact is a bit earlier on when Hamlet says “When he himself might his quietus make with a bare bodkin?” (3.1.76-77), he pulls out his dagger with such speed and force like he is about to do something with it. This also ends up scaring Polonius and Claudius who are, in this version, watching him when this soliloquy occurs.

    On the other hand, the Sir Laurence Olivier version has a more realistic portrayal of what the soliloquy would be like. When I was reading this myself, I would think that Hamlet would be thinking some or most of the parts to himself, yet in other films they have him speaking all of it. In this version, they make it seem like this is actually someone who is battling his inner demons. By closing his eyes and thinking to himself, it shows how deep in thought and how stressful everything actually is. He also at one point almost falls because he is so deep in thought. When he says “Perchance to dream” (3.1.66) he wakes up from his deep thought.

  8. After seeing the three versions of Hamlet’s “To be or not to be speech” I found the Mel Gibson version to portray the most convincing performance. The Branaugh version allowed the soliloquy to register, but the monotonous scene behind Hamlet gives reason for the scene to become boring. As well as the idea of the mirror being two-way was never how I pictured it. The Hawke version was distracting by the fact that all the focus went to the blockbuster advertising cases. The Gibson version was in an olden castle that gave the sixtieth century feel and balcony gave the ability to let Polonius and Claudius to hear Hamlet’s speech without being seen. For Hamlet’s speech Gibson is in a burial tomb below the castle, which adds to the idea of insanity. As the scene progresses, Hamlet goes from tomb to tomb and when he come across the first tomb he says, “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 wish’d. To die, to sleep;”(III, i, 62 –66). He says this as if he is talking to the dead and that the dead know of this fact. It’s almost as if he’s saying that the dead died so that they wouldn’t be in shame or any pain. At the end of the scene Hamlet says, “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.” (III.i, 85-89) Hamlet shakes his head as if he knows that what is happening to him isn’t going to change by itself. Therefore he might have to change the currents of events by his own means.

  9. My Rant:)

    The Hawke version put on an outstanding modern rendition of the Elizabethan classic. Hawke’s raw emotions were very believable however they portrayed Hamlet to be more truly psychotic than suicidal and in dire need of a psych ward. Ethan Hawke looks more like a recovering crack addict than an indecisive noble. The Gibson version was to weak, placing Hamlet inside the crypt(Like really?) was an somewhat an effective touch however; Mel Gibson was not able to sell me the whole Hamlet thing. I did not feel any emotion from Gibson, it seemed more like Gibson could not choose between soup / salad and not whether or not he should kill him self

    ACTUAL POST TO COME MUCH LATER

  10. All three of the different versions of the Hamlet soliloquy “To Be or Not to Be” had both positive and negative aspects respectively. There styles in camera angles, lighting, and time periods cause the famous lines to have different perspectives and emotions which are conveyed when being recited. However, of the three, the Gibson version of this speech does Shakespeare the most justice in his words.

    The setting in the Gibson version in the most appropriate setting of the three versions viewed. It is shot in a crypt, which goes hand in hand with what Gibson is saying; he is speaking of whether or not it is better to exist. The fact that these lines are being stated in a crypt causes the inquiry of the audience to elevate because of the visual aspect within the film. The setting also enhanced the acting and the lines through Gibson’s reaction to his surroundings. When he recites the lines:
    And by a sleep to say we end
    The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
    That flesh is heir to (3.1.62-64)
    Gibson is caught looking at a corpse, seemingly thinking of whether or not it would be easier to simply not exist anymore, which this line is implying. Even without the lines there though, the filming itself shows what Hamlet is thinking of. This helps the audience connect and better understand what is being said.

    The acting in this version is also exceptional. The emphasis Gibson made through his pauses on the lines:
    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? (3.1.57-61)
    This emphasis causes the most powerful approach to these lines out of the three different film clips that were shown. This stresses the largest conundrum that Hamlet is having at the moment: whether or not it is better to live or to die. This is a puzzling concept to Hamlet due to his melancholic attitude because of his father’s death. His melancholy was also depicted well in this version. His emotions transitioned through confused, to sad, to angry, to upset again. This caused him to seem more human to the audience, causing his lines to be treated as seriously as they are meant to be treated.

    The Gibson version uses various techniques to cause the audience to better understand and connect with Shakespeare’s famous play, and what Hamlet is feeling while reciting it. The acting is done exceptionally well, which evidently adds to the greatness of this clip.

  11. Out of the three versions I saw of Hamlet’s to be or not to be soliloquy I like the Gibson version best. I like it the best because it’s portrayal of Hamlet’s soliloquy struck the right balance between showing Hamlet’s depression and his contemplativeness. Branaugh, while intense, did not seem depressed at all and Hawke was too depressed (basically cried the whole time) for me to pity him. Mel Gibson on the other hand portrays Hamlet as being half contemplative and half depressed, which struck the right chord for me. What also made a big difference for me was the setting in each of the scenes. Gibson’s version had Hamlet in a crypt, which I think is a very suitable place for that soliloquy. Hawke, however, was in a Blockbuster, looking at movies. The only good part about that setting was the irony of him walking through the action section. Branaugh was in a very polished castle standing in front of a large gilded mirror which defiantly didn’t have as much of an effect, emotionally, as Gibson’s version. As a whole Gibson’s version was much closer to my expectations of how Hamlets soliloquy should be portrayed so I liked it better.

  12. In the numerous versions of Hamlet, several actors have been given the opportunity to play the role of Hamlet, however only some can portray a believable and understandable character. Each director involved in the four clips that we watched in class gave a different approach to play, whether it was the camera angles, the setting, or the main difference I noticed was that each clip was from a different time period.

    I preferred the Zeffirelli’s version which included Mel Gibson representing Hamlet. The portrayal of his appearance seemed so realistic due to the period of time the play is representing, there were no stunning tuxedos or toques present in Shakespeare times, as it was mainly robes and vests for an outfit. This version transformed the soliloquy into a meaningful story from the way he enters and leaves the bottom of Crypt with different feelings and aspects on life. The beginning had no sound effects which I liked because you could only hear Hamlet’s footsteps; it showed the audience that Hamlet was alone. The changes of tone in his voice and camera footages keep the audience intrigued throughout the soliloquy as it keep us wondering what Hamlet’s next thought regarding life will be. When Hamlet says: “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” (3.1.60-63), he begins to walk over to the sarcophaguses. I find this interesting because he is talking about his life, how it could stop his heartache and end all his problems that are occurring, to these stone coffins of people who have died and their problems disappeared once they stopped breathing. He gives the impression that he is jealous of these people, and wishes he could be in the same place as them. Although shortly after his jealously vanishes as he begins to realize that death does not allow freedom, “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 so long life” (3.1.65-69). Hamlet understands that after death, you still may dream even if you choose not to. He gets upset because he just wants to stop thinking and living this horrible life of unfortunate events that are occurring at the same time in his life, he does not want to keep having dreams afterwards. Once he understands this, his tone gets louder and it seems that Hamlet begins to feel sorrow for these people in the stone coffins as they might not be living their afterlife as they planned. Hamlet then decides that continuing life may be the better option right now as he leaves the bottom of Crypt with a different thought about his actions he will take. Mel Gibson did an excellent job portraying Hamlet, not only by the correct time period but also the understanding of the soliloquy was fantastic.

  13. Out of the three interpretations of Hamlet’s soliloquy “To be, or not to be”, I found the Branagh version the most effective. Compared to the other versions, Kenneth Branagh seemed to show a lot more thought and emotion in his speech which made the acting much more believable, especially compared to the version set in a Blockbuster video store. What I liked the most about the Branagh version was the mirror effect and how Hamlet said all his lines looking in the mirror at himself, since the meaning of the soliloquy was questioning himself whether “to be or not to be” (3.1.line 57). The rush of imagery shows Hamlet attempting to wrestle with the eternal question he has raised, and the actor made this very realistic. The lines start off with Hamlet in a gaze, and speaking slowly allowing the words to sink in more effectively. I also enjoyed how the setting of this version was in a modern-looking castle which is where Hamlet really would have been. I thought it was very clever how you could see the real image of Hamlet standing in front of the mirror, and also the reflection in the mirror to get that double sided view of him, backing up his question to himself which also has two sides (to be, or not to be). In this version, Hamlet also uses the aid of a knife to hit the deeper meaning in his words. It seems to add to the emotion in his words and pull you away from his gaze that you see in the mirror. The knife also helped in revealing more of Hamlet’s insanity and the real question of whether to kill himself or not. In comparison, I thought the Branagh version was the best in interpreting the real meaning of the soliloquy.

    • It is hard to disagree with your statement that Branaugh put a lot of thought and emotion into this scene. However, I disagree with your claim that this version was truest to the real meaning of the soliloquy.

      Out of the four versions of Hamlet, the Branaugh version did not convey the main meaning of the soliloquy accurately or effectively.

      In the very first line, “To be, or not to be: that is the question:” (3.1.57), Hamlet is asking himself “is it better to be alive or dead?” by which he means “should I just kill myself now?”. The meaning of these lines imply that it should be recited with a more suicidal tone. Branaugh did not do so.

      Tone of the soliloquy in the text:

      — Hamlet questions the reason to live
      — Hamlet contemplates suicide
      — Hamlet wonders about the afterlife
      — Hamlet complains about the world and its flaws
      — Hamlet makes a direct reference to suicide on lines (3.1.76-77)

      Hamlet’s soliloquy performed by Branaugh:

      — Hamlet makes it seem as though he is in control
      — Hamlet sounds confident with his words
      — Hamlet seems more threatening and aggressive as opposed to suicidal

      Do you think Branaugh purposely juxtaposed his tone of voice and actions with the words said in the soliloquy? (doing so might actually make Hamlet seem even crazier)

      Do you think that by ignoring the meaning of the words, and performing the soliloquy with more recognizable emotions, Branaugh was just “dumbing down” Hamlet to make it more accessible to a larger audience?

  14. My most favoured interpretation of the play Hamlet would have to be the Gibson version. To me this version felt the most true to what I imagined the setting of the play, and the character Hamlet to be like. I found these lines to be very true, even in today’s society. I think I found them relatable not just because of the words themselves, but also the way they were spoken. Hamlet says, “But that the dread of something after death,/ The undiscover’d 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?” (3. 1. 79-83).I could not only see his deep emotions, but I could feel them as well. What also helped was the setting. In this version Hamlet is in a dark, and what seems to be damp, crypt. The crypt is filled with old stone coffins, and is very sparsely lit. This helps add to the already insane portrayal of Hamlet. The setting helped him seem like he has a calm exterior with an interior of deep, dark, conflicting emotions. I think he shows evidence of his inner conflict when he says, “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” (3. 1. 84-86). This quotation shows that Hamlet is still struggling with what he has been asked to do by his dead father. It also shows that his conscience is what is making him suffer; he is angry and upset with himself for not having already killed Claudius. I think the coffins and darkness in this scene foreshadow what is to come in the future for Hamlet and some of the other characters. The foreshadowing adds to the effect of both the play and of Hamlet. I think that this scene was well thought out and it seems that a lot was put into it. This is why I preferred it to the others.

  15. I love the Mel Gibson version of the “To be, or not to be” soliloquy. The soliloquy itself is powerful to say the least and Gibson’s acting only adds to that power. You can truly feel what Hamlet is going through emotionally. There is a sense of realization in the first line when he says “To be, or not to be: that is the question,” (3.1.57) and for the next few lines he is calmly contemplative as if he is trying to explain his initial realization. When he says “To die: to sleep: / … ‘tis a consummation / Devoutly to be wish’d,” (3.1.61-65) there is a change from contemplation. Hamlet’s longs and hopes for escape from his heart ache and life’s troubles, which is very well depicted on Gibson’s face. It is almost painful to see Hamlet so hopeful, because the audience knows he will not get what he wants. He cannot kill himself.
    There is then a second significant realization when hamlet acknowledges the fact that no one really knows what happens when people die. With these lines, “To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub; / For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,” (3.1.66-67) Hamlet notes that there is a chance of not getting relief from death at all. From lines 68 to 74 he gets increasingly angry and frustrated until line 75 “That patient merit of the unworthy takes,” (3.1.75) when his hope of escaping his life turns to complete despair as his realization that death is not the answer hits home. Gibson’s acting portrays his despair very effectively and draws pity from the audience. Lines 76-80 are spent despairing until line 81 “…,puzzles the will,” (3.1.81) when his desperation turns to anger. He seems to be angry at God for making his words a fact of life. Finally, at line 84 “Thus conscience foes make cowards of us all,” (3.1.84) until the end, the soliloquy comes full circle and returns to quiet, relatively calm contemplation. These changes Hamlet’s mood are very well portrayed by Gibson. You can tell from Gibson’s face and from the way he speaks the words that those mentioned above are Hamlet’s emotional states throughout the soliloquy.
    On top of Gibson’s exceptional acting, there are a couple of other choices made by the director of the film that were effective in portraying Hamlet’s emotion evolution throughout the soliloquy. For one, putting Hamlet in the tomb of the castle was a good choice because it gives the scene an ominous feel. The tomb is haunting, which reflects Hamlet’s character as he realizes that he is stuck with the pain of his life no matter what. He feels haunted by his pain and feels he will never escape it. Also, putting Hamlet in the tomb gave the director the option of using the mummies inside as props, which he did very well. He had Gibson speak to the mummies, which plays on the theme of Hamlet’s
    insanity as he is treating inanimate objects as if they were alive. Also, hamlet seems somewhat possessed while he speaks some of his lines, and to have him speaking to mummies while he speaks those lines is a good fit. Next, there was the choice not to use music. This choice was a good one as well because it makes Hamlet seem very alone. It also puts a huge emphasis on Hamlet’s words, as there is no sound distracting the viewer from the words. Finally, the director made good choices in the camera angles and lighting he decided to use. He often zooms in to Gibson’s face at the point of particularly important emotional changes throughout the soliloquy. He also uses dim lighting for the whole speech except for at the end when Hamlet says “pale cast of thought” (3.1.86). At these words, an overhead skylight spotlights Hamlet’s face and makes it pale, reflecting his words. The darkness throughout the rest of the soliloquy adds to the ominous feel of the setting. The Mel Gibson version was very well done and was very effective in depicting Hamlet’s emotional state throughout the soliloquy.

  16. The way in which Hamlet’s third soliloquy is portrayed in each of the films is extremely different and they are, respectively, entertaining in their own way. The best one however is most assuredly Branaugh’s version which was produced in 1996 and which stays true to the original plot more than any of the other versions.
    One of the most interesting things about this version is the setting which consists of a very Baroque castle with ornate mirrors, one of which is a one way mirror, and it is into this that Hamlet speaks. Unbeknownst to Hamlet, Claudius and Polonius listen to everything that he says during the soliloquy, a major difference between the movie and the way Shakespeare originally wrote it. The way Hamlet is portrayed is also very interesting in that he wears a white shirt under his black clothing, perhaps representing that he is still good at heart, and in that he is also quite a bit older than we are led to believe in the play.
    The way in which the lines are delivered, straight to the mirror with the camera filming the mirror instead of the actual actor and no ornate hand gestures or over exaggeration from Branaugh, says a lot for the both the actor and the director. As Hamlet says,

    Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you,
    trippingly on the tongue. But if you mouth it, as many of
    your players do, I had as lief the town crier spoke my lines.
    Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand thus, but
    use all gently, for in the very torrent, tempest, and (as I may
    say) whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget a
    temperance that may give it smoothness. Oh, it offends me
    to the soul to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a
    passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the
    groundlings, who for the most part are capable of nothing
    but inexplicable dumb-shows and noise. (3, 2, 1-12)

    The best part of the soliloquy comes at the line “When he himself might his quietus make with a bare bodkin?” (3, 1, 76-77) at which point Branaugh whips out his dagger, the first agitated movement we see out of him in this speech, and holds it before him. The following lines just make it that much better as he holds the dagger along his cheek, apparently contemplating suicide, wondering why someone would want to suffer through life unless they were afraid of death (3, 1, 77-83). Then he contemplates fear preventing one from carrying out actions that ought to be carried out swiftly and touches the mirror with the dagger, behind which Claudius is hiding and this is even all the more interesting because we get a two second shot of Claudius looking absolutely shocked by Hamlet’s saying this, revealing his true feelings (3, 1, 86-88).

    Though this version is thirteen years old, I still find it to be the most relevant, interesting and accurate version of Hamlet especially when one considers just the level of thought that must have gone into something like the one moment with Branaugh touching the mirror, after the suspense of the entire soliloquy has been built up. Personally I can connect more to this Hamlet, who seems to reason things out in a calm and collected manner versus the Hamlet of Gibson who rants and prays in a crypt or the Schwarzenegger version which involves sub-machine guns and throwing people through windows.

  17. All four of the versions of Hamlet’s soliloquy had their ups and their downs. The thing I paid attention to the most was the portrayal of Hamlet. I was looking to see which version did the best at capturing Hamlet the way I imagined him while reading the play.
    The version of Hamlet’s Soliloquy that I liked most was the Branaugh version. This version made me understand Hamlet’s emotions better than the other versions because this one had more feeling put into the words. Hamlet spoke very softly which makes the audience pay closer attention so they can hear every word that is said.
    The setting is a big, well-kept castle, which shows the elegance of the king and queen and their family. The mirror is used well in showing that Hamlet is talking to himself and analyzing himself in the mirror while contemplating what to do with his life.
    Hamlet looks wealthy and proper in the way that he presents himself. He is well groomed and well dressed, but still comes off mad by the intensity in which he speaks.
    When Hamlet says, “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” (3.1.57-59), he speaks very softly and does not move showing intense emotion. He then starts slowly stepping toward the mirror and using gestures when he says, “Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, /And by opposing end them” (3.1.60-61), showing the difference between the two ideas of suicide and fighting back.
    Hamlet pulls out a dagger when he says, “When he himself might his quietus make/With a bare bodkin?” (3.1.76-77). This gesture makes it easier for the audience to understand what he means and also shows how serious he is about suicide.
    The way Hamlet speaks makes the audience feel the intensity, which makes them better understand what is going on in Hamlet’s head and is the reason why Branaugh’s version is the better of the four.

  18. Each of the videos presented in the class had an authentic approach towards Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” soliloquy. Out of the three presented videos, I preferred Gibson’s interpretation the most. I felt that Gibson’s version portrayed Hamlet realistically, since it illustrates Hamlet’s psychological state well and combines it to the overall environment of the set. This version captured my attention in all aspects.

    The setting portrayed in Gibson’s version, appeared to be an underground crypt that appeared as if it holstered “death” itself. It showed the state of Hamlet’s insanity and allowed me to see him from a new perspective and to understand his emotions, as Gibson added emphasis on his words. This version permitted me to envision Hamlet during his era, as it was seen through the location where the soliloquy was filmed. Hamlet appears to be lively, but at the same time hollow. What really caught my attention was when Hamlet stepped down into the crypt and the camera surveilled it, giving the audience an idea of where he was and making the audience question the reason to his presence there, Gibson then says, “to be or not to be, that is the question” (3.1.57) and the act unfolds. The setting appears to be a reflection of what is going on in Hamlet’s mind, it allows the viewer to better envision his overall state. As the camera captures glimpses of corpses and graves, it still keeps the main focus on Hamlet; this was evident when Hamlet is approaching a grave and says, “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” (3.1.67-69). Although the focus may be in on Hamlet, the viewer still sees the grave and understands that it is a significant symbolism. This version shows Hamlet for who he was, incorporating many details of his state with the presented environment, thus deepening the intensity of his character.

  19. Each of the different versions of Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” soliloquy was extremely unique, and used a variety of techniques in order to focus on a certain aspect of the speech, and therefore provoke a specific emotion in the audience.

    However, I believe that Gibson’s interpretation was the most believable and was successful in provoking the appropriate emotions. From Gibson’s first words, “To be, or not to be? That is the question” (3.1.57), the audience is captivated by his sincere and honest interpretation of Hamlet. While in other versions of this soliloquy the actors try too hard to exude emotion, Gibson’s approach seems utterly effortless. His delivery of these words is laced with genuine concern, and he appears to be detached from his surroundings and is thinking only of the answer to the question he asks. This display of emotion creates intensity in the scene, which is deeply felt by the audience. Additionally, later on in the soliloquy Gibson makes the experience extremely personal when saying “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”(3.1.84-88). His interpretation of the line allows the audience to connect with Hamlet on a personal level.

    While the success of this scene is principally attributed to the Gibson’s acting, the visual and audio aspects also have a significant influence on the outcome of this scene. Gibson’s descent down the flight of stairs into the ground below clearly symbolizes his dark thoughts mentioned in the soliloquy, as does the lack of lighting once he arrives underground. Visually, the setting appears to be extremely still due to the lack of movement and sound which creates tension as Gibson delivers the soliloquy. Also, while for the most part the setting is relatively dark, the rays of light which shine through symbolize Hamlet’s other option; to be.

    Overall, Gibson’s rendition of this soliloquy made the entire experience extremely personal and realistic. While it may have lacked the drama and creativity found in other versions, it was a much better display of exceptional acting as well as interpretation of Hamlet.

  20. As a viewer, watching Hamlet’s beautiful “to be or not to be” speech, I was very impressed with the artistic freedom of each actor and director and how unique each delivery was.

    In my opinion, the overall arrangement of the Branaugh performance was the most believable and by far the best. Branaugh represented Hamlet’s emotions from the book; not only including Hamlet’s true emotions of desperation and confusion, but also playing off of his anger and discontent with Gertrude and Claudius. The portrayal of Hamlet’s character was genuinely accurate as Branaugh made a conscious effort not to over do the psychotic side of Hamlet.

    Branaugh eloquently recited the powerful lines “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.”(3.1.65-70)

    His tone and pace were ideal and effectively depicted the troubling questions of life and death through the words, “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?”(3.1.57-61)

    Cinematically, I thoroughly enjoyed the camera angles in the Branaugh version. The choice to shoot the scene in the mirror was very valuable for the viewer as it let us view and perceive it as if Hamlet was speaking to us. The addition of vibrant music intensified the scene and added a significant amount of dramatic interest and effect. The music and the text flowed together, helping to build the climax and then the falling action. Symbolically, the use of the knife was very creative and helped strengthen Hamlet’s persona.

    Branaugh’s interpretation of “to be or not to be,” portrayed Shakespeare’s intentions perfectly. Branaugh did a superb job, and Sir William would be very proud.

  21. The famous third soliloquy in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, referred to as the “To be or not to be” soliloquy, has been reenacted in numerous films, including the versions of Hawke, Gibson, Branagh, and Olivier. Due to the varying interpretations of these directors, the resulting films differ greatly, and each version presents its own advantages and drawbacks.
    Although I thoroughly enjoyed visioning all four renditions of Hamlet’s third soliloquy, Mel Gibson’s version is my favourite. I feel as though its setting in a tomb is very appropriate, for Hamlet speaks of death and the value of life. As far as I am concerned, the intonation in Gibson’s voice as he deliveres Hamlet’s third soliloquy displays the greatest range of emotions. For example, when he says, “To die: to sleep:/ No more,” there is a definite longing in Gibson’s voice, as though dying would be the equivalent of a peaceful slumber (3.1.61-62). Once he declares, “For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,/ […]When he himself might his quietus make/With a bare bodkin?,” however, Gibson raises his voice in response to the brutality of life and the suffering he has undergone (3.1.71-77). I feel pity for him, for unlike the depictions of Hamlet in the Hawke and Branagh versions, Gibson’s character seems relatable, rather than absolutely maniacal. Another aspect of this film that pleases me is how true it is to Shakespeare’s original Hamlet. The Hawke version may be creative, and the Branagh version is certainly very suspenseful, yet the authenticity of Gibson’s Hamlet far surpasses these qualities, in my opinion. Although Olivier’s original Hamlet film is also very true to how I would envision Shakespeare’s depiction of the play, I find it less captivating than Gibson’s Hamlet. In the latter, Hamlet is constantly in motion and uses the scenery of the tomb to his advantage; on the other hand, Olivier remains still on a rock for nearly the entire soliloquy, instead of emphasizing the presence of the majestic cliff and crashing waves below. In addition, I appreciate the manner in which Gibson is so pensive, always contemplating the benefits and disadvantages of our existence. When he delivers the legendary line “To be, or not to be: that is the question,” it is almost as though he reaches an epiphany, which causes even myself to question the beauty of life (3.1.57). Also, when Gibson states that death is “a consummation/Devoutly to be wished” as he closes his eyes and prays over a tomb, I am impacted by his unfortunate view of life (3.1.64-65). In short, Gibson’s version, although perhaps not as intense as the other films, affected me the most psychologically, and I appreciate the way it made me reflect upon the genius concepts presented by William Shakespeare.

  22. We looked at four actors (Olivier, Hawke, Gibson, and Branagh) interpretation of Hamlet’s famous “To be or not to be” (III.i.137) soliloquy. Of the four I would say that I preferred Mel Gibson’s version in Franco Zefferelli’s adaptation of Hamlet. Hamlet’s emotions are apparent in the way that Mel Gibson delivers his lines. At first, he seems to be really upset, talking in a soft tone at a slow pace. Hamlet also has some parts where he seems really angry and fed up, which juxtaposes his two emotions to show their intensity. “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”(III.i.139). In the scene, Hamlet is in a tomb, which I think was a good choice of setting because of the eerie and gloomy feel it adds on to the soliloquy. The atmosphere in the tomb manages to mirror the emotions that Hamlet is feeling through its dark and dim lighting effects. Most of the time Hamlet isn’t even standing, he’s kneeling against a tomb or sitting on the ground. I thought that this simple choice of blocking made it seem that Hamlet was really overwhelmed and tired, both physically and mentally, by the whole situation. I think that Mel Gibson was able to capture the essence of Hamlet better than any of the other actors that we viewed excluding Arnold.

  23. After being given the opportunity to watch the three different versions of the “To Be or Not To Be” (3.1,57) soliloquy, I noted that all three directors put their own spin on it, either with Hamlet’s emotion, or the setting in which the famous lines were announced.
    I’m torn between both Zeffirelli’s version, and Branaugh’s. Both are believable and portrayed Hamlets emotions in the most effective way possible, the only difference being the setting and props used. In Zeffirelli’s version he captured the time period and the essence of Hamlet. The setting took place in an old castle, and the characters in the film wore robes, tights and long gowns to the floor; suitable for the setting and era that was being represented. Zeffierlli’s version was realistic according to the time period in which Shakespeare would have intended the play to be preformed. Hamlet preformed this famous soliloquy in the bottom of the Crypt, a very sad looking place with many sarcophaguses located around the room. Before Hamlet starts to recite his lines, the set is silent and all that is moving is hamlet descending the stairs down into the Crypt. He starts his soliloquy while moving to stand among the sarcophaguses, which I think is clever as he is questioning his life and weather he should keep it or die, and be like the sarcophaguses, not breathing and in peace without any problems. This is shown when Hamlet says “And by sleep to say we end/The heartache and the thousand natural shocks/That flash is heir to” (3.1,62-64). I enjoyed Zeffierlli’s technique of incorporating the sarcophaguses to add on to the dramatics’ of the soliloquy and really made Hamlet’s questioning of his life more believable.
    In Branaugh’s version he used a more modernized setting and attire for the cast. He chose to situate Hamlet infront of a two-way mirror with Polonius and Claudius behind watching and listening. The two-way mirror played on his insanity, confirming that he is confident that he would kill himself and is not afraid to see himself and what he has become. Hamlet shows no fear in Branaugh’s version, for example when he pulls out the sword and points it at the mirror, seeing his own reflection as it would appear to the victim on the other end. “When he himself might his quietus make/With a bare bodkin, (3.1,76-77). I also enjoyed that this version had music that went along with Hamlets mood, when he became angry and realized that problems don’t just vanish when you die it got intense and a little louder.
    I think overall if Branaugh chose to use the same setting as Zeffierlli and the same representation for the time era it would be a great grasp of Hamlets true feelings and problems that he is dealing with in his life. Although having to choose one, I would have to go with Zeffierlli’s just because I like that fact that he set the movie is an era that suited the essence of Shakespeare. And I didn’t feel the need to even speak about the blockbuster ordeal, because I honestly zoned out during that sad presentation of the famous “To Br or Not To Be” representation. I found myself thinking about what movies have been recently released to blockbuster and if they are worth renting.

  24. Franco Zeffirelli and Mel Gibson’s rendition of Hamlet’s famous “To Be or Not To Be” soliloquy is one of the most effective editions to date. It is effective because Gibson, as Hamlet, best portrays the extreme emotion as intended by Shakespeare. I also feel it is effective because of the appropriate setting, staging, and persona of Hamlet. Gibson’s way of naturally speaking Shakespeare’s words builds a real sense of pathos as if you’re hearing them for the first time. Gibson’s body language and tone truly reinforces the power of “The pangs of disprized love, the law’s delay, The insolence of office”, which further gets across the anger of Hamlet to the audience. The madness of Hamlet, as portrayed by Gibson, was very believable as result of Gibson’s emphasis on all the right words. The way Gibson was speaking also was a close match with the speed of thought, as all the words seemed to flow in a way that causes you to believe you are inside his thoughts, the first two lines of the soliloquy “To be, or not to be, that is the question: Wether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer” (3.1. 57-58). The medieval setting of the castle, the attire, and the body language were very appropriate to the text, and followed closely with what I had imagined in my own mind upon reading through the scene. Of the four Hamlet versions, I found Gibson to capture the true beauty of language and emotion, as intended by Shakespeare.

  25. I find Olivier’s performance to be brilliant, doing justice to Hamlet’s renowned soliloquy. The ominous music, the subtle camera work, and Olivier’s magnetic deliverance of his lines seem to dance in perfect harmony with each other.

    At the beginning of his soliloquy, the camera wanders intently from the raging waves of the ocean to his forehead, symbolizing that Hamlet’s mind is greatly distressed. The dramatic music in the background helps to multiply the emotions that are being evoked from the audience. During the lines, “To be, or not to be: that is the question,”(3.1.57) Olivier peers over the edge of the cliff, desperate to let the waters have its way with him. As the viewer, I can sense the tremendous war that Hamlet is fighting against his own conscience. Olivier also pulls out his dagger, again illustrating the that death is easy for Hamlet — it is like sleeping.

    “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 wish’d. To die, to sleep;
    To sleep” (3.1.61-66).

    He is at total peace when reciting these lines and nearly falls asleep revealing that Hamlet would be almost benefit from dying and relinquish the mental anguish that he is currently suffering.
    Olivier’s acting beautifully personifies the “to be or not to be” soliloquy and therefore, allows for the seamless transition from paper onto the screen.

    Olivier reminds me of Sting.

  26. I felt that Mel Gibson’s “to be or not to be” soliloquy was the most realistic and had the best atmosphere. Gibson was very believable in his thought. He honestly contemplated both sides, to die or to live. When he says “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” (3.1.65-69). He knows that taking his life will get rid of the pain that he feels right now, but he is wondering of what pain might await him in the afterlife. Gibson did a great job in making it seem that he was really contemplating these lines. He pauses, closes he eyes and really mulls over what he is saying and what it means. Gibson also does a great job in not being over depressive as Branaugh was. Gibson has the right amount of sorrow but still shows that he is rational. It created a feeling of great pity in me seeing him trying to tackle this paradox. I found that Branaugh was much more depressed and it did not create the same atmosphere. The setting was ideal for this soliloquy, a crypt. Gibson was in a place surrounded by death. It did not threaten his life as it did in Hawke’s version where the gun was in his mouth. That was too strong of an action. I did think that the mirror in Branaugh’s version was a great idea but the setting around it was off. It seems wrong to contemplate suicide when you are in such a great hall like Branaugh was. Being in the crypt was perfect. Gibson was questioning whether or not he wanted to be like the people in the tombs.

  27. Each of the, “To be, or not to be” (3.1.57) scenes that were shown in class, all have their own unique style and method of presenting this famous soliloquy. Although there were both pros and cons for all of the different examples, I personally preferred the Gibson version.
    In this movie clip, Hamlet talks of life and death in a crypt; this is appropriate, because it’s also known as a burial place. The dark and gloomy atmosphere that’s created by the setting made it have a whole different taste than the others. The location also had a huge impact on this scene because the stage itself seemed to be harmonizing with Hamlet’s grievance. This only intensified the depressing and dramatic situation, making it a lot more interesting to watch. By having this soliloquy done in this setting, it perfectly matched my perspective on where Hamlet would’ve presented this scene. Thus it caught my attention and allowed me to become “lost” within the movie, instead of just watching it as a third party.
    Hamlet himself, also behaves in such a way I would assume a person would; if they were considering suicide. He doesn’t seem calm or too quiet about this matter; instead, it’s agonizing for him to choose life or death. That’s why in the beginning of the soliloquy, he says, “To be, or not to be? That is the question” (3.1.57), because that’s the question he is yearning to find the answer to. Not only is he having difficulties debating between life and death, the actor shows passion in doing it. Especially when he says, “For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, th’ 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 th’ unworthy takes” (3.1.71-75). Just from the tone of his voice, I can tell how disgusted he is of the pains and sufferings a person would encounter if they were to be alive.
    This scene of Hamlet’s struggle is also shown with no background music. One could say that background music would’ve improved the scene; however, I think it’s because of the quietness, the suspense and eeriness becomes more noticeable; making it a lot more provocative to watch.
    Also for me, when Hamlet says, “And by a sleep to say we end the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to—’tis a consummation devoutly to be wished!”(3.1.62-65), I see it almost as if he was talking to the dead body with jealousy. I viewed this certain portion of the scene in this way, because while he was looking at the lifeless corpse, he’s saying that by dying, all of the heartache and shocks one face, could be put to an end instantly. He may actually be comparing his state to the deceased body, thinking how much more easier/peaceful it is to be dead than to be living.
    I enjoyed watching all of the various styles of this scene. From each video, I was able to depict what my favourite aspects were of that certain clip. Nevertheless, the Gibson version was my preferred edition; because compared to the others, it seemed a lot more truthful/believable, dramatic, and suspenseful. It also caught my attention, since it’s very similar to what I had in mind; while I was reading the play.

  28. The film that I thought had the most compelling “to be, or not to be” soliloquy was the Gibson version. I thought that Mel Gibson captured Hamlet’s emotional state and behaviors perfectly. Other versions such as the Branaugh version were well done, but by speaking into a mirror with a knife didn’t seem to capture the type of mad or insanity I think Shakespeare was looking for. In line 5 of the soliloquy Hamlet says “To die, to sleep,/ No more; and by a sleep to say we end”(3.1. 51-53), the way he says these lines is very epic. He says them in a loud whisper and slowly, I felt as though it emphasized each individual point of death and sleep, it made that part of the soliloquy stand out. Then later on he repeats those same lines “To die, to sleep;/ To sleep; perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub;” (3.1. 65-66) by restating those lines again it puts even more emphasis on the slow, soft but loud spoken words.
    Aside from the way Mel Gibson acted and spoke the soliloquy, I thought he was the best fit for Hamlet. Meaning that, if I imagined Hamlet to look like anyone, it would be average height and weight, brown hair and fairly young. Adding to the look of Hamlet, the setting of the speech was very appropriate for the soliloquy; in a chamber within the castle looking very dark and old, with one single beaming light shinning through a window in the ceiling. Considering that Hamlet was speaking of life whether he should kill the king and whether he himself should be dead, it was a very appropriate atmosphere.

  29. Hawk’s version of the ‘To be or not to be’ speech stuck out in my mind the most. After first watching it I was not really a huge fan of the scene. Though, after further analysis, I have totally changed my mind. I am not a huge fan of modernized Shakespeare; I believe that even though the ideals remain, these plays are meant to be Elizabethan. Hawk’s version however, is different and very creative. Set inside a Blockbuster, hawk walks the isles aimlessly while reciting the soliloquy, “To be or not to be” (3.1.57). In the scene Hawk is not physically speaking for the first couple lines, I believe this is very important. As Hawk walks the camera in loosely focused on his face, while a conscience like voice echoes the famous soliloquy. I like this better because it is more believable than Hamlet talking aloud to himself so passionately. Hamlet’s conscience plays a strong role in the play and Hawk plays up on that in the scene. The voice in his head for the first couple of lines is important because when Hamlet says, “Conscience does make cowards of us all” (3.1.84). This shows that he believes our conscience makes us not act upon our emotions at an instant, thus making us cowards. When his conscience is saying the first couple lines this is a great example of how the conscience mind is very visible in the play. Also, Hawk is walking through the ‘Action’ section of Blockbuster, this is very crafty and original. The soliloquy is about whether or not Hamlet should act on his emotions, and kill Claudius. Hamlet is undecided on if should act on his emotions which is ironic considering Hawk is walking through the action section. Standing in the action section he sees on the television, violence, death, and murder. This is important because he is contemplating killing Claudius, and acting upon his emotions. The violence on the television is most definitely contributing to his decision, because there is a big difference between seeing and doing. Hawk is dressed like a crazy person, which plays upon questioning Hamlets’ sanity. Hawk is wearing a suit jacket and a silly hat, and just causally strolls through the isles, looking around without a care. I thoroughly enjoyed this version because of the originality, and the beautifully crafted symbolism. Oh, and Ms. Cox he definitely has his lines memorized, have you seen him in Training Day ?!

    • I also noticed that watching this version several times helps you appreciate it more. After the fifth time or so you catch more of the tiny details the director included.

      Me and you seem to be on the same page when it comes to modern interpretations of Shakespeare. However, we have to admit that a more modern setting makes it easier to be creative, especially with the symbols (i.e. “action” section, TV. violence, “crazy” clothes).

      You also have a good point about Hawke’s performance.

      Training day was an awesome movie and Hawke did a damn fine job in it. I don’t think it’s fair we judge Hawke on his act 3 scene 3 performance, maybe Shakespeare isn’t his thing?

  30. All four interpretations of Hamlet’s “To Be or Not to Be” soliloquy were constructed very well in an attempt to present what Hamlet is experiencing. The actors in each video were successful at portraying the emotional state of Hamlet and they also helped the audience to understand the state of ind that Hamlet is in.

    The interpretation of Hamlet’s “To Be or Not to Be” soliloquy that I like best was the Sir Laurence Olivier version. At first I was absolutely sure that the Gibson version was the superb re-enactment, but then my opinion was drastically changed while watching the video by Olivier. I thoroughly enjoyed the music and setting that was being used in the version done by Olivier. Hamlet being on a cliff, having the opportunity to jump off of it during his soliloquy really brings out the point of Hamlet contemplating the idea of committing suicide. The dramatic music went well with the words that Hamlet was saying, and it helped give Hamlet’s soliloquy a deeper meaning. I liked the fact that when Hamlet says “When he himself might his quietus make With a bare bodkin?” (3.1 76-77) he is raising the dagger in his hand to show what he is talking about. I also found it interesting when Hamlet drops the dagger in his hands while he says “Than fly to others that we know not of?” (3.1 83) because he follows this action by saying “Thus conscience does make cowards of us all” (3.1 84). By making a reference to how Hamlet’s conscience is making a coward of him, it could be interpreted that he did not drop the dagger by accident, but rather out of fear.

    Even though I find that the interpretation of Hamlet’s “To Be or Not to Be” soliloquy by Olivier is the better version, all the interpretations had their good points which were quite enjoyable to watch. I liked watching the different ways that the directors of each video interpreted how Hamlet’s soliloquy went, because each video had a different effect on me. While this is true, I still found Olivier’s interpretation to be the best.

  31. The four film clips presented to us in class were all extremely well done, and showed many different forms of interpretation for the same scene of the play “Hamlet,” “To be or not to be.”

    The interpretation I enjoyed the most out of the four is the Kenneth Branaugh version. The Branaugh clip had a modern feel to it, due to the polished mansion, gigantic mirrors and marble floor. Hamlet begins speaking into the mirror as if the reflection was listening to him, while in reality Claudius and Polonius are observing him behind it. The first thing I had noticed about Hamlet is the fact that he was wearing a tuxedo which could represent order, and this is ironic because everything that Hamlet has encountered so far has caused him chaos. Hamlet displays his anger in the scene when he pulls out his sword and says “When he himself might his quietus make With a bare bodkin?” (3.1 76-77), this action shows Hamlet is torn between the thought of killing Claudius for revenge, and the fear of killing someone. Once Hamlet had said, “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” (3.1 84-86), it shows the torment that he has to persevere through with his given choices, and how he is afraid of even the idea of killing someone, he believes he does not suit the role of a murderer or a “revenger.”

    This scene was the most enjoyable to watch for me, though all the other scenes had their impact on me and had helped me understand Hamlet’s actions and thoughts up until that point of the play. All of the other versions were great, but I liked this one the most due to personal preference I suppose.

  32. All of the interpretations had wonderful supporting detail. In Hawke’s version, there are violent film clips being played in the background which supports the drama quite well. In Gibson’s version it’s the setting which lends so much drama to the scene. Olivier plays on the setting as well, and uses music to emphasize dramatic lines.
    My favourite, however, was Branaugh’s version. His setting not only supported the drama, but it overcame a problem I found in the others. In Branaugh’s interpretation, Hamlet is seen speaking to his reflection. I found that this was a good way to add drama, but also to add focus. In the other versions, Hamlet sort of speaks into the air, whereas here it is more directed. This was a problem in Olivier’s version when he, having no place to focus his eyes, looked at the camera, which ruined the mood a little.
    Another reason I liked Branaugh’s version was the cut from Hamlet’s reflection to Claudius’s face when he drew his daggar and says “When he himself might his quietus make With a bare bodkin?” (3.1 76-77). I think this kind of emphasized his anger, and directed some of it at Claudius, showing that he is torn between killing Claudius for revenge, or himself as the soliloquoy is about.
    Branaugh’s use of setting and cut-scenes to support the drama of the soliloquoy makes his interpretation my favourite.

  33. Every person in this world interprets text in their own way. I am reminded that this fact holds true after watching four very different versions of Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy. In my opinion out of the four versions of this scene two versions stood out. However, despite my liking for both Gibson’s version and Branaugh version, my favorite is Gibson’s version of this scene. I prefer this version because when I think of the setting of Hamlet, like other Shakespearean plays, I think of old medieval stone castle. Not only did Gibson match the proper setting for this time period he also matched the costumes and props. This medieval feel really made the scene more believable and realistic. When Hamlet first comes down a set of old and dusty stairs into a crypt muttering “To be or not to be that is the question” (3.1.57) it really sets a dark and ominous mood for the rest of his soliloquy. I also liked the fact that Hamlet was alone in a quiet place. This not only makes the soliloquy more personal but it also makes the audience realize how troubled and alone Hamlet really is. I like the fact that Gibson makes it so the dramatic feel in the scene rises as the soliloquy goes on. This put more emphasis behind certain lines so the audience can see how important these lines are. For example one of the lines Hamlet puts more emphasis behind is this, “For who would bear the whips and scorns of time”(3.1.71). Overall I really enjoy Gibson’s version because it is really believable and I think this version did an awesome job showing the audience what Hamlet is going through.

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