The Portrayal of the To Be or Not To Be… Soliloquy by Kenneth Branagh and Ethan Hawke in the Hamlet Film Adaptations
Hamlet is suppose to avenge his fathers death but things get in his way and prevent him from doing so, causing more stress to his life. Hamlet’s problems cause him to debate his existence. During the soliloquy, Hamlet is debating to kill himself, but in the end determines people are too cowardly to kill themselves because people are unsure about life after death. The “To Be or Not To Be..” soliloquy in William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet was successfully portrayed through Kenneth Branagh and Ethan Hawke’s film adaptations, through the language elements like emphasized lines, the physical elements such as setting and camera elements.
In both film adaptations, the soliloquy is portrayed well with language elements. In Kenneth Branagh’s version, Hamlet expresses his emotions through his voice. When Hamlet says, “To be or not to be that is the question:” (3.1.64) in the Branagh version, his voice is very sincere and brought out the emotion behind what he is feeling. Hamlet’s soft tone makes the audience feel all the emotions about him contemplating his own life. In Hawke’s version, when Hamlet says “To die, to sleep — No more — and by a sleep to say we end the heartache and the thousand natural shocks…” (3.1.68-70). The pain and scratchiness in his voice assist the portrayal of the soliloquy because he’s debating his own life and what it would be like to die, and Hamlet is nonchalantly considering ending his life.
Physical elements are big in portraying the “To Be or Not To Be..” soliloquy. In the Hawke version, Hamlet is just walking around a video store. The fact that it takes place in such a random place shows the uncertainty of what is going on in Hamlet’s life. In the Branagh version, Hamlet is looking at himself in the mirror and getting a good look at him trying to see if he can see the madness in himself that everyone else sees. It is also that earlier in the play he talks about how appearance is not everything and how it doesn’t make a person, yet he is looking at himself in the mirror as he contemplates his own life and death. The physical elements in the films assist in portraying the soliloquies central message.
The camera elements portray the messages trying to be said in the soliloquy. In Branagh’s version, the camera focuses on Hamlet’s reflection in the mirror. The camera focusing on the reflection shows the other side of Hamlet. This shows his pain on the inside, it is as if the viewer is seeing Hamlet’s true feelings. Since Hamlet is contemplating death at this point, once he bring out the dagger and gets closer to the mirror, it shows just how close he is to killing himself but then realizes he has to avenge his fathers death and suicide isn’t the solution. In Hawke’s version, the camera follows Hamlet around the video store while he contemplates his life. It shows the uncertainty he feels about suicide.
The “To Be or Not To Be..” soliloquy in William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet was successfully portrayed through Kenneth Branagh and Ethan Hawke’s film adaptations, through the language elements like emphasized lines, the physical elements such as setting and camera elements. With the setting of each film, the tone of voices the characters used, and the camera effects, the central message of Hamlet debating suicide and then realizing it was not what he needed to do was portrayed successfully through these films.
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