Monday, March 17, 2008

Act 3:1

Hamlet’s soliloquy in Act 3, Scene 1 is one of the most momentous instances in the play. Kenneth Branagh’s interpretation of Hamlet’s words brings to life the deeper meaning of this famous passage. By making specific decisions in his movements and tone, Branagh facilitates the understanding of Shakespeare’s writing. The passage begins with the infamous lines, “to be, or not to be, that is the question;” (55). Hamlet is trying to decide weather it would be easier to kill himself or live his life. As he does so, he is looking at himself in a mirror and speaks almost in a constant tone. The fact that Branagh is speaking in front of a mirror reveals that perhaps Hamlet is so insecure with himself that he needs the comfort of his own image to encourage him to take action. But Branagh’s decision to deliver this line in monotone suggests that Hamlet does not care about his life. However, this it contradicted when he asks himself if it would be better to just “suffer” (56) from all of his problems or “to take arm against a sea of troubles, And by opposing, end them” (58-59). Branagh shows that Hamlet does indeed care but his life, but his madness will not allow him to think lucidly. At the moment when he delivers this line, Branagh bends his elbow and makes a fist with his right hand, and then takes a step forward. His actions suggest that he will actually take action and stop his suffering. The fist evokes a sense of violence, which may imply that Hamlet will use violence to deal with his problems. The fact that Branagh takes a step forward after he makes a fist is another sign of Hamlet’s insecurity. It shows that he will act violently before thinking about his actions, which might lead him to even greater problems. The passage continues with Hamlet wondering if it were better to sleep or to dye. He confuses himself even more by coming to the conclusion that dying is sleeping; therefore dreams are a part of dying. Branagh shows Hamlet’s agitation by breathing heavier while delivering the line “-ay, there’s the rub, For in that sleep of death what dream may come” (64-65). Hamlet is afraid that he will not be able to get rid of his problems even after death. Also, while he is delivering the line, suspense classical music begins to play in the background, which acts as an emphasis on Hamlet’s confusion. The music evokes a sense of loneliness that has taken over Hamlet. He is unable to share his troubles with anyone causing him to drown in a sea of thought. The movement in the music symbolizes that turbulence that is happening in Hamlet’s mind. Further on, Branagh stops and says, “When he himself might his quietus make” (74). Hamlet says that it would be easy to just end one’s own life, which is correspondingly portrayed by the stop in the actor’s motion. By instantly stopping the movement of his legs, Branagh is symbolizing the easiness with which he could stop the movement of his heart. At this moment, he also takes out a sword and places it in front of him. Once again, the idea of violence to end Hamlet’s problems is portrayed. But soon enough, Hamlet realizes that the reason why people don’t just kill themselves is because they are afraid of what will happen to their souls after death. At this point, Branagh places the sword on the left side of his face and says, “puzzles the will” (79). Hamlet thinks that the dead will be unable to use their self-control. They will be paralyzed from attaining any form of freedom and taking action. As the sword is placed on his face and he is looking at his reflection, Branagh says, “Thus conscience does make cowards [of us all]” (82). This suggests that “reflection” brings sanity to the human mind. As the actor is looking at his face in the mirror and the sword on his left cheek, he realizes that he is a coward for not killing himself, but a sane human being for not committing such foul act. Finally, Branagh takes the sword off his face while saying, “With this regard their currents turn awry” (86) and touches the mirror with the tip of his sword. Branagh’s actions suggest that now that Hamlet has seen his reflection and is sane, his urge to kill will twist. He will no longer want to kill himself, but the person in his way. As soon as he finishes his statement, Ophelia’s footsteps are heard from a far. The fact that she is the first person to appear after Hamlet’s soliloquy indicates that perhaps she will be the person in his way. Ophelia may be the one that is killed as a result of Hamlet’s “currents” twisting. Hamlet’s Soliloquy by Kenny Branagh is an outstanding representation of the event. By moving cautiously he allows the reader and the viewer to understand Shakespeare’s words while foreshadowing future events. His choice in tone and control over his breathing reveal Hamlet’s thoughts and emotions throughout his soliloquy.

Act 1:5

In act one scene five, Lord Hamlet encounters the ghost of his father, who reveals the secret of his death. Throughout this scene, Shakespeare repeats different words three times at different instances, as a form of emphasis. By choosing to repeat the words three times precisely, Shakespeare also creates allusions to different historical and mythological triads that allow the reader to find a deeper meaning in various phrases. The first instance where repetition is encountered is at the beginning of the scene when Hamlet begins to follow the Ghost. He begs the Ghost to speak and threatens him with leaving if he does not reply. In an anxious tone, the Ghost confesses that he is in fact Hamlet’s father and that he is trapped in hell for his unforgivable and untold sins. Although the Ghost is not allowed to tell Hamlet the secrets of the purgatory, he begs Hamlet to “List, list, O, list!” (22). In this occasion, the repetition of the word “list,” emphasizes how important it is for Hamlet listens to his father’s story. This triad may also be alluding to Cerberus, a guard in Greek mythology. Cerberus is a three-headed dog with a snake tail that guards the gates of Hades; he makes sure that people’s souls enter, but never leave. Shakespeare repeats the word “list” three times to remind the reader of this three headed beast. By doing so, he is suggesting the perhaps if the Ghost does tell Hamlet of his secrets and Cerberus finds out that he escaped Hades, the ghost will never again be able to return to the mortal world and seek revenge. Hence, it is extremely important that Hamlet listens carefully to his father’s ghost. The fact that Cerberus has a snake tail and three heads also foreshadows the murderer of the Ghost. The three heads represent Claudius’ different personalities when among different people. And the snake tail, which is very subtle and discrete in movement, represents the way in which Claudius was able to remove his brother from the throne. As the scene continues, the Ghost reveals the way in which he was murdered. He tells Hamlet Claudius poisoned him before he could confess his sins. Claudius did this on purpose so that his brother would go straight to the purgatory. As a response to his brother’s actions, the Ghost says, “O, horrible, O horrible, most horrible!” (80). He cannot believe what his brother was capable of doing and confesses Claudius’ evilness. Here, Shakespeare makes an allusion to the Catholic triune, “father, son, and holy spirit” or the idea of being three in one. The Ghost describes Claudius as “horrible” and repeats it three times in order to refer to his three different states of being. Claudius is forced to appear as Hamlet’s “father” because of his marriage to Gertrude, but in reality, he is nothing but Hamlets’ selfish uncle. Furthermore, Claudius appears as a royal “son”, therefore the brother of Hamlet’s father, who envied and cursed his older sibling. Finally, Claudius appears as the “Holy Spirit”, someone who was kind enough, in the eyes of the people of Denmark, to marry poor Gertrude and save the nation after the king’s death. Towards the end of his speech, the Ghost asks Hamlet not to judge his mother. Suddenly, he realizes that the sun will soon be rising, signaling his need for departure. As he exists on line 90, the Ghost says, “Adieu, adieu, adieu! Remember me.” Once again, Shakespeare repeats the same word three times. For Pythagoras, triad is the number three. Triad became very important to him because it is the only number that equals the sum of its previous numbers. In this final section of the Ghost’s speech, Shakespeare uses repetition to crate a parallel between the Pythagoras’ triad and the information the Ghost just revealed. Since the actual whole number three is the sum of the digits below it, the Ghost repeats “adieu” three times so that all of the information he has just told Hamlet “sums” up and becomes a whole. The “whole” information and the whole number three become parallels to each other, resulting from information prior to their existence.

A Humumnet (p. 27)

On page 27 of Tom Phillips’ A Humument, Philips is able to create a tragic love story. The page displays a black and white picture of a man with wording at different locations throughout the picture. The page also displays a frame composed of black and honey brown lines surrounding the picture itself. With his choice of words, the placement of these words, and the existence of the frame, Philip is able to tell the viewer the story of a lonely lover.

When viewing the page from top to bottom, the viewer immediately notices a cut out of words at the top left hand corner. Almost leaving the frame the words “That’s the lover” appear. This small phrase instantly reveals that a relationship is being discussed. The fact that the words are on the complete opposite side from the heat and are almost out of the frame suggests that this relationship has failed. The distance between this phrase and the man in the picture suggests that although the relationship has ended, the man is not willing to let go. He holds these words within the border of his frame or life because he is unable to move on. The fact that the words only have one set of quotation marks indicates that in this relationship only one of the two people cared the most about the other one. In this case, the man must have loved his partner intensely, but unfortunately, his love was not corresponded.

The next set of words that are lower down in the picture reveal the man’s way of coping with his broken heart. The caption reads “The lover, and his companions, of the grape”. This indicates that as a result of the man’s lack of companion he has indulged himself with liquor. The “grape”, which is used to make wine, implies that the man is using alcohol to overcome his frustration. Looking at the picture, this set of words is located on the right side of the man, exactly above his heart. This may imply that the man is not thinking about his actions, but is acting with his heart. His heart has taken control and it does not know how to deal with the man’s misfortune so it leads him to alcohol for comfort. The wet and warm feeling that the alcohol gives him, as a psychoanalytic might say, reminds him of his mother’s womb. By recreating his mother’s womb with in him, with the aid of the alcohol, he may feel the love and comfort that he does not find in his reality.

Right at the center of the picture, Philips places a longer set of words. This is the first set of words that touches the man and actually covers some of his features. “He happened to be taking from his pocket, a small photograph of an ancient English lover” is written across the man’s face, completely covering his eyes. The positioning of the words in the picture implies that the man’s action has caused his blindness. From a psychoanalytic point of view, it seem as if the photo of his partner has reminded the man of his castration. The simple glimpse of his partner’s image reminds him that he can not be with her therefore he is unable to function. Being the first set of words that actually touches him implies that it is only through the use of words that he can actually “touch” his partner. For the viewer, it is ironic that Philip uses that word “photograph” with in the photograph of the man. Perhaps Philips does this to show how like any picture, the man’s partner is nothing more than just a memory.

Towards the bottom of the picture, Philips places three different groups of words that happen to be connected by differently shaped lines. The first set of words says, “a certain part of” and it is located on the left side of the picture, touching the man’s throat. The incomplete statement suggests that the man attempted to slice his throat, but unsuccessfully survived. His attempt to kill himself out of desperation was incomplete. Connected to this statement by a wiggly line are the words “the lover”. The wiggly lines suggest the lost of control and the insanity that led him to attempt suicide. The man’s lover caused this lack of composure. Connected to “the lover” by a straight line is the last set of words that read, “was rigid”. The straight line that is approaching the heart indicates that the man is finally able to stabilize his emotions. The words “was rigid” are placed on the far right side of his heart. These words imply that the man’s heart has turned into a solid rock. He is no longer willing to let the sensibility and hollowness of his heart absorb any emotion that may cause him pain.

One final part, perhaps the part of the picture that is first noticed is the black and honey colored frame that surrounds the black and white picture of the man. The frame is the only element on this page that has warm color, which may evoke a sense of comfort. However, the black lines in the frame give the viewer an illusion that the entire frame is eternally in motion around the picture. This may symbolize the feelings of the man. His emotions that have turned his heart into a hot pot of turmoil that eventually stops when the word “rigid” touches the frame, and the man’s heart consolidates into a rock.

In A Humument, Tom Philips is able tell a story by carefully deciding how he displays all of the different elements within the page. The location and placement of the words reveals a different part of the story allowing the viewer to follow it from top to bottom. The sudden mixture of a warm color with black creates an allusion of movement for the viewer that connects back Philips’ story, the story of a man who will no longer love.