AP Lit A- PD 8
26 October 2017
To Need a Therapist
“To be or not to be.” As one of, if not the most, recognizable lines in all of literature, this Hamlet soliloquy reveals a lot about what is going on in Hamlet’s mind. After finding out that his father was murdered, his mother is remarried to his uncle, his uncle colluded in the plan to kill his father in order to gain the crown, it is not a surprise that he spends roughly an entire page in Act 3 scene 1 discussing the pros and cons of committing suicide. Overall, the soliloquy reveals Hamlet’s internal struggle between continuing on his path of revenge against Claudius or abandoning everything all together and just giving up. But through the debate he also battles over trusting faith, that everything will be better in the afterlife and knowing that logically nobody really knows what could happen on the other side- it could be better, but it also could get worse. A lot of this internal battle plays into the confusing interaction between him and Ophelia that follows. He claims that he loved her at one point but that things have changed now and she seems to be no longer the good pure woman she was before and she should just become a nun rather than have sinner children. In the context of the play, he says earlier that he is just acting crazy (1.5.191-2) so nobody suspects his plan to kill Claudius and Polonius is desperate to prove that he is madly in love with Ophelia (using this interaction to do so). But the audience does not know whether Hamlet is pretending to be crazy still or if he has actually been driven mad and is sincere in rejecting Ophelia. The scene only confuses the relationship and the emotional intensity with which they interact indicates that they may be on the outs if not because he has lost his affection than because he is too overwhelmed with his revenge and grief to process their relationship.
In his 1996 film, Hamlet, Kenneth Branagh keeps Hamlet’s soliloquy fairly consistent to Shakespeare's original because compared to other film interpretations there is less action, Hamlet stands there and talks to himself in the mirror, devoid of exaggerated emotions or dramatic movements. Thematic score makes the scene seem slower and increasingly ominous. While this stays true to the lack of stage direction in the original, it does not help the reader gain insight into the mindset of Hamlet. The audience cannot truly understand the distraught desperate nature of Hamlet’s position based on the apathetic expression (relaxed facial muscles and minimal pitch changes while speaking as would occur in expressing a positive or negative emotion) on the actor’s face. The ominous rumbling/echoes in the background of the soliloquy help to increase the intensity of the scene and make it seem more dramatic thereby emphasizing the importance of this scene to the significance to the play overall and to Hamlet’s mindset. Branagh also chooses to have Hamlet raise a dagger to...