Analyzing “To Be Or Not To Be” Scene
Hamlet is a movie made in 1996 starred and directed by Kenneth Branagh. The script has the same lines verbatim as the original play Hamlet by Shakespeare. This served as a problem since Shakespeare wrote the play during the 1600s, targeting an audience of people living in the Elizabethan era. In order for Branagh to effectively cater to a modern audience, he had to modify and add certain elements from the original play. For instance, Branagh had to remake the renowned “To Be Or Not To Be” scene to a modern audience, while simultaneously staying true to the original Shakespeare one. He accomplished this by implementing his own unique elements that were not included in the original play, such as certain objects, film techniques, music, and the change of setting for a more modern-esque. In the adaptation, Hamlet presents the soliloquy alone. In the original play, Polonius and Claudius hide behind the arras, however in the movie, they are hiding behind a two-way mirror. As Hamlet approaches the mirror closer and closer, Polonius and Claudius are terrified since it seems like he is staring into their eyes. When Hamlet says, “Who would fardels bear to grunt and sweat under a weary life,” he holds up a sharp dagger and proceeds to walk to the mirror slowly, fiercely watching his reflection. The addition of a sharp dagger and a two-way mirror was critical as it catered to the 90s, more modern audience. The sharp dagger insinuates danger and induces fear. The two-way mirror is a more modern mechanism, as opposed to the curtain that was used in the original play. This allowed the modern target audience of Branagh to be able to relate to it more, ultimately enabling them to value the brilliant use of it. Additionally, in the original Hamlet, nobody actually hears or sees Hamlet deliver his soliloquy. In the movie, Branagh allows Polonius and Claudius to watch Hamlet. This makes the scene much more dramatic as it makes the audience seriously wonder whether or not Hamlet is aware of their presence, considering he is holding up a dagger and is practically staring into their eyes. Perhaps Hamlet wants Polonius and Claudius to know that he is informed of their presence? Taking into account that the play was written in the 1600s, the style of english during that era was significantly different to that of the 20th century, therefore making it difficult for the modern audience to grasp. The use of the dagger and reflection helped the audience to understand the scene since it signifies that the soliloquy is about self-hatred and the deliberation of suicide. Audiences seek excitement and comprehension when watching a film, so the twist of adding a two-way mirror and a dagger to accommodate to a modern audience was genius since it allowed that to happen. Furthermore, Branagh added camera angles and music to immerse his target audience. The music kicks in during the second half of the speech when Hamlet says, “For in that sleep of death what dreams may come.” The music is menacing, which brings the viewers to the edge of their seat. Bearing in mind that the majority of newer audiences may not understand the lines, the music effectively expresses the meaning of the scene as it adds the ominous tone to the soliloquy depicted in the original play. Moreover, the close-up camera shot into the reflection of Hamlet holding the dagger to his face is a key component to the narration of the scene as well. Through this technique, the audience can decipher that the soliloquy is regarding Hamlet and his feelings about himself.