Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hamlet Act 1: Scene 5

Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet (1996)

You have until Monday 2.9.09 @ noon to complete this assignment.

It is worth 100 points and will be graded with the APE Rubric.

Objective: Watch the performance above of a potion of Act 1 Scene 5 and crtique the director's interpretation of the scene.

Your critique of the video must be based on your knowledge and understanding of the passage, so you must provide textual evidence from Hamlet as well as provide descriptions of the video. I can't watch the video and read your post at the same time, so you need to make me see what you see with your words. It will also help you to take notes on the video while you watch it. Pay attention to what you captures your attention. Notice what you notice! (Hint: Watch the video more than once.)

Pay attention to:

  • delivery of the lines
  • imagery the setting / scenery
  • the portrayal of the actor (characterization)
  • lighting & camera effects
  • sound effects or music
  • etc--the list could keep going

You should make sure to develop a sophisticated thesis. Post in the comment stream of the video you choose below. It should be about 1,000 words (use your best judgement in either direction--this is a recommendation, not a requirement. It should be as long as it takes to develop your thesis.)

Edit and put spaces between paragraphs before you post please!


Ashley A said...

Kenneth Branagh's version of Hamlet, Act 1 Scene 5, focuses on the moment when Hamlet and the Ghost finally encounter one another. Branagh intensifies the meaning behind Hamlet’s endless determination to seek revenge for his father’s death after the Ghost reveals the truth behind his murder, with the incorporation of varying music, sound effects, and emotional drama of the characters. In doing so, Branagh conveys the arousing impact of scene, which allows the viewers to understand the content of this scene not only through words but through all of these theatrical aspects.

The scene begins as Hamlet runs through dark and dreary woods in search of the Ghost. Hamlet quickly and breathlessly quotes a passage from Act 1 Scene 4 as loud music and special effects play to the swift speed of Hamlets’ movement. The camera switches from one image to the next as Hamlet speaks, intending to illustrate his words as the readers hear of the gruesome things he describes. Such as when Hamlet said, “…King, father, royal Dane. O, answer me!/ Let me not burst in ignorance…”(Shakespeare 45-46) and with the aid of special effects, images of things being blown up in the back of the woods and fire erupting depicts the “…burst in ignorance…”(46) Hamlet speaks of. Also, as Hamlet says, “Why thy canoniz’d bones, hearsed in death,/ Have burst their cerements…” (47-48) an image briefly appears of someone shutting the eyes of Hamlet’s father, as he lies dead on a table. Music builds just as Hamlet abruptly stops and tries to catch his breath in the cold air, as he turns and is confronted by the Ghost.

The Ghost delivers his lines in a whispering tone for the majority of the time that he speaks with Hamlet, which shows how the Ghost does not want anyone else to hear him tell Hamlet the secrets of his death. The Ghost’s tone also alludes to the idea that he is bitter and angry about the events of his death and the aftermath. As the Ghost begins to speak, he is dressed in a steel armor suit, as if he is prepared to fight and there is also a clear difference between the Ghost and Hamlet because the Ghost is more elevated than Hamlet, which forces him to look up toward his father. The positioning of the characters is important because it means the Hamlet surrenders to his father’s will and is more than eager to execute his father’s wishes. When the Ghost said, “…the secrets of my prison-house …would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood…” (16) an image of a foaming, frosty river appeared to symbolize the horrendous environment of the prison-house. A similar effect was conveyed as the floor began to split apart as he spoke of an “…eternal blazon…” (21).

As the Ghost continues, the tone of the entire scene intensifies with this interaction: Ghost: “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murther” Hamlet: “Murther!” Ghost: Murther most foul…” (25-27). Each time the word, “murther” (25) was repeated, there was a loud bang, followed by a pink image with blood pouring out of three holes. At first, this picture was difficult to decipher because it was shown abruptly, however, with the aid of the description of the Ghost’s murder in Hamlet,: “And in the porches of my ears did pour… holds such an enmity with blood of man…” (63-65), the viewers can conclude that this was a picture of the Ghost’s ear and the gruesome, bloody, affect the poison had on his ear.

The camera then cuts to a clip that has a lighter setting, where there is snow around, and Hamlet senior is shown sleeping in the Orchard. The difference in setting and lighting from clip to the setting of the majority of the scene eludes that Hamlet senior was peaceful and happy in his old life. A swift change in tone is made when a person somberly walks into the clip and the only visible items are black gloves and black shoes. Another quick change occurs and the Ghost’s face only appears in the video as he says “…the serpent that did sting thy father’s life/ Now wears his crown…” (38-39) and immediately Hamlet understands that King Claudius killed his father. By showing only the Ghost’s face at that moment, the severity of the Ghost’s words was expressed and the viewers and Hamlet see the great extent to which the Ghost desires revenge.

The camera gave another close-up shot of the Ghost’s eyes staring into Hamlet’s eyes as he speaks of the queen. At that point, the Ghost’s eyes looked very determined, but also possessed at the same time, which leads to the belief that he is obsessed with the King and Queen. He said, “…contrive/Against thy mother aught./Leave her to heaven…” (85-86) The usual soft tone of the Ghost’s voice slightly shows how he still loves the queen and greatly despises that the King and Gertrude are now together. The fact that the viewers were looking directly into the Ghost’s and Hamlet’s eyes also meant he truly wanted Hamlet to understand his will and by Hamlet gazing back at him, it showed that he believed every word and he was willing to do anything possible.

As the Ghost fades away, Hamlet grabs his hand in affection and says “O earth! What else?” (92) and falls to the ground. This dramatic portrayal of the release of emotions between the Ghost and Hamlet concludes as Hamlet jumps to his knees and raises his sword toward his face and says, “ …Adieu, adieu! remember me.”(111) The camera slowly moves toward his face as he says, “ I have sworn’t”(111), leaving the viewers to see in his eyes, a longing for his father’s return but the courage and overwhelming aspiration to execute his father’s wishes.

Vanessa G. said...

In Kenneth Branagh's version of Hamlet by William Shakespeare, he displays his perspective of Shakespeare's dramatic tragedy on film. Though Branagh utilizes Shakespeare's lines in the play, he also adds a few of his own tastes into it, especially with the setting, the stage directions, and the characters themselves in Act One Scene Four and Five. This particular scene is the moment where the reader finds Hamlet being led by the Ghost character, also known as the spirit of the former king, Hamlet himself after he is spotted in the battle grounds of the castle.

As the movie clip plays on, one will notice that the scene does not actually begin with Act 1:5, but instead with Act 1:4 (lines 39-57) and then skips to Scene 5 of the play. Kenneth Branagh merges the two scenes together into one. The setting of the clip involves Hamlet running through the woods, in the dark of the night, and it's as if the atmosphere is a dark, chilling blue. With the dark blue atmosphere, it is only appropriate because as superstition comes along, the presence of a supernatural being usually brings out chills, which links to the dark atmosphere tone. Also, this was a really intense scene because this is when the Ghost reveals himself to Hamlet, and Kenneth Branagh did well portraying this scene because as before, it was really intense, and in Hamlet Act 1:4 (line 39), “Angels and ministers of grace defend us!”. The exclamation point used at the end of the sentence gives off the impression that Hamlet is screaming or demanding, with strength, determination, and authority, for the angels to defend him if there were anything to go wrong. This is how Hamlet in Branagh's movie is portrayed in the scene as he is running through the woods, shouting to the Heavens.

The stage directions of the movie varied because the actual play didn't offer much narration for these two specific scenes. Just as the scene begins in the movie, the moment is meant to be fast-paced, which matches Hamlet's lines, too. One narration in the movie that was most obviously omitted was the fact that Hamlet was suppose to be writing his thoughts down in a journal or some sort but in the movie, Hamlet is displayed speaking with himself, almost as if he is inscribing the words in his mind instead of on paper. It might seem necessary that Branagh excluded this small part because it most likely wouldn't have made much sense for Hamlet to have a notebook in his arms while running incessantly into the darkness of the woods. Also, the crowing of the cock was right on point in the movie clip by Branagh, except it was not a part of the scene of Act 1:5 after the Ghost's depart. Instead in the play, Shakespeare writes, “The glow-worm shows the matin° to be near...” (1:5 line 89), which interprets to be that the morning is near. The last stage direction suitably set in the movie was the zooming of the camera lens onto the characters. The zooming of the camera added emphasis to specific lines Branagh probably found significant to the scene. In lines 25-28 of Act 1:5 is the first moment the camera is zoomed in on the Ghost, “...most unnatural murther./Murther!/Murther most foul, as in the best it is,/But this most foul, strange, and unnatural”. In these lines, the Ghost reveals how he was really killed in his garden, adding to the suspense as he delivers his lines slowly yet vengefully. The camera is zoomed to the Ghost's lips and all one can see is him speaking the words, meaning that the words coming out of his mouth are the most important. This is a similarity that Branagh had to include in the scene because it was somewhat of the climax or staircase leading to the climax of the play. Another scene in which it involved a zoom was after the Ghost leaves and Hamlet is left alone. This emphasizes another important scene because it is the moment where he promises to fulfill his father's vengeance towards his uncle, King Claudius. Branagh's methods in portraying the scenes are quite effective because with the varying stage directions, it adds to the suspense to the specific scene.

The characterization of the actors for Hamlet and the Ghost in Kenneth Branagh's movie played their parts well and also in different ways that wouldn't be expected. One thing that was unexpected was the costume of the Ghost—which did not appear ghostly at all. He appeared more human and zombie-like than a wandering spirit. The Ghost was dressed in armor as if he were ready to battle, which contrasts with the scenes that kept changing while Hamlet was running to his father's spirit. While Hamlet was trying to reach his father, different moments were appearing in his mind. Hamlet pictured his father laid on his deathbed and it seemed as if a woman closed his eyes. The king was dressed in red, a dramatic color that represents blood, hatred, or lust, which was generally the only theme that went along with the scene. The differences lie between the king's armor and his red robe. It could also be relative because the armor could mean battle and the battle the king might be experiencing at the time is within himself, until he finally found Hamlet. The battle is the unsolved murder that only Hamlet and the Ghost know the result of. But, a physical attribute that caused more appreciation for the scene is the color of the Ghost's eyes: a glassy blue with the surrounding of his pupils white as ever. His eyes appeared lost and empty, adding to the appearance of a ghost. What one might expect of the Ghost is a floating spirit, transparent, and pale white but instead a solid figure dressed in battle armor. In the play however, it appears that Hamlet is more angered than afraid as portrayed in the movie clip. The manner in which he responds to the Ghost in Shakespeare's drama, “Speak, I am bound to hear,” (1:5 line 7) and “Haste me to know't, that I with wings as swift/As meditation,° or the thoughts of love/May sweep to my revenge,” (1:5 lines 29-31), all seem demanding towards his father rather than trembling in fear. Branagh also does not present Marcellus or Horatio in neither of his scenes only because he might have felt it would have more of an impact and also the two other characters didn't really have really important lines.

Overall, the delivery of Kenneth Branagh's version of Hamlet was directed fairly well with only minor alterations that either bettered or added a plausible notion to the play in general. Though Horatio and Marcellus were not included in neither Scenes 4 and 5 of Act 1, Hamlet and the Ghost played double their roles with their skills in acting. The camera directions were all-in-all appropriate because it was relative to the stage directions of the actual play by Shakespeare. The characterization and the setting of the scene in the movie clip were exceptional in deliverance by Kenneth Branagh for Hamlet and the Ghost. Nevertheless, his version of Shakespeare's Hamlet was well directed.

Mels1619 said...

In Kenneth Branagh’s video of Hamlet’s scene 1 Act 5, Branagh focuses when Hamlet meets his father’s ghost and the truth of his death is revealed. The video of this scene emphasizes the anger prince Hamlet is feeling once he found out his uncle killed his father. With the incorporation of flashbacks, the sound effects, and the setting (dark woods), Branagh gives his viewers a great understanding on the scene and it foreshadows the rest of the play.

A great technique used by Branagh are the flashbacks. These flashbacks allows the viewers to relive the crucial moments of Hamlet’s death. As Hamlet’s ghost is describing the moments of his death, flashbacks are brought up on the screen. In the play by Shakespeare, this scene does not give such details as the video does; instead the Ghost briefly states “The serpent that did sting thy father’s life/Now wears his crown” (Shakespeare 39-40). As the Ghost continues to express his anger, more flashbacks are being incorporated. For example, when the Ghost states “With witchcraft of his wits, with traitorous gifts-/O wicked wit and gifts that have the power/ So to seduce!- won to his shameful lust/ The will of my most seeming virtuous queen”(Shakespeare 44-46). These lines, in the video version, are being accompanied with flashbacks of Hamlet’s brother giving the queen “toys” and they happily play. The last flashback is the when Hamlet was murdered by his brother. In the video, the ghost raises his voice as he continues to advance on how he was killed; “And in the porches of my ears did pour…Holds such an enmity with blood of man/ That swift as quicksilver it courses through/ The natural gates and alleys of the body,”(Shakespeare 64-67). The use of flashbacks and the deep voice the Ghost uses, both work together to emphasize the anger the ghost feels towards his cowardly murder.

The sound effects give the scene a frightening feeling. As Hamlet is running through the woods, he is talking and looking around impatiently, repeating a passage from Shakespeare Act 1 Scene 4. Among the lines of that passage, the sounds effects increase starting with these lines “Bring with thee airs from heaven, or blast from hell,/Be thy intents wicked, or charitable,”(Shakespeare 42-43). When Hamlet pronounces “heaven”, “hell”, “death”, “burst their cerements”, and among others, the sound effects become louder and impact more the viewers. Hamlet is speaking with such a fast pace, and the effects become more and more noticeable, that the viewer is encounter with a mixture of significant details that make this scene perfect.

The setting also contributes to the formation of this scene. While reading Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Prince Hamlet, this scene is not being portrayed in the woods. The reader would most likely picture this scene perhaps in a tower of a castle (since that is where Hamlet’s soldiers would most likely be guarding). But the dark woods give the scene a more frightening atmosphere, which connects with the appearance of the ghost.

The delivery of lines is an important fact when it comes about replicating someone else’s work. Each character effectively delivers each line with the correct tone, and pauses that create suspense. For example, the ghost highlights the word “Murther”: “Revenge his foul and most unnatural murther” (Shakespeare 25) in the video, and as he mentions “murther”, a vivid image of his ear with three holes appeared with blood pouring out. The ghost is mostly whispering in this scene, which demonstrates that the ghost is trying to maintain a quiet and secretly conversation with Hamlet. The whispering also creates suspense in the viewers as they patiently await for the next effect to take place.

Branagh ends the act of the ghost with the “Adieu, adieu, adieu! Remember me”(Shakespeare 91). The ghost vanishes into the air, making it an effective way for a ghost to disappear. Hamlet is now left in the woods, analyzing every detail his father told him, and with anger reflecting on his eyes, the viewers can easily tell that a war is about to break out in Denmark. The video concludes with Hamlet kissing his sword, which symbolizes that he is making a pact with his father to revenge his unnatural death. As he kisses his sword, he mentions “Now to my word:/It is ‘Adieu, adieu! Remember me.’/I have sworn’t” (Shakespeare 110-112). Branagh definitely captures the correct tone and the character delivered the last lines correctly, making the intensity the video increase.

In overall, both characters full achieved Shakespeare’s play. Branagh captured the correct setting, the tone, the effect, and most important, the delivery of lines. The intensity that was needed to deliver the accurate meaning of the scene, was demonstrated by both actors. This video gives a different interpretation of the setting but it fairly adapts to the play. The video version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet was well-directed and effectively operated.

Andy V. said...

Kenneth Branagh’s interpretation of “Hamlet” in Act 1 Scene 5 is the scene of Hamlet chasing after his father’s ghost in the dark woods. Branagh’s created a spine-chilling experience by creating a specific atmosphere, having the actors deliver their lines in a specific tone and emotion, and the characterization of the characters in the scene. By setting up the scene in this specific way, the viewers can envision the fear in Hamlet as he lies on the ground witnessing his father’s ghost.

Branagh created an eerie scene by manipulating the forest in which Hamlet runs though. Right from the start of the scene, the camera frantically chases Hamlet as he rushes though the forest. The scene also takes place in the night of a foggy night. As Hamlet runs though, the viewers can imagine being in a forest surrounded in darkness and fog. A sea of endless and leafless trees sticks their branches out from the ground and obscures the visibility as well. At the same time the earth shakes, cracks, and release smoke like hell was entering the human world. The camera keeps panning back and forth between the panicking Hamlet, the cracking ground, and the daunting image of a man in armor covered in the mists and the shadows of the night. Everything quickly comes at the viewer creating a frantic feeling while watching the scene. The background music also becomes increasingly louder and quicker adding to the eerie atmosphere. Everything becomes even more uneasy when everything stops. Once act 1 scene 5 begins with Hamlet deciding that he will “go no further” (Shakespeare 1) the background music becomes silent, the quick pandering of the camera slows down, and the explosions and the destruction of the environment stops as well. Once his father finally appears, the background music starts the pick up again with a slow and light sound of an instrument sounding like a flute and the steam flows from the ground again. The darkness fog, and trees makes it terrifying to be in alone, while the destruction, music, the frantic camera gives an uneasiness feeling. Branagh was able to create the uneasy feeling with just the stage setting alone.

Branagh also uses the deliverance of the lines to express the frantic tone of the scene. Hamlet is first shown in the scene yelling in a quick and panicked voice. Hamlet expresses his fear when he screams out “I’ll call the Hamlet, King, father, royal Dane. O, answer me!” (Shakespeare Act 1 Scene 4 Line 44). From lines 39 to 57 Hamlet speaks quickly and running out of breath. He has a shaky tone and occasionally raises his voice to express his fear and confusion. Meanwhile, Hamlet’s father’s voice expresses a much different tone. His voice echoes though out the forest giving off the same deep and ghostly voice. The ghost not only delivers a freighting message about hell he also delivers it in his low and hissing tone. He repeats his desire for revenge for the “foul and most unnatural murther,” (Shakespeare 25) and repeats “murther” in his monotone but ghastly voice. The viewers can easily see the fear when Hamlet screams out “O God!” (Shakespeare 24) The use of Hamlet’s fear and the ghastly voice of his father adds to the atmosphere by allowing to feel Hamlet’s fear while listening to his intimidating father.

Lastly, Branagh uses characterization to add to the suspense and atmosphere. Branagh characterizes Hamlet by giving him a rather plain and relatable look. He looks like a very down to earth and human character which allows the viewer to able to relate to him and feel how he feels. The viewers can more easily empathize with Hamlet and immerse themselves in the scene. Meanwhile the characterization of his father allows the reader to easily feel terror. He is constantly casted over by a shadow and hiding from sight. He is encased in a cold and hard armor as if he is ready for way. His face shows no emotion and his eyes stare at Hamlet without even blinking. The ghost’s eyes are even colored ice blue and seem frozen. His lines and the tone he gives with it make him sound tormented and insane.

Branagh is able to create a scene that depicts a very eerie event by the use of various affects in the environment, the tone of the characters, and the characterization of the characters. Each of these techniques allows the viewer to be immersed into the scene and empathize themselves with Hamlet. The uneasiness created by being surrounded in fog and darkness with an intimidating ghost is passed on from Hamlet to the viewers giving the viewers and immersive experience.

Kayla P said...

Kenneth Branagh's take on Act 1 Scene 5 of Shakespeare’s Hamlet was packed with emotional line delivery and lighting, camera, and sound effects. Much of the movie was left to his own interpretation because there was little stage direction for him to follow, which led to a dramatic film. His use of music and lack of lighting added to a sense of dread. He also switched between present and past scenes, contrasting the ghost’s life then with his life in hell.

The scene begins with a section from scene 4, when the ghost is first seen by Hamlet. Lines 38-57 are powerfully delivered by the actor portraying him. This scene was crucial to the play, as it showed how badly Hamlet wanted to see his father. He went as far as to say “Be thou a spirit of health, or a goblin damn’d,/ Bring with thee airs from heaven, or blasts from hell,/ Be thy intents wicked, or charitable…”(Lines 40-43). Branagh’s choice to have the actor shouting his lines with abandon fit well. Hamlet is willing to see his father in any form he can, his lines proving that he didn’t care if the ghost was there to do harm or bring peace. As Hamlet is reciting his lines, he is running through a dark forest, with scenes changing to show the earth splitting, to “burst their cerements”(48) and steam coming from the ground. Meanwhile, the music keeps building. The pace is very quick, showing the urgency Hamlet is feeling. Branagh was able to depict this urgency using the dim lighting of the forest, and the quick paced music. It all led up to a feeling that a climax was coming.

The climactic instance that the viewer is expecting comes when the ghost reveals himself to Hamlet. Hamlet cautiously makes a demand that the ghost speak to him, saying “Speak, I’ll go no further.” (Line 1, Scene 5) The camera pans around the forest, as if looking through Hamlet’s eyes, yet sees nothing. This adds to the effect of dread, both of seeing the ghost, and of not seeing him. Hamlet questions “Wither wilt thou lead me?”(1) He worries he is playing a game of chase with this ghost he cannot see. The ghost finally reveals himself by hurling Hamlet against a tree, saying “Mark me,”(2). Stage directions in scene 5 state that the ghost and Hamlet enter at the same time, so this aspect was an interpretation made by Branagh. This added to the feeling that Hamlet could perhaps be imagining it all, yet when the ghost appears, it is clear that there is something amiss.

Once the ghost begins to speak, he ironically tells Hamlet of the awful place in which he is not allowed to speak of. The actor who portrays him speaks in a raspy voice that is sometimes difficult to understand. It is understandable why Branagh chose to have him speak this way though. He had been living in a “prison-house” where he was forced to spend his days. (14) This torture would cause one to speak as he did. Branagh’s choice in this matter wasn’t all positive, though Shakespeare gives no direction about what the ghost sounds like. Since this is an important scene where the ghost reveals that he was murdered by his brother, the audience cannot afford to miss any words spoken by the ghost.

Once Hamlet realizes his father has been murdered, his no nonsense manner changes, and he begins to sound fearful. In the beginning, he demanded the ghost speak to him. Yet, once he heard that his father had been murdered, all he could say was “Murther!”(26). As the ghost speaks of how the uncle seduced the queen, the scene changes so the viewer can see what happened at the time. The speaks of how Denmark was told a serpent stung him, and the scene changes from that of the dark forest to a brighter day, where King Hamlet lay on his chair, napping. This contrast shows the bitterness of the act that the viewers are about to learn about. By shifting from a dreary, miserable place to one of calm and rest, the viewer can quickly understand that the king was done a sort of injustice. When the ghost reveals who killed him, the scene changes to the uncle showing the queen how to play a game, while he discreetly lays his hand on her back. The ghost calls it “wicked wit and gifts that have the power/ So to seduce!”(44-45). Again, Branagh’s choice to do this was understandable. It showed what something that looked innocent could lead to. An innocent touch on the back led to another man’s stay in hell. This scene was able to do things that a play wouldn’t be able to by contrasting these two scenes at one time.

The scene ends with Hamlet angrily calling to heaven, earth, and hell to let him carry out his father’s wishes for revenge. His sadness of his father’s fate is soon mixed with rage and determination that he will fulfill what his father asked of him. Again, there are no stage directions here, so it was up to Branagh to choose how he wanted the actor to portray this scene. He damns his uncle, and then says “My tables—meet it is I set it down/ That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain!”(107-108) The power of this part of the scene shows its importance. Hamlet understands what happened and wants revenge. It was a scene that was meant to be filled with emotion, and Branagh did it justice.

All in all, this scene was portrayed just as it should have been. Branagh’s interpretation of it was seemingly accurate according to the text, and he added a proper amount of drama. Though some things were different than I originally expected, nothing was out of place with the text. Overall, Branagh did a wonderful job taking Shakespeare’s original play and making it his own.

CarlaC said...
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