Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hamlet Act 2 Scene 2 (scenes from Branagh)




You have until Thursday 2.26.09 @ noon to complete this assignment.

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

Objective: Watch the following three passages from Branagh's Hamlet from Act 2 Scene 2 and argue which of the three videos (passages) is the most important in establishing hamlet's state of mind. Your critique should address Shakespeare's purpose and intent, as well as address Branagh's interpretation of the video, which 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! Pay attention to:

  • delivery of the lines
  • imagery the setting / scenery
  • the portrayal of the actor
  • lighting & camera effects
  • sound effects or music

You should use the same structure for explication to develop a thesis. It should be about 1,000 words. Edit and put spaces between paragraphs before you post please!


Mels1619 said...

The three videos from Branagh’s Hamlet Act 2 Scene 2, helps the readers get a better interpretation of the scene. One video in particular, establishes Hamlet’s state of mind more well than the others. The video between where Polonius and Hamlet are having a conversation (Shakespeare 66-67) demonstrate different aspects of Hamlet’s personality; such as his incoherencies, his insulting sarcasm, and his serious and determined side.

Starting from the bottom up, the first video, I believe did not cover much of Hamlet’s personality. It instead focus more on the First Player’s acting than showing off Hamlet. In this video, the First Player is showing Hamlet his acting skills (Shakespeare 75-77) and spends most of the time reciting this long speech (with various images appearing as he speaks). Hamlet barely gets time in the video to speak and show the audience his “distinct” personality. Even though in this particular video Hamlet does not play the main role, the whole idea of creating a play and auditioning the players demonstrate a part of Hamlet’s personality; it shows that he takes time to analyze and choose correctly his moves in order to operate his revenge.

Following this video, the next one is between Hamlet and his two closest friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. In this video, Hamlet appears more than in the last video. But it still does not gives the audience a well-understanding of Hamlet’s state of mind. Both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern came to visit Hamlet because of the Queen’s request. She believes that Hamlet is acting quite different and is afraid of what he might be able to do. Therefore, she decided to bring his two closest friends so they can get Hamlet to be back to his normal self. Hamlet spends most of the time in this part of the scene trying to get his friends to confess that they were both sent for; “what more dear a better proposer can charge you withal,/ be even and direct with me, whether you were sent for or/ no!”(Shakespeare 201-203). With the arrival of his two friends, Hamlet still manages to act in such a different manner that his friends noticed right from the beginning. Both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern tried to act as if they didn’t know that Hamlet was talking about and kept repeating “To visit you, my lord, no other occasion” (Shakespeare 266), “What should we say, my lord” (Shakespeare 272), and “To what end, my lord” (Shakespeare 277). They are trying to hide the fact that they know there is something wrong with Hamlet, but their attempt failed. This video is a proof to what Shakespeare’s play indicates about Hamlet’s personality; he is “crazy in craft”. Even when his two friends came to help, Hamlet maintain a delusional status and did not even tried to hide the personality he has been showing to the rest of Denmark’s inhabitants.

The last two videos explained above, only indicate one thing about Hamlet’s personality: his will for revenge. No other aspect of his personality is being shown in the past videos. I believe the last (or first) video show Hamlet’s real state of mind. In this next video, Polonius runs up the stairs in search of Hamlet. A strange and mysterious skeleton mask appears right in front of Polonius’ face, this be Hamlet being the “mysterious” man he has been after he met his dead father’s ghost. In the first 10 seconds of the video, the audience gets to see a different part of Hamlet. Besides being the mysterious man the readers have imagine of, they now see this strange and unusual man. Following this, Polonius asks “Do you know me, my lord”, “Excellent well, you are a fishmonger” Hamlet responds with a ease tone, somehow pretending to be polite. To prove it, the next lines carries an angry tone, as if Hamlet was getting annoyed by Polonius; “Then I would you were so honest a man” (Shakespeare 176). In the play by Shakespeare, the tone seems to be the same, an ease tone. But Branagh delivers the lines differently, making it easy for the audience to see the changes in Hamlet’s personality. To follow with his insulting sarcasm, besides pretending to be polite, Hamlet also uses the book he was reading before Polonius arrived to insult Polonius in an intellectual way. Hamlet starts off by saying that the book says “that old/ men have grey beards, that their faces are wrinkled, their/ eyes purging thick amber and plum-tree gum, and that they/ have a plentiful lack of wit” (Shakespeare 195-198). In the video, as he says these lines, Hamlet makes various silly faces, twisting his mouth, and using a sarcastic tone.

Another new aspect of Hamlet’s personality appears in this video, the incoherencies that comes out of his mouth most of the time. For example, when Hamlet randomly asks Polonius “-Have you a daughter” (Shakespeare 182) even after he knew and has met his daughter Ophelia. Then he follows “Let her not walk i’th’sun. Conception is a blessing,” (Shakespeare 184) with a horrifying look and a frightening tone. The faces Hamlet makes, the way he delivers his lines, his high to low tones, make him look somehow fearful in the eyes of the audience. And his incoherencies contribute to his craziness in craft.

Hamlet also develops a serious and determined side. Towards the end of the video, Polonius states in a threaten tone “My lord, I will take my leave of you”, provoking Hamlet to change from being this sarcastic man into a serious one. “You cannot take from me any thing…- except my life, except my life,/except my life” (Shakespeare 212-214). And then from serious to angry, “These tedious old fools!” (Shakespeare 216). Being able to watch Branagh’s version, the way Hamlet delivers these last lines, demonstrate his ability to change his personality depending on the situation.

The last (or first) video of Act 2 Scene 2, Branagh effectively captures Hamlet’s state of mind. I was able to distinct each of Hamlet’s aspects of his personality with no difficulty. The last video, even though it was a short conversation, it contained important information for the reader to understand the crazy in craft idea. Hamlet demonstrates to be in control of the situation by always showing others his confidence. He always manages to leave questions in other people’s head with his incoherencies and his sarcasm.

Cynthia R said...

The first passage from Branagh's Hamlet from Act II Scene II is the most important in establishing Hamlet's state of mind because it best illustrates Hamlet’s complex character. Through the setting, interaction between Hamlet and Polonius, and Hamlet’s body language and delivery of lines, the audience can best grasp Hamlet’s methodical and calculated madness.

In this scene, where Polonius and Hamlet are having a conversation, the setting seems to play an important role is letting the audience in on a part of Hamlet’s complex character. The scene takes place inside of a castle with many rooms, doors, staircases, and walkways. The fact that Hamlet is leading Polonius through the paths of the castle could be interpreted as him taking Polonius through the different parts of his mind. When Polonius first enters the scene, he is startled by the sight of Hamlet in the skull mask at the top of the staircase. The various doors that both of the men walk through when they are talking gives Polonius the chance to stop and read his lines aside. For example, when Polonius reads the line, “How pregnant/ sometimes his replies are! A happiness that often madness/ hits on, which reason and [sanity] could not so prospe/rously be deliver’d of. I will leave him, [and suddenly con/trive the means of meeting between him] and my daughter,” (206-210) he is just on the other side of the door that Hamlet walked out of. The line would not have worked out well, for example, had Hamlet been right next to Polonius.

Also important to establishing Hamlet’s state of mind was the interaction between the two characters playing the parts of Hamlet and Polonius. One of the first examples of this interaction was how jumpy Polonius got when he first bumped into Hamlet wearing the skull mask. The music in the scene also added to the tension at that moment as it went from softly playing to abruptly stopping at that instant. Cleary Polonius is somewhat afraid of Hamlet’s possible madness. Also adding to the relationship between Polonius and Hamlet is the way that Polonius always walks somewhat behind Hamlet. This distance between the two characters demonstrates that Polonius is hesitant around Hamlet and that he is concerned or confused by his behavior. When the actor playing Polonius read the line, “How say you by that? Still harping on my/ daughter. Yet he knew me not at first, ‘a said I was a fish/monger. A’ is far gone. And truly in my youth I suff’red/ much extremity for love- very near this. I’ll speak to him again,” (186- 190) he did an excellent job of illustrating that confusion that many of the other characters have about Hamlet’s state of mind. Had he not read the lines with such a pensive and concerned look on his face, then the audience might not have grasped the intensity of the concern that the King, Queen, and Polonius have about Hamlet’s sanity. Also interesting, and not so easily noticed at a first glance of the video clip is that at the moment when Polonius says the lines, “A’ is far gone, “ (188), Hamlet’s character has walked far enough away to really be far gone. It could be a coincidence, but it does add to the words that Polonius is saying at that moment.

Once Hamlet leaves the castle and Polonius mentions his plan to have Hamlet meet up with his daughter, the relationship between the two characters goes through a shift. This shift takes place two minutes and twenty-five seconds into the scene where Polonius follows Hamlet outside and lets him know that he will be leaving. Suddenly Hamlet is sarcastic and somewhat rude as he reads the lines, “You cannot take from me any thing that I will not/ more willingly part withal,” (212- 213). At this point Polonius’s character looks offended and leaves.

Possibly the most important aspects of this video which established Hamlet’s complex state of mind are Hamlet’s body language and delivery of lines. From the very beginning of the scene, Hamlet’s fluctuations in mood and temperament are evident, especially when Polonius asks is he knows who he is and Hamlet replies in a sweet and calm voice, “Excellent well, you are a fishmonger,” (174). When Polonius tries to correct him, Hamlet suddenly raises his voice and violently says, “Then I would you were so honest a man… Ay, sir, to be honest, as this world goes, is to be one/ man pick’d out of ten thousand,” (176-179). This minor outburst on Hamlet’s part shows his dislike for Polonius and resentment towards people for his father’s death and mother’s betrayal. As the scene continues and Polonius asks Hamlet what he is reading, Hamlet replies, “Words, words, words,” (191). The way the actor delivers this line is so important to figuring out Hamlet’s state of mind because it shows the audience that Hamlet is putting on an act. The first time Hamlet says “word” he seems calm, the second time he looks as if he is beginning to become irritated with Polonius and the final time he says it, he does so in such an over-exaggerated manner. To Polonius, who is simple minded, this is a sign of madness, but to the reader of the play or the audience watching the video, it is clear that Hamlet wants Polonius and the others to think that he is mad so that he can carry out his plans.

When Polonius asks Hamlet what he is reading about, Hamlet begins to say, “Slanders, sir; for the satirical rogue says here that old/ men have grey bears, that their faces are wrinkled, their/ eyes purging think amber and plum-tree gum, and that they/ have a plentiful lack of wit, together with most weak hams;/ all which, sir, though I most powerfully and potently be/lieve, yet I hold it not honesty to have it this set down, for/ yourself, sir, shal grow old as I am, if like a crab you could/ go backward,” (195-202). When saying this, Hamlet is clearly trying to insult Polonius and as the actor delivers these lines, he shows it in his face with a look of disgust. The actor even goes as far as pointing to Polonius to make sure that it is clear what he is doing. Not only does he show his dislike for Polonius in this scene, but Hamlet also demonstrates that he is not insane but merely acting so. A mad person would not be so clever as to read the lines from a book and insinuate that what he is saying pertains to Polonius. The final line in this scene that demonstrates Hamlet’s state of mind is when he says, “You cannot take from me any thing that I will not/ more willingly part withal- except my life, except my life,/ except my life,” (212- 214). Once again, the actor reads the three parts in three different tones. The first time he says it, he has that same straightforward tone that he had before, the second time he says it slower and softer, and the final time he says it, the actor opens his eyes wide and tilts his head. In doing so, he demonstrates to Polonius that he is mad and he demonstrates to the audience that he is merely acting.

Overall this scene definitely establishes Hamlet’s state of mind. Shakespeare’s purpose for including this scene was to let the reader know of Hamlet’s true state of mind and his motives. To Polonius and the other, Hamlet seemed mad with love, but to the reader, it is clear that Hamlet is simply putting up an act to fool everyone and catch them off guard.

Jenny L said...

In Branagh’s depiction of Hamlet in conversation with Polonius in Act 2 Scene 2, he creates a duality in personality, one of sanity and insanity. He effectively captures the peculiar behavior that Polonius, Claudius and Gertrude are so disturbed by. However, while doing so, his lunacy can be seen as a contrast to Polonius’s serious manner. Branagh, though portraying Hamlet as in a strange state of mind, and even at times irrational, does so in a way that gives audience the hint that in fact he is cleverly deceiving the mind of Polonius. Beneath the façade of madness, Branagh is able to portray Hamlet’s true ingenuity and ability to deceive the “sane” with his at times incomprehensible cleverness. In the exchange between Polonius and Hamlet, Shakespeare aims not only to intensify the division between the royal family, but also aims to answer the question of true insanity in contrast to sheer ingenuity that is ungraspable by many and often mistaken for lunacy. From the prolonged stares, the random outbursts and facial expressions, to the often perplexing responses he gives, Branagh captures the essence of insanity while maintaining an undoubted sense of awareness to the actions he takes.

With the scene beginning in a growingly lighted room, the tone of the exchange between Polonius and Hamlet clearly contrasts the luminous backdrop. The starting music heightens and parallels the sense of fright Polonius may feel in testing the sanity of Hamlet, whom he finds intimidating and dangerous, since he “is far gone.” (66 Line 188) Entering the set and startlingly Polonius with his mask of a skeleton, Branagh immediately radiates to not only Polonius, but also to the audience an air of strangeness in his behavior. While Polonius greets Hamlet, asking “How does my good Lord Hamlet” in a friendly manner, Branagh replies with a serious stare and with rather than an answer to the question, “Well, God-a-mercy.” (66) His initial behavior begins to establish the insane state of mind Polonius believes Hamlet is in, however quickly transitioning from the seeming irrationality, Branagh shifts his tone to a matter of fact one, calling Polonius a “fishmonger.” It is evident that Polonius finds the remark to further indicate the level to which Hamlet has reached in his insanity, but the response embodies multiple layers of meaning, not only jabbing at the character of Polonius but also remarking on his behavior. Again shifting his tone when Polonius cluelessly responds, “Not I, my lord” to Hamlet’s association of him to a “fishmonger” to that of anger and disgust, Branagh clearly presents the dislike Hamlet holds towards him. In the comparison of Polonius to a fishmonger, Hamlet characterizes him as, like a fish seller, one who is devious and forms a possible connection between the fish the fish seller sells and Ophelia, the daughter he uses as bait.

Continuingly fluctuating not only his tone, but shifting the topics of his speech sporadically, Branagh delivers the lines of Hamlet in a way to depict a sense of deliberate and exaggerated insanity. However in retrospect, his actions demonstrate that rather than being in an irrational state of mind, he actually speaks each word with immense significance which can easily be mistaken as insanity by others who fails to form a connection. Branagh continues on with the delivery of Hamlet’s ever changing topic of speech, taking on a warning and at times mocking tone towards Polonius. Though “the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a good kissing carrion” (66 Lines181-182) seemingly has no connection as to whether Polonius has a daughter, Hamlet nonetheless blurs the difference between the two lines and speak it in relation to one another. In doing so, it only intensifies Polonius’s conclusion that Hamlet is in fact insane, but Shakespeare gives Hamlet such lines to not only show a façade of insanity but also to show an underlying calculated ingenuity within his word choice. He indirectly insults Polonius and Ophelia by directly following the image of a “dead dog” with Ophelia.
The characters of Polonius and Hamlet contrast each other in not only their manner and difference in societal status, but also in their perception of insanity. While Polonius often steps aside from Hamlet to remark on the insanity which even “truly in [his] youth [he] suff’red much extremity for love—very near this” it is evident that he fails to grasp the true intent in Hamlet’s words. Branagh successfully capture Hamlet’s abnormal behavior while portraying it in a sense that he is deliberately playing with the mind of Polonius. When trying to “speak to him again”, Polonius asks “What do you read, my lord?” Branagh’s depiction of Hamlet’s repetition of the word, “words” infuses a sense of humor in that he is beginning to exaggerate his insanity. The actor playing Polonius quickly asks “What is the matter, my lord” as in what is wrong, but quickly changes the meaning of the question to asking what is the subject of the book in which he reads. The acting in this part creatively helps to deliver both the emotions of shock by Polonius to the distortion of Branagh’s face at the third repetition of the word “words” and also Hamlet’s annoyance with Polonius’s questions. As both the actor portraying Polonius and Branagh continues to walk to premise of the winter lighted balconies of the castle, one wears an expression of confusion on his face with his mouth slightly open to the words spoken by the other. It becomes increasingly apparent that Hamlet is in fact mocking Polonius since he compares him to the “old men [with] grey beards…their faces…wrinkled, their eyes purging thick amber and plum-tree gum, and …they have a plentiful lack of wit, together with most weak hams.” (67 Lines 196- 198) The tone in which Branagh delivers the lines that sarcastically refers to Polonius, leads Polonius to finally conclude that “though this be madness…there is method in’t.” (67 Lines 203-204)

As the scene draws to an end, the setting changes from being indoors to outdoors, which in turn effectively shifts the humorous moments of the exchange between the clueless Polonius and the clever Hamlet to a more serious tone. In announcing that he “will take [his] leave of [Hamlet]”, Hamlet’s response correlates with the backdrop of a still snow with no signs of life. He responds that Polonius “cannot take from [him] any thing…except [his] life, except [his] life, except [his] life.” (67 Lines 212-213) Again Branagh distorts his face at the third repetition of the phrase “except my life” and further emphasize the growing shortness of patience he holds towards Polonius’s presence.

Branagh successfully captures the duality of being in a state of mind of an individual who is sane and who is insane through the variation in moods, tones, and speech he delivers. He portrays Hamlet as both insane as he answers and speaks randomly on topics that causes confusion in Polonius, but also as perfectly and even keenly sane, speaking with a dual meaning to this words. The scene truly establishes Hamlet’s state of mind, one that is purposely insane, and cleverly sane.

R. Gallagher said...

It is a little after noon.