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What is Hamlet talking about in this scene?
The first scene of the third act depicts the image of Hamlet walking into a room he thinks to be empty, talking to himself about the implications of suicide. Although at the beginning, the audience may think that he is addressing the words to himself, he does not use words such as “I” or “me” at all the entire time, which leads to the thought of a moral debate. He thinks that when life becomes unbearable, everybody could easily choose to commit suicide if they were not afraid of the uncertainty of what afterlife is. This argument shows that the “to be or not to be” soliloquy is actually Hamlet’s way of toying with the idea of suicide.
What is the mood of the scene?
The entire scene has a grim mood, mostly because the main idea of it is death. Even though it is not certain if Hamlet is taking to himself or if he acts as if he is talking to the world, the general impression is that the main character is not sure of what is going on in his mind. This utter uncertainty adds up to the grim mood created by the thought of death, rendering the scene morose.
What seems to be the theme in this scene?
Judging by the complexity of the action, this scene has multiple themes. Firstly, Hamlet’s soliloquy “to be or not to be” drives the audience towards the thought of death, which is the first theme. The pressing thought of suicide and the unknown facts about the afterlife guide the audience towards the gloomy idea of life cessation. Secondly, there is another theme of spying, because the king Claudius and Polonius are hidden behind the tapestry, listening in on Hamlet’s words.
Are there any lines that don't make sense to you after reading and watching? Which ones? What's your best guess as to their meaning?
After Ophelia enters the room where Hamlet held the speech on death and afterlife, she is struck by harsh words from the main characters. At one point, after accusing her of having changed from the woman he used to love, he stated “You should not have believed me, for virtue cannot so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of it.” Hamlet seems to be conflicted with the thought of not loving Ophelia anymore. He is driven by the decision to appear crazy that he chooses to alienate everyone he holds feelings for. This is why I think that these lines are meant to show the fact that he regrets for a second the fact that he was hash with Ophelia.
Which film adaptation spoke to you the most out of the four given? Why?
After seeing all the adaptations of Hamlet, I have to say that I found that the 1996 one, with Kenneth Branagh is the one that spoke to me the most. I feel that it followed the action most faithfully and that it was directed the best. The scene with Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” soliloquy was brilliantly directed, because by making Hamlet speak in front of a mirror, the tension of the scene grew until the culminant moment of Ophelia coming in the room. Furthermore, Branagh’s manner of acting Hamlet is exceptional, giving the character personality and complexity.
What kind of man does Hamlet seem to be in the adaptation you chose above? Is he brave, cautious, intelligent, afraid, or something else entirely? Explain.
In the 1996 adaptation with Hamlet played by Kenneth Branagh, the main character seems to be intelligent but impulsive, swift in action and somewhat careless. The manner in which he pulls out the dagger and points it towards his reflection in the mirror shows the fact that he has reached a point of utter despair in his attempt to put his affairs in order, the discontent of which could lead him to rash decisions.
Is there anything about the setting or Hamlet's actions in this adaptation that helped you to better understand what he was talking about (beyond just the words themselves)?
The manner in which Kenneth Branagh acted made me catch a glimpse inside Hamlet’s mind and soul. He was troubled, yet obsessed with the fact that he needed to successfully finish his mission. He found it completely unacceptable to have not managed to prove the guilt of his uncle, which led him to the thought that his existence may be useless. Although he did not speak of it clearly and did not seems to address the words to himself, the fact that the actor was facing the mirror while holding the monologue made it absolutely clear that Hamlet was talking to himself about the pressing matters.