Kenneth Branagh’s production of Hamlet and The Royal Shakespeare’s Company production of Hamlet are hard to compare with each other. In terms of Hamlet’s famous soliloquy in the portrait scene, his meeting with Ophelia, the queen’s ability to stand up for herself and Hamlet’s reaction and response to his father’s ghost, the Branagh Hamlet exceeds my expectations on how these parts are performed. The branagh version of Hamlet’s soliloquy in the portrait scene really depicts what I imagined it would sound like.
For his soliloquy, his quietness of voice seems proper for this moment with himself. His words, “To die; to sleep; To sleep; perchance to dream; ay, there’s the rub,” are all solemnly said, Branagh creates this serious mood using his tone of voice. No boisterous movements, his slow steady walk to the mirror to look upon himself creates a serious atmosphere. I didn’t expect this soliloquy to be sad or gloomy, and Branagh did an excellent job making this serious. He was amazing acting out this part and taking on Hamlet’s emotion and character seriously.
Unlike the Branagh version, The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) doesn’t depict this certain soliloquy well. Although I am delighted that they did create a serious mood, they did skip part of his soliloquy relative to the original book. Although there is still the serious atmosphere in place, the omitting of several lines takes away some sympathy for Hamlet. As well, Hamlet’s facial expressions go from serious to sad, and over again repeatedly. It doesn’t seem right that Hamlet is depressed; this serious atmosphere doesn’t coincide with his sadness very well.
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I do get the impression he is serious and thinking deeply at the moment, but his gloomy nature makes me feel and think otherwise of him. I also like the Branagh Hamlet for his meeting with Ophelia. I feel sympathy for Hamlet as he has a right to be upset. His weeping, even Ophelia’s weeping made my sympathy for him grow. But Ophelia seems to actually be sad rather than acting on behalf of her father and the king which is something I like about this play. Hamlet’s physical nature towards her, a lot of it was unnecessary.
This meeting was important as to see what impact Ophelia had on Hamlet, and what gave him the push to put on his mad act. Unlike the Branagh Hamlet, the David Tennant Hamlet was nothing like I thought he would be in his meeting with Ophelia. Although she is acting sad, her genuine concern is overlooked since she is acting only for the benefit of Polonius and Claudius. As well, when she says, “Heavenly powers restore him! ” and, “O help him, you sweet heavens! ” she overdoes these parts by the throwing of her hand up and lying on the floor. As well, Hamlet’s runs to her after she says these things are too much.
If I were angry I would not run back to my lover and cry and physically touch her, I would keep away from her so she wouldn’t hurt me anymore. This scene with Ophelia disappointed my thought on how Hamlet would act. It was as disappointing as Christmas with no gifts, it was that bad. Another scene in these movies which is important is the arras scene. In Branagh’s Hamlet, the Queen acts strongly for herself. Despite the unfortunate ending of Polonius, Gertrude acts strong against Hamlet and his physical force. By doing this she is showing what power she has as a woman.
This can be a positive influence to woman as they can see that they have power and independence on their own and don’t have to be man-handled. The only thing I didn’t like about her was her tenacious attitude towards Hamlet; he didn’t deserve any of that from her. But her fighting spirit and independence displays to the viewer that they should stand up and fight against their problems, whatever they may be. However, the queen in RSC is just a failure to conceive. She is too easily pushed around by Hamlet and the men in this play (Claudius and Polonius) have too much power over her.
She doesn’t seem to be independent; she seems to have no problem being held in a vice-grip by her husband. Furthermore, she is physically apprehended by Hamlet and doesn’t try to escape or struggle against him. Her independence in this scene is downright disappointing, and it’s creating the image for woman that they don’t have any power for themselves. Her drinking and smoking before her meeting with Hamlet indicates how she copes with the stress of the situation, and the viewer is influenced by her actions to possibly do the same when they are stressed.
As well, another element I delight in Branagh’s Hamlet is the reaction and actions of Hamlet when he listens and talks to his dead father. His quick, immediate response to his father is as I thought it should be. He shows immediate respect for his father, obeying every word with a swift response to his mother. Despite his strong feelings of anger towards her, when he’s told that she wasn’t involved in his death, he shows immediate signs of compassion to her. His honour-like character in the moment shines through to his mother and she becomes happy with him.
The great Hamlet as described by Ophelia, “The expectancy and rose of the fair state,” (Act III, scene 1 line 154) shines through is the Hamlet everybody has been waiting for. But his trance-like state is something that doesn’t disappoint me, but I’m not happy with that state he turned into. If I were Hamlet, I would be scared more than just frozen in place. David Tennant in this scene does make Hamlet scared, but makes him seem out-of-his-mind scared. His mother is concerned for his well-being of course, but thinks he is absolutely nuts!
His care and affection for his father I cannot see because he is too scared to show anything. His prostrate position to the widening of his horrified face just doesn’t impress me, it’s like he’s overreacting or trying too hard to act scared. In doing this, it makes me lose sympathy for Hamlet. Overall, I enjoy much more the Kenneth Branagh Hamlet rather than the RSC’s Hamlet. The play was performed much better and all the elements within the play just flowed more smoothly. I strongly recommend this version of Hamlet over any other version. Word Count: 1,074 words
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