November 12, 2018
In two film versions of Hamlet, the usage of set and prop design makes Hamlet appear differently during the recitation of this soliloquy. These cinematic elements make the Hamlet in Branagh’s film appear as if he is angry and vengeful and only feigning his madness while in Almereyda’s film Hamlet appears as if he has actually gone mad and is bitter and scornful. Branagh’s film interpretation is more effective than Almereyada’s because it makes the audience question whether Hamlet’s madness is real. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how changes made to set and prop design change the way in which the dialogue of the “to be or not to be” speech make Hamlet appear.
In the famous “to be or not to be” speech, Hamlet considers whether it is moral or not to commit suicide, asking if it is nobler to suffer through life—“the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (III.i.58)”—or avenge his father’s death—“take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them (III.i.59).” Shakespeare specifically chose to use slings and arrows to create an image in the mind of the Elizabethan audience that allowed them to emphasize with the position Hamlet was in: a situation in which it is as painful as getting rocks hurled or arrows shot at you. The use of long range weapons such as that of a bow and arrow or slings may further suggest the possibility of attack being unexpected. These slings and arrows can miss their target and hit someone unintendedly. This fits in context with the phrase outrageous fortune. The adjective outrageous may have been used to stress the denotation of fortune as the word fortune means the good or bad that can happen to a man. The metaphor of the sea compares Hamlet’s difficulties with the power and vast expanse of the sea. The sea of troubles Hamlet faces will be over with if he finishes his father’s request of him to kill Claudius or if he dies trying. Naturally Shakespeare’s use of a sea of treacherous waters is a perfect metaphor as eventually the unstill waters will come to a rest.
Hamlet then goes on to compare death to deep sleep which at first seems acceptable to him until he begins to contemplate about the “dreams” that will come in his sleep -- “To sleep: perchance to dream:--ay there’s the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come” (III.i.68-69). The dreams he speaks of are what he fears may come to him in his afterlife. By “rub,” Hamlet means an obstacle in his case of his committing suicide as rub was a part of an ancient game of bowls that stops the bowl or diverts it from the direction it is headed. This would have been a familiar analogy to the Elizabethan audience.
After Hamlet ponders this complex question and the nature of great sleep, Hamlet goes on to list all the sufferings that a man can encounter in his life. But by the very end of the soliloquy Hamlet realizes “But that dread of something after death, / The undiscover’d contry,...