JUL: “… WHEREFORE ART THOU HAMLET?”
ROM: (“Pssst, you’re in the wrong play.”)
JUL: “WHAT A PIECE OF WORK IS A MAN!”
Those opposed to any attempt to push the electronic form of the novel or the play (e-books +) any further, even in light of the astounding possibilities presented by the tools of the new media, foresee the death of imagination. Indeed, one of the major objections to creating the multimedia/interactive novel or play is that it will interfere with, if not replace, the reader’s imagination. When viewing the clip below, ask yourself if seeing great actors portraying Hamlet will interfere with your reading and appreciation of the play?
ACT 2 SCENE 2 “WHAT A PIECE OF WORK IS A MAN!”
A COMPARISON OF FIVE HAMLETS.
Thanks to an upload by Johnathan Kenneth Fisher, we are able to see and compare the interpretations of Hamlet by five different actors:
Kenneth Branagh (Hamlet – 1996)
Adrian Lester (Hamlet – 2002)
William Houston (Hamlet – 2003)
Wilson Belchambers (Hamlet – 2007)
David Tennant (Hamlet – 2009)
In viewing the clip below, don’t just pick your favorite. Instead, project the words of Shakespeare onto the character of Hamlet in your imagination.
Now, read the part yourself:
293 I will tell you why; so shall my anticipation prevent
294 your discovery, and your secrecy to the king and
295 queen moult no feather. I have of late—but wherefore
296 I know not—lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of
297 exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily with my
298 disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to
299 me a sterile promontory, this most excellent canopy,
300 the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament,
301 this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why,
302 it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent
303 congregation of vapors. What a piece of work is a man!
304 How noble in reason, how infinite in faculties,
305 in form and moving how express and admirable,
306 in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like
307 a god! The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals!
308 And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man
309 delights not me—no, nor woman neither, though by
310 your smiling you seem to say so.
WILL THE REAL HAMLET PLEASE STAND UP
Ask if the five actors that you saw weren’t projecting their own interpretation of Hamlet?
Ask, is any one of the actors in the video clip is the “real” Hamlet?
Ask that when you read the words of Hamlet, if you read them as you thought they should be read?
Ask, then, if you didn’t project your own temperament, personality, and interpretation onto the Hamlet you just read?
Ask, then, if the real Hamlet was you, even after seeing Hamlet being portrayed by five different actors?
Ask, then, in your creative imagination, if the real Hamlet was you?
If this is so, then none of the actor’s portrayal of Hamlet replaced the Hamlet of your mind when you read the speech yourself.
Ask if you would not prefer a “book” with the words and the video comparisons combined?
This would allow the book to become a teaching and creative tool, seeing what an actual Shakespeare play looks and sounds like when it is acted out.
It would allow you to also compare staging, costuming, lighting, and actor’s styles. It would allow you to expand your creativity and to imagine how you would stage the play and play the part.
Of course, lest we get carried away, while you may be Hamlet, only Richard Burton can be Richard Burton.
Note: Thanks to Johnathan Kenneth Fisher more comparisons of Hamlet can be seen here, including Olivier, Jacobi, and Burton.