Friday, July 1, 2011

II.ii. O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I - Branagh '96

Another soliloquy done in a single shot that follows Hamlet around the room begins with the prince out of breath, having just run into his study to hide. According to Branagh's own commentary, Hamlet is exhibiting relief, because it's the first time he hasn't been watched in a long while. We're at the tail end of a long sequence in which Hamlet was accosted by Polonius, then by Rosencrantz & Guildenstern, and then my the Players, all the while feigning different levels of madness and knowing the King's spies were in the room with him. In Branagh's delivery "Now I AM alone." I also hear another idea - that Hamlet admits or recognizes he has no real allies against the King. Horatio has all but disappeared from the play at this point (though in this version, he is present during the Players' arrival), R&G have quite obviously betrayed him, and the whole court is arrayed against him. Even when we include Horatio in the equation, Hamlet must recognize that if his father is to be avenged, he must carry it out himself and no one can really help him except as unknowing tools (the Players).

The First Player's performance has left him dazed. He can't believe the amount of emotion the Player has been able to invoke. It's "bearded" him (shown him up). As Hamlet walks around the study, we see that it holds more than books and engravings, but also theatrical paraphernalia like musical instruments and masks. Hamlet, though a Renaissance Man, has a particular interest in theater. As he talks about drowning the stage with tears, he opens a toy theater model - doing so on the word "cleave" might have been too on the nose. At "Swounds", he gets angry and starts breaking things, getting rather strident, calling for vengeance before growing calmer and starting to strategize. It's in these transitions that Branagh is weakest, perhaps because he gets too riled up to believably come back down in so short a time. He's far stronger in the quieter parts, sustaining a simmering rage through the end of the soliloquy that is far more effective than the previous tantrum (his open disdain at the "words" he must unpack his heart with, for example).
At the end of the scene (for finally, Scene 2 is about to end), we zoom in on Hamlet's face, following him downward and through the theater playset where he drops a small paper king through a trap door. A link to the idea of the "Mouse-Trap", a visual for catching the conscience of the king, a nice aural sting to get us to the next scene, and yes, the basis for this blog's banner.

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