A Strong Character of Weak Mind

9 September 2016

Hamlet’s unique determination to discover the truth behind the late king’s early death depicts him as steady and sensible, yet his brash personality diminishes the thoughtfulness in his decision-making. The 2009 version of Hamlet demonstrates this during Act I, Scene IV, when Hamlet encounters the ghost of his father. In order to portray the prince as a man of rashness rather than reason, director Gregory Doran uses dramatic dialogue, acting and film techniques to bring the tragic character’s implicit character to light. Doran first introduces Hamlet’s intense demeanor in Act I, Scene II during his soliloquy.

His disapproval in Gertrude and Claudius’s marriage becomes evident as he proclaims, “Frailty, thy name is woman! ” and how Gertrude married his “father’s brother, but no more like [his] father Than [he] to Hercules. ” Hamlet becomes lost in thought and looks off in the distance while speaking his mind, even when Horatio, Marcellus and Bernardo enter the scene. This heat of passion sparks the curiosity and inquisitiveness that he carries throughout the rest of the film, but also introduces the very impulsivity that leads to his downfall.

A Strong Character of Weak Mind Essay Example

Hamlet’s heightened emotional state in Scene IV quickly undermines his thoughtful character. The scene begins with an establishing shot as Hamlet, Horatio and Marcellus stand side by side in a long hallway: While King Claudius throws a party nearby, flashes of light illuminate the hallway. The shrill noises of fireworks and trumpets dominate the sound while Hamlet speaks in a low tone. The rhythm of his speech quickly breaks by Horatio sharply exclaiming, “Look, my lord, it comes! ” in reference to the ghost of King Hamlet, now entering the shot’s frame:

Even with the key light being shown on Horatio’s face, a stark contrast can be observed from his expression and Hamlet’s, the latter showing more shock and astonishment than the other. The fireworks and trumpets hush and ominous bass tones replace the sound. A slight fog enters the shot, and Hamlet begins to step backwards. The tone of this scene has suddenly changed from being relaxed to tense due to the ghost’s presence. This shift hints at King Hamlet’s powerful nature early on in the scene.

The camera cuts away to a more distant position and includes Marcellus in the frame: The camera now films in deep focus, allowing the audience to observe Hamlet as he backs away from his father while speaking in a frail and trembling voice. He appears very humble and afraid of his father’s ghost. Hamlet continues to ramble as if he has lost a sense of who he is and what he is trying to achieve: an understanding of what happened to his father. Horatio and Marcellus are left without words, leaving the action between the Prince and late King of Denmark.

Now that the camera’s focus lies only on Hamlet and his father, the mood changes and Hamlet’s impulsive nature comes to light. The prince sinks against a wall while speaking to the ghost, who stands on the opposite side of the wall in front of a window. This initiates a shot/reverse shot sequence between Hamlet and his father: The shot of the prince uses low contrast. The framing encompasses the wall behind Hamlet, and the camera films at level with Hamlet’s face. A dim light illuminates his position and fearful expression.

In comparison, the shot of the King employs high contrast due to the background light. The framing includes the window behind the King, along with a fog that emits from the ghost as the light falls upon his back. The camera films below the ghost’s face. Both shots are taken moderately close up to the actors’ faces. The strong background light, fog and level of framing make the ghost appear much more threatening and commanding than Hamlet. Now that the prince comes face to face with the very person he finds himself so distraught over, Hamlet’s identity and personality change.

The juxtaposition of Hamlet’s wavering character and his father’s stern temperament delivers a glimpse of Prince Hamlet’s true self, someone that may not be as thoughtful as the audience expects. The late king’s strong and shocking presence makes the situation much more realistic for Prince Hamlet and cracks his composure. Although the ghost never speaks in the scene, this shot/reverse shot sequence displays his discontent with the situation in Denmark. The acting of the prince and king alone reveal the true authority figure: King Hamlet. The Prince of Denmark also contrasts the behavior of his good friend, Horatio.

Throughout the film, Horatio comes off as the more composed and loyal friend of Hamlet. It not only highlights Hamlet’s radical behavior, but also emphasizes the imprudence in his judgment. As the ghost leaves, Hamlet frantically tells Horatio why he should follow his father. He speaks very quickly while repeatedly looking in the ghost’s direction: The shot is now close up and implements low-key lighting, which focuses on the left side of Hamlet’s face. It also includes the surrounding brick wall whose dull colors vividly highlight Hamlet’s facial expressions.

David Tennant makes dramatic and wild expressions as he pieces together what he just witnessed. His determination to uncover the truth and vindicate his father returns with a much more unsettled disposition. Hamlet never rationalizes his desire to follow his father’s ghost, leaving Horatio to try and make sense of the situation. The camera turns towards Hamlet’s loyal companion and increases the depth of focus to include the ghost, now at the opposite end of the hallway: The shot now uses a lower contrast in regard to the actors’ faces.

The background light illuminates the hallway without showing the individual characters. The level of framing cuts the top of Hamlet’s head from the shot, showing how he directs his attention to his father rather than to Horatio. His failure to even acknowledge Horatio’s attempts to explain the circumstances stresses the fact that Hamlet is not in a keen and focused state of mind. He appears more flustered and easily influenced by the ghost’s presence, unlike the very independent and thoughtful Hamlet who the audience acquainted with throughout the film.

The shot then becomes close-up to Horatio’s face, with the key light directed on his right side: The ghost stands outside the shot’s frame. Horatio’s face becomes more detailed, showing his sincerity and concern for Hamlet’s well being. The level of framing stays at eye level with Horatio, but below that of Marcellus and even more below that of Hamlet. This signifies that Horatio’s appeal to logic comes off as insignificant and bears no effect on Hamlet’s rational. The prince thoughtlessly decided how he will act and indeed acts upon this reflex.

This demonstrates how easily Hamlet can be influenced in believing a certain idea or position. Even if Horatio tried to reason with Hamlet before the ghost entered the scene, Hamlet would have likely reacted with the same level of emotionalism. He convinced himself from the beginning that speaking to his father was exactly what he needed to do. The contrast of his spontaneous behavior and Horatio’s thoughtful reasoning indicates how impulsive the Prince of Denmark truly is. After ignoring Horatio, Hamlet runs toward the direction of his father to a new room.

He discovers that his father’s death resulted from foul play, committed by the late king’s own brother: Claudius. Now that he spoke with his father and uncovered the truth, Hamlet must decide how he should act upon the King’s revealing account. Immediately after the King’s ghost departs, Hamlet declares his next move. He exclaims, “I’ll wipe away all trivial fond records, All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past, That youth and observation copied there; And thy commandment all alone shall live Within the book and volume of my brain, Unmix’d with baser matter: yes, by heaven! Hamlet’s exposure to this new information beguiles him in to a sensationalized state of mind and causes him to impulsively draw conclusions before he can even stand up from the ground. His hasty demeanor follows him to Act II, Scene II. Here, Hamlet assumes Polonius to be a fishmonger and gives him advice for how Polonius should care for his daughter. Hamlet fails to acknowledge the possibility of Polonius being Ophelia’s father and even acts recklessly enough to poke fun at his old age. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern then enter the scene.

Very little time elapses before Hamlet indicts the two of being sent for. He asks, “Were you not sent for? ” Neither Rosencrantz nor Guildenstern reply definitely before Hamlet claims, “You were sent for…I know the good king and queen have sent for you. ” He then goes on to speculate the cause for this action; again, neither of his friends has answered the original question at this point. Hamlet’s impulsive thinking triggers him to construct broad extrapolations, solely based upon a single intuition.

Act I, Scene IV of Hamlet introduces a slightly new twist to Prince Hamlet’s character than the audience has yet to experience. Although Hamlet consistently advocates for what he believes in, the mere appearance of his father’s ghost is all it takes for him to lose his sense of reason and rationale. This spontaneous change of character brings light to Hamlet not being as thoughtful as one would expect from a prince. The Royal Shakespeare Company’s emphasis on this particular scene reveals Hamlet’s true character and foreshadows the melodrama and dramatic flair that later escalate in Shakespeare’s tragic play.

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