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Hamlet s to be or not to

Contact Us You are here: Apart from providing titles for or being quoted in countless other plays, poems, novels, TV shows and movies, it has also appeared on posters, T-shirts, coffee mugs and keyrings.

There are at least 379,000 hits on the internet for the first line alone. This speech is many, many things. One thing it is not, however, is a soliloquy. Despite the entrenchment of the lone Hamlet on our cultural understanding of Hamlet, when we study the six quarto and three folio printings that comprise the original texts, we find the following: My methodology does need some explanation. I believe in the primacy of the text: I only distinguish between two kinds of performances — those that agree with the text and those that do not.

Soliloquies feature lone speakers, but all nine original Hamlet printings agree that Hamlet is not alone, as Ophelia is also onstage throughout the speech. In those speeches, he follows a pattern — he speaks about Claudius, the late King Hamlet, and, usually, Gertrude.

Hamlet does discuss his family with some other characters, but when he knows he is accompanied by potential spies, he stays away from the topic of his family. He only mentions the King and Queen as the people to whom Rosencrantz and Guildenstern must report.

Since the speech is not a soliloquy, it cannot be staged as a soliloquy and still be faithful to the text. Text-based stagings focus on what is written. The original printings agree that, by this moment in the play, Hamlet has discovered that his schoolmates have been dispatched by the King to spy on him. The remaining printing, the First Quarto, does not mention this at all.

The quarto texts allow Hamlet to see the King and his crony hide; Hamlet would clearly know he is being spied upon. Even if a director chooses the folio option, it is still reasonable that Hamlet knows he is being spied upon. In order to stage the scene, we must have a better understanding of Ophelia and her relationship with Hamlet.

She has only appeared twice before, in scenes revolving around her relationship with Hamlet. Ophelia speaks on this subject with her father, Polonius, saying her relationship with Hamlet is an honorable and affectionate one that has included every promise, save that of matrimony.

  • My methodology does need some explanation;
  • I believe in the primacy of the text;
  • She has only appeared twice before, in scenes revolving around her relationship with Hamlet;
  • The options revealed by the text and its established circumstances are many and must be explored in a production.

Polonius dismisses this as Hamlet merely wanting to master her chaste treasure and commands her to never see Hamlet again. Before this passionate meeting, there is one more discovery to address: The First Quarto offers a fascinating option.

In fact, the book he reads may still exist. A reading Hamlet opens up a new possibility to the speech. If Hamlet is reading about death, his speech might refer to the book. Shakespeare gives us a similar situation in Henry IV, Part One, where, examining a letter from a confederate, Hotspur reads a phrase and then makes a scathing response.

A staging using this reading can allow the prop to help explain why Hamlet is in this frame of mind. Studying the original texts with a respect for their primacy reveals that the cherished long-established vision of Hamlet simply does not agree with the text.

The options revealed by the text and its established circumstances are many and must be explored in a production. After studying the evidence, I staged the scene two different ways.

In Hamlet's soliloquy "To be or Not to be", what are Hamlet's feelings?

The first staging was greatly intellectual. Hamlet mused about the ideas of death, sharing them on that level with Ophelia. This Hamlet is the consummate philosopher, matching wits with Ophelia and even referring to the book she is carrying. The concepts of death and release are explored with great cerebral impact, so much so that, in directing a full production, I can easily see Hamlet reading voraciously through the early stages of the play.

Haunting poster image for the upcoming Barbican Hamlet which will star Benedict Cumberbatch. The second staging focused upon the circumstances of the characters.

  • He only mentions the King and Queen as the people to whom Rosencrantz and Guildenstern must report;
  • My methodology does need some explanation;
  • It is a specific example of what to this point has been kept general and abstract;
  • Text-based stagings focus on what is written.

Hamlet, knowing he is spied upon, takes refuge in the arms of his forbidden love but is unable to tell her the whole truth of his problems.

This staging speaks to the troubles as written by Shakespeare and had great emotional and visceral impact. Similar to the first staging, I can see a full production of this sort of Hamlet. He did the job of a playwright well, creating the skeleton of his plays. It falls to us to give that skeleton a heart, a soul, and scars.