An analysis of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet as stage production by the Royal Shakespeare Company.
- Thesis Statement
The play, Hamlet is one of William Shakespeare’s most celebrated tragedy stories. The play as directed by Greg Doran in the stage production by the Royal Shakespeare’s Company (RSC) presents the intricacies of revenge, betrayal and ruined family relations.
- The play Hamlet was originally authored by William Shakespeare. The play has been reenacted into numerous films and plays that have been staged at different theaters across the world.
- The play is a film-for-television adaptation of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s (RSC) 2008 stage production. It was directed by Greg Doran and was aired on BBC Two on 26 December 2009 and by the PBS in the US on 28 April 2010. The play was first staged in the Royal Shakespeare’s Company (RSC) theatre in Stratford sometime in early 2009 (PBS, 2013)
- I watched the show online on PBS on 29 December 2013.
- I was in the company of a friend when I watched the show. After watching the show, both of us were of the same opinion and took the same moral lessons from the play.
- Was the event "theatre" by our class definition?
The event in which the play was performed was a “theatre”. This is so because the original action happens on a stage before live audience and it also bears five of the six aspects of theatre.
The play was performed before a live audience in the original recording at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford. The film was recorded for screening across movie theatres. When viewed on online platforms the performance lacks the live audience interactions between the actors and the audience. In a theater, the audience laughs and responds and the actors respond to that energy unlike in a movie where the actors do not respond to the audience’s actions.
Performers (people, animals, ideas)
The main characters of the play are Prince Hamlet (David Tennant) as the main protagonist, King Claudius/ King Hamlet (Sir Patrick Stewart) and Queen Gertrude (Penny Downie) as the main antagonists (PBS, 2013). Hamlet is the son of the late King Hamlet and a nephew to the present King (king Claudius) while Gertrude is Hamlet’s mother and now wife to the late King Hamlet’s brother- King Claudius (Roberts, 1969). Other main characters are Polonious (Oliver Ford Davies) – the Lord of Chamberlain, Ophelia (Mariah Gale) as a daughter to Polonius and a friend to Hamlet, Laertes (Edward Bennett) - a son to Polonius and Horatio (Peter de Jersey) as a friend to Hamlet.
The play was directed by Greg Doran. The director coordinates and oversees quality performance in a theater and the director in this play manages to achieve this perfectly and produce a superb play that seems flawless and adheres to the original storyline as written by William Shakespeare.
The play was acted in a theatre (the Royal Shakespeare’s Company-RSC Theatre in Stratford, UK) before a live audience.
The play features several design aspects such as variations of scenery, sets, costumes, lighting, sound and other special effects. At the beginning of the film, the actors can be seen in the dark with minimal lighting to depict the night; the ghost of King Hamlet appears in costumes ranging from armors to a robe and a crown while the other characters appear n widely varying costumes that are in accordance with their respective roles. The sound has also been greatly altered to make it bring about emotion in the dialogues, Hamlet’s soliloquies and the background sounds such as screams and ghostly sounds when the ghost of King Hamlet is on stage. As such, the play bears distinct design aspects of a theater.
The play is a near perfect depiction of the original play by Shakespeare’s. The script presents the story as written by Shakespeare. The impersonations of Hamlet in character and the depiction on Shakespeare’s play seem perfect while the appearances of King Claudia and his late brother, King Hamlet are portrayed by the same person (Oliver Ford Davies). Both Kings are shown as old white-haired men to depict the perfect “kingly” look of ancient kings. I loved the image and authoritative voice of King Hamlet as his ghost speaks to Hamlet. The scene where Polonius talks to his daughter Ophelia opposing her relationship with Hamlet was also very convincing and a perfect depiction of the script originally written by Shakespeare.
The play I watched is a tragedy story. The main incident in the tragedy play revolves the succession of King Hamlet and the struggle between Hamlet (the king’s son and his uncle King Claudius who took over the throne) (Shakespeare & Hubler, 1963). The major conflict involves the circumstances under which King Claudius came to power for which Hamlet is convinced that his uncle poisoned his father, Queen Gertrude’s marriage to King Claudius to which Hamlet her son is opposed and Hamlet’s relationship with Ophelia is to which her brother Laertes and her father Polonius are opposed to (Smith, 2004). The climatic incident in the play comes when Hamlet organizes a play in which the actors reenact the incident where an old king is poisoned by having some poison put into his ears in a similar manner that Hamlet thought his father had been poisoned, an incident which infuriates King Claudius causing him to leave the scene and this causes Hamlet to confirm that his uncle King Claudius poisoned his father (PBS, 2013). The denouncement comes in when Laertes (son to Polonius) wounds himself fatally while playing a fencing game with Hamlet and in his dying moments reconciles with Hamlet to whom he reveals that he had been instructed by King Claudius to kill; Hamlet manages to kills king Claudius while Queen Gertrude drinks poisoned wine and dies (Smith, 2004).
The characters used in the play help to bring about the themes in the play as the story unfolds. The character of Hamlet is portrayed as a tactful and calculating person who in spite of being the protagonist in the play becomes vengeful over the death of his father and the injustices he deems to eve been dome against him (Shakespeare & Hubler, 1963). He helps to bring out the theme of revenge and ruined family relations which are very central to the entire story. King Claudius is portrayed as a mean, cunning and inhumane person who murdered his brother and proceeded to take over his wife in an incestuous relationship (Roberts, 1969). He brings about the themes of greed for power, incestuous relationships and revenge. The character of Queen Gertrude brings about the themes of greed, ruined family relations. Both King Claudius and Queen Gertrude are the main antagonists in the play. Other characters such as the Horatio (Hamlet’s friend) and Ophelia are also protagonists since they suffer afflictions and from their foes such as Laertes and Polonius who are also antagonists going by their associations with King Claudius and Queen Gertrude. All the characters in the play either back up Hamlet or his uncle King Claudius. However, towards the end of the play, as Laertes dies, he confesses some of Queen Gertrude’s murderous plans for Hamlet and they (Hanlet and Laertes) reconcile and as such Laertes seems to all along have been a protagonist.
The resounding theme or message of the play is that goodness will always trounce over evil. Though the forces of evil at times and apparently seem to overpower those of good, in the final end goodness always carries the day and those who pursue evil means always do so at their own peril and will eventually be put to shame and loss.
VII. Literary Qualities (Diction)
The play portrayed masterful use of imagery. The choice of words was exquisite with the actors using Shakespearean English that is rife with imagery. For instance, Horatio, in the opening states of the play states, “If thou hast any illusionthat may to thee do ease, and grace to me” Such use of authentic Shakespearean English helps to depict the piece as a perfect masterpiece by Shakespeare and as such retains the originality of the play (Roberts, 1969). The characters use symbols such as “beast” as used by Hamlet to refer to the monstrous nature of his uncle who is greedy for power. There is also ample use of repetition, as in the scene where the ghost of king Hamlet appears and then leaves Hamlet horrified and enraged thereby shouting, “O Villain, Villain, smiling dammed villain!” (PBS, 2013). This repetition helps to compound Hamlet as the ultimate protagonist in the play and against whom the whole world seems to hate. The repetition also helps to bring about the theme of revenge as it shows beings about the extent f the bitterness in the characters.
VIII. Music and Musicality
There are no notable incidents of music that is being performed live it the play. However there are instances where Hamlet whistles along to a tune as some acoustics are played just before the start of a skit before King Claudius, Queen Gertrude, Polonius and other invited guests and other attendants (PBS, 2013). In the scene where some actors presented a skit before King, Hamlet and his friend Horatio are left blowing some flutes making some music apparently reveling in the confirmation that in deed King Claudius murdered King Hamlet (PBS, 2013).
One of the instances of spectacle in the play is brought about by the costumes with which the ghost of King Hamlet appears; he adorns a robe and a crown and appears quite the ancient portrayal of ancient kings. The idea of a king is one in a crown and white hair and beard as a sign of wisdom and this has been perfectly captured. Polonius is also presented as an old man with a balding head and white hair and as such befits the image of a Lord. The soliloquy by Hamlet as he laments his predicaments in what he opens up stating, “To be or not to be” This scene presents the worries of Hamlet as he ponders how to regain his father’s lost glory and avenge for his murder. There is also a spectacle during the play presented before King Claudius through the exaggerated large and colorful costumes of the actors, and the exaggerated actions as they mockingly stage how Claudius poisoned his brother King Hamlet by placing poison in his ear (PBS, 2013). The particularly large ear looks funny and bears are made so to deliberately make it visible and taunt King Claudius in a bid to conform long held allegations of his crime. The lighting has been used to present events the happen at night such as the beginning where the ghost of King Hamlet appears to sentries Francisco and Bernardo. The spectacle is also evident in the scene where Hamlet argues with his mother, Queen Gertrude in what looks like the latter’s bedroom. Hamlet makes creates a scene that he even pull out his mother’s bedding to show his anger. This incidents stand out as spectacles in what is largely an emotion-packed act.
The convention in the play is depicted in various ways; the actor Patrick Stewart plays two roles; as King Claudius and as the ghost of King Hamlet. This is so because King Claudius and King Hamlet were brothers and so with minimal alterations, the actor befits the characters of the two brothers with ease and this also helps to bring about some authenticity to the play. There are no memorable incidents in the play where characters are represented by puppets.
XI. Outstanding Moment
The most outstanding moment in the play is the soliloquy by Hamlet in which he is desperate and is contemplating suicide. Polonius had arranged for Ophelia to be at a place where she could meet her lover Hamlet as he (Polonius) and the King hid to await for prince Hamlet. Hamlet talks to himself in apparent deep thought, “to be or not to be, that is the question; whether tis nobler in the mind to sufferslings and arrows of outrageous fortuneto die; to sleep, no more” (PBS, 2013). Ophelia interrupts him as she intends to replay to the letters hamlet had written to her and also to appease her father who had demanded that she does so. Hamlet is enraged and he lashes out at Ophelia because of his mother’s betrayal. Although he has always loved Ophelia, he shows her no affection at this point and he is totally a changed character from the one Ophelia always knew. I find this incident to be the outstanding moment because it is a high point in the conflict and one that shows the extent of the turmoil through which the protagonist is going. It shows that at this point Hamlet around who the play is centered had lost all his friends and he considered himself to be worthless. As such the ensuing scenes are vital as they show how he managed to rebuild his relationship with Ophelia and also with Ophelia’s brother Laertes.
XII. Summary Statement
The play Hamlet clearly affirms that though at times forces of evil seem to trounce over forces of good, those who pursue evil ways do so their own eventual destruction.
XIII. Photo, Caption and Citation
Goodness is naturally appealing and pleasing to the human heart. (Xostro)
PBS. (n.d.). PBS. Retrieved January 2, 2014, from http://www.pbs.org/wnet/gperf/episodes/hamlet/watch-the-film/980/
Roberts, Jr., P. T. (1969). Hamlet's Moment Of Truth. The Journal of Religion,49(4), 351.
Shakespeare, W., & Hubler, E. (1963).The tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.. New York: New American Library.
Smith, K. H. (2004). "Hamlet, Part Eight, The Revenge" Or, Sampling Shakespeare In A Postmodern World. College Literature, 31(4), 135-149.
Wildstar Forums (2013). The Exiles are more popular Then the Dominion? It must be the Aurin.