Hamlet through Branagh's setting

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I have a question in an assessment task: How has the director Kenneth Branagh used the medium of film to create his own special notion of the character Hamlet through his focus on setting? How does setting help convey the conflict that Hamlet felt?

As I am not very good at analysing film, any suggestions would be very welcome. It just confuses me. :-\

-- Nat (starry_freak@msn.com), June 26, 2003


I guess the place to start is the hall of mirrors, in the light of Hamlet struggling with his own conscience, and his sense of things he wants to do struggling with his sense of things he ought to do. And then what does it mean in III.i when Polonius and Claudius are behind one of the mirrors, watching through it Hamlet considering himself in the mirror, and he's looking right back at them without seeing them. Perhaps lots of different reflections of Hamlet can be related to lots of different facets of his character, all one, but all separate and some opposed to others. Or perhaps they mean that throughout the play Hamlet has to come to look at himself thoroughly, come to know and understand himself, and become comfortable with himself.

Then there's the obvious constant snowy, bleak, Winter setting, regardless of the long time of five or so months that the play actually covers. Sort of a literal 'winter of our discontent'.

Then in specific scenes there's stuff like Hamlet encountering the ghost in the wood. Forests are traditionally places of getting lost, being frightened, witches, sorcery, evil and so on. Maybe that reinforces Hamlet's fears that the ghost could really be the devil.

I like II.iii being set in an actual chapel, with Claudius going into a type of confessional booth; so then Hamlet ends up being where the priest could be for hearing Claudius' confession and absolving the sin; yet instead he refuses to kill Claudius there because it could sent Claudius to heaven. It makes Hamlet an odd sort of priest and anti-priest: in one way, for the moment, he's forgiving Claudius, while at the same time he's completely condemning him.

This one could be reaching a bit, but there's the 'rogue and peasant slave' spiel of II.ii being set in Hamlet's room with the toys or models, the globe and the little theatre. (The globe is a toy or model of the world, plus on another level it could suggest the Globe Theatre of Shakespeare's time.) Some of this speech is Hamlet being a bit childish. Then he starts wondering what is real, and what is illusion (pretense, make-believe, acting) about the ghost. And finally he plans his own piece of theatre.

I think the bit of V.ii with Horatio, Osric, and the 'fall of a sparrow' speech being set amongst Hamlet's library of books is possibly meant to signify an end of his conflict with himself. He likes books, and they contain beauty, reason, rationality, wisdom, and so on.

Well, that's a few ideas. I'v no idea if they were Branagh's or not, but I hope they help some. Just keep looking at where he's set scenes and sections of scenes, and with what things, and then see if you can come up with anything that these might mean.

-- catherine england (catherine_england@hotmail.com), June 26, 2003.

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