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The most famous soliloquy, sometimes through its ambiguity manages to convey Hamlet as the Renaissance man who questions himself and his judgements. It occurs in Act 3 Scene 1, shortly before the play takes place. This soliloquy in particular has a strong theme of suicide running throughout it, most notoriously, ‘Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer… and by opposing end them… to die, to sleep- no more. ‘ The words Hamlet uses almost encourage him to take his life; he makes it sound an appealing and attractive prospect, but also as a cowardly option.
He asks the question ‘Who would fardels bear… but that the dread of something after death’ and he convinces himself more and more that he is making the right decision to take his own life, whilst also considering the drawbacks. Both audiences would find this quite harrowing and a director would have to take care to take a perceptive approach. ‘A sea of troubles’ provides the audience with a metaphorical visual image of everything in the world so overwhelming and having everything and everyone he loved and trusted turn against him.
Many hidden meanings are left for the audience to unravel for themselves. These are presented through metaphors, euphemisms and other ambiguities. ‘The undiscovered country’ is a euphemism for death; life as seen as a continuous journey and death will never have been explored by any human that is living ‘No traveller returns. ‘ Hamlet does not forget that death is final; it is forever, and this establishes his characteristically detached state further.
Hamlet is pensive, reflective whilst remaining analytical.
The flat tone the director would allot signifies his dejected, flat state of mind. The soliloquy, in some ways lacks a certain passion that other soliloquies have. The three main characters (Gertrude, Claudius and his father / the ghost) fail to get a mention and instead he tends to use his genuine feelings and concentrate on his awry situation. The soliloquy contains a number of religious references ”Tis a consummation… In thy orisons be all my sins remembered. ‘ This shows he is willing to accept the consequences of his actions and that death is his final sleep.
Ophelia is again mentioned, though only briefly ‘Soft you now the fair Ophelia. ‘ He does not condemn her as some may expect, yet he highlights how he feels rejected and unloved when he talks about ‘The pangs of despised love’ and this makes the audience realise just how big a burden Hamlet did have to bear. Hamlet also shows his bitterness towards the authorities’ lack of action relating to the crime ‘The insolence of office… the law’s delay’ and their arrogance. The Elizabethan audience would disapprove of this scene because of the strong theme of suicide throughout this soliloquy.
It would have made them feel uneasy and overly critical of Hamlet, ‘The eponymous hero. ‘ A modern director would need to be precise in order to portray Hamlet as being fully self-aware. The audience would need to be aware that Hamlet is being watched by Polonius and Claudius and this should help expose Hamlet’s uneasiness. The modern audience would be slightly more perceptive to Hamlet’s dilemma than an audience of his era would, as there have been high profile suicides covered by the media and figures have increased over the years.
Still, this would be a poignant and affecting scene for any audience as they would see Hamlet slowly losing grip of his life, and the director should aim to inject passion and emotion into it. The modern director has many new challenges to rise to which will make the play ever more relevant to the audience which the play is directed towards, despite some arguing the language is outdated and has no real relevance any longer.
A modern audience will respond more to a play and will not be afraid to voice their opinions about matters raised, many of which are more relevant today as they occur frequently and make headlines. This audience, like the Renaissance thinkers will question Hamlet’s judgments and thoughts, analysing him and his thoughts carefully and relating them to their own experiences, flaws and weaknesses. [1,999]
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