Hamlet: Act 4 Scene 4 (Paolo Juego, 10110489)

For my Engl 311 course, I have watched Kenneth Branagh’s 1996 film of Hamlet and read the play in Robert Miola’s Norton edition.

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This edition includes Branagh’s introduction to the play, where he explains his experience of Hamlet at the New Theatre, Oxford.  He not only watched, but experienced ‘something unique.’  Although he did not completely understand the language, he was able to share the emotions of the characters.  Branagh was ‘moved to tears’ and found it ‘as thrilling as a football match.’

In act 4 scene 4 of Branagh’s 1996 Hamlet, Hamlet had just spoken with one of Fortinbras’ captain about their reasons for going into battle/war.  The combination of the background music and the transition form a close up to outward panning shot creates a sense of change in Hamlet.  It feels like he finally has resolve to match his thoughts and is the turning point of the movie.


Notes Reflection

For play-texts, I would read a few lines then stop and reflect on what I read.   First, I would look for footnotes because there are words that I don’t understand and some words may have a different definition in the context.  Once I have a better definition of most of the words, I would paraphrase the lines into modern English; at the same time, taking into account which character said it and what position that character is at in the play.  I would take it a few lines at a time, but the amount of times I stop and reflect lessen once I get into the flow of the play-text.  I still continue looking for footnotes and writing side notes, but it would be time consuming if I were to stop every few lines.

In the flow of the play, sometimes I notice words that are ‘related;’ in a way that they aid in the imagery or the message being said by the character.  For example in King Henry V act 3, scene 1, lines 6-8 Shakespeare creates the image of a ferocious tiger with the words: “sinews”, “blood”, and “rage.’  In Romeo & Juliet act 1, scene 1 where the prince breaks up the first fight between Capulet and Montague, the words: “beasts”, “rage”, “bloody”, and “disturbed” (was used twice) provide an image of how vicious and monstrous the feud between the two families are.

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Coming from a science background, I have little experience in English literature.  But as I ‘pick apart’ Shakespeare’s words, I have gained a greater appreciation for his work.  I may miss a lot of things, but once I get into the flow I was able to make mental connections with what Shakespeare is trying to say.  I would not know what is the standard measure of success when it comes to annotations, but I feel I have done a good job when I am able to follow the plot and take in the ‘emotions’ of the character speaking.

When Shakespeare movies, I put on the subtitles as I tend to miss some words.  I would reply scenes because sometimes I am reading the words and miss the visual representations of those words and/or character.  I write notes on scenes on what I believe the director has interpreted differently than me.    Some directors paraphrase Shakespeare’s words and some combine Shakespeare’s words and modern English in a few lines.  Music, in context of the situation, is noted or the lack there of because this creates the mood and represents how the director is interpreting the scene or a few lines.  The opening scene of Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet had a very dramatic musical entrance.  This was to show the intensity of the feud between the two families.  Costumes play a role in movies; so we can get a sense of the era the movie is in.  For example, the 1996 and 2016 Romeo & Juliet are in two completely different times.  The former being more modern, where we see polo shirts, dresses, suits, and the latter being in the Elizabethan era.  Character facial expressions have an effect on the intensity of the situation and reinforce the emotions from the words being spoken.


Overall, due to the nature of the film, my annotations for the film are mostly from the visual interpretations of the director of Shakespeare’s lines.  Films require multiple replays because pictures are truly worth a thousand words.  It is best to take note of one thing at a time because directors have a purpose; and they have a message to say in every detail of film.  Likewise, play-texts require to be re-read to capture Shakespeare’s message.  In films we look at music, costumes and facial expressions, in play-texts we look for specific literature techniques and words to discover the message of the author.  I am not adept at spotting literature techniques (as I mentioned earlier of my science background).  However, I do know a specific word or words create the mood or intensity.  Metaphors and similes help in imagery and is one of the aspects of Shakespeare I enjoy.

Again, I am not sure what is a successful annotation strategy when it comes to films.  Previously, I would only take note of the plot in movies.  This course has taught me to look deeper and discover the little details director provide in screen.  If I can answer the question why, why the author included this line and left the rest, I have understood the importance of that line in the play or the mood those specific lines have produced.

Act 1, scene 1; Romeo & Juliet 1996 and 2013

I decided to compare Act one, scene one of Shaskepeare’s Romeo & Juliet  in the 1996 movie directed by Baz Luhrmann and Carlo Carlei’s movie in 2013.  This scene introduces the feud between the Montague and Capulet, as well as the reason for Romeo’s melancholy.    Luhrmann’s film interprets the play in a modern and comedic way, while Carlei sticks to the traditional take on the play.

Initially you know Luhrmann’s film clearly takes place in 1996, where TV’s, cars, guns and suits exists.  He uses photos in the news and intensifying music to show to vicious feud between the two families.  A mood of seriousness is immediately created but soon turns into a sarcastic comedy when the “Montague boys” are driving down the streets and yelling nonsense.  Although Luhrmann sticks closer to the dialogue compared to Carlei, I found the actor’s actions were exaggerated then immediately thought the director was trying to be funny.  This is observed throughout the movie and makes me believe Luhrmann was trying to show the comedic side of Shakespeare’s tragedy.  There is physical distinction between the Montagues and Capulets; the former being mostly Caucasian and the latter Hispanic.  The director may be implying that the feud was due to racism?  The quarrel between the two houses involved guns, rather than swords.  The animosities between the two are shown by the public gunfight, the explosion of a gas station and the panic in the whole city.

Carlei’s film takes place in the Elizabethan era, where crowds gather to see knights compete against each other and where men where silken coats with ruffs and cuffs.  This film presents Romeo & Juliet the way Shakespeare envisioned, at least in terms of costume and setting.    Montague and Capulet are both wealthy and powerful.  Carlei chose to paraphrase/convert Shakespeare’s lines in a way modern language interprets it.  In this scene, the action of ‘spitting on the ground’ is equivalent to Shakespeare’s ‘biting my thumb.’  It was first displaced by Tybalt after he lost the tournament to Mercutio as a sign of disrespect for his opponent.  And it was this same action that started the street fight between Gregory and Samson with Abraham.

I liked Luhrmann’s fight scene compared to Carlei’s.  It was a fun scene which featured the Montague boys as young and wild with their open buttoned shirts and the Capulet boys with tough Hispanic get up.  The tension between the two families were shown with multiple rapid close ups along with cowboy showdown music.  Tybalt’s steel-heeled boots and the cowboy showdown music created the atmosphere of a gun fight.  It was clear the fight was going to happen because Luhrmann showed that the Montague boys were wild and crazy teens and the Capulet boys were slick gunslingers.  Luhrmann featured the ‘biting my thumb’ lines and coupled it with a series of back and forth close up shots between the Abraham and Gregory or Sampson (not sure which one).  Carlei chose to use action to represent the gesture.  A simple bump, spit on the ground and a few looks led to the fight.  Although it was straight to the point, I felt it was unable to grasp the severity of the feud between two families.

In the scene between Romeo and his friend Benvolio, Luhrmann’s film created a deeper sadness tone to convey Romeo’s melancholy.  Luhrmann chose to include the conversation between the Montagues and Benvolio regarding Romeo’s depression.  The combination of a slow guitar, the concerning faces of both parents and the line “locks fair daylight out and makes himself artificial night” creates a deeper sense of what Romeo is going through.  There is irony when they find Romeo alone in the sunset in an abandoned pier; a pier is a place once full of fun and joy but now has been abandoned and now void of happiness.

Both films show that Romeo wants to be alone and is thinking about something/someone.  Carlei’s film shows Romeo sculpting by himself.  Romeo says the line: “sad hour seems long.”  This line is presented in Carlei’s scene when Romeo is doing, what I assume, is a hobby of his to pass the long hours.  In Luhrmann’s scene, Romeo is killing time walking along the pier, contemplating about his sadness. By having Romeo thinking out loud, we can clearly determine why he is alone.  Compared to Carlei’s scene, Romoe states why he is sad by translating Shakespeare’s line: “not having which, having, makes them short” to “I lack the thing which, if I had it, would make them short.”