Alexander Fodor’s portrayal of Shakespeare’s Hamlet gives the famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy not only a modern feel to the original rendition, but also a realistic feel to what Hamlet, as a young man, could have had going on in his mind. Through imagery, light and darkness, and an array of other characters, Fodor twists the original display of Hamlet’s soliloquy by using the mind’s flashbacks and a dialogue sped up by a modern recorder that Shakespeare could not given to his original passage in Act Three, Scene One.
This creativity is firstly offered through the opening scene that displays a recorder that in a glance, resembles two eyes. The scene then cuts to the actor to be Hamlet and focuses in on his own eyes. A flashback of Hamlet kissing a pale body that is most likely dead but also “by a sleep we say end” (60). As the recorder turns, however, Hamlet begins his speech in silence. Although when the scene cuts back from Hamlet to the recorder, the audio of Hamlet’s speech begins. The recorder, in this scene, is a motion of Hamlet’s mind and by his assumed “insanity” not on the same pace as his mind may be when he begins his soliloquy with “To be or not to be, that is the question:” (55).
The light surrounding Hamlet and his mind’s deliverance of his philosophy on life “Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer/The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,/Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,/And by opposing, end them” (56-9) is a symbol of the truth that he also portrays throughout his soliloquy. By setting the scene in a light that is a “native hue of resolution” (83) his decision of “to be or not to be” coincides with the dark pallor of his shirt, “sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought” (84).
The other actors, one woman dressed in black and another in white, symbolize both death and life, the two concepts presented in the passage, “But that the dread of something after death,/The undiscover’d country, from whose bourn/No traveller returns, puzzles the will,/And makes us rather bear those ills we have,/Than fly to others that we know not of?” (77-81). The body laying in the bed casted by a white light of truth, is kissed by both the girl in white and black.
This body, either “in that sleep of death” (65) or in a bed of “what dreams may come” (65) is “shuffled off this mortal coil” (66) and kissed by the concept of Hamlet’s truth, portrayed in Fodor’s flashback. The body is then cut to Hamlet’s body, who is kissed by the girl in white, “The heart-ache and the thousand shocks/That flesh is heir to;” (62-3). The “consummation” that his “flesh is heir to” as the girl kisses him is an example of “the pangs of despis’d love” (71) and as Hamlet flashes back to this, his head turns away from the camera in the manner that this kiss, an “enterprise of great pitch and moment/With this regard their currents turn awry” (85-6).
Hamlet’s soliloquy is appropriately given to not only himself, but in Fodor’s rendition, a number of other actors, allowing the viewer to understand “For who would bear the whips and scorns of time” (69) because Hamlet is not necessarily addressing just himself, though he is speaking to only himself. His mind, represented by the running recorder, that is supposed to be mad, is only disconnected to the pace of the recording in the light cast because of “the dread of something after death” (77) for “conscience does make cowards [of us all]” (82). As this is presented, the camera focuses on Hamlet’s eye, a representation of manliness, which averts as his body loses “the name of action” (87).
Without such cuts in the scenes and imagery of light and darkness, the viewer does not get a sense of the symbolism behind Shakespeare’s passage in Hamlet. The recorder is not only Hamlet’s mind, but Fodor’s representation of the soliloquy and Shakespeare’s work which is a reflection of Hamlet’s mind. As a viewer, the scene is more realistic and modern, though abstract the way that Shakespeare had probably always intended.