Friday, July 20, 2012

To be or not to be... The Five Greatest Soliloquy Deliverers

Well, because my friends are just as strange awesome as I am, several of us planned to get together tonight and watch David Tennant's Hamlet and drink Dr. Pepper (we always drink Dr. Pepper when staring at David Tennant -- well actually we just always drink Dr. Pepper, but you know: Dr. Pepper + the Tenth Doctor = CLEVERR).

It only ended up being two of us (camping, work, vacations -- how are these more important?!), but I had never gotten a chance to see it all the way through before (you, however, can right now because it is available for viewing on and was quite excited to see it. Hamlet isn't my favorite Shakespeare (Twelfth Night all day, every day!), but it does have some of The Millie's most favorite quoting lines: "Get thee to a nunnery!" and "Oh heat, dry up my brains." -- in case you were curious.

Anyway, Mr. Tennant was kinda PERFECT. His Hamlet was absolutely manic and insane and awesome.

And watching his soul-searing delivery of the "To be or not to be" soliloquy (seriously my friend and I were yelling at each other "DON'T BREAK EYE CONTACT WITH DAVID!"), made me think of other favorite soliloquy deliverers.

Here are five that I quite like.

5) Richard Burton

Honestly, Richard Burton is just cool saying anything. But, I rather like his Hamlet. Because he clearly doesn't even care. When he says "to sleep, perchance to dream," it looks like he's really falling asleep. His Hamlet sits on the stool and looks back and forth across the audience -- as if to say, "Truly, I dazzle you with my coolness do I not?"

4) Jack Benny

Sorry, I have no video link. Clearly, this just means you need to go watch To Be or Not To Be (1942). You absolutely will not regret it. Jack Benny's soliloquy delivering is actually an important part of the script. And it's absolutely brilliant. He does it in the most Hamletly way possible. And, well, it's just perfect.

3) David Tennant

I almost switched this with Olivier, but I just couldn't (one doesn't simply change opinions on Sir Laurence Olivier's Hamlet). I just saw this, but already LOVE IT. The long pause, the closed eyes becoming scarily unblinking eyes, the hair -- it's all beautiful.

2) Laurence Olivier

Yes, I was the obnoxious and shockingly pretentious 8-year-old -- who when asked about The Lion King (which I have never seen) -- always responded by saying, "I prefer Olivier's Hamlet."And there's a reason why -- IT'S STINKIN' SIR LAURENCE OLIVIER. The man has one of the greatest voices ever. And he is able to turn a traditional portrayal of the play (which could become stale or boring) into an engrossing and interesting film. That's talent.

1) Gilligan
{embedding was disabled, but clicking on the photo will take you to the video}

This is Hamlet for the ages. When I think of Hamlet, I immediately start singing this song. (Also, I think: "A ghost and a prince meet and everyone ends in mince-meat.") I want to say that I sing this song in my head, but I don't. I sing it out loud and clear, no matter what. It just needs to be done. And, it's brilliant. The powers-that-be knew their Shakespeare. Gilligan's delivery especially gets at the heart of Hamlet's severe "mother issues." Anyway, I don't care. This is perfect. (Also, don't miss Polonius' immortal song.)

These are five of my most favorite Hamlets. Who is on your list?



Anonymous said...

Okay, so the only Hamlet I've seen is the Gilligan version. And as a child I read the condensed version in our book of sanitized Shakespeare that was edited by legitimately insane people. (I'm not of them killed her mother in a fit of insanity.)

BUT, I might need to see this David Tennant thing.

"Oh heat, dry up my brains." I want to try this one at work sometime while lamenting the ineptness of certain parties.

Anyhow, my lack of culture is now out in the open and visible to the world.

kate gabrielle said...

ha! I think the fact that your number one choice is Gilligan cancels out any pretension you may have had as an eight year old Laurence Olivier Hamlet fangirl ;D

Also this reminds me I seriously need to rewatch To Be Or Not To Be! I love that movie!! (Oh and I just watched an episode of The Jack Benny Show with Humphrey Bogart last week.. have you seen it? I think you'd like it!)

And Richard Burton. <3

Hamlette said...

In case my username doesn't give me away, I'll just go ahead and say that I am nuts about Hamlet, and have been since I first read it when I was 17. So I was way excited to read your post on it!

I had to laugh aloud when you said one doesn't simply change opinions on Sir Laurence Olivier's Hamlet because it's so true. Only my opinion is that he got it all wrong, that it's not at all about a guy who can't make up his mind, and that I don't really like his portrayal much at all. But I digress...

My 5 favorite Hamlets are:

1. Richard Burton (so weary!)
2. Campbell Scott (so scared!)
3. Kenneth Branagh (so boyish!)
4. Jude Law (so elegant!)
5. Mel Gibson (so manic!)
6. Adrian Lester/David Tennant (both so sweet!)

Okay, that's technically 7, not five, but you have no idea how hard this is for me. I love different aspects of each performance, not to mention the different productions...

I do have one absolute favorite Laertes, and that's Liev Schreiber. I've never seen anyone else do the role justice. I loved the Horatio in Tennant's version, Peter De Jersey, and I think he ties with Nicholas Farrell as my favorite. Plus that version has my favorite Claudius ever -- Patrick Stewart is scary and smooth and slippery and awesome.

And I agree -- Hamlet is much better than The Lion King. Though I'd have loved to see Jeremy Irons as Claudius and James Earl Jones as the Ghost.

There's one Hamlet I am so terribly sad that I'll never get to see, and that's John Gielgud. He played it so many times, to such great acclaim, and no one ever filmed any of his versions! ARGH!


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