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Monday, March 7, 2011

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

In my English class, we just finished reading Hamlet, by William Shakespeare. While reading the play we focused on the different lenses that it could be read through: formalist, psychoanalytical, mythological, feminist, reader response, and Marxist. All lenses provided a different insight in to the play, and made Hamlet much more interesting to read. The lens that I liked the best was reader response. For the reader’s response lens, we looked at lines that could portray Ophelia as innocent and needing guidance and protection vs. rebellious and in need to rules. The character Polonious could also have been read in a number of different ways, his lines could be taken as wise or as pompous. Lastly, we focused on Hamlet as crazy/mad vs. incredibly intelligent.

We also discussed how stage directions, costumes, and gestures of the actors would also play a huge factor in making the audience believe one persona or another. For example, we could position Polonious a little bit higher up on the stage to make him seem more important, we could make Ophelia avert eye-contact to show rebellion, and we could make Hamlet pace around and act crazy. We could dress Ophelia in white and put her hair in a braid to make her seem more naïve, and put Polonious in gaudy cloths to make him seem pompous. All of these elements that the director decides on will play a huge role in the way each player is portrayed.

Hamlet outside of Hamlet…

The thing is, Shakespeare’s writing was meant to be preformed, so even though his writing is incredible, especially from a formalists point of view, there is so much meaning to be found in the tone used, the way the actors interact, and the clothing and props used. I have been paying attention to the people around me, the programs on T.V. and the pictures in magazines. It is very interesting to see how all the analysis that my class did about what actions, clothing, and tone would make an actress seem innocent or rebellious, wise or pompous, intelligent or mad.

This picture is of the cast in a hit T.V. series called Gossip Girl. The picture accurately portrays each of the characters in the program, starting with the girl on the left, Serena. Serena is wearing a black short dress, it is more reveling than the dresses that the other two girls are wearing and her head is held a little bit higher than the rest. Her posture and clothing choice she is more outgoing, sexier, and attention hungry than the other two girls. The girl in the middle, Blair, is much more covered up, making her seem more sophisticated and mature. The hand on her hip shows she has a lot of confidence and is powerful. However, from this picture you can tell that there is a power struggle between Blair and Serena. Blair is in the middle and Serena, though on the side is standing closer to the camera. It is unclear from this picture who the leader of the girls is, but if you are a follower of the show you know that the power shifts between the two often. The blonde on the right, Jenny, is in an harmless looking spring dress. The mixture of her posture and hands behind her back lead us to assume that she is more timid and new to the group. The color of the dress and the hair covering part of her face makes her seem innocent compared to the others.

I enjoyed analyzing the text in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but I enjoyed thinking deeper about HOW these famous lines could have been interpreted. So then I thought about how in real life people dress or act in order to carry-out a vision of themselves. Everyday when you wake up you decide what “character” version of yourself you want to play. The outfit Shakespeare might have chosen for Ophelia could have been an all white cover some dress vs. a busty red dress, we will never know, but which ever outfit she did wear, tells a lot about who she was and what she wanted people to think of her. I think that that point is important for people to remember in today’s world. There are a lot of opportunities to portray yourself as one thing or another through the things you wear to school to the pictures you post on Facebook. After reading Hamlet and realizing how much room there is for interpretation, I realized the same holds true in all of our lives. Because we don’t know how his character’s were supposed to dress or act, we have to decide for ourselves. Although this unknown part of Shakespeare is interesting to explore, I don’t want people to make assumptions about me. So even though the characters in Shakespeare can live mysteriously in the plays they live in, we don’t have the luxury of just being judged by our words. Our actions speak louder than words often time, and I am going to do my best to always keep this fact in my head.

Until next time...


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