March : Kenneth Branagh and the Importance of Fortinbras–What you Focus on (part two)

To read part 1 of this post, click HERE

It almost makes Hamlet look silly. All his important internal struggle and angst, all his indecision, all the intrigues—how important everything within the palace seemed, to him and to everyone else involved. But all the time, they had no idea. They were focused on the wrong thing. The audience is left wondering—if they had shifted their focus and put aside internal grievances to make Denmark strong, what would have happened? If they had faced the actual, bigger threat of Fortinbras’ army instead of being distracted by internal turmoil, what would have happened?

Fortinbras marching into Denmark, already laid waste for him by its own occupants

Not to say the murder of Hamlet’s father and the grief and betrayal therein isn’t legitimate–but I also think survival is legitimate. That’s the problem with the trees you get distracted by–they’re all legitimate, but at what cost?

You can imagine what a viewing experience this was. My entire idea of this play was turned upside-down; the obsessive Fortinbras shots I at first thought strange and unnecessary, I soon realized were an insightful interpretation. That perhaps the inclusion and role of Fortinbras is not a plot convenience or odd loose end—perhaps it is a very subtle placement by the Bard, a very subtle point for his readers. 

It is one of the tragic flaws of we, as a human species, to focus on the wrong things. We focus on the small bad in our lives instead of the huge good. We focus on internal concerns in a family, organization, or even country, at the peril of being a strong and successful whole and facing often greater external threats. We miss the forest for the trees.

Perhaps Hamlet’s tragic flaw is not, as many say, indecision. Perhaps he, and his entire country, were putting their energy towards the wrong things—self-destructive quests that destroyed everything around them. 

What do you, oh reader, think about all of this?


March : Mouse Book Club


The Phlox, in case the reader has not noticed (The Snottor is sure the reader has noticed), has been delinquent lately. There are a lot of things to distract her (that’s what she would tell you. The Snottor would tell you something infinitely more rude). She is currently up to her petals in non-blog-related things she is reading and writing. This, of course, wounds The Snottor. She clearly is a bit addled in the brain if she thinks that any other literary pursuits are above the smug grandeur of his blog—and of course, The Snottor being a Luddite at heart, he is helpless to curate and post his own content without her, a baffling reality indeed. (He thinks this post will have a little something for all the Luddites at heart). 

About this: 

Now, back to our haughty reviews of our favorite things. The Snottor, because of his prolonged abandonment, has had lots of time on his hands to read, and has thus discovered this interesting venture.

Mouse Book Club was recently launched by Kickstarter campaign (with the money donated shockingly exceeding the expected amount), and now has a website, podcasts, blog posts, and a wide array of its products to sell. 

To see it yourself, and read their (the Phlox thinks far superior) definition of their product, visit their website HERE

In essence, the Mouse Book Club hopes to start a quiet little revolution. It is manufacturing little books, the size of a smartphone, drawing on material in the public domain. As they say themselves, every piece is picked (and, in the case of longer works, excerpted) with care, and they are not meant to be consumable words. Rather, the fine folks at Mouse hope that these tiny books hold food for thought and the soul within their smooth pages.

They are the perfect size for a pocket, a purse, or a backpack; they are convenient for taxis, lines, airports, lulls, busses, awkward situations—to say the least, The Snottor is quite impressed. They are a handy substitute for the content one can sift through on a phone, highly curated and thoughtfully minimalist to boot.  

Whether you explore Mouse or not, it does bring up an interesting idea—the use of spare time. We all have it, even the most busy, The Snottor asserts. What do you choose to do in those spare pockets? What meaningful, tiny moments could you be having?

The Snottor wishes the best, having delivered this erudite dispatch from the muddy Spring-flower trenches. 

March : Kenneth Branagh and the Importance of Fortinbras–What you Focus on (part one)

Hello! Why don’t we return to one of the old guard for this month’s posts—the Bard. 

I believe it was Mortimer Adler that read Hamlet over again every year, gaining new insights with each look. You could say society is in the same bucket; new adaptations of this play focus on different things, and different waves of academics bring out one theme or focus, only to be surprised by a later insight from a different voice, highlighting another aspect of the story.

Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Hamlet did that for me. Here’s the backstory:

I’d read this play once before, and was reading it again this year for Literature. I’ve recently enjoyed indulging in adaptations (studying something is an easy excuse), and as you all have seen I’ve gone rather wild with Wuthering Heights. So I watched Branagh.

Reading Hamlet, I found Fortinbras a rather odd thorn. Perhaps a loose end. The arrogant, power-hungry Norwegian prince who conquers Denmark in the end. What was he doing there? He wasn’t in the story enough to really contribute to thematic significance, and his entrance at the end is almost random and seems quite the convenience for our esteemed author. However, Branagh gave Fortinbras more of a presence in his adaptation. Fortinbras already was sprinkled throughout the beginning of the play, but Branagh gave him more wordless shots, flashbacks, and made it always ominous. The viewer is definitely more aware of the threat he poses to Denmark, and of the dramatic irony that the Danes have no idea. 

The Man Himself (Fortinbras)

As the film progresses, so does Fortinbras’ looming figure. Branagh highlights the huge scope of the threat during one of Hamlet’s soliloquies as the camera zooms out, leaving Hamlet a speck before Fortinbras’ enormous army (which Hamlet has no idea is actually marching to Denmark). 

a bit hard to see, by the army is all the little ridges and specks lining the plain behind Hamlet. Watch the movie to see the grandeur of this scene for yourself :/

Act 5 is the most marked difference of all. While in the play, Fortinbras only appears with his entrance at the end, his approach is frequently shown by Branagh, heightening the peril. The audience is agonizingly aware that, the whole of act 5, Fortinbras is swiftly taking a defenseless Denmark—and, again, Hamlet and crew have no idea. The action of act 5, the duels, the poisonings, that seem in the script so all-consumingly important, are constantly juxtaposed with shots of the massive approaching army. In Branagh’s version, Fortinbras is of as great importance, if not more, than the intrigue within Denmark.

Look out for the next installment, up later this month!