Kenneth Branagh includes the soliloquy, the attack, and all of Fortinbras's story in his 1996 film, just as he includes everything that would be found in a conflated Second-Quarto/First-Folio Hamlet. In this text's first scene, we hear how "emulate pride" made Fortinbras's father challenge Hamlet's father to single combat (1.1.79-83). Hamlet's father accepted, and the two kings agreed that the winner would take the loser's land, which is what happened when Hamlet Sr. killed Fortinbras Sr. As the play begins, Fortinbras Jr. has raised an army to get the land back, and the Danes are preparing for war. In the second scene, the new Danish king, Claudius, sends a message to the new Norwegian king, Fortinbras's uncle, asking him to stop his nephew. The message succeeds. In the second act, we learn that the Norwegian king has rebuked his nephew, who has sworn not to attack the Danes. To reward Fortinbras's obedience, the Norwegian king has given him money to wage war on the Poles—which is the last we hear of Fortinbras until we finally see him on stage, at the beginning of act four, scene four.
We see him long before that in Branagh's film. In the first sequence, as Nicholas Farrell's Horatio, in voiceover, describes Fortinbras's determination to recover the land his father lost, we watch the Norwegian prince, played by Rufus Sewell, angrily sweep model armies from a table and rip a map from a wall. We see him rip the map again in the second scene, as Derek Jacobi's Claudius describes the message he has sent to the Norwegian king. In the second act, as we hear about the message's success, we see what it has forestalled: Sewell's Fortinbras, on horseback in a dark woods, looks at Elsinore as if ready to burn it to the ground. As we hear a description of the Norwegian king's rebuke and Fortinbras's obedience, we watch it. The king—in a cameo by the venerable John Mills—slaps Fortinbras in the face. The prince bows low, then rises and swears not to attack Denmark. The king smiles and mouths that he will provide his nephew money to wage war on the Poles. Fortinbras embraces him.
|Rufus Sewell's Fortinbras|
embraces the Norwegian king.