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Compare and contrast the treatment of the play Hamlet by the directors Franco Zeffirelli and Kenneth Branagh, concentrating on the last scene from the words "The readiness is all" to "The rest is silence."

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Introduction

Compare and contrast the treatment of the play Hamlet by the directors Franco Zeffirelli and Kenneth Branagh, concentrating on the last scene from the words "The readiness is all" to "The rest is silence." Focus on the stagecraft and importantly the presentation of character and the language spoken. Many events have occurred in this complex play to put the main character, young Hamlet, in the position and frame of mind in which he finds himself at the beginning of the last scene of the play. Only months ago, his father died, seemingly from natural causes leaving everyone grief stricken. Yet within two months, Hamlet's mother Gertrude had re-married - to Hamlets uncle Claudius! Then the ghost of Hamlets father appears to him and tells him that Claudius murdered him and that he wants Hamlet to avenge his death. Hamlet also has a place in his heart for the beautiful Ophelia in whom he cannot trust. Hamlet cleverly proves Claudius' guilt but manages to stab Ophelia's father Polonius instead who is hiding behind a tapestry in Gertrude's room. Hamlet is then banished by Claudius to England where he is supposed to be beheaded. Meanwhile Ophelia goes mad with grief and drowns just after her brother Laertes comes home. Claudius receives word that Hamlet is on his way home so he and Laertes (who seeks to avenge the deaths of his father and his sister) plot to kill him upon his return. Hamlet gets back to find it is Ophelia's funeral and he grieves for her. ...read more.

Middle

Branagh's 18th-19th century setting however called for the foils and they were much more suitable. But the heavy clashing together of the swords in Zeffirelli's adaptation, was much more dramatic and some how more fitting to the events enfolding in the scene. The pearl and the goblet are also props in the scene but are not really seen. The goblets suited their setting and a pearl is after all a pearl. Acting: The acting styles of the two actors playing the part of Hamlet (Mel Gibson and Kenneth Branagh) are very different. Gibson does much better at getting the moody, contemplative and quintessentially mad sides of Hamlet's character across and I feel is more like the Hamlet you read on the page. Branagh's Hamlet is very 'stiff upper lip' and military. He also over accentuates the role. He is not the Hamlet written in Shakespeare's script but he does convey the side of Hamlet we forget - the fact that he is the son of a king brought up to face war. Branagh heavily portrays this side of him. Claudius (played by Alan Bates in the Zeffirelli movie and by Derek Jacobi in the Branagh movie), is much the same as Hamlet's character in the Branagh, very 'stiff upper lip'. Zeffirelli's Claudius is much more frivolous and a bit of a wastrel - less like a king and more like a stupid young man with too much power. Gertrude (played by Glen Close in the Zeffirelli movie and by Julie Christie in the Branagh movie), is at two ends of a long scale in the different movies. ...read more.

Conclusion

Imagine someone who is not very into Shakespeare - they would think this was the funniest thing they'd ever seen - but then they probably wouldn't sit through 3 and a half hours worth of film in a language they barely understand. To get anything from this movie you have to be very committed to Shakespeare indeed. This film may have been accurate to a fault when it came to using Shakespeare's language, but when it came to doing things the way Shakespeare intended - they're way off the mark. Any of Shakespeare's plays that are made into films should still hold the key essence of a play at their very heart. Zeffirelli does this very well. In the Zeffirelli movie you can really get the essence of what Shakespeare is about. Even though a lot of Shakespeare's original words were cut out, the film still carried the story beautifully. The film is much shorter and easier to watch. For someone not used to Shakespeare this is a good film to watch and that is essentially what makes a film successful - its audience appeal. Overall the two movies are very different and no two people would draw the same conclusions as I. They show superbly how differently the same tale can be interpreted. It gives you a better chance to look at the play through someone else's eyes and not just how you see it and interpret it. For me however I preferred the Zeffirelli movie because it kept that play like feel to it and is more true to the way Shakespeare told this story of revenge and tragedy. ...read more.

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