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Literature Essay on Hamlets Revenge through Branagh and the BBC

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Literature Essay on Hamlet's Revenge through Branagh and the BBC Tormented by the implications of righting his father's murder, Hamlet, the hero of William Shakespeare's 'The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark' has been presented on film, stage and television in many different ways.As a man of action, in the 1990 film by Franco Zeffirelli, as a member of staff for a corporation called 'Denmark', in the 2000 film of Michael Almereyda and in Laurance Olivier's production in 1948 as 'a man who could not make up his mind'. In all these different styles of character, Hamlet, most renowned for the 'to be or not to be' soliloquy on life, is characterised by indecision. However, the long speeches of Hamlet and his indecision, are what make him a tragic revenge hero and why the play, in all its different adaptations fits into the category of revenge tragedy. Revenge tragedy has been around for centuries. An example of ancient Greek revenge tragedy that survives is Aeschylus' 'Oresteia'. In this play, the tragic hero, like Hamlet, must avenge his Father's death. The 1600's in England were a popular time for the revenge play. Many of them were based on Seneca's revenge plays and contained a 'pay-back' type of theme. Shakespeare may not have read any Greek tragedy but may have had access to Seneca.Revenge as a theme may be the motivation for a comic text, to right a social slight, such as what becomes of the upstart Malvolio in Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night'. However, for a text to fit the category of revenge tragedy it must contain death and the revenge code-how the death is to be righted. What makes a revenge tragedy tragic is not merely the death of the hero or others but the implications of avenging a death. A tragic revenge hero must suffer the complications of his acts. Not only because 'blood will have blood' (Barton p14) ...read more.


to show that he is not mad, but only playing on it. That he realises what is going on in the 'nunnery' scene is obvious with the question of 'where is your father?' which is spoken, however in actions he listens at the doors to the lobby. He also realises Ophelia (Lalla Ward) is up to something by taking the book she is 'reading' out of her hands and putting it right way around. The setting in the BBC production is very simple and kept to a minimum as far as setting goes. There are no elaborate backdrops or props. It is shot solely in a studio with a small number of room sets used, the chambers of Gertrude, (Claire Bloom) Polonius and Claudius (Patrick Stewart), the lobby, hall, the grave site and the 'port' where Laertes (David Robb) bids his family farewell. The effect of these settings is similar to watching a taped stage production. The sets used could easily be recreated for theatre. This reinforces that the story is a play, an adaptation of a play and not a film. Sound effects and music in this production are also kept quite minimal. Music is only to signal action, such as when the ghost of Hamlet's father (Patrick Allen) appears or when Ophelia is buried. Sound effects are limited, the sound of seagulls at the port, trumpets for the King's revelry and voices in the background when Laertes returns, all of which could be reproduced on stage. The cast of the production is quite small, it contains all the characters as included in Shakespeare's play, and a few extras, in the scenes where the court is assembled, in the background at the port and playing dice in the hall. The editing of the production is also quite simple. One scene moves quickly onto the next, there are no slow fade in and outs, no blackouts, no slow motion, no long musical interludes. ...read more.


It actually shows Claudius being stabbed, however it doesn't actually happen- this is the type of subjectivity we get from editing, which serves to show Hamlets' thoughts, and to reinforce the revenge theme. The setting of Branagh's film is dramatically different to that of the BBC production. It shoots on location and there are scenes about the grounds of the palace. The palace itself is huge with myriads of rooms; the lobby has another storey with a staircase that goes the whole way around. The sets are a lot more detailed. There are also a large amount of doors, secret and false ones. In this way the actual setting shows different points of view. One of the mirrored doors in the lobby is a two-way mirror that enables us to see the point of view and reactions of Polonius and Claudius when Hamlet delivers his speech 'to be or not to be', directly to his reflection. Although the process of editing, character development and setting make Branagh's film dramatically different to the BBC production, both films use the same text. Both are an example of how wide the scope for interpretation is with Shakespeare's 'Hamlet'. In terms of revenge tragedy, both productions face it in much the same way, Hamlet speaks his lines as in the play to show his suffering and torment as an avenging hero. The other characters such as Laertes carry the theme of revenge also through their lines, as do the other characters that are affected by Hamlet's task. The difference in the two productions in approaching the category of revenge tragedy is what the film camera is capable of showing to the spectator by the exterior narrator. Thus the torment of Hamlet and other characters is shown in both productions, but is heightened in by Branagh's use of subjectivity, and flashbacks. Both productions, by basing themselves clearly on the text become revenge tragedies. If lines or scenes were cut out if Hamlet was not allowed all his soliloquies the struggle of the avenger would be lessened. ...read more.

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