• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9
  10. 10
  11. 11
  12. 12
  13. 13
  14. 14
  15. 15
  16. 16
  17. 17
  18. 18
  19. 19
  20. 20
  21. 21
  22. 22
  23. 23
  24. 24
  25. 25
  26. 26
  27. 27
  28. 28
  29. 29
  30. 30
  31. 31
  32. 32
  33. 33
  34. 34
  35. 35
  36. 36
  37. 37
  38. 38
  39. 39
  40. 40

The Portrayal of Shakespeare's Hamlet in Cinema

Extracts from this document...


Chapter One Introduction This dissertation is an exploration of William Shakespeare's play, Hamlet, on film, looking into the beginnings and history of Shakespeare on film and studying three famous and very different films of Hamlet; Laurence Olivier's Hamlet made in 1948, Franco Zeffirelli's Hamlet made in 1990 starring Mel Gibson in the title role and Kenneth Branagh's full text Hamlet made in 1996. I have decided to look at Hamlet on film because I believe film is relatively new medium and is interesting to see Shakespeare that was originally written for the stage to be brought to a mass audience in different and innovative ways. It is also important to discuss the different interpretations of Hamlet by different directors. I have chosen my three focus films because Olivier's was the first big cinematic work of Hamlet, Zeffirelli's was the first all-star Hollywood Hamlet and Branagh's was the first full text Hamlet. This therefore shows the various original ways in which Hamlet has been exposed to the film world. I also intend to illustrate why film is an appropriate medium for modern day Shakespeare fans and critics. My first chapter will outline and explore the dawn of cinema, the transition from theatre to cinema and the role of Shakespeare's plays in early cinema referring specifically to Hamlet. I will look at the earliest films of Hamlet and how they were considered by contemporaries and what obstacles were encountered in early cinema. The following chapters will discuss each of the three Hamlet films in turn and explore how they differ from each other and the stage Hamlet, the representation of Hamlet himself and other main characters mainly Ophelia and Gertrude and their relationship and reactions towards Hamlet. I will also consider location, set and casting issues; who was cast and why specific actors were chosen and why they work well in the role. My final chapters will investigate other modern Hamlets their differences and similarities to my three focus pieces and less obvious adaptations of Hamlet. ...read more.


'A further example of the impact of the Olivier version comes from Glenn Close in the short HBO film The Making of Hamlet 'The first day of shooting he [Mel Gibson] was given by one of the producers the actual shirt that Olivier wore in his famous Hamlet,' And Gibson tells of making 'sure that I was in the hotel room by myself, with the lights out and I tried this shirt on. Gradually I got the courage to turn the lights on and I found that it was probably a little too small, but it fit well enough'' (Ace Pilkington in Davies and Wells, 1994, pp.166) The film opens with a mix of high and low angle shots upon a crowd of traditionally black clad mourners and solemn knights leading into the crypt where Hamlets father is laid to rest. The scene is dark with the only lights on the faces of Claudius, Gertrude and Hamlet. Gertrude's love for Claudius is more demonstrative in this film. In others it is not obvious and there has been much debate over Gertrude's reasons for marrying Claudius; she may have just wanted to keep her own status and her son in line for the throne. Much more affection between the couple is shown in this film. The ghost in Zeffirelli's Hamlet is very different. It comes away from the text by not wearing armour as is stated in the text although this line and the whole scene in which it features has in fact been cut. Also to those who do not know the story, it may not be clear that he is a ghost and he looks very solid and human compared to those in Olivier's and Branagh's films, if a little pallid and unwell. There is nothing obvious to confirm the supernatural nature of the scene, no special effects; Hamlet could be talking to any other character had the text not stated that he is a ghost. ...read more.


I have displayed that no two Hamlet's are the same. Shakespeare has always been exposed to extensive and sometimes even ludicrous personal interpretation. Hamlet is an ambiguous character. Is he sword-waving loon or is he the first ever action-hero? This is where interpretation comes into play, the actor, the director, the reader, whoever has control over the characters, whether it is playing on a screen, on a stage or in your own imagination. Shakespeare gives Hamlet to his audience as their own little action-man toy; to be whoever you want him to be. To play out his story however you want to play it. Shakespeare created his characters to be loved and hated and incredibly confusing. But he succeeded in creating a whole race of Shakespeareans; tyrannical rulers, heartless murderers, clowns, warriors, star-crossed lovers, friends and foes. Reference List Sarah Bernhardt (1900) Le Duel D'Hamlet [online] Available from; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jiAs5gG1AA (Accessed 6th April) Boose, Lynda E. and Burt, Richard (1997) Shakespeare The Movie. London: Routledge Boose, Lynda E. and Burt, Richard (2003) Shakespeare The Movie II. London: Routledge Hamlet: Branagh, Kenneth 1996, Castle Rock Entertainment Michael Brooke (2003) BBC Shakespeare 1972-85: Hamlet [online] Available from; http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tv/id/527101/index.html (Accessed 3rd May 2009) Amanda Carter (2002) Films [online] Available from: http://www.laurenceolivier.com/ (Accessed 21st April 2009) Mark J. Cassello (1996) Hamlet: Branagh's Bildungsroman [online] Available from; http://www.kenbranagh.com/ (Accessed 10th April 2009) Stephen Dalton (2006) Film Choice; Hamlet [online] Available from; http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/tv_and_radio/article697681.ece (Accessed 23rd April 2009) Davies, Anthony and Wells, Stanley (1994) Shakespeare and the Moving Image; the plays on film and television. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Dawson, Anthony B. (1995) Shakespeare in Performance, Hamlet. Manchester: Manchester University Press Johnston Forbes-Robertson (1913) Hamlet [online] Available from; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQJWMC2K-BI (Accessed 6th April) Hamlet; Olivier, Laurence, 1948, Two Cities Films Ltd Rothwell, Kenneth S. (2004) A History of Shakespeare on Screen: A Century of Film and Television. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Author Unknown (1913) "Hamlet" on the cinematograph [online] Available from; http://archive.timesonline.co.uk/tol/archive/ (Accessed 6th April 2009) Author Unknown (1948) Hamlet; Sir Laurence Olivier's new film [online] Available from; http://archive.timesonline.co. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Hamlet section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree Hamlet essays

  1. The Effects of Ambiguity in Hamlet

    Later however, he states, "Thus set it down: he shall with speed to England/For the demand of our neglected tribute."(3.1.171-172) The changing of his decisions leaves the audience unaware of his knowledge (or lack thereof) regarding Hamlet's suspicion. By using ambiguity in the conflicts of Hamlet, Shakespeare highlights the conflicts within the play.

  2. Free essay

    Women in Hamlet. The only two female characters in Hamlet are Gertrude, Hamlets mother, ...

    Furthermore, he calls Gertrude his "seeming virtuous Queen!" which taints her image as a righteous wife, suggesting that she might have committed adultery and only appeared to be "virtuous". However this is only a hint that is not proven as the ghost is pressed for time, he says, "my hour

  1. Hamlet and The Spanish Tragedy - a brief comparative study -

    This fact results in a certain ambiguity in The Spanish Tragedy, which is not at all present in Hamlet. That is what moves the reader much more in Hamlet, that is what makes the reader feel Hamlet's feelings, as they are much more human.

  2. Definition Of A Hero

    One can't get too nervous under pressure or a terrible mistake may occur. Most importantly, a hero must be a good role model for children as well as adults. A hero needs to live a reasonable life style, so children and adults have a guideline to follow.

  1. Endgame" is written in the unique style associated with Samuel Beckett's works- a minimalist, ...

    Through one of the main protagonists, Clov, Beckett shows the lack of distinction between the beginning and ending in paradoxical terms. "Grain upon grain, one by one, and one day, suddenly, there's a heap, a little heap, the impossible heap."

  2. Portrayal of women in 'Hamlet'

    Whether or not she is manipulative, she seems impassionate in her love towards Hamlet. She heeds her father and brother and fails to fight for her relationship with him, indeed when Polonius warns against involvement with the prince, Ophelia is typically compliant, replying merely, "I shall obey, my Lord".

  1. Can we write about the tragedy of Hamlet in any meaningful fashion

    Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor Plautus too light..." Given all of these problems of definition I will explore what drives Hamlet in the play to see if this can be linked with anything else which is tragic. Hamlet, it seems, is a character caught between an old order and a new one.

  2. Several modern dramas have had a strong social impact shortly after production and/or publication. ...

    The plays meaning is indecipherable and man's place within it is without purpose. The absurd play is undoubtedly strongly influenced by the traumatic experiences of the Second World War. As a result, absurd plays assume a highly unusual, innovative form, directly aiming to startle the audience, shaking them out of their comfortable, conventional life of everyday concerns.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work