Contrast Two Version of Hamlet Term Paper

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Zeffirelli and Branagh Versions of Shakespeare's Hamlet

Franco Zeffirrelli and Kenneth Branagh find new and different ways of adapting William Shakespeare's play, Hamlet. Zeffirelli directed his version of the play in 1995 and Branagh directed his adaptation of the play in 1996. Zeffirelli's Hamlet is more medieval and gloomy while Branagh's adaptation is elaborate and over the top. Each film may depict the play differently but both directors find and expose Hamlet's frailty, which represents nothing less than mankind's frailty. Both versions of the play illustrate how directors can influence films from a screenplay.

One significant difference between the two films is the length. Zeffirelli's film adaptation is the length of an average movie. To accomplish this, some parts of the plot have been excluded, including the subplot regarding Fortenbras. This does not give us a complete sense of the play but it does give us a closer view of Hamlet. Despite that some things have been omitted, the film is still a successful and superior interpretation of Shakespeare's play.

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While Zeffirelli's version is medieval and melancholy, Branagh's version is too ornate and overdone as far as costumes and settings. When we are watching the film, we do not feel as though we are taken back in time. This aspect of the film makes it extremely difficult to follow in that our eyes are drawn to look at the elaborate decorations when we should rather be looking at the characters or listening to them speak. Hamlet is too modern for his own good - the contrast of the language and the costumes and decor of the setting is too great and too much a distraction. It is obvious how each director had certain aspects in mind with each adaptation. Zeffirelli wants us to focus on Hamlet, the man, while Branagh wants us to get a feel for the grand characters that Shakespeare created.

Term Paper on Contrast Two Version of Hamlet Assignment

We see Zeffirelli's departure from Shakespeare's play immediately. While the play introduces us to the ghost in the first act, Zeffirelli begins his adaptation with the dark and ominous scene of king Hamlet's funeral. This scene is significant in many ways in that it sets the mood and tone for the entire film, which is dark and melancholy. Hamlet is shown alone in the shadows and that is how he will remain. Hamlet is on the outside and nothing establishes this more than seeing Gertrude and Claudius gazing at each other over the dead father's coffin than this. We sense distrust and something sinister from the very beginning. In contrast, Branagh stays more true to the script by opening with a vision of the ghost. Branagh's version begins more like the play with the ghost appearing to Bernardo, Horatio, Marcellus, and Francisco. We also see Horatio's bravery and we are aware of Fortenbra's arrival. These tidbits are not in Zeffirrelli's version of the film. In addition, the marriage of Gertrude and Claudius is elaborate and almost overwhelming but we do not wonder about the importance or mood of the celebration. Each version of the play represents the director's sense of what is important in the film. Hamlet, the man becomes the primary focus in Zeffirelli's adaptation of the film while Branagh wishes to remain more true to the script.

An interesting aspect of Zeffirelli's film is how he pays close attention to the female characters. Gertrude and Ophelia appear in a beautiful and innocent light. Gertrude emerges as the center of this film while we have lasting impressions of innocence and sadness associated with Ophelia. Zeffirelli focuses on a beautiful, yet distraught, Ophelia in his adaptation of the film. Ophelia is a lovely girl that becomes wrecked by her father's death. Her character is lovely in the opening scenes of the film and she becomes more tattered as the film progresses. The scene with her and the flowers is touching as we see the young girl reaching a madness that provokes sympathy. Gertrude is depicted as a lovely woman in this adaptation, leaving Claudius as the sole murderer of King Hamlet. In fact, the film opens with her grieving face. In Branagh's version of the film, the women are depicted very differently. Branagh's Gertrude is almost silly - she dotes on Claudius and always seems a bit detached. Branagh also depicts Ophelia in a different light. Perhaps the most… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Contrast Two Version of Hamlet" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Contrast Two Version of Hamlet.  (2008, February 15).  Retrieved April 12, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Contrast Two Version of Hamlet."  15 February 2008.  Web.  12 April 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Contrast Two Version of Hamlet."  February 15, 2008.  Accessed April 12, 2021.