Play Hamlet vs. Mel Gibson's movie version : LUSENET : Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet : One Thread

Does anyone know the major differences betwee the play/book Hamlet and the 1990/1 movie version with Mel Gibson? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

-- Alexis Hamilton (, December 07, 2002


Rent the movie and have a copy of the play on hand. Then put the movie in the VCR and try to read along. Go on, try - I dare you!

When you do this, you will see Franco Zeffirelli for the butcher that he is.

The jerk still owes me $8.

P.S. - Repeat this experiment with the Branagh version and be prepared to be delighted by the experience.

-- Casey (, December 08, 2002.

Performance Analysis of Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark” My performance analysis is based on Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark”. This production was directed by Franco Zeffirelli and starred Mel Gibson, Glenn Close, Alan Bates, and Paul Scofield. In this production of Hamlet, the original old English is used. However, I noticed that any dialog that was too difficult to comprehend or too wordy was deleted from the scenes. Some of the scenes had also been altered. For example, In Act 2, Scene 1, the director has Polonius spy on Ophelia and Hamlet, and this is how he learns of Hamlet’s strange visit with his daughter and Hamlet’s madness. In the original text of Act 2, scene 1, Ophelia informs Polonius of Hamlet’s visit and his apparent madness. I believe the director chose to have Polonius spy on them to obtain this information, because the audience would observe for themselves just how mad Hamlet appears. It was also probably done to save time so that the movie wouldn’t drag. In Kenneth Branaugh’s version the movie is contained on two tapes, and his version was a little too slow moving for my taste. The lines 207-0 213 in Act 2, scene2, where Polonius has a lengthy monologue, also appears to have been cut from the script. In that same act the lines where Guildenstern and Rosencranz enter the scene have been moved to Act 3, Scene 1, a point directly after Hamlet’s “Mousetrap” play. There were also several other modifications to the placement of scenes in this play, including Shakespeare’s famous speech, “To be or not to be […],” which had been moved to Act 1, scene 2. I believe all of these changes were made due to the advantageous nature of the film media. It was possible for the director to show several shots of different actors and events, shifting back and forth between scenes. This gave the effect of the scenes occurring simultaneously. Since these scenes appeared to have occurred at the same time in the movie, it probably made sense or seemed more effective to the director to move the scenes or acts around to what seemed the most logical point in the film. As a result of these modifications, I felt this version of Hamlet was more fast-paced and engaging. It did not drag. I appreciated this production over the other Hamlet films I have seen, because it was made more interesting through director’s shifting camera technique. The setting and costumes of this play were also historically accurate for that time period. And the lighting was well done -not too dark. As far as the actors go, Mel Gibson gave an energetic interpretation of the melancholy Hamlet; and Glenn Close was so intense and very believable as Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother. The other actors also performed their parts very well. In summary, I enjoyed this performance more than Kenneth Branaugh’s production, because I felt it was faster paced and more dynamic. I feel this effect was achieved through the director’s technique of shifting the camera between the actors and scenes to give the impression that events were occurring simultaneously. I also feel Mel Gibson’s energetic performance and Glenn Close’s intense and realistic performance added a dynamic quality, which I have not seen in any other production of this play.

-- Lisa Davis (, April 27, 2003.

Well, I could go into a longwinded explanation of why I believe one is better than the other, but I won't. Suffice it to say, university professors use Kenneth Branaugh’s production while looking down on Gibson's.

-- Richard Kingston (, December 07, 2003.

While Mel Gibson's Hamlet varies from the original play it can be seen as the "common persons" Shakespeare. It was easy to follow and had many exciting scenes.

Here is what I liked best about it; my 13 year old son (who is homeschooled) watched it with me as his introduction to Shakespeare and he really enjoyed it. We are next going to read through the play together and he is looking forward to it.

Had it not been for Mel Gibson (of whom my son is a big fan) and the action scenes it would be like pulling teeth to get him near a written Shakespearean play. What also made an impression on my son was how Hamlet was so tough at some points but at other times openly and without shame spoke and showed his emotions.

While the die hards who insist that a work must remain perfectly classical and verbatim probably did not like The Mel Gibson version, I believe Shakespeare himself would have. The man was brilliant, he was an artist and because of that he would understand and appreciate the 'artistic license' in this case.

-- Sissy Avery (, January 12, 2004.

I realize this question has been written about much, but no one has seemed to mention the absense of the character Fortinbras. The film eliminates the first scene of Hamlet Act 1, which is when we see the ghost for the first time and learn that Denmark is arming itself for war. Rumor has it that Young Fortinbras from Norway is raising an army to battle Denmark. Young Fortinbras' father died in a battle with Hamlet's father and lost a good chunk-o-land. Young Fortinbras is vowing to reclaim the land.

In Act 1, scene 2, Claudius dispatches Votimand with a letter to Young Fortinbras' uncle, the king of Norway (referred to as "Norway"). Because Norway is old and bed-ridden, he does not know about his nephews plans; he thinks Fortinbras is preparing for war against Poland instead. In Act 2, scene 2, Votimand returns with Norway's response: he has forbidden his nephew from warring against Denmark. Fortinbras relents, and as a reward for his obedience, his uncle allows his to go to war with Poland. Norway asks Claudius for permission to allow Fortinbras' army to march safely through Denmark to get to Poland. I realize the Norwegians could have easily sailed to Poland, but sailing with a great army is a dangerous gamble, and Denmark is much closer and land a much safer means of traveling.

Before Hamlet is sent to England, he passes by Fortinbras' army enroute to Poland. He can't believe the Norwegians are going to waste men to fight for a worthless piece of ground. Then at the end, as Hamlet is about to die, since he is the king of Denmark for a brief moment, he voices his vote for Fortinbras to be the new king. Fortinbras' army arrives at Elsinore, having won in Poland, apparently returning home. Fortinbras enters the chamber, sees Laertes, Claudius, Gertrude, and Hamlet dead and asks what has happened. Horatio promises to tell him everything. Fortinbras then acknowledges that he has some claim to the throne (land) and orders Hamlet's body to be carried in soldier-fashion to the stage.

I believe his part was cut from the film because it is not very necessary to understand the whole of the play. But in the play, the ghost of Hamlet's father appears bedecked in armor, as if ready for battle, and Horatio says it must be a forboding sign about their preparation for war. Eliminate Fortinbras and you eliminate the war element. However, not having anyone to take up the kingship after everyone dies is more tragic, as the movie portrays the situation of things.

-- Richard Porter (, March 08, 2004.

One major difference is that Zeffirelli takes the Oedipus complex a little too far. I understand that there is some text to imply these feelings but the bedroom scene took it too far. The movie starts out with Gertrude crying over elder Hamlet's casket and she takes one of her two hairpins and places it inside the casket with him. This sets the stage for the entire movie. Gertrude only has one remaining hairpin and Zeffirelli sets it up like both Hamlet and Claudius are vying for it. Watch how Gertrude goes back and forth between Hamlet and Claudius the whole movie. I could go on for a while about how this is staged, but it would be best if you see it for yourself. One other thing I would like to mention. I never saw the character of Gertrude being as giddy as Zeffirelli makes her out to be. I mean, for crying out loud, she bounces around the set like a sixteen year old girl(not that there is anything wrong with sixteen--it's just a maturity thing). Gertrude's lines in Shakespeare's version are far too sophisticated to justify her acting like she does.

-- Anthony George (, May 12, 2004.

There is no text to imply Hamlet has Oedipal feelings.

-- catherine england (, May 13, 2004.

there are lots of interpretations of Hamlet, and it would be rather impossible to have them all in one; the director had to choose something. While I understand that some of you don't like the "Oedipus complex" interpretation - it's not my favourite, too - I found it strange when somebody said it was wasted money he'd spent on that film! There is so much passion in it, a great understanding and, what's even more important, "feeling" of the roles by the actors, that you just cannot be bored watching this - and that's what often happens when you watch "Hamlet". Mel Gibson was just outstanding, his every single word was said in the right way, and if you're not sure what was it he tried to express, his face and body would tell you that... I really enjoyed the film, even though it's not as good as the play itself, and i'd recommend it to everyone that loves Shakespeare. The money's not wasted at all!

-- Marta Lomza (, June 09, 2004.

Fortinbras wasn't in it! :( In the play, Fortinbras is a very important character because he's the one that gets to keep everything! Horatio and Fortinbras are the only ones left. Who's gonna take over the country? Horatio does not have any royal family or royal history and plus right before Hamlet dies, he voices his vote for Fortinbras. In the movie, it's just like "oops! everyone's dead, that's it." But I loved Mel Gibson's performance! What a hottie!

-- Raquel C. (, November 19, 2004.

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