Comparing Shakespeare's And Zeffirelli's Hamlet Essay

1669 words - 7 pages

Hamlet prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare is probably one of the most studied fictional pieces in history. It has become the very pinnacle of literature, and despite the commonality of the play there are many renditions that offer a different artistic interpretation. One rendition, in particular is Franco Zeffirelli’s 1990 film translation starring Mel Gibson as Hamlet. Shakespeare’s original Hamlet follows the heartening life of young Hamlet in which he is often portrayed as a whiney young man that spends his time moping around the castle teetering on the brink of insanity. Zeffirelli’s departure from the norm brings to light a different side of the character that is often overlooked in mainstream productions. Choosing to create a visual Hamlet and heavily cut text has lead to some attention-grabbing changes in the plays structure. Franco Zeffirelli’s film is significantly different with the play. For example, he added the funeral scene at the beginning. He uses a different order with the scenes and parts of scenes, most long speeches are cut, and sometimes gives one characters lines to another. Even though these changes could offend the devoted Shakespearean researcher, they mainly are there to build up the action and cut down the plot.
Theatre is restricted to geographical span, whereas motion the opposite is true. In film the director has freedom to shoot each scene at different locations and at different times, later putting them together for the final product. The result for the movie is that the audience is easily able to recognize the time of day and place. Stage performances are less clear, and unless one is familiar with the play they must often simply wait for actors to deduce where and when the scene is taking place. However, this can also have a disadvantage. While film offers images to replace words it can also take away the exceptionality of the original. Shakespeare wrote for the Elizabethan stage, and he used his poetry of words for “establishing shots”. However, when someone first encounters Hamlet it can be seen as quite multifaceted and then it in turn looses much of its meaning anyway for those who cannot understand the symbolism of the language. For someone with little or no knowledge of Hamlet watching a film adaptation can be useful because these illustrations can work as a crutch in understanding the play. Zefferelli’s interpretation of the play is ripped down but it introduces people to the plot of the play and prepares them for potential meetings with it in the theatre.
Instead of trying to incorporate all the text, Zeffirelli condensed the play and replaced a great deal of text with visual substitutes, a characteristic feature of the film medium. Through cinematography Zeffirelli breaks down some of the density of Shakespearean language using the medium of film to decipher the many symbols and hidden meanings of the text. A director’s vision is played out differently in the two art forms of cinema...

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