Franco Zeffrelli´S Hamlet Essay

1160 words - 5 pages

Franco Zeffirelli portrayed a more effective version of the famous to be or not be soliloquy by having it set below in the family mortuary. Having violently rejected Ophelia, Hamlet climbs down the stoned stairs of the medieval castle and into the cellar where all his ancestors’ burial tombs lie, including his father’s. Surrounding himself in tombs and skeletons, he intones the to be or not to be speech in isolation and darkness. Having this particular set design, Zeffirelli enhanced the scene by creating a cold, dark, and suspenseful atmosphere. The family mortuary set design was eerie and melancholic which added realism into the speech as it allowed the audience to really see the manifestation of death that Hamlet contemplated. It also added physical emotion into the soliloquy as the scene contrasted death and Hamlet so closely with all the dead royals in their tombs, showing how deep Hamlet’s thoughts on life and death were rooted in his mind. Therefore, Zeffirelli’s use of the set design helped to create a more intense scene that enriched the soliloquy.

As well as his impressive set design, Zeffirelli also uses lighting as a tool to successfully create an effective portrayal of the play. During Hamlet’s to be or not to be speech, Hamlet frequently stops and takes pauses as a way to reflect on what he has just said. At first, Hamlet remains relatively calm but as his speech progresses, and he walks around the mortuary visiting different tombs, including his father’s, his anger level elevates. Zeffirelli uses an effective lighting technique that bathes this scene with darkness but a golden glowing light casts on the side of Hamlet’s face, bringing out the contrast between light and dark, and life and death. The way Hamlet’s face is lit from one side and darkened from the other reflects Hamlet’s soliloquy of to be or not to be. It reflects Hamlet’s internal battle within himself to continue to live or to take his life away. The lighting in this scene changes from more darkness to more light when Hamlet moves into a ray of light coming from above. The dramatic change in the lighting is at that point of the speech when Hamlet decides against killing himself and that he would rather “Be” than “Not to be”. The ray of light symbolizes that Hamlet has escaped from the evil that had captivated his thoughts on death and that he now sees the light at the end of the tunnel which ultimately has stopped him from the temptation of committing suicide. A new spark of hope is generated in Hamlet that helps him regain control of his mind, which is visually seen by the lighting effects. Hence, the lighting effects add to the dramatic impact of this scene.

Along with Zeffirelli’s excellent sense of lighting, he also uses effective casting to enhance the overall depiction of Hamlet. Helena Bonham Carter plays the young Ophelia in the play and does an exceptional job with it. In her madness scene, Ophelia is seen sneaking around the outside of the castle...

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