Franco Zeffirelli's Hamlet for Today Essay

Franco Zeffirelli's Hamlet for Today Essay

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Franco Zeffirelli's 1990 filmic translation of William Shakespeare's Hamlet is a dramatic telling of the classic story which is as well acted as it is entertaining. Aside from these points, Zeffirelli's (and co-scripter Christopher Devore's) screenplay is an edited, and re-mixed version of the original which has many lines cut, as well as the entire sub plot concerning Fortenbras, completely removed. Franco Zefirelli's private interpretation of Hamlet, although divergent in some ways from Shakespeare's version, still remains a superior rendering, due to the continuity of the screenplay.

Zeffirelli's divergence from the original script begins immediately. Rather than opening with the traditional sequence involving the first sighting of the ghost of Hamlet's father, Zeffirelli instead opens with a funeral sequence of his own design. In this scene the director establishes Hamlet's distrust of Claudius as well Claudius' desire to act as a father figure to Hamlet. To fully display this, Zeffirelli plucks these lines from a later scene, "think of us as of a father; for let the world take note you are the most immediate to our throne, And with no less nobility of love Than that which dearest father bears his son Do I impart toward you." (1.2.113-119). These lines show Caudius' attempt at good intentions, while Mel Gibson's (as Hamlet) response shows the distrust the character holds for him. This also sets up the relationship between young Hamlet and Claudius excellently for both the familiar audience as well as the audience inexperienced in Shakespeare. Still the question remains of why Zeffirelli chose to eliminate the opening scene that Shakespeare intended. In Shakespeare's version the opening scene establishes the existence ...

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...e a version of Hamlet which was not seen in Shakespeare's day. Primacy and recency would dictate that Shakespeare's audience would, in some way, concentrate on Fortenbras, whose presence begins and ends this play. Shakespeare's Hamlet is a man with friends who is much more secretive, and conniving than one might think today. His Hamlet is tactful in his plans, but without tact interpersonally. Zeffirelli's audience is forced to concentrate on the plight, and character of Hamlet, who is direct, and hostile, but a tactful loner when the time is right. Zeffirelli accomplishes this diversity while remaining loyal to his source by maintaining a solid screenplay with a continuous flow supporting his own take on the story. In short, Zeffirelli's Hamlet is both a loose and a loyal interpretation of its source, which is, for today's audiences, a Hamlet in its own right.


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