1In the original version of the famous play Hamlet, written by William Shakespeare, the character Hamlet, Prince of Denmark son of the late King Hamlet and nephew of the present king, is a melancholy protagonist and the main character of the play. This is also the case in two other movie versions of the play, one directed by Francis Zefferilli, and another directed by Kenneth Branagh. 2Hamlet has this same main characteristic, and additional emotions, that branch off of this main characteristic such as depression and anger, in both movie versions of the play. He is a very emotional character throughout all of the different productions. It is his stage of emotion that notably alters from Shakespeare’s version, to Zefferilli’s version, and to Branagh’s version, and these distinct stages of emotion constitute incontestable physical responses towards other characters in the play.
In Shakespeare’s version, in the beginning of the story, Hamlet’s character was struggling with the sudden marriage of his mother, Gertrude, to his uncle, Claudius, a month after his father is death. He is disturbed at the speed with which his mother has recovered from mourning her dead husband to marry the new king. He expresses his frustration and confusion during his soliloquy in Act 1, Scene 2 after the new King’s announcement to his people. Later he learned that his father’s ghost was sighted. Intuitively, he knew there had to be some kind of “foul play.” Upon meeting his father’s ghost, he learns that Claudius killed his father, and that he must take on the task of avenging his death. This encounter changed who he is completely. He said that he will wipe away books, the past, and all of the things he was taught. He will live “within the book and volume of …brain”(a.1, sc.5).
After he meets the ghost, Hamlet begins to treat people cold-heartedly. His treatment of Ophelia is detestable, and the manner in which he also treats his mother is outright rude. He felt betrayed by his mother because he loved and trusted her, but she went and married his uncle so soon after his father’s death. 3He has no feelings anymore; feelings of love, pity and remorse were no longer a part of him.
Hamlet finds himself unceasingly at war with his own hesitancy and indecisiveness. As if to provoke himself into action, he tends to describe himself and his bizarre situation in very melodramatic terms. Even so, Hamlet’s attitude is more than an act or masquerade, more than just a convenient maneuver by which he tries to persuade his own unassured will into action. For Hamlet finds himself confronted with a genuine problem–the murder of his father by his uncle and the marriage of his mother to his uncle. He struggles to decide between a life of revenge and action, and a life of analyzation and acceptance of fate. Because of the ghost, life has no meaning for him, he has no sympathy for taking other’s lives. To him, killing them did not matter, revenge was all that became important to him. Hamlet says, “ I must be cruel only to be kind”(a.3, sc.4). He proves this by sacrificing the lives of everyone in his way, and all that wronged him, such as Polonius, Ophelia, Laertes and his former friends Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and his his biggest sacrifice, his mother.
Throughout Zefferilli’s production of the play Hamlet, Hamlets’s interactions with people gives the audience a greater insight into his character and reveal changes that occur within his character. In the beginning of the play Hamlet is a trusting person. He is a university student; his morals and way of thinking are defined by books and what was taught to him. This is seen when he speaks about the flaws of men, setting a bad reputation for all, and the man’s flaws causing their “downfall.”(a.1, sc.4). Throughout the course of the play, he is transformed into a person capable of almost anything. Zefferilli makes Hamlet’s character slightly further depressed in his version, then in the Shakespearean version. Hamlet is also notably more temperamental, the actions of the people around Hamlet have a profound effect on his character. Everyone close to Hamlet is marred either emotionally or physically by the bedlam that he initiates. Some people are positive influences on people while others are negative influences and still others push a person to new heights. 5Each and every person is affected by people around them in different ways, and Hamlet’s outrage, despondence, and inner struggles cause the other characters in the play to be affected by his selfishness.
In Branagh’s version, every scene is virtually the same as the Shakespearean version. 4Every act and line that is in the play, is in the movie, which qualifies it as the closest version to the original. The only major difference being the time period that the movie is set in, the nineteenth century.
Hamlet’s distinguished character dissimilarities in Branagh’s movie are his depression, and his acts of violence. He is clearly more depressed in the opening scene of the movie. He unquestionably had a very strong love for his father – “He was a man, take him for all in all: I shall not look upon his like again.” – and is having a exceptionally difficult time coping with the loss.
Horatio then arrives to tell Hamlet of the ‘apparition’ that was seen the night before. A figure resembling the Old Hamlet – “these hands are not more like” – appeared outside the castle. This presents concern for Hamlet because he feels that there has been some ‘foul play’ to cause the appearance of this spirit, as in the Shakespeare version. In Branagh’s movie production, Hamlet begins to look through a book about demons, implying that he hypothesizes something unpleasant has taken place. Hamlet insists that he see this ghost. He accompanies Horatio and Marcellus on their watch, where again the ghost presents itself. Hamlet is fearful, yet fascinated with the ghost of his father. He proceeds to follow it where it makes known to Hamlet the evil act of murder that has been committed by Claudius. Hamlet then swears to avenge his father’s death and forget everything else – “from the table of my memory I’ll wipe away all trivial fond records” (a.1, sc.5). From this apex on in the production, Hamlet becomes more intemperate, emotional, and violent in each scene. Hamlet has become so paranoid that in Act 3, Scene 4 and anxious that he murders Polonius on impulse in his mother’s ‘closet’. He has become so intent, and focused on killing Claudius, that he feels no remorse for killing Polonious, even more so in Branagh’s version then any other. He dismisses the fact that he has killed an innocuous man, and centralizes his thoughts on the fact that Claudius is still alive, and that that, must somehow change.
In Shakespeare’s, Francis Zefferilli’s, and Kenneth Branagh’s versions of Hamlet, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark son of the late King Hamlet and nephew of the present king, is a melancholy protagonist and the main character of the play. He has this tantamount mannerism, and additional emotions that are also added to his character in both movie productions. He is a very emotional character throughout all of the different productions. It is his stage of emotion that notably alters from Shakespeare’s, to Zefferilli’s, and to Branagh’s versions.