The last scene of the play (as well as the movie) is action-packed. Laertes and Hamlet engages in duel. At the same time, Gertrude, Claudius and Laertes all died because of poison, be it from the cup or from the tip of the sword. Hamlet also dies from the poison blade. Fortinbras was named the heir and Horatio promises to tell the tale of the Danish prince. Branagh presents his film by juggling the aspects most readers and audience expect from Shakespeare’s plays. Take for example, the religious background. The text is a hybrid of Catholic and Protestant beliefs.
For example, the ghost claims that he is in purgatory because he still has unfinished business. At the same time, Ophelia cannot be buried with the sanctity of the word because she committed suicide. Branagh is aware that the approach of the film must be Protestant because it is set in Denmark. However, he is also unclear whether the play mirrors the actual Denmark or a fictional Denmark. In his film, we see Claudius praying and asking for forgiveness in the confession area. Here, Hamlet could have easily killed him but he didn’t. In Branagh’s adaptation of Hamlet, he mixes both Protestant and Catholic ideologies.
(Hunt) Philosophy students study Hamlet because he is philosophical. In fact, a number of his soliloquies are philosophical in nature. He often discusses existentialism (“To be or not to be”), skepticism (“There is more to heaven and earth that is dreamt of in your philosophy”) and relativism (“Doubt to thou the stars are fire, but never doubt I love. ”) Hamlet also believes that good and evil depends on the mentality of the person doing these actions. This is an idea that is rooted from the Sophists. The individual senses of Hamlet are reflected in his relativistic statements to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
One is “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so” and “A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king and cat of the fish that hath fed of that worm. ” (MacCary 173). As Hamlet, Branagh makes sure that the prince’s monologues were reflections of his state of mind. The way the camera pans in order to show the conflict of his thoughts. There is also a question on whether the apparition actually took place or Hamlet was merely convincing himself that his uncle actually murdered his father so there was an excuse for him to avenge the former king’s death.
The readers of the play and the audience of the film will find themselves shifting from thinking that Hamlet is mad to Hamlet is pretending to be mad after each act. In the scene where Hamlet talks to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, his wit and sarcasm can be confused with madness. His confrontation with Claudius after seeing his reaction on “The Mousetrap” also confirms his diminishing mental state. His murder of Polonius only concludes that he is in need of mental help. Since we are already talking of psychoanalysis, some critics of Shakespeare believe that “Hamlet” was a form of closure to Shakespeare’s personal life.
The play was written after the death of his son Hamnet. “Hamlet” and “Macbeth” both deals with the relationship between the parents and the son. Both plays also tackle the question of madness in the characters which pretty much reflect what could be the state of Shakespeare’s way of thinking during that time. (Schiesari 402). Finally, Shakespeare’s plays rarely have women. Most of his plays have males as lead characters. At least in “Hamlet”, there may be two female characters, Gertrude and Ophelia, but they are the most memorable women in history because of their strength.
Critics on feminist literature concentrate on the gender system during the time Shakespeare wrote the play in order to explain why Gertrude and Ophelia are the way they are. In the play, both Gertrude and Ophelia are second fiddle to their men Claudius and Hamlet respectively. In the film, we see Hamlet physically hurt both his mother and his lover. There is also the change on how Hamlet sees his mother from whore and back to mother. This is why he loses faith in all women, including Ophelia, who he treats as a whore by shaking her like a mop.
There are debates on whether Gertrude was aware of Claudius murdering the first king. In the film, it is obvious on how torn Gertrude is between her new husband and her son. Readers of Shakespeare often misunderstand Gertrude by accepting her at face value, which is how Hamlet sees her. There is no evidence that Gertrude in fact commit adultery. It is only throughout the play that Hamlet has this in his head but it is never confirmed. There are active feminists who defend Ophelia. They believe that she is quite unfortunate because every man she loved abandon her.
Polonius is murdered, Laertes leaves and Hamlet dumps her. To think, these are the men who make her decisions. Ophelia was in fact driven to madness as opposed to Hamlet who is merely pretending to be mad. (Fisher 311). In his film, Branagh cast two British actresses who are notorious in giving female characters the strength they need despite the cliche weakness. Julie Christie steps out of her retirement to play Gertrude and Kate Winslet is Ophelia. Both actresses are remarkable in their roles. Branagh manages to entice those who aren’t as familiar with the play with those who know “Hamlet” by heart.
His way of directing allows any kind of audience member to understand whatever was going onscreen. He used flashback scenes, especially the one with Hamlet and Ophelia in bed, in order to represent their love. He also uses Fortinbras and his soldiers, in order to let the audience know that an invasion is about to take place. This film adaptation of “Hamlet” allows the audience to be entertained because they can relate with the trials that each character goes through. Branagh is the modern day Shakespeare with this film.
He is able to fuse story and poetry to the audience that speak a different language to the one used in the film.
Fisher, Jerilyn, Women In Literature: Reading Through The Lens of Gender, Greenwood Press, 2004 MacCary, W. Thomas, Hamlet: A Guide To The Play, Greenwood Press, 1998 Schiesari, Juliana, The Gendering of Melancholia: Feminism, Psychoanalysis, and the Symbolics of Loss in Renaissance Literature, Cornell University Press, 1992 Hunt, Caroline, “Hamlet, Tiberius and the Elephants’ Graveyard”, Shakespeare Bulletin, Vol 23, 2005