Natasha King: Scene Comparison | Zeffirelli vs Shakespeare | Hamlet


One of the most obvious differences between Zeffirelli’s Hamlet and the original play is that the opening scene at the guard tower is entirely omitted in the film. I can understand why he did this, since it wasn’t entirely necessary to have multiple scenes with the ghost being encountered. Instead the film skipped the first ghost sighting , to Hamlet being told of the events and then going to the watchtowers himself. By doing this Zeffirell was able to cut down the length of the film while still including the scene that is the catalyst in which Hamlet decides to prove the murder of his father and seek out revenge on his Uncle.


Instead it begins with an original scene of Claudius, Gertrude and Hamlet are mourning the old King’s death at a funeral. In this scene Claudius’ speech only briefly tells Hamlet to consider him his father. In the same scene in which Gertrude is bent over her late husband’s body, she looks up to Claudius, which seems quite striking. I believe Zeffirelli’s intention was to emphasize how she is already moving onto her new husband-to-be. It is not until a different scene in which Claudius addresses his court to announce the bittersweet news that he has married his former sister-in-law.


The next scene contains Hamlets famous line “a little more than kin and less than kind,” however in the film Hamlet says this directly to Claudius as opposed to saying it quietly to himself. This is something that continues to occur in the film, in which Hamlet is much more bold when it comes to sharing is quips and sarcastic remarks.

One of the aspects of the play that Zeffirelli maintained was Hamlet’s monologue in which he shares his absolute shock that his father has only recently died and his mother is already remarried. The line “frailty, thy name is women” is carried over into this scene. Something I noticed about Zeffirelli’s version is that he maintains the well-known lines.

Opposite to this, something that I was not a fan of was the fact that Fortinbras was hardly mentioned at all. One of the things Shakespeare liked to do was talk about current events in his play, or at least create politic events in order to have a subplot. However by omitting this in the film it almost made the film seem boring to me, not to mention it makes the ending of the film seem rather anticlimactic. One of the most important parts of the entire play was the ending, in which everyone has died and now the kingdom faces an impending attack.

To go back to the humour I mentioned, I really enjoyed the film scene in which Polonius and Hamlet are talking in the library. While in the play, Hamlets response to Polonius’ question about what he is reading is simply “words, words, words,” the film adds more depth. This line can be interpreted in different ways depending on who is reading it, but I truly appreciated the way that Gibson presents it. Each time, he says “words” with a different tone. The first time he seems to ask himself what he’s looking at, and then he confirms that it is, in fact, words and the third time, he loudly informs Polonius of this. By doing this it is apparent of Hamlet’s distaste of Polonius and his lack of caution by answering in this way. He makes it obvious that he’s talking down to Polonius. Another part about this scene that I liked was Zeffirelli’s choice to have Hamlet sitting up above Polonius, to reaffirm the differences between the two men.

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While Gibson played an excellent Hamlet, I was not entirely impressed with the scene in which he kills Polonius. Although the acting itself is good, he doesn’t really seem to be bothered by it at all, by doing this Hamlet appears to no longer be sane, which in the play is something the audience is constantly trying to figure out: is he actually crazy, or is he just pretending so everyone will drop their guard around him?

Zeffirelli did an excellent job of adapting the play into a film by modernizing the language, and cutting the long soliloquys and speeches to shorten the film. He added in bits of humour to ensure entertainment and to keep a more positive attitude throughout. Overall he made sure that even people who aren’t huge fans of Shakespeare could enjoy it and experience it in some way.

With that being said, for Shakespeare fans, he may have left them disappointed with the number of changes made to the story line. What some people may have considered unimportant or monotonous, Shakespeare fans would have looked forward to only to finish the film lacking the experience they would have hoped for.

Andre Retuta: Film Review

Zeffirelli’s rendition of Hamlet (1990) was really interesting to me right from when I first saw it, which is roughly around a couple of years ago.  It is probably my favorite Shakespeare play, regardless of how limited my knowledge of his productions is.

The first time I saw the film, I was intrigued right away by the dark ambience that started the whole movie.  I have always been a fan of movies with a sombre tone which is probably another reason why Zeffirelli’s Hamlet, compared to other renditions, is my favorite.  One thing that I noticed about Zeffirelli’s Hamlet though, is its immediate divergence from Shakespeare’s original script.  The original script opens with the traditional sequence involving the sighting of the ghost of Hamlet’s father, while Zeffirelli’s opening is instead a funeral sequence of his own design.  We understand right away how much Hamlet distrusts his uncle Claudius, shown in the opening scene where Claudius starts speaking with Hamlet.  The lines “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.” show Claudius’ attempt at good intentions, while Hamlet’s response shows the distrust he holds for him.


While we see right away the conflict between Hamlet and Claudius, we also continue to unravel the fact that Hamlet holds his father in the highest regard as opposed to how he holds Claudius, and this is then consistently reinforced all throughout the film.

Somewhat proof of this comparison between Hamlet’s father and Claudius (or lack thereof), is shown in Hamlet’s first monologue.  In this first soliloquy, Hamlet laments about his father compared to Claudius, so delicately captured with the lines “So excellent a king; that was, to this, Hyperion to a satyr…”

In this scene as well, Hamlet expresses his disgust with his mother Gertrude about how his she has now intertwined herself with Claudius after Hamlet’s father’s recent passing.


This is described accurately by the lines “But two months dead! – nay, not so much, not two…” and also “Why, should she hang on him as if increase of appetite had grown by what it fed on: and yet, within a month…”  The scene from the film ended on Hamlet saying “Frailty, thy name is woman!”, which cut off most of Hamlet’s soliloquy written originally, another deviation from Shakespeare’s original piece.


Perhaps the most iconic scene in Hamlet is his famous soliloquy from Act 3, Scene 1.  I really like how Zeffirelli introduces this scene, as he starts of from showing Hamlet’s face portraying pure emotion and then pans through the coffins as if to show a subtle longing for death.  Numerous times do we see Hamlet peering at the coffins, also leaning on them as if talking with the idea of the dead being his only audience.  There are also parts in this scene as well that Hamlet looks up at a beaming light, possibly hoping for answers as he ponders thoughts of suicide, before then stepping back into darkness with suggests once again the conflict in his mind – hence, “to be or not to be”.  Finally, this scene was focused more on Hamlet’s monologue itself, that Zeffirelli did not feel the need to put in any background musical score.  I feel that it really captures Shakespeare’s intent of the moment supposedly being dark and sorrowful, while at the same time being powerful and iconic as well.

As a whole, the film – in my humble opinion – is well made from a simple bystander’s point of view.  It may have had some deviations from the original piece that Shakespeare wrote, however I feel that it still captured the emotion and the message that he originally wanted to portray.  The acting in the film also captures the characters that they are trying to portray, yet also distinguished their own style within the character.

Zeffirelli gave a very refreshing take on one of Shakespeare’s masterpieces, Hamlet.


Daniel Leong: Scene Comparison

While the “To be or not to be” soliloquy in Act 3 Scene 1 was undoubtedly of paramount importance to the immortalizing of Hamlet as a play, I would argue that in film, Act 2 Scene 2 warrants just as much, if not more, scrutiny and discussion. In particular, there is much to be said about the differences in creative decisions made by directors Zeffirelli and Doran in terms of text splicing, angles, character direction, and choice of visuals, particularly in Hamlet’s short interrogation of his friends but also in the ending soliloquy.

Perhaps the most readily apparent difference between these versions is that Zeffirelli chooses on more than one occasion to change the original order of events or, in some cases, omit lines entirely. With reference to the text, Zeffirelli places the “to be or not to be” soliloquy directly before Hamlet’s friendly encounter with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, then skips forward from the players’ arrival into just after the First Player’s speech. He then moves backwards to the “Flourish of trumpets within” before jumping forward again into halfway through the closing soliloquy. In my opinion, Zeffirelli’s new sequence of events does an admirable job of simplifying the plot without detracting too much from the meaning, as we still have Hamlet’s brooding, his interactions with other characters, and his resulting rage. However, that isn’t to say that Zeffirelli’s is necessarily better; in fact, his decisions almost give us a shallower Hamlet whose motivations and thoughtsare more generic and easy to understand. By contrast, Doran’s Hamlet follows the text exactly, sacrificing simplicity in favor of preserving the complexity of Hamlet’s character and motivations.

The same effect of showing two different Hamlets can be seen in each director’s choice of how to direct Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern during Hamlet’s short interrogation of them. When he first asks if they were sent for, Zeffirelli alternates between head-on shots of Rosencrantz/Guildenstern sitting and lower angle shots of Hamlet’s face, right up until Hamlet reveals that “[He] knows the good king and queen have sent” them, when all three are visible.

Zeffirelli uses these shots to perpetuate the idea of a two-against-one scenario until Hamlet (Whose power is accentuated by low-angle shots) intrudes upon their space and angrily reveals their secret, toppling Rosencrantz’s chair before Guildenstern confesses. Hamlet then steps out from under the shelter into the light and comments upon its poor quality.

Through clever use of angles and character direction in this scene, Zeffirelli parallels exactly what Hamlet intends to do with Claudius and Gertrude: get close to them, accuse them, topple the “throne” and step happily out into the sunlight alone while cursing the place from whence he came.

(Zeffirelli’s Hamlet, 55:00)

Doran achieves the same two-versus-one effect by showing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern facing Hamlet, but leaves a perfect space between the two for Hamlet as though waiting for him to join them. When Hamlet, again, reveals that “[He] knows the good king and queen have sent” them, Doran does have Hamlet join them, but with an intimidating expectant glare rather than friendly acquiescence or violence. Doran’s Hamlet even goes so far as to declare that “If you love me, hold not off” where Zeffirelli’s does not. The difference, then, in how each director uses directs characters and angles to show a different take on the text is clear. Where Zeffirelli’s muscular, manly, low-angle Hamlet uses brute force to get an answer, Doran’s cunning, thoughtful, straight-angle Hamlet employs guilt and emotional blackmail. (9:45) (3:41)

Finally, both directors’ portrayal of the soliloquy primarily combine elements of lighting, angles, and character direction to create a Hamlet who goes from angry to defeated to cunning within seconds of each other. “Am I a coward?” and also “Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!” are both included with similar tones in each version, however, Zeffirelli uses exposure to light to emphasize Hamlet’s weakness whereas Doran uses the contrast between low-angle (Before “O, vengeance!”) and high-angle (Afterwards) shots. When conceiving of the idea to use the players as a means to expose Claudius, Doran’s Hamlet differs from Zeffirelli’s again in that the slowly accelerating camera is used instead of intentionally angled shots of the players and light/dark contrast to show an ominous, cunning Hamlet and a scheming, vengeful Hamlet respectively.



Clearly, both versions of Act 2 Scene 2 have their merits and demerits, Zeffirelli’s interpretation being easier to understand but less profound and Doran’s showing respect to the text at the expense of general comprehensibility.

Adetola Adedipe: Romeo and Juliet (Act 2, Scene 2) Scene Comparison


Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet (1996)

Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo & Juliet (1968)

Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo & Juliet (1968)












This scene comparison is from Shakespeare’s: Romeo and Juliet. Personally, don’t like this play at all. The romanticized tragic end of the youngsters, foolishness and irrationality of Romeo and Juliet in the name of true love, the fickleness of Romeo, Juliet’s naiveté and the selfishness of their families not accepting their relationship (through their own personal grudges) which drives the youngsters to extreme rebellion makes for a very frustrating experience as a whole whether it is being watched or read. Another reason I chose this play is because they were portrayed in two ways that contrast each other completely and yet bring across the play in a way that did not change my feelings on the play.

I chose to do the famous Act 2 Scene 2 because of the tendency to portray this scene in a certain way it might have been similar in both films but that was not the case.

The setting in Zeffirelli’s “Romeo and Juliet” with it’s classical landscapes in 14th-century Renaissance Italy while Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet” modern day Verona Beach, California. The films automatically follow the tone set from these directing decisions – such as the use of swords in the 1968 film in comparison to the Sword 9mm series gun in the 1996 version- both effective for styles implemented to tell the story.

The actors in each film are very different in terms of age and acting prowess. In the 1968 film, Romeo and Juliet (Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey) are closer to the age (16 and 14) as stated in the play however are both untrained. This enhances the sense of innocence and loss thereof throughout the play yet retaining the theme of youth and passion. In the 1996 version both actors are older (Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio) than in the play and there is a stronger themes of sexuality rather than innocence portrayed which also identifies with today’s perception of relationships.

In the 1968 version we see Romeo in a garden looking up at he balcony before whispering “But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?” (2.2.2-3) and the cameras pans to reveal Juliet. This adds a dramatic effect to this scene which gives off a feeling of curiosity and wonder at this new love. However, in the 1996 version we see Romeo immediately starting to climb and then land in Juliet’s back yard with the glistening water where he proceeds to fumble and over everything adding comedy into the scene. This emphasizes the intrusion of Romeo into a place he does not belong but the symbol of the water represents the purity of their new love while the clumsiness of Romeo adds charm to his character. Later on they are both in the water almost encapsulated in their own world surrounded by the water.

When comparing editing, the 1968 version is slower and less theatrical which can be a positive and a negative thing. The simplicity of the editing makes for more focus on the dialogue and acting which when compared to the other-the-top editing in the 1996 version lets the audience engage more in the film and make for a better watch regardless of the vocabulary. Luhrmann’s faced paced music and dramatic camera shots correspond with the feelings of the audience watching the film. The lights used in the 1996 version are more vibrant and changing in this scene when compared to the 1996 version. The underwater shots in Luhrmann’s version really left an impression on me while Zifferlli’s balcony scene tended to be more on the calm side.

During Juliet’s soliloquy in the 1968 version, the camera is at a long, low angle shot of Juliet looking into the distance on the balcony thinking of Romeo (an unattainable love) while in the 1996 version, there is a closer, high angle shot of Juliet and she is looking upwards. “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other word would smell as sweet.” (2.2.43-44)

The costumes in the scene are similar due to Juliet being in a nightgown in both scenes, however the 1968 version shows Juliet’s gown to be significantly more low cut than the older actress in the 1996 version. I think this is done to add a sense of maturity to the younger actress which is slightly more unlikable to me (as she comes across completely blinded by this new love and completely loses her sense of self without Romeo). While in the 1996 version, a sense of modesty or innocence is added to the older Claire Danes who portrays a more intellectual and deeper character of Juliet- I also find her expressions so much more sassy.


Luhrmann's 1996 Juliet

Luhrmann’s 1996 Juliet

Zeffirelli's 1996 Juliet

Zeffirelli’s 1996 Juliet







This iconic scene has elements that are unique to them yet still bring forth the foolish love between these two young lovers. Both directors appealed to the audience of the time and executed their themes consistently through the film and are brilliant for what they are. Different films but same story: Foolish young love and foolish deaths that is in no way romantic. Although, I would like a guy to sneak into my garden at night to woo me – that might be a tad romantic- even I have to admit that.



Crowl, S. (2008). Shakespeare and film: A Norton guide. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Luhrmann, B., Martinelli, G. (1996) Romeo and juliet [Film]. Mexico: Twentieth Century Fox

Shakespeare, W. (1597). Romeo and Juliet [Play]

Shakespeare, et al., (1968) “Franco Zeffirelli’s production of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet”


Act 2, Scene 2; Romeo & Juliet 1968 and 1996

     Romeo and Juliet is truly a classic play written by Shakespeare. That is part of the reason I chose to compare the act 2, scene 2 in the films that were made by Franco Zeffirelli in 1968 and also the newer version of Romeo and Juliet made by Baz Luhrmann in 1996. The other part of the reason I chose to analyze it was because I have seen and read the play. The two scenes obviously have the exact same concept behind them, yet they were executed in two extremely different ways. There are certain styles and details, beyond the very contrasting setting that the two directors chose that set the directors and scenes apart. Zeffirelli uses elaborate and over the top acting in order to portray the scene in a heart wrenching love story type of way. While Luhrmann uses a modern-day touch of comedy and a very eerie water setting to enhance the sense of urgency that is in the air while the two lovebirds meet. Both directors execute act 2 scene 2 fairly well, however Luhrmann transports the classic play to a familiar setting in order to have it relate to a modern-day audience, thus in my opinion he did it right.

     The settings of each individual film were very specific. Each setting was pivotal in the rest of the directing decisions. Luhrmann could not have made his film theatrical in the same way that Zeffirelli executed his film with elaborate acting and classical landscapes. This is possibly why Luhrmann chose to have it in a modern-day setting. The Verona beach setting enable the classical play to take on a modern-day touch that would easily relate to people in the 1960’s and also today. During the first part of this scene Leonardo DiCaprio who plays Romeo is seen fumbling over patio furniture and causing a ruckus while attempting to utter his “But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun,”(2.2.2-3) line this is only possible because of the choice to have props that tie in with his desired setting of the film. Zeffirelli chose the classical setting that was used to speak to the original context of the play. By having the feuding families and love bird set in the 1300’s the castles and balls and elaborate theater type acting all fits together. When Leonard Whiting is saying the exact same “but soft!” line he is sneaking through the bushes, this creates an entirely different feel for the viewer. The viewer is given a quaint teenage feel that is wrapped in a ‘medieval cloak’.

     Juliet plays a crucial role in this particular scene. Her acting either makes or break the scene. In the movie directed by Zeffirelli, Olivia Hussey who plays Juliet over does the acting. She is so elaborate, awkward and over directed. Her actions are unnatural, she takes unnecessarily long pauses and she looks as if she is forcing her love for Romeo. Hussey’s “O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name,”(2.2.33-34) illustrates exactly how there is no girl on this planet who would ever use facial expressions to that extent while talking to herself alone on her balcony no mater how in love she is.

In the movie directed by Luhrmann, although it is more modern, the acting by
Claire Danes is relaxed and natural. She is able to portray her love for Romeo simply by whispering the exact same “O Romeo” line and all the while keeping her body language calm.

The acting plays an enormous role in the film and the acting by Claire Danes was simply superior.

     Both of the directors generate emotions from their respective takes on this particular scene. Luhrmann’s seamlessly humorous pool scene ties in the Verona beach star-crossed lovers idea perfectly, while on the other hand, Zeffirelli’s 1300’s overprocessed backyard teenage love scene over plays the importance of the feelings and urgency, thus ruining it.
Reilly Kruger

Works Cited and Sources:

Zeffrelli Romeo and juliet 1968—
1996 Romeo and Juliet viewed on

Luhrmann 1996
William Shakespeare’s Romeo Juliet. Dir. Baz Luhrmann. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., 1996. Web.
Shakespeare Text

Matthew Moghadam: Film Review

        Franco Zeffirelli’s The Taming of the Shrew has been one of my favourite Shakespearean film adaptations since my youth. Be it Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton’s comedic and palpable portrayal of Katharina and Petruchio, the opulent costumes and set pieces, or deliverance of the very dialogue that pulled me in, I still find myself delighted with each screening. In watching again for the first time in many years, I was quite taken with a variety of significant details in the film’s production. There are, of course, typicalities featured in many films, such as the use of pathetic fallacy to reflect the mood, the emotionally driven film score to accompany each scene, and a vibrant show of colour and lighting to uncover many character qualities – though I was intrigued more by the dissimilar aspects of the film.

        One such notable interpretive choice is the use of extreme close up shots of characters’ eyes. Primarily in the first several scenes, this directorial incorporation is certainly remarkable in its allowance for the true emotion of a character to be presented. For instance, while watching her sister arrive at their abode early on, Katharina’s sheer vexation is abundantly shown; alternatively, her fondness of Petruchio is revealed in an affectionate examination through the stained glass of the room in which she is locked following their brawl. Bianca herself is even subject to such a dramatic angle, as she views her suitors through the shutters of her family home (prior to being attacked by her antagonistic sister). Though a seemingly uncomplicated addition to the film, it separates this picture from others of its kind, and further provides insight into the very thoughts of the character – after all, the eyes are the windows to the soul, are they not?

        Another weighty contribution to the film is the character development that emerges without dialogue – or in ‘film time’, as described by Crowl. Certainly stemming from Franco Zeffirelli’s operatic nature, the choice to embrace this display not only heightens comedy or drama, but also the opportunity to advance an understanding of a character, and thus, the changes in and between characters that play throughout the story. Such segments are displayed in a number of scenes, such as the impatience and embarrassment of guests in reacting to the calamity of Kate and Petruchio’s wedding day, the contrasting aspirations of Petruchio and Kate en route to their country home, or even Katharina’s smugness in cleaning Petruchio’s home. In my youth, I found many of these discussion-less incorporations most entertaining, and little has changed as the years have waned, save for my realization of the pronounced changes to characters’ dispositions.

        Taylor, Burton, and the supporting casts’ portrayal of their characters in an appreciably dramatic manner is certainly another highlight of the film. Though the interpretive decision was made to remove many excerpts from the original play, it is as if one is seeing the production live due to the spectacle and extravagance of the piece. Furthermore, chemistry between characters, particularly the two leads (understandably so, as they were married to each other at the time), is ineffably palpable, leading to a believable and dazzling final product. Nevertheless, while the drama and chemistry between Taylor and Burton is certainly appealing, Zeffirelli’s portrayal of their characters is occasionally prolonged past welcome, including the great and exhausting chase that takes place within first few scenes; it gradually transitions from a playful pursuit to a tediously extended monotony (an entire 13 minutes in total). The case is similar with the potentially excessive portrayal of Petruchio’s morning ‘hangover’ routine, or even Katharina and Petruchio’s destructive tendencies throughout. Though a degree of such interaction and profligacy is worthwhile and compelling by individual characters or between several, such regularity may result in a desire for the the shrew’s tameness to present itself sooner than written for the sake of audiences’ amusement.

        Surely this portrayal is not a direct representation of Shakespeare’s classic work, and nor is it a near-perfect depiction, though without too many liberties taken on part of the cast and crew, the work is still unmistakably a Shakespeare film. Despite an overzealous antagonism between characters, or a possibly overabundant focus on ex, I found the film easily understood, amusing, and utterly enjoyable.  For its time and scale, the Taming of the Shrew is a spectacular, entertaining, and substantial contribution to the genre of Shakespearean film.

Matthew Moghadam, 10120896

Notes Reflection

I will be reviewing my notes when analyzing the text entitled Hamlet by William Shakespeare and Zeffirelli’s film Hamlet from 1990. When analyzing the notes taken in comparison to watching a film and reading a play, there are many differences in the details that I take in. When reading a play, the reader usually takes notes regarding the style of language, the diction used, or the flow of sentences. We use our imagination to dictate our emotions towards the play, and there was much room to create a story to fill in the blanks of what is missing. Such as the appearances of the characters, the tone of voice used, the set design, and the expressions of the characters’ faces. However when watching a film, we are told the story and shown the dialogue in a fixed manner. Instead of us having to create the scene in our minds, we are shown it. This may give the reader a better understanding of how the script may be interpreted. Along with this, the reader tends to take notes revolving around subjects other than the script, such as music, editing, camera angles, tone of voice, or costumes of the characters.


I found when analyzing the film Hamlet by Zeffirelli, my notes revolved around many different factors. I made points regarding how there is an extensive use of bird’s eye view in the film. For example, at the end of the film, the camera slowly goes up to show a wider view of the surroundings as Hamlet dies. This may give the viewer a greater perspective of those watching Hamlet, as well as demonstrate the devastation of the scene as many die around them. However in the play, the final scene contains more words said then in the film. What I noted in my margins was more the play on words, such as “flights of angels sing thee to thy rest” (5.2.334) which demonstrates the heavenly beings that will watch over Hamlet and help him to be at peace in the afterlife. In reading the play, there is more space to assemble the tone of the characters. I noted that I felt it was difficult for me to follow along with what was happening in the plot. With the help of music and body language, the 1990 film was much easier to follow. In the play, I also noted many examples of symbolism and metaphors or similes that were not demonstrated in the film Hamlet. The use of emphasis on language may change the way the reader, such as myself, interprets the text and this surely occurred in my situation. In the play, I found many small details that I took note on that aided with a visual perception of the scene as well as emotion.



When we are given the freedom to imagine the scene when reading a text, it allows us to be more subjective about the play. However in the film, we are given an objective view of an interpretation of that text. We as the viewer do not have control over how the text is manifested when watching a film. I believe that when reading the text, this gives us a sense of freedom of exploring the creative, imaginative side in all of us to subjectively analyze the text. Therefore, my notes when comparing those to a play and a film are very different. In my notes regarding the play, there is more analysis involving the meaning of words and diction, as well as summarizing my idea of what is occurring in the play. When reviewing my notes in the film, it mainly focuses on the direction of the film, not as much on the actual script. There is no better or worse type of notes in my opinion because each set offers something different to how I may later look back on them. I will gain different ideas from either notes because they each give me a better understanding of Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. Therefore there is no pair that is more successful because they each offer a component to my understanding of Shakespeare.

After reviewing my notes, I may find that each are different in their style and interpretation of Shakespeare, yet both are equally important to my learning experience. I may say that my notes on the film were of a greater success because it was easier to find more detail in the film compared to the play. This is due to the visual aspects involved in film because I find that I absorb the visual components of learning easier than that of text. Therefore, I found more to write about on the film compared to the play. When analyzing my annotative practices, I believe that I have a solid foundation on how to take notes when analyzing the play and movie of Hamlet, yet I will continue to try to improve my skills by striving to decipher the lines more deeply in Shakespeare.

Scene Comparison – Zeffirelli’s Hamlet (1990) and Almereyda’s Hamlet (2000)

I will be analyzing the following two scenes from Zeffirelli’s 1990 version ( and Almereyda’s 2000 version ( of Hamlet. In Act 1 Scene 5 of Hamlet, Hamlet’s father comes back as a ghost asking him to take revenge on Hamlet’s uncle who killed his father and took the crown. The 1990 version uses a traditional approach to Shakespeare as it is based in Elizabethan times and the 2000 version is a modern replica of Hamlet. The two scenes from either films both convey different moods that are established through emotion and conviction of the actors and the set used in each scene. When analyzing these separately, we may reveal different tools that each director used to create the proper atmosphere.

When analyzing the acting of the characters in each film, there is a tremendous contrast. In Hamlet’s 2000 version, the actor of the ghost has an intimidating and serious persona, which is demonstrated through the character aggressively grabbing at Hamlet with a constant serious face and speaking very quickly. The ghost seems more evil and angry about his situation. The character of Hamlet in the 2000 version has a frightened and confused expression throughout the scene, conveying how stunned Hamlet is that his father’s ghost is before him. I find that Ethan Hawke’s portrayal of Hamlet is very poor and lacking emotion, as presented in the review, When analyzing the acting in Hamlet’s 1990 version, the ghost speaks using many dramatic pauses, to create suspense and anticipation for the audience. This may be demonstrated when he exclaims “List, list, O, list!” with a shocking cry, compared to Almereyda’s version where it is simply said quickly. In the 1990 version, the ghost expresses feelings of sadness and betrayal through a few tears shed and a trembling voice. I found the ghost in the 1990 version to be a comforting and loving presence compared to the ghost in the 2000 version. I believe that this enhanced the plot because it is more believable for the father to be of a comforting figure than that of intimidation. The acting of Hamlet in the 1990 version was very well portrayed through the use of a frightened expression and expressing bewilderment of his father’s presence.

At the end of the scene in the 1990 version, the ghost reaches out to Hamlet stating “remember me” but then disappears suddenly before they touch, compared to an embrace in the 2000 version. I found the embrace confusing as it did not match the ghost’s previous showing of intimidation towards Hamlet, as well it does not make sense for a ghost to be able to touch a human. In the 1990 version, the ghost says these lines with a trembling voice and shedding tears, creating a somber mood and showing the strength of the father-son bond. In the 2000 version, the lines are accompanied by a strong embrace, which also conveys a strong father to son bond. However, there is less emotion in the ghost’s voice, which may demonstrate the ghost holding more power and control over Hamlet.

The 1990 version is set surrounding stonewalls at night, which creates a dark and creepy mood, as well as demonstrating a sense of isolation from the outside world. The noises of rustling wind and sinister music helps to establish the mood. In the 2000 version, the scene is set in a modern messy apartment which demonstrates that the meet is private, as well as the mood is more chaotic and frantic due to the mess surrounding them. The melancholy music in the background of a violin creates a depressing mood.

Both film scenes use the same text and both cut out a few lines from the original Shakespeare text. However, the 2000 version of Hamlet uses more of the original text and is able to squeeze in more lines due to the rapid talking pace. The 2000 version of Hamlet also uses an interesting camera affect of circling the camera around the actors as they are speaking. This helps to give the audience a perspective of the characters’ body language, as well as placing the audience viscerally immersed into the scene. The 1990 version uses up close shots of the characters’ faces, which gives the audience a sound idea of the emotions portrayed through facial expressions. This shifts the meaning of the scene by putting more emphasis on the characters’ emotions in the 1990s version, versus putting emphasis on the surroundings and actions of the characters in the 2000s version.

When comparing the following two scenes in the movie of Hamlet in 2000 and 1990, we may view that both the scenes have a contrasting mood. The 1990s version creates a comforting and heartbreaking mood through the use of teary actors and dark lighting. However, the 2000 version is a more chilling and grim take to Shakespeare’s scene through a shifting acting style. Although both scenes convey Shakespeare’s work in coinciding ways, I find the scene in Zeffirelli’s 1990 version to be more compelling and pathos driven.



Hamlet’s dynamic potential: an Act III Scene 1 comparison

Act III Scene 1 of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet contains Hamlet’s famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy followed by dialogue between Hamlet and Ophelia. The scene portrays Hamlet’s mental state as well as the status of his relationship with Ophelia. Film adaptations of Hamlet directed by Sir Lawrence Olivier (1948), Franco Zeffirelli (1990), and Kenneth Branagh (1996) take unique liberties with interpretation of the scene. The resulting effect is three versions of the same scene that feel quite different.

The most noticeable difference between the different film adaptations is the arrangement of the scene. Both Olivier and Zeffirelli reorder the scene so that Hamlet first speaks to Ophelia and then enters his soliloquy. This effectively allows the soliloquy to function as a reaction to his interaction with Ophelia. Additionally this rearrangement stresses Hamlet’s isolation by showing his physical retreat to solitude. On the other hand, Branagh follows the original order of the text. Ophelia is an interruption of Hamlet’s deep contemplation rather the initiation of it.

Hamlet’s speaks to Ophelia with cruel and biting words. However, Oliver, Zeffirelli, and Branagh repurpose the words to add complexity and ulterior motives to the scene. Likewise, the treatment of each soliloquy creates unique meaning.

Olivier interprets Hamlet’s cruelty towards Ophelia as an act of protection. He speaks “I did love you once” in an honest and remorseful tone. It comes across as a confession before he deliberately shifts to his “get thee to a nunnery” speech. This speech full of cruel words is neutralized by a simple gesture; Hamlet stops and gently takes a piece of Ophelia’s hair in his hand as he passes her crying on the stairs. This single tender moment breaks the façade of cruelty that Hamlet erects when he steps forward and shifts into his “get thee to a nunnery” speech. The simple performance choice suggests Hamlet is trying to protect an innocent Ophelia from the evil of men rather than curse her.

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Hamlet then secludes himself to the top of a tower for his soliloquy. The camera movement connects Ophelia’s crying form to Hamlet’s soliloquy by panning over the staircase connecting the settings. This suggests that Hamlet’s deliberate cruelty to Ophelia has spurred on his suicidal contemplation of life. Background music is used by Olivier to set the mood and for emphasis. The music speeds up as the camera climbs the stairs building anticipation for the coming speech and then slows as the speech begins. The music rises again at “perchance to dream” marking a shift in Hamlet. He shortly after drops the dagger coming out of his daze and returning to his indecisive nature.


Zeffirelli’s Hamlet is less loving towards Ophelia. The dark, grey setting creates a cold and harsh atmosphere for the scene. Hamlet initially intends to pass by ignoring Ophelia’s presence before she calls out to him. His displeasure with her is evident by this creative choice. He speaks the line “I did love you once” as though he cannot believe it for her finally sees her for what she is. The harsh and loud tones emphasize anger that matches the cruelty of his words.

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During the soliloquy Zeffirelli creates a dark mood by placing Hamlet inside a crypt with low lighting where he is literally surrounded by death. The absolute silence in the crypt stresses Hamlet’s physical isolation. Similar to Olivier, Zeffirelli creates a shift in tone at the line “perchance to dream.” Uniquely however, Zeffirelli’s Hamlet does not have a weapon. This suggests Hamlet’s fault of indecision and lack of action because he does not even have a means of execution.

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Branagh’s portrayal of Hamlet and Ophelia is the most dynamic. Branagh captures Hamlet’s movement through an array of raw emotion as he takes in Ophelia’s words. When Hamlet and Ophelia first see each other, happy music and warm light create a light, triumphant mood that showcases their deep love. The warmth and colour of this moment drastically contrast Olivier’s black and white and Zeffirelli’s dark scenes. The statement “I did love you once” is spoken with tears in his eyes that capture Hamlet’s love. When Ophelia’s returns the tokens Hamlet shows his feelings of betrayal and all of his emotions shift as he grapples at understanding. As Hamlet’s anger rises, the music shifts to match it. This interpretation suggests that with deep love comes the ability to hurt each other deeply.

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Branagh’s Hamlet speaks his soliloquy steadily into a mirror. Mirrors are often used to suggest self-reflection and clarity. It is ironic Branagh’s emotionally susceptible Hamlet is associated with an item of reflection and clarity. In contrast to Olivier’s and Zeffirelli’s films, Branagh Hamlet does not shift from suicidal to contemplative at the line “perchance to dream.” Instead he draws his dagger after this line giving the end of the speech a more dangerous meaning than the other versions. Hamlet’s voice also is more even in Branagh’s interpretation. This suggests that his musings run in circles keeping him in the same spot.


Act III scene 1 of Hamlet is given different meanings by Olivier, Zeffirelli, and Branagh. Each interpretation has key elements separating it from the other two. These elements include text arrangement, camera movement, gestures, speaking tone, setting, music, and props. The result is characterization of Hamlet. Olivier’s Hamlet is depressing and loving, Zeffirelli’s is angry and hopeless, and Branagh’s is emotional and expressive. No one version of Hamlet is more correct or better than the others. That said I find the emotion in Branagh’s portrayal undeniably enticing. His Hamlet is as unpredictable and emotional messy as I personally imagined from the text.

Aspen Kozak