Critique_and analysis of Branagh’s, Olivier’s, and Gibson’s Hamlets


Of all the three screen play adaption of Hamlet by Shakespeare, Branagh’s Hamlet is the realistic and less theatric adaption as it excellently portrays the qualities, attitudes, and concerns that Shakespeare wanted the audience to see in Hamlet. This paper posits that all the three adaption had flaws, but Branagh’s Hamlet was outstanding.

Branagh’s Hamlet

Branagh’s Hamlet may be one of the best screen adaption of Hamlet by Shakespeare despite the missing adaptation and modification of the original first folio by shopkeeper. However, from the film, it is quite clear that the screenplay failed to capture emotions properly as Shakespeare would have wanted it to. While the wedding of Claudius and Gertrude was supposed to be sumptuous and full of pomp and pageantry, it was clear that Hamlet was expected to enjoy in the wedding to his fullest, however this was not the case as the focus of the screenplay shifts from the wedding to Hamlets experience about the wedding. The challenging tragedy is now showered with the Narcissistic intensity that shake spear envisaged.

While Hamlet is mourning the dearth of his father, it is clear that Claudius, Gertrude and Ophelia do not experience any emotional attachment despite the welling emotions that Hamlet is faced with. In as much as emotions are not clearly displayed in the screenplay, the film is long enough to aid in the plot development and understanding of the characters. Cadies is not portrayed and the villain, but is developed throughout the pay as am balanced and powerful man. However, Hamlets soliloquy captures the mood of the scene as he thinks loudly in front of a mirror “to be or not to be…” Never the less, the play is much more realistic than the others done by Olivier or Gibson are (Branagh, 1996, p.174)

Olivier’s Hamlet

Olivier’s Hamlet is too theatrical and does not effectively convey the message, attitudes and emotions intended by Shakespeare. This screen adaption can only be compared to a tragic drama, because it does not have the quality of a movie considering the fact that is t is acted on stage as opposed to screenplay. The theatrical convention also weakens the plot as Hamlet’s psychology is given undue attentions thereby shifting the focus, and themes of the original text. Hamlet is presented as a young man with Oedipus complex and this is probably the only character that clearly demonstrates the direct emotional effect. For example, as he wonders whether to kill his uncle for murdering his father and to revenge him from marrying her mother, he gets confused and psychologically demoralized (Kiernan, 2006).

It is also interpreting to note that Olivier’s has completely edited the original tragic drama and cut Fortinbras, Voltimand and Cornelius, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. He has also downplayed Hamlets desire for fame and power. He did not emphasize Hamlet’s desire for honor as in the original text done by Shakespeare. Additionally, he has failed to shows the relationship that was developing between Gertrude. It is clear that this was meant to be a stage drama and not a screenplay (Guntner, 2007, p. 124).

Guntner, J. Lawrence: "Hamlet, Macbeth and King Lear on film" in Jackson, Russell (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare on Film (Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 118

Gibson’s Hamlet

Gibson’s hamle4t takes incest to another level when the Gertrude develops a feeling for licit intimacy for her son. For example, while Gertrude knew that Gibson was her son, she went ahead to kiss him passionately. Additionally, the adaption is quite mediocre as most of the vital parts that shale spear meant to communicate attitudes and ambition are left out. It is healthy to say that Mel Gibson played his part well in portraying Hamlet and realistically uses his depressing personality to portray the grieving and brooding Hamlet. Never the less, has the adaptation included the vital scenes such as the battlements with the ghost of Hamlet’s father and the scene in which Hamlet jumps into bed with hir mother


Branagh, Kenneth (1996), "Hamlet" by William Shakespeare: Screenplay and Introduction by Kenneth Branagh; production diary by Russell Jackson (New York: W W Norton), p.174.

Guntner, J. Lawrence: Hamlet, Macbeth and King Lear, (2007). On film in Jackson, Russell (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare on Film (Cambridge University Press, second Edition. p. 124

Pauline Kiernan,(2006). Filthy Shakespeare: Shakespeare’s Most Outrageous Sexual Puns, Quercus, p.34


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