"Hamlet" Ethan Hawke vs. Richard Burton

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Michael Fernander
Eng. 1302

April 20, 2010

Exercise 12: “Hamlet”

The Views of Hamlet

In terms of mise en scene and delivery, there are two directors that are on opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to Hamlet’s famous “To be, or not to be” soliloquy. On one side you have a very modern interpretation in Ethan Hawke’s version of “Hamlet” (200) directed by Michael Almereyda, and on the other you have very strong and emotional performance given in Richard Burton’s version of “Hamlet” (1964) John Gielgud. In each case the director uses delivery and mise en scene to create something unique in its own way that fits their own concept of “Hamlet”.

Even though the two scenes are of the same famous speech, the use of mise en scene in each interpretation set them apart from each other. In Ethan Hawke’s “Hamlet” it is set in modern day of year 2000. The memorable “To be or not to be” speech takes place in a Blockbuster in New York City, a very uneventful place for such an important scene to the film. Unlike Richard Burton’s version there is sad music playing through out the scene to convey Hamlets discontent with life. In Richard Burton’s version the set was a simple empty stage with a few chairs, a table and two sets of stairs. The backdrop was a solid black curtain, there was no music the stage was completely silent, except for Hamlets powerful voice. However, the lack of props and scenery did not affect the performance and quality of the scene. The costume used in Hawke’s version of the play was again very modern. He has a young rugged look with long slicked back hair hidden under an out of place hat. He wears a black V-neck and a sports jacket; in this scene you never see his lower half because it is shot as mid range tracking shots. However in Burton’s interpretation again is very simple, there is nothing extra or unneeded. He also wears a black V-neck shit, as did Ethan Hawke, with plain black pants and shinny black shoes. Yet again, spit the...
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