Hamlet the Play and Movie Compared

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Hamlet the Play and Movie: Compared

Shakespeare’s original version of “The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark” was brought to life on the big screen by Franco Zeffirelli in a contemporary style to appease modern viewers. Just as any book is reiterated in movie form, modifications are made. In Hamlet, the director emphasizes what he or she deems significant and removes sections in order to make the motion picture more appealing to the viewers, all while shortening the storyline and inserting modern affects. Zeffirelli’s film keeps the overall plot and theme intact, but changes scenes and characters considerably.

In the beginning of the original Shakespeare play, the opening scene is dialogue between the guards, outside the king’s castle, about the ghost of the recently deceased king appearing on the watchtower. Instead, the movie opens with the king’s funeral. Since the first scene is eliminated from the motion picture, the viewer does not see him in his armor which signifies Denmark preparing for war with Fortinbras’ army. Eradication of the war aspect of the play also excludes Fortinbras completely. Fortinbras’ character holds numerous functions. Fortinbras, who is attempting to reclaim Norway’s lost land, serves as an important foil to Prince Hamlet, who is also seeking revenge for his murdered father. He is the character that fuels political tension with Denmark. Both Fortinbras and Hamlet are Princes. After Claudius and Hamlet fates are suffered in the play, Fortinbras succeeds the throne. Without his character, the question of who will be crowned is unanswered. Zeffirelli removes this subplot to focus on the main idea of Hamlet’s revenge on Claudius to keep from slowing down the story line, but he also loses a meaningful portion of the play.

The director not only modifies scenes, he also significantly alters the soliloquy and attitude of Hamlet, the main character. In the play he is portrayed as indecisive about his revenge and claims himself to...
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