Franco Zeffirelli's Hamlet for Today

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Franco Zeffirelli's 1990 filmic translation of William Shakespeare's Hamlet is a dramatic telling of the classic story which is as well acted as it is entertaining. Aside from these points, Zeffirelli's (and co-scripter Christopher Devore's) screenplay is an edited, and re-mixed version of the original which has many lines cut, as well as the entire sub plot concerning Fortenbras, completely removed. Franco Zefirelli's private interpretation of Hamlet, although divergent in some ways from Shakespeare's version, still remains a superior rendering, due to the continuity of the screenplay.

Zeffirelli's divergence from the original script begins immediately. Rather than opening with the traditional sequence involving the first
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(1.1.45)), while simultaneously predicating the impending arrival of young Fortenbras. In Zeffirelli's version these are neither established in the opening scene, nor at all. Horatio becomes more of a background character, rather than the well established, strong character found in Shakespeare. The existence of Fortenbras, as well as the entire sub-plot concerning Norway has been similarly omitted. It seems to be Zeffirelli's intent to remove as much diversion as he can from the actual quest of Hamlet, and what he sees as Hamlet's end. Zeffirelli lessens the character of Horatio to force this Hamlet into the stance of a loner as opposed to Shakespeare's Hamlet, who has a strong (if not ever-present) sidekick. Likewise, Zeffirelli removes the Norwegian element so that this subplot cannot interfere with the plight of Hamlet, or with Zeffirelli's version of his ultimate end.

The director's personal interpretation is seen again soon after the opening. Act one, scene two, containing the scene during which Claudius hold's court, commenting on the events which have so recently transpired, has been altered to fit Zeffirelli's take on the story. Shakespeare intended nearly the entire scene to take place before the court of Claudius. This is evident in that two flourishes (or trumpet fanfares) are sounded, one to signify the beginning, and one the end of court. In this version the second flourish comes early, freeing up the remaining components of this scene to take place

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