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How Hamlet’s insanity is portrayed by Mel Gibson in The Zeffirelli Hamlet

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  • Pages: 3
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  • Category: Hamlet

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            Shakespeare’s Hamlet is one of the best revenge plays written, and has gained a lot of interpretations by different people. One of them is Franco Zeffirelli, who conceived Hamlet’s film version, The Zeffirelli Hamlet. One important element of the film adaptation is the portrayal of the characters, especially of lead role, the prince Hamlet. In the film adaptation, it was Mel Gibson who gave life to the character of Hamlet. Of all the characteristics possessed by Hamlet, it was his insanity that made the film very much interesting, and it was portrayed well by Mel Gibson.

            The Zeffirelli Hamlet is a modern adaptation of the film, and it was expected to cater to a modern audience. This is what has been emphasized by Hamlet’s insanity: what was perceived before as a disturbed Hamlet was portrayed by Mel Gibson as an insane Hamlet. Hamlet here is described to have a weird mixture of brilliance and melancholy, decision and indecision, mania and depression; he is also vivid, dangerous, unpredictable, violent, and crazy all in one. It was the portrayal of insanity that set the film apart from other adaptations. All these characteristics were effectively portrayed by Hamlet under Zeffirelli’s direction.

            All throughout the film, we see Hamlet under pressure, as he finds himself trapped in a corrupt court ruled by his enemy, King Claudius. This king was the one who grabbed the throne left by Hamlet’s father after he was murdered. He also took Hamlet’s mother as his wife, despite the fact that he was Hamlet’s uncle, the brother of the old King. As we can see, there are a lot of things that would have driven Hamlet to insanity, and just by thinking of these problems, he would have gone uncontrollably insane. But he was able to keep his head from running loose until he gets his revenge from King Claudius.

            In the film, it was not only Hamlet who was portrayed as insane, but also Ophelia, played by Helena Bonham-Carter. The Hamlet-Ophelia tandem was a very important mixture because it showed a failed love affair between two insane characters. Hamlet handles himself well in this kind of situation. His treatment of Ophelia can be seen as more ambiguous and less controlled, considering that he once courted the girl. We can say that it was Hamlet that drove Ophelia to lose her wits, and a proof of this is a famous scene where Hamlet half-crazily tells Ophelia not to trust men, and encourages her to go to a nunnery. This can be accounted to Hamlet’s disgust of her mother because she was able to tolerate sleeping with the brother of his husband. Because of Hamlet’s love for Ophelia, he urges her to avoid the horror and corruption in which he associates with sex.

            One of the most important characteristic of this Hamlet film adaptation is its notion of insanity. Here, we are able to observe how insanity existed in the characters everyday lives, especially that of Hamlet. As a lead role, we see how Hamlet maneuvered his insanity in order to take his revenge. By pretending to be insane while actually being insane at the same time, he was able to fool different people. But as a tragedy, all of them have to die in the end, including Hamlet. What matters most was that he was able to fulfill his goal, and that was to avenge the death of his father.

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