Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 396. Friday, 21 December 1992.
Date: Saturday, 19 Dec 92 12:13 EST
Subject: 3.0392 Further Comments on *Hamlet*
Comment: Re: SHK 3.0392 Further Comments on *Hamlet*
a.) Nahum Tate was responsible for the adjusted Lear, I think.
b.) The problem with Olivier's early Shakespeare films, in my opinion, was
a problem indigenous to the film industry of the 30s-50s (and today): the
perception that the filmgoers want to see the *stars* and not so much of all
the rest of that stuff, thank you very much. So Hamlet was revised to focus
still more relentless on the languid, watery Dane. Unnecessary stuff was
excised. I hate that film -- especially the "couldn't make up his mind" bit.
Worse still is the big O's Henry V, which, despite its delightful opening,
is a travesty along the same lines: everybody but Henry becomes a clown: the
English slapstick bishops, the French court, Fluellen & co. -- all, all
reduced to comic foils. Why?
c.) I've seen filmed versions of Hamlet: a film of Burton's staged version,
a CBC (I think) Christopher Plummer, Olivier, Kevin Kline, Mel Gibson --
and I still think Derek Jacobi's is the best. Why? Because Hamlet has a
sense of humour -- a mordant humour, of course, consistent with his melan-
choly -- and because the soliloquies are not supposed to be philosophical
set-pieces but records of a mind at work, moving ideas about and testing
them. Jacobi does this well. I do not care that much for the scrabbling
about on the floor after the Ghost has departed, but the rest is fine. I
find that students find the Jacobi Hamlet comprehensible and accessible,
arguments I have heard for Gibson.
d.) I also prefer David Gwillim as H5 to Olivier & Branagh. Anybody else?