AbstractsLanguage, Literature & Linguistics


Abstract This thesis deals with three well-known adaptations of Shakespeare s Hamlet: Laurence Olivier s film from 1948, Franco Zeffirelli s film from 1990, and Kenneth Branagh s epic drama from 1996. My aim is to illustrate the plasticity of Hamlet and to show how each director foregrounds certain aspects, and omits or diminishes others to aid their subjective interpretation, as each director has had their unique visual strategy and overall vision for Hamlet. I also discuss the fundamental difference between the verbal and visual art forms in that an adaptation of a play is more than simply a photographic record of its performance, but a special photographic language and a semiotic system. Hamlet is exceptional in the way it continues to reinvent itself through performances and adaptations, and its elasticity and non-sacredness are crucial factors in ensuring that the play never goes stale or static. Shakespeare and film is now one of the leading areas of Shakespeare studies, and is long since recognized as a proper field of investigation. This thesis explores certain scenes or aspects I believe to be emblematic of the director s overall vision for Hamlet. I have analyzed interesting aspects intrinsic to the particular adaptation, often in conjunction with an analysis of the source text of Shakespeare s play. Hence, I have not focused on the same issues and aspects in these films. Instead I have chosen to highlight important and interesting aspects which the directors have chosen to foreground. Thus, my main task has not been to compare and contrast the adaptations, unless a comparison serves a purpose. These adaptations are treated as autonomous works of art, and I consider them to be aesthetically equal to the source text of Shakespeare s Hamlet. In other words, I do not see these films as inferior to Shakespeare s text.