To Be or Not to Be: The Many Faces of Hamlet

Shakespeare's play, Hamlet, has had a wide variety of film interpretations created based on its tragic tale of betrayal, murder and madness. What is it about Hamlet that appeals to us so? How many famous actors who have portrayed Hamlet can you name? I've found eight that the library owns!

  • The Bad Sleep Well (1960) Akira Kurosawa's adaptation projects the familiar Shakespearean plot onto the complex world of Japanese corporate intrigue with legend Toshiro Mifune as the Hamlet-esque character.
  • Hamlet (2009) David Tennant shines in this BBC production filmed on location and starring the Royal Shakespeare Company.
  • Hamlet (1996) Kenneth Branagh starred in and directed this version of Hamlet. The scenes are expansive and awe-inspiring. This is one of the rare versions of Hamlet on film that reproduces the work in its entirety.
  • Hamlet (1990) Mel Gibson's Hamlet is a little off kilter. Despite being directed by Franco Zeffirelli, this version was not critically acclaimed.
  • Hamlet (2000) Ethan Hawke stars in this modern interpretation of Hamlet. Aside from Bill Murray's portrayal of Polonius, this is my least favorite version.
  • Hamlet (1948) Laurence Olivier, the epitome of Shakespearean acting for many, defined the role for filmgoers for many years.
  • Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (1990) The most comedic of the adaptations, Tim Roth and Gary Oldman play the title characters to Iain Glen's Hamlet. The dialogue exchanges are dizzying!
  • Strange Brew (1983) Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas are reminiscent of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in this loose adaptation of Hamlet. You might have to re-watch it to catch all the clues. Pam, played by Lynne Griffin, is the daughter of the recently deceased owner of Elsinore Brewery and is deeply troubled over the sudden marriage of her uncle, Claude, to her mother, Gertrude.

The Colorado Shakespeare Festival has been recognized as one of the premier Shakespearean festivals in the nation. Going on until August 8, there is much to do, see and experience!

Written by Tara on July 26, 2010

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