'Hamlet', by William Shakespeare - DVD Play Reviews

Shakespeare

Shakespeare's Hamlet - Play Reviews - Mostly DVD

Of all the plays by William Shakespeare, Hamlet remains one of the most intriguing and popular. When he wrote 'Hamlet', Shakespeare was creating a long-lasting phenomenon. I wonder if he could ever have imagined that it would still be playing to packed audiences today? Actors are eager to play the lead and it is enacted in theatres all over the world, regularly.

For those who prefer to watch in the comfort of their own home, it is, thankfully, also available on DVD. And there are a number of versions!

Towards the end of this hub, I have linked to a few online 'Hamlet' videos. Some are tasters from available DVDs and some are snippets from older versions of the play that are not on DVD.

And then there's Arnold Schwarzenegger!


Of course, Hamlet has been staged many times since it was written around the year 1600, and most of those versions have not come down to us ~ on DVD or otherwise ~ though there are a few paintings and photographs, to give us an idea of what we have missed.

Asta Nielsen and Sarah Bernhardt were two women who played Hamlet.


Edwin Booth - Hamlet - 1870

Edwin Booth - an American Hamlet circa 1870
Edwin Booth - an American Hamlet circa 1870

Sarah Bernhardt - Hamlet - 1900

1900. Sarah Bernhardt. A female Hamlet with Yorick's skull. First successful onscreen version, I understand, for all of five minutes in a fencing scene.
1900. Sarah Bernhardt. A female Hamlet with Yorick's skull. First successful onscreen version, I understand, for all of five minutes in a fencing scene.

My favourite 'Hamlet' was the 'Royal Shakespeare Company' production with David Tennant, at the Courtyard Shakespeare Theatre. However, although this is a play review, it is not a theatre review. I intend to look particularly at the available Shakespeare DVDs (Hamlet DVDs that is!). Luckily my favourite version is now available in DVD format.

Do you simply want to watch and enjoy the play? Or are you an English literature student, who needs to really study it in depth?

Whether you just want to watch the play, or you want to write a Hamlet essay, or Hamlet summary, or a Hamlet synopsis, or you need to do a Hamlet character study, or remember some Hamlet quotes, or learn about Hamlet themes, or understand a Hamlet soliloquy, you first need to watch, digest and really know this 'Hamlet' play!

Get yourself some Hamlet theatre tickets, to see a live theater production, by all means ~ I would certainly recommend that ~ but be sure to have your own copy, at hand, to view at your leisure.

I have tried to include as many versions of 'Hamlet' as I can find, although I admit to not having seen them all. I shall try to make it clear which versions I am familiar with.

The versions I describe are mostly available on DVD. Some are also available on VHS and some on Blu-Ray. The Gielgud audio version is on CD. It may be that VHS editions for some will only be found in a 'used' condition.

Tricia Mason

Laurence Olivier Hamlet 1948 DVD

Laurence Olivier ~ 1948 ~ 155 minutes

Directed by, and starring, Sir Laurence Olivier, this is a very famous version of Hamlet. It is relatively short and anything considered extraneous was edited out ~ there is no Fortinbras and no Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

Olivier had played Hamlet on stage at Helsingor (Elsinore) in 1937.

Worth seeing, but if you are studying the play, this one is useful for comparing how it can be staged, rather than for getting to know and understand the full text. This interpretation appears to have been influenced by the theories of Freud. Jean Simmons plays Ophelia.

Winner of four Oscars ~ 'Best Picture', 'Best Actor', 'Best Supporting Actress', 'Best Costume Design'. Filmed in black and white. When I checked, 44 of its 64 Amazon reviewers gave it 5 stars.

I have a copy of this.

Richard Burton Hamlet 1964 DVD

Richard Burton 1964 ~ 191 minutes

This is a version that I have yet to see ~ but which, I believe, should be great. Richard Burton's voice, alone, would be enough to make any production of Hamlet 'a must'. Directed by John Gielgud.

This was a Boadway production, filmed before a live audience, in black and white, at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater on Broadway, while the actors were in their 'rehearsal clothes'. It has received some very good 'Amazon' reviews.

In 1967, William Redfield, who played Guildenstern, published a memoir of this event, entitled: "Notes of an Actor".

Innokenti Smoktunovsky Hamlet 1964 DVD

Grigori Kozintsev Hamlet 1964 ~ 140 minutes

Starring Innokenti Smoktunovsky

When I checked with Amazon.com, there were 12 customer reviews. Of these, 9 gave it five stars and the rest gave it four. Filmed in black and white, it is described as being visually very impressive. Other descriptions include: 'awesome', 'splendid', 'gripping', 'unforgettable', 'intelligent'. Unfortunately, I have not yet seen this version.

Russian, with English subtitles.

Nicol Williamson Hamlet 1969 DVD

Nicol Williamson 1969 ~ 113 minutes

Also starring Anthony Hopkins, Anjelica Huston, Marianne Faithfull

Apparently, this is a film of the stage production, produced in 'London's Roundhouse'. The Amazon.com reviews for this DVD are mixed. Does it 'soar above and beyond' the other Hamlets, or is it the 'dullest and worst version ever'? I don't know ~ I am afraid that I haven't seen it.

Derek Jacobi Hamlet 1980 DVD

Derek Jacobi 1980 ~ 214 minutes

Very well acted. A few years old now. It is a film of a stage production, from the BBC, so the viewer can imagine that s/he is actually seeing a play enacted. Derek Jacobi is Hamlet. He was born in 1938, according to imdb.com, which made him 42 years old when he made this. To me, he seemed a little too old to be playing 'young Hamlet', but there is some question as to Hamlet's age. I tend to see him as a much younger 'boy-man'.

Jacobi is a great actor, though, as is Patrick Stewart, who portrays Claudius ~ this was before he became Star Trek's 'Jean Luc Picard'.

I have a copy of this.


Kevin Kline Hamlet 1990 DVD

Kevin Kline 1990 ~ 165 minutes

Directed by and starring Kevin Kline, with co-director Kirk Browning, this 'Hamlet' was first produced for the New York Shakespeare Festival, by Joseph Papp.

I wasn't sure that I would like this version, perhaps because Shakespeare is so intrinsically 'English' that I expect it always to be performed by English actors. However, I watched the 'To be or not to be' soliloquy on 'YouTube' and I was hooked. I felt that had I finally understood this speech ~ for the first time ever.

It gets a mixed reaction on imdb.com and on Amazon.com

I have a copy of this.

Mel Gibson Hamlet 1991 DVD

Mel Gibson 1991 ~ 130 minutes

Franco Zeffirelli's 'Hamlet' is set in medieval times, in the Danish medieval castle of Elsinore, and this is a 'medieval' rendition, complete with medieval castle. Mel Gibson makes a handsome, but troubled, Hamlet and Helena Bonham Carter is a pretty, but troubled, Ophelia.

Though its setting appears tio be the most 'true' to the original, I found it hard to believe in Gibson as 'Hamlet'. However, this seems to be a very popular version with drama teachers and their students. (Zeffirelli's 'Romeo and Juiliet' was brilliant in my opinion.) However, I found the cutting and editing rather confusing, when I was studying the play.

When last I checked, 109 of the 202 Amazon reviewers had given it 5 stars, ten had only given one star.

I have a copy of this.

The Animated Tales Hamlet 1992 DVD

The Animated Tales: Hamlet 1992 ~ 30 minutes

This is a brief animated version of 'Hamlet', which makes a good introduction to the story, especially for children.

Usually available as part of gift sets, released in 1994 and 2004. Artistically pleasing.

I enjoyed it, but it is a very simplistic version

I have a copy of this.


Kenneth Branagh Hamlet 1996 DVD

Kenneth Branagh 1996 ~ 242 minutes

Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet is the epic production. Everything is there and everything is in the right order ~ and it lasts for four hours!

It's good ~ very good ~ but difficult to sit through in one go. Derek Jacobi also appears in thi version ~ as Claudius ~ and he is very good in the part. Branagh himself plays Hamlet ~ again, very good. Richard Briers makes a very good Polonius. John Gielgud plays Priam.

There is (only) one part in this film which, I think, was probably mis-cast ~ Jack Lemmon as Marcellus. He acted the part well enough, but, to me, he just didn't ring true as a Shakespearean palace guard. I kept seeing Lemmon rather than Marcellus. Most of the Amazon reviewers gave it 5 stars ~ 256 of the 351 reviewers, when I last looked. 21 of them had given it only one star.

'To Be on Camera: A History with Hamlet' ~ the making of this version of Hamlet, is included with the VHS and the two-disc special edition DVD of the 1996 Hamlet, which was released in 2007.

I have a copy of this.


Discovering Hamlet Kenneth Branagh VHS

Discovering Hamlet [VHS] ~ 53 minutes

An early record of Kenneth Branagh, learning to be Hamlet under the direction of Derek Jacobi, at Birmingham Repertory Theatre, is available on VHS.

Called 'Discovering Hamlet', this documentary, shows the evolution of a stage production.

It, too, has some very good reviews, but I have not seen it.


Campbell Scott Hamlet 2000 DVD

Campbell Scott 2000 ~ 178 minutes

Campbell Scott both plays and directs 'Hamlet', in this version. Most of the 'Amazon' reviews that I read were very complimentary.

The DVD I saw advertised also included 'The Making of Hamlet'.

I have yet to see this version.

Ethan Hawke Hamlet 2000 DVD

Ethan Hawke 2000 ~ 112 minutes

This is set in modern New York and was directed by Michael Almereyda. Amazon reviews were rather mixed. Even those who found it 'excellent' or 'terrific' didn't give it 5 stars!

This is another one that I have not seen.

William Houston Hamlet 2003

William Houston 2003

Directed by Mike Mundell, Gareth Thomas plays Claudius and Jason Harris plays Horatio.

I noticed a VHS version of this for sale on Amazon in 'used' condition, and I have seen the DVD reviewed on IMDB.com.

There are three reviews here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0439597/usercomments

I wouldn't say that the comments were brilliant, but they are not bad.

I have not viewed this version.


Alexander Fodor's Hamlet 2007 DVD

Alexander Fodor's Hamlet 2007 ~ 131 minutes

The one review I found on Amazon.com gave this 5 stars and explained that this is a thoroughly modernised version of 'Hamlet', '... with Ophelia succumbing to drugs, Polonius being recast as Polonia, Ophelia's sister ...'. I have not seen it.

David Tennant Hamlet 2009 DVD

David Tennant 2009 ~ 180 minutes

I haven't seen this DVD, but I feel that I must recommend it. I saw this version of Hamlet, live, in Stratford Upon Avon and thoroughly enjoyed it. I have a tendency to become sleepy in theatres, but not during this production! Tennant has great stage presence, and Patrick Stewart, once again, makes a great Claudius ~ as well as playing the ghost.

Directed by Gregory Doran.

A documentary on the making of this 'Hamlet' is included.

Available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

I have not seen this DVD, but I did see the documentary of the making of it, and I did see the original stage version.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Jude Law also played Hamlet on stage in 2009, but I do not know if a film of this is planned.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/arts_and_culture/8081971.stm


Shakespeare Critical Guide Hamlet DVD

Shakespeare Critical Guide 'Romeo + Juliet' and 'Hamlet' DVD 60 min.

This is a very good educational guide to Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' (also to 'Romeo and Juliet') from Cromwell Productions.

It has invaluable input, for students of Shakespeare, from Professor Stanley Wells, of the Shakespeare Institute, and from Dr Robert Smallwood, of the Shakespeare Centre, Stratford-Upon-Avon.

It is also enjoyable and entertaining to watch. I have a copy.

DVD/ Blu-Ray/ HD-DVD ~ but it seems only to be available in PAL format ~ Region 0 (UK – Europe -World-Wide - All regions) 'It will not play in a 'NTSC' DVD player (USA & Canada)

John Gielgud Hamlet 1948 CD Audio only

John Gielgud 1948

Audio CD, starring John Gielgud, with Celia Johnson. BBC Radio Third Programme Live Broadcast ~ abridged.

I really enjoyed this version, in spite of it being audio-only. I would particularly recommend it to anyone studying the play. I own a copy.

In 1944, Gielgud played Hamlet, on stage, at the Theatre Royal in London. The original review, dated 16 October 1944, was re-published in the Guardian on 16 October 2009. It claims that 'No other actor ... can make so just an enchantment of the lines'. In 1948, when he made this recording, Gielgud was in his mid 40s, but when he first played Hamlet, in the 'Old Vic' season 1929-1930, he was the youngest to do so.

Hamlet The Opera DVD

Opera 176 min 2004

French with English subtitles

'Hamlet' The Opera, was written by Ambroise Thomas.

Here, conducted by Bertrand De Billy, it is staged 'at the 'Gran Teatro Del Liceu', Barcelona, Spain.

I have not seen this opera or the DVD.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

This is not, exactly, another version of 'Hamlet', but, rather, a farce-like, spin-off from it, written by Tom Stoppard.

It takes two of the minor, but troublesome, characters and names a whole new play after them ~ a play which is comically absurd. This play retains most of the characters from 'Hamlet'

The play was first seen in Scotland in 1966. The film was released in 1990/1991.

I have yet to see it.

David Garrick - Hamlet - 18th century

David Garrick (17171779), producer and actor, produced his own version of Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' in Drury Lane.
David Garrick (17171779), producer and actor, produced his own version of Shakespeare's 'Hamlet' in Drury Lane.

Thomas W Keene - Hamlet - 1884

Thomas W Keene. An American Hamlet. Circa 1884
Thomas W Keene. An American Hamlet. Circa 1884

Some Shakespearian Actors on IMDB.com

Derek Jacobi on imdb.com

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001394/

Patrick Stewart on imdb.com

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001772/

Laurence Olivier on imdb.com

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000059/

Richard Burton on imdb.com

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000009/

Kevin Kline on imdb.com

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000177/

Richard Briers on imdb.com

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001972/

David Tennant on imdb.com

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0855039/

John Gielgud on imdb.com

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000024/

Celia Johnson on imdb.com

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0424743/

Anthony Hopkins on imdb.com

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000164/

Anjelica Huston on imdb.com

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001378/

Hamlet in Purgatory - Stephen Greenblatt

Hamlet Texts, Notes, Criticism and Literary Guides


When I was studying Hamlet, I used the Oxford edition of the play. It is very good, explaining clearly the unusual words and unfamiliar ideas. It also gives lots of background and useful information.

I also bought a copy of the York Notes. I always find them helpful and clear. The other book of Hamlet notes that I bought was in the 'Teach yourself Literature Guides' series.

'Hamlet in Purgatory' was also very useful, when trying to understand the background.

As the Amazon comment states: 'Central to his [Greenblatt] approach is the notion that not only does history affect literature, but literature itself informs history'.



John Gielgud is Hamlet
John Gielgud is Hamlet

Hamlet - The Play and its Characters

The tragedy

'Hamlet' was written around 1600, and first performed shortly afterwards. Although it is, indeed, a tragedy, with many deaths occurring within the play, there is also a lot of humour running through it ~ and it can be 'played for laughs'.

The play opens with young Hamlet in mourning, because his father has recently died. On top of this, his mother, instead of supporting him through his grief, has remarried ~ a little too soon to be decorous, and this fills Hamlet with yet more distress. The fact that her new husband is his uncle, whom he doesn't even seem to like, makes matters even worse, since he now considers his mother guilty of incest ~ and possibly adultery. Can anything else go wronmg for poor Hamlet? Of yes indeed ~ his father's ghost turns up to tell him that he did not die a natural death, he was the victim of 'murder most foul'!

The play is set in medieval Denmark ~ at the royal court of Elsinor (Helsingor). One reason why Shakespeare may have done this was to allow him the freedom to 'say things' that could not easily, or perhaps safely, be said, openly, about the English court. However, there is a story of a Scandinavian 'Amleth', upon which this play seems to be loosely based. Whether or not this was an original tale is not known, but it was recorded by Saxo Grammaticus in the early 13th century.

There are certain parallels beyween the English court and that at Elsinor. For example, Queen Gertrude marries her dead husband's brother and Queen Katherine (of Aragon) married her dead husband's brother. James I's father was believed to have been murdered by the man who would become his step-father and Hamlet's father appears to have been murdered by the man who has become his step-father.

Shakespeare was writing during the Tudor and Stuart periods of English history. Elizabeth I was the last Tudor monarch. When she died, in 1603, she was succeeded by a cousin, James I (VIth of Scotland) ~ the first Stuart monarch (and son of Mary Queen of Scots). This choice of successor and the relatively smooth transition were being planned by 1601. Shakespeare's work was very popular with both sovereigns.


Hamlet, Horatio and the Gravediggers

Hamlet, Horatio and the Gravediggers - Delacroix 1843
Hamlet, Horatio and the Gravediggers - Delacroix 1843

English Joke

The play does contain a little joke 'against' the English in Act 5 Scene 1. It amused the audience at The Courtyard Theatre, Stratford Upon Avon, when David Tennant was playing Hamlet, every bit as much as it must have in Shakespeare's day:

Hamlet:
How long is that since?

Gravedigger:
Cannot you tell that? every fool can tell that: it was the very day that young Hamlet was born; he that is mad, and sent into England.

Hamlet:
Ay, marry, why was he sent into England?

Gravedigger:
Why, because he was mad: he shall recover his wits there; or, if he do not, it's no great matter there.

Hamlet:
Why?

Gravedigger:
'Twill, a not be seen in him there; there the men are as mad as he.

Characters:

Royal family of Denmark: Prince Hamlet, King Claudius, Queen Gertrude, The ghost / Old Hamlet
Family close to the royals: Polonius, Ophelia, Laertes
Friends of Hamlet: Horatio, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, The Players
Guards: Marcellus, Barnardo, Francisco
Royal Family of Norway: Fortinbras
Others: Reynaldo, Voltimand, Cornelius, Osric, Gravedigger, Sexton, Priest, Captain, Ambassadors from England

Johnny Depp as Hamlet??

Do you think that Johnny Depp would make a good 'Hamlet'?

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See results without voting

Richard Burton - 1964 - Directed by Gielgud

Comments 14 comments

Michael Jay profile image

Michael Jay 6 years ago

Wow! This is such an incredible hub. I really liked it. Even the lay-out, it's really nice. Thanks for sharing.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 6 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Thank you Michael. How very kind! I really enjoyed looking into it :)


ama83 profile image

ama83 6 years ago from San Jose, CA

This some very extensive research, Trish_M. Hamlet happens to be my favorite play by Shakespeare, although I have to admit that I enjoyed the play so much that I am afraid of seeing a movie based on it.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 6 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Hello Ama. Thank you for the message. I can understand how you feel. Live plays are very different from DVD versions, I must admit :)


William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 6 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

I was introduced to "Hamlet" in 1948 when my mother took to the theater in Yonkers to see the Laurence Olivier movie. I was only 13, but I was never more impressed by a story or production -- so much so that I troubled to memorize the entire "To be or not to be" soliloquy. I only saw the play once, in 1982 at the Stratford (Connecticut) Shakespeare Theater. It starred Christopher Walken. The production was very strange and very poor. It was a huge disappointment to me, and apparently to others. From what I've seen, Kenneth branagh does an excellent portrayal of Hamlet, but I don't think any of the others can compare to Olivier. To me, even Richard Burton, whom I admire, falls short. I;m not a Shakespearean scholar, but I think his tragedies are the best thing that ever happened in literature -- "Hamlet" in particular. Thanks for a well-researched and interesting hub.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 6 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Hello William.

Thank you for your very interesting comments.

Learning that soliloquy, by choice, at 13 ~ that is impressive!

I simply cannot imagine Christopher Walken as Hamlet!!!

I shall look, again, at the Olivier version.


justjo 4 years ago

So glad I found this page. The clips of David Tennant as Hamlet are amazing. I will have to get the DVD.

BTW, I also saw Christopher Walken in 1982. It was awful!The whole production seemed to be in fast forward.

The performance I saw was memorable for several reasons. For one, Anne Baxter as Gertrude hobbled around with her foot in a cast, having broken it during rehearsal. The audience was shocked when Hamlet tossed her about the bedchamber.

Then there was poor Fred Gwynne (yes, Herman Munster) as Claudius, who tripped during an entrance & fell flat on his face. His costume breastplate broke loose on one shoulder & it dangled lopsided throughout the scene.

Thank you for providing info on so many better productions!


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 4 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Hi Justjo :)

Well, that does, indeed, sound memorable ~ but not for the best of reasons :) :)

I hope that you will enjoy David Tennant's version. I'm sure that you will.

Thank you very much for reading and for taking the trouble to comment :)


rjbatty profile image

rjbatty 4 years ago from Irvine

The Mel Gibson "Hamlet" is vastly underrated. Gibson is the only actor who portrayed Hamlet as I imagined him from Shakespeare's play. The strength of Gibson's performance is that he is able to play the consummate psychotic reflected by -- something in his eyes dancing around or staying eerily focused. He does not face his father's death in a mealy mouth way. Just the opposite. He is outraged beyond containment. He does not put on the guise of a madman as much as one of a heckler to the king and queen. An instant does not pass where the audience can doubt his resolve. Gibson does not bury his character with affectations, which cannot be said of the other actors. Not for an instant does one forget that Burton is portraying Hamlet. The other performances are interesting, and one marvels at the dexterity of the actor.

Kenneth Branagh discovered an interesting but ingenuous way of portraying the troubled soul. Cumulatively, he projects someone very timid, very callow. In his efforts to bring a new, a possibly most authentic "Hamlet" to the screen, his horse and saddle are pulled out from beneath him, and all we see is a schizophrenic jelly fish. Where one might expect Gibson to "go off" at a mere movement behind the curtains, Branagh appears to be playing a twisted game of cat and mouse.

Well, we have been enriched by watching various actors perform this role. We are lucky to hold up comparisons to our scrutiny and discrimination. I possess a very certain idea of who Shakespeare attempted to describe through this tormented character of Hamlet. To date, my favorite depiction is the one conjured by Franco Zeffirelli via Mel Gibson. Newer film versions of the play only seem to validate my original opinion. Zeffirelli nailed "Romeo and Juliet" and he did the same with Hamlet. While newer versions come and go, my psyche was in tune with Gibson's performance, and I seriously doubt it will be undone within my lifetime.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 4 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Hello rjbatty :)

Thank you for taking the trouble to post such a full response. :)

I agree that Zeffirelli's 'Romeo and Juliet' was brilliant. In fact, I'd say that it was one of the best films that I have ever seen.

Perhaps I should give his 'Hamlet' another chance, because I did approve of the setting ~ both time and place.

I loved David Tenant's portrayal, though. I haven't seen the DVD, only the live play, but it was amazing.


Paul 3 years ago

I have watched all these DVD's and more besides. Sadly I think no remotely acceptable version is available. Gielgud's audio is about the best. Our culture and our actors have lost the poetic ear. We are now firmly snagged in the quagmire of melodrama and the proliferation of spectacle. This is the age of the camera and the politically correct; Shakespeare is dead.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 3 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Hello Paul :)

Thanks for your comment.

Gielgud's audio is very good, but I think that he sounds too old to really portray the young Hamlet. I wish that I could find a recording from his younger days.

I think that Shakespeare is still very much 'alive' for many people, which is quite amazing, considering when he actually lived.


Kathrin Franke 3 years ago

Well, first of all: thank you for this overview. It was very interesting to read.

Secondly this post will be two fold - first a comment on my favourite Hamlets, secondly a bit of real Danish History (from the early 16th c. up to about the time the play was written) outlining the links between Denmark and Scotland/ England - and the family relations inside the Danish Royal Family. For the latter I'll try to equate the characters from the play, as far as possible, with the real Danes of the time.

I've come back to Shakespeare via David Tennant, whom I met last December at a Doctor Who event in Birmingham. (I might be forgiven for it, seeing as I'm from Germany, where we naturally read other books - though I did Romeo and Juliet in English class. And I am quite happy I never had to read the Bard in translation.) Talk came to Hamlet - stage v film - and something about it intrigued me. As soon as I was back home in Dublin I started watching all the Hamlets I could find online, then the week after I bought the play. At least I think that's the order it went, I might have bought the play first and then started watching...

So naturally David's being the first one I've seen would be my favourite - closely followed by Branagh. I also like Olivier's though it's as different as it could be, not only because of the difference in technology but also acting style. (Going off topic here - I'd like a TARDIS so I could go back to see all these great actors perform the part live on stage; and while I'm at it why not go back to 1603 to see the first performance.) The only one I really didn't like was Mel Gibson's.

I love the England joke, it always makes me laugh.

And on a historical note - King James was actually related to the Danes. King James III was married to Frederik I's (Old Hamlet if you will) sister Margarete. Their son James IV then married Margaret Tudor, sister of Henry VIII; James VI, son of Mary, Queen of Scots then married Anne of Denmark in 1589 (in play terms, if it had come to it, this would have been young Hamlet's grand-daughter). So this bit makes sense. Well, perhaps it would have made more sense to send Hamlet to Scotland as the ties were closer and therefore the request more likely to be executed - or perhaps not, because of that closeness.

And if you think that's confusing, read this (I'm trying to keep it roughly in the same time-frame as the ones above)...

Christian III's (young Hamlet) mother was a 1st cousin once removed of her husband's mother (in her father's line through Frederick I, Elector of Brandenburg), and a second cousin of both her husband's brother's wife (on her mother's side through Frederick I, Elector of Saxony) and her husband and his brother (through their mother, obviously). Talk of incest... In fact Christian's parents had to get a papal dispensation (this was the early 16th century before the Reformation) because she was her husband's cousin - and also because she was quite young. As for second marriages - in real life it was Christian III's father who married a second time after his first wife had died when Christian was ten years old (his uncle had died the year before, his uncle's wife would die when her nephew-cousin was 18). The second wife seems to have been a rather more distant cousin, if one at all (though she was probably also distantly related to a Danish King - Erik of Pomerania - of some 100 years before). They were also related to the Electors of Wittenberg (brothers of his uncle's wife) and Albert of Mainz (Christian's mother's brother). And , if nothing else, it gives Hamlet a reason to study in Wittenberg, when he had a perfectly viable university just outside his door in Copenhagen (in real life his father wasn't King at the time, so they wouldn't have lived at Kronborg anyway).

Now, I'm not saying Shakespeare knew all, or indeed any, of this, at least not this latter part about Denmark, but surely it was the same in England with the Royals/ nobility marrying their own cousins all the time. There wasn't that much choice really, was there, if you had to consider rank and station all the time. On the other hand, I'm sure the Prince - whether real or fictional - would have known, which gives a rather understandable edge to the first soliloqui. Apart from the fact that they married not even two months after his father had been killed - at least the real Prince's father waited a few years to re-marry.

Hopefully you're not too confused...

Now I'll continue my search for old Hamlet films I haven't seen so far (such as Derek Jacobi's and Christopher Plummer's, both of which I've found bits and pieces online).


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 3 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Hello Kathrin :)

Great!

I really enjoyed reading that. Fascinating stuff!

You know, you really should write it up as an article for HubPages :)

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