Insanity In Franco Zeffirelli's Hamlet

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There has always been something absolutely mesmerizing about a madman, be he present in a dark psychological thriller, a heart wrenching drama or otherwise. As a product of its time, Shakespeare’s Hamlet is in no dissension of this fact, with audiences young and old enraptured by the title character’s violent insanity and his love interest’s frail and tragic instability. However, as a product of its time and its time alone, there are certainly things lost in translation when the play is presented to a less than medieval audience. This is why it is always so important that the play be reinterpreted for the audience that will be viewing it. Franco Zeffirelli's 1990 Hamlet is most definitely a product of its time as well, a fine example of Shakespeare …show more content…

It is far too often that women, in even the most modern of literature, are portrayed as nothing more than snivelling cowards, used merely to motivate the inevitably male heroes. Certainly, this is still the case in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which is inarguably a product of its time; sexism runs rampant, as Ophelia, the female lead, is told by Hamlet himself to “Get thee to a nunnery” (3.1.121), with not a batted eye nor consideration of why this would be wrong. In this day and age, such blatant disrespect for women would be greatly frowned upon by a modern and discerning audience, no doubt filled with cultured women who would take offence. Bonham-Carter’s Ophelia is far from the frail and tragically beautiful flower that she is often interpreted as; “ she's like a rag doll losing its stuffings” (Hinson). With ratted hair and wild eyes, and a voice that shifts rapidly between soft and biting, she is an unpredictable and truly mad Ophelia, sparing nothing from the viewers. She legitimately scares the other characters, assaulting the first guard she meets outside by ripping off his helmet and touching his armour, making the audience fear for his safety. When she is lead inside, calling loudly for the Queen, she frightens Gertrude so badly with her singing and clutching at the walls that the Queen legitimately runs from her. The audience is forced to fear for another character’s safety once more as Ophelia runs swiftly after her, nearly pinning her to the wall to continue her convoluted and sickening speech. She is constantly touching and feeling at things, fiddling with a string between her fingers and grasping the Queen’s necklace or at the sides of her own dress, and the movements of her head are jerky and erratic. To an audience, she is so entirely unpredictable

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