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One film critic once referred to Michael Corleone, from The Godfather movies, as "the...

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quentin1 | Honors

Posted March 17, 2013 at 11:09 PM via web

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One film critic once referred to Michael Corleone, from The Godfather movies, as "the melancholy Don," which is an obvious reference to "the melancholy Dane," Hamlet. Do you think this comparison is a good one, or just a clever turn of phrase on that critic's part?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 17, 2013 at 11:31 PM (Answer #1)

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I am not sure that there is much in way of comparison between Michael and Hamlet.  Michael might be seen as "melancholy," but unlike Hamlet, this does not prevent him from acting. One of Hamlet's primary traits is that his "function is smothered by surmise."  This is not the case with Michael, who fully recognizes the need to take action.  Eliminating Hyman Roth, challenging Frankie Pentangeli, cornering Tom Hagen into manipulation, closing the door on Kay, and murdering Fredo are all examples in which Michael acts with decisive action.  Hamlet is not like this in the drama. 

I would submit that Michael is unlike Fredo in that he is not prone to excessive emotional displays.  Hamlet's confusion of emotion with Ophelia is something that Michael does not demonstrate.  Michael is distinct from Hamlet in that he is full and terrifyingly direct control of his emotions.  The fact that he could embrace Fredo at his mother's wake while giving the simultaneous order to kill him is a level of emotional control that Hamlet lacked.  I tend to think that the critic used the expression as a turn of phrase.  There are  significant differences between Hamlet and Michael Corleone.

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quentin1 | Honors

Posted March 21, 2013 at 12:07 AM (Answer #2)

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Thank you for the answer. In my opinion (though I'm not a professional educator), I wonder if those occasional comparisons of Michael Corleone to Hamlet stem from the apparent similarity between Elizabethan revenge drama and American crime drama. I think the two genres--with their emphasis on sex, violence, and revenge--have a lot in common. Though the genres are similar, I agree that Michael and Hamlet have more differences than similarities.

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