What is the best adaptation of Hamlet? I must confess that I liked the Mel Gibson version, even though most people don't seem to love that one. What do you all think?

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Oh, I'm sorry, but I absolutely ADORE Mel Gibson as Hamlet!  It is absolutely my favorite version.  (Unless you want to count the horrid German version from Mystery Science Theater 3000, ... that's my guilty pleasure favorite.)  I just adore how Gibson plays the scene with Polonius and showing that famous "antic disposition."  I'll never forget how the line, "words, words, words" was played, ... with such humor behind the words!  I think that's what I adore the most about Gibson's hamlet, ... the insertion of humor where I'm not sure if humor was actually meant, ... but could have been intended by Shakespeare.  And Helena Carter kicks total butt as Ophelia.  Yes, it's a far cry from Bellatrix Lestrange, but it's awesome nonetheless.  As for Carter, I love the way she plays upon the sexual in her depiction of madness.  And, of course, the incestuous implication (reality?) between Hamlet/Gertrude is bravely inserted as well.  I think Glenn Close does a great job as  Gertrude, actually, ... especially in her portrayal of death from the pearl.  So, in short, if you haven't seen this version, make sure to catch it!

lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I also use parts of the big 3 versions of the movie to show a variety of film adaptations and the choices directors make.

1.  I show all three ghost scenes.  It is interesting to note how much Branaugh borrows from Olivier.  Those ghosts are some degree of scary.  Gibson's version has a much more kindhearted ghost -- very fatherly.

2.  I show the opening court scene -- again to look how Olivier influenced the other films.  I love the grandness of the Branaugh version.

3.  I show the closet scene -- quite a difference in interpretation of the "Oedipal complex" issues -- especially in the Gibson version.

4.  I show the ending sequence.  I love the realistic swordsmanship of the Gibson version.  I think Branaugh's goes a bit over the top -- the swinging chandelier usually illicts loud laughter from the students.  They are are intrigued by the final scene of Fortinbras destroying the last vestige of the King Hamlet era by tearing down his monument.

daveb eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I like to do different things with the different versions. Here's some of what I do:

1. Regarding Gibson's version, I not only like the actors (Glenn Close plays crazy exceptionally well), the treatment of light and dark is handled very well; and the "To be" soliloquy is stunning with the way the light hits his father's tomb.

2. Regarding Branaugh, it's just long, with some goofy actor choices, but Claudius is great, and KB's Hamlet also does some fun things with black and white among the other colors

3. I then throw a curve-ball at the kids: I give a quiz where I play the same soliloquy from the Ethan Hawke Hamlet (he's in a Blockbuster looking at movie choices--Hamlet's a film student/director) and make students compare choices made.

Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I confess that I too enjoyed Gibson's Hamlet, though I still love the 1948 Olivier version.  In my opinion, there was no finer Shakespearean actor than Olivier in the twentieth century.  Check out the link below to learn more about this adaptation:


malibrarian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Loved the Mel Gibson version for the period look to the film, but loved Branagh's version for having the entire play in it. Who wouldn't love listening to 4 hours of Shakespeare?

ghammond7485 | Student

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beljacs | Student

The best way to enjoy Hamlet or any other Shakespeare play is by listening to it on CD.  Next is watching any of the BBC DVDs.

All the Hamlet movies are fine and all of them lose some aspect of the play's power by their choices in how to present it.

Gibson's  version moves along quickly and is more physical, Branagh's is complete but often tedious, with self-indulgent star casting, (e.g., Jack Lemmon!), Olivier's is about Olivier as much as it is about Hamlet, Derek Jacobi's version is correct to the point of being dull.

The last act is strange indeed: Hamlet doesn't refer to his father's murder at all and when he finally acts it's to avenge his mother's accidental poisoning and his and Laertes' poisonings. He makes an ambiguous remark about his father's death but nothing more explicit. He returned from his capture by pirates as an existential man to whom nothing much mattered; the readiness was all. 

If you must, read Shakespeare, but not before a) listening with no visual clues and/or seeing performances live or on screen. 

P.S. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is a great funny  movie and even more so for Hamlet-lovers.  It's by Tom Stoppard, who's responsible for much of the fun in "Shakespeare in Love".

nedsneebly | Student

my  favorite adaptation is kenneth branagh's hamlet set in the 19th c. at blenheim palace.