Shakespeare’s revenge tragedy, “Hamlet,” critiques the society of Denmark using powerful monologues and dramatic action. On the other hand, Wilde’s comic drama pokes fun at the high morality of Victorian Society. One serious theme that I noticed in “The Importance of being Ernest” was the consistent act of deception throughout the entire play. However this lack of honesty was not lonesome for insightful comedy and a visible foreshadowing of upcoming events accompanied it.
Meaning that the play was cleverly written with humor and provided us with an obvious chain f facts that would lead up to us unraveling the end of the play. This play critiques the need to lie or exaggerate the truth, in order to “fit in” the norm of English society during the 1890’s. The unique characters in this play portray a nonchalant attitude along with subtle gestures in a tribute to not being (earnest); they were not being honest. Specifically, they all had unique characteristics that made it easier for them to not being honest.
Once it starts, it continues and that is evident within the characters of this play. That is why here is always an “Importance of Being Earnest”. One could read Hamlet simply, simplistically even, as a revenge tragedy. Hamlet’s father, the king of Denmark, is killed by his brother, Claudius, who, overriding the rights of succession, appropriates both the crown and the wife of Hamlet’s father. The ghost of the father reveals everything to his son, and all the elements of the revenge tragedy are in place: Hamlet has an obligation to avenge the murder, the usurpation, and the adultery.
This he does by killing Claudius at the end of the play. However it is clear that the theme of vengeance is merely a vehicle used by Shakespeare in order to articulate a whole series of themes central to humanity: relationships between father and son, mother and son, and Hamlet and his friends, love relationships, power wielding, madness, feigned madness, dissembling All these themes, as well as others, are found in Hamlet. However, it is important to remember that Hamlet himself is at the center of everything, and it is on him that all the great themes are focused.
There is no other character in literature so rich, so complex, so enigmatic, at once so opaque and transparent. In plays, characters are developed, in part, by monologues, dialogues, and actions. However, characters are also developed be choices made by directors, actors, and set designers. These elements all play into the way that we, as an audience perceive the characters, and the play as a whole. Of course, Shakespeare can live or die on the strength of the cast. Mel Gibson, in the lead, was a very pleasant surprise.
I don’t mean to put down Gibson with this, as he has been excellent elsewhere before. Yet I was still caught unawares by the strength of his work here: he gives a very empathetic performance that remains coherent despite the Prince’s erratic and inscrutable behaviour. Alan Bates and Ian Holm (as Claudius and Polonius, respectively) lead the impressive supporting cast: both are strong, if not exceptional. Helena Bonham-Carter is a winsomely bewildered Ophelia, effective despite the even more truncated than usual nature of her part.
The only real weak link is Glenn Close, decidedly unimpressive as Gertrude: she never quite seems to find any strong attitude to take to the character. Despite the strong performanes, I remained fairly indifferent to this Hamlet. Zeffirelli is right not to be afraid of the text, but I felt by the end that too much had been cut. The worst example was Ophelia’s madness; undermotivated at the best of times, it here seemed particularly arbitrary. (I can imagine a first time viewer failing to make the link to Polonius’ death).
This is unfortunately typical of the film’s entire treatment, in which events seem to happen at random, and far too suddenly. (I kept saying to myself “What? They’re up to that already? “). The use of celebrity guests in minor parts found in Branaughs Hamlet really gives the movie good character. Charlton Heston makes a good Player King, and Billy Crystal – though somewhat incongruous – is a fair choice for the gravedigger. Jack Lemmon and Robin Williams, however, simply distract as Marcellus and Osric. Branagh is perhaps not the strongest of the three filmed Hamlets I’ve seen, but then his job was more difficult.
After all, without cutting the play it’s impossible to smooth over the character’s rough edges and make him more explicable – if Branagh falters, it’s because of the extremely difficult contradictions inherent in the part. All the other major parts are perfectly done, with Derek Jacobi’s dignified Claudius outdone only by Richard Brier’s finely judged Polonius. Julie Christie and Kate Winslett get the difficult job of making Gertrude and Ophelia forces in the play, and both succeed. For once we even have a decent Horatio (Nicholas Farrell).