Last Updated 27 Jan 2021

Comparing Branagh and Olivier

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The two movie versions of Shakespeare's Hamlet that are directed by Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Branagh have similarities and differences. The similarities include how Hamlet feels betrayed by his mother because of her sudden marriage after the death of his father. The differences include how Hamlet is portrayed as a character. Olivier uses the Hamlet's relationship with Gertrude and his soliloquy to portray Hamlet as confused, whereas Branagh uses the same dynamics to portray Hamlet as furious.

Olivier presents Hamlet's relationship with Gertrude as more physical in order to ndicate Hamlet's confusion, while Branagh presents the relationship between Hamlet and his mother as less physical to reinforce his feelings of frustration. During the scene where Claudius and Gertrude are encouraging Hamlet to stay in Denmark, Gertrude freely touches Hamlet and kisses him on the mouth to console her grieving son (Olivier, 1948). During this scene, Hamlet is sitting at the edge of the table wearing all black and is turned away from everyone. He is upset that his mother has remarried such a short time after his father's death.

His tone of voice suggests that e is full of grief, devastated about the death of his father, and feeling betrayed by his mother. Even though he feels betrayed, Hamlet passively allows his mother to embrace and kiss him. Hamlet is confused, and has no sense of how to deal with his conflicting feelings. Branagh, however, presents the relationship between Hamlet and his mother without any physical contact between the two. During the same scene in Branagh's version, the queen smiles and encourages Hamlet to stay instead of returning to Wittenberg (Branagh, 1996). In comparison to Olivier's Hamlet,

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Branagh's Hamlet has a different tone of voice. His tone of voice is on the edge of tears. When Gertrude consoles Hamlet and urges him to stay in Denmark, he agrees to stay, but does not engage in any physical contact with his mother. He remains distant from his mother, both emotionally and physically. Unlike Olivier's Hamlet, Branagh's Hamlet shows that he is more bitter than Olivier's Hamlet about Gertrude's quick marriage. Thus, the directors' depictions of Hamlet's interaction with Gertrude in the two films reveal differing interpretations of Hamlet's response to feeling betrayed.

The two film versions also use Hamlet's first soliloquy to depict their different interpretations of Hamlet's character. Olivier's Hamlet delivers his soliloquy in his thoughts to indicate his confusion, whereas Branagh's Hamlet delivers his soliloquy in spoken words to show his frustration after he learns that his mother has married Claudius. In the Olivier version of the play, Hamlet's first soliloquy is spoken in his head (Olivier, 1948). In this speech, he emphasizes that only a little amount of time has passed after his father's death and that Gertrude has remarried too quickly.

He also emphasizes his confusion about Gertrude's marriage to Claudius, when Gertrude used to follow his father like Niobe. In Olivier's version of the soliloquy, Hamlet is grieving over his father's death, but he is more upset about his mother's quick marriage to Claudius, his tamer's brother. During his soliloquy, Hamlet says "trail thy name is woman" (Olivier, 1948) calling his mother weak-hearted for remarrying too quickly. In contrast to Olivier's Hamlet, Branagh's Hamlet speaks and yells to emphasize points in his soliloquy.

He speaks of the same issues, but the tone of voice s different. He sounds exhausted, annoyed, and speaks as if he is about to start crying. However, when he mentions the point that frustrates him the most, his voice becomes significantly louder; when he yells "yet within a month! " (Branagh, 1996), emphasizing the short amount of time between the death and marriage, he reveals his bitterness. He feels betrayed and angry at the way Gertrude has moved on so quickly, rather than confused and sad, as he does in Olivier's film.

Thus, although both Olivier's and Branagh's versions of Hamlet stress the same conflict about his other, Hamlet is characterized differently in each film. In both film versions of Hamlet, the protagonist faces the same conflict, but Olivier and Branagh take different approaches to portraying Hamlet. In Olivier's version, Hamlet's relationship with Gertrude is portrayed in a physical manner to stress Hamlet's passivity and feeling of confusion, whereas in Branagh's depiction, Hamlet's relationship with Gertrude reveals a less physical and more distant relationship in order to indicate his anger and frustration.

Their soliloquies also distinguish the directors' two different ersions of Hamlet; Olivier's Hamlet delivers his speech in his thoughts, adopting a passive style to suggest Hamlet's confusion, while Branagh's Hamlet delivers his speech out loud to indicate his anger and frustration. These two different depictions of the main character reveal how critical the director's input is in creating a distinct interpretation of Shakespeare's plays.

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Comparing Branagh and Olivier. (2018, Jun 25). Retrieved from

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