A Piece of Work

To prepare for the 2011 conference, may I suggest you read Hamlet and watch at least two versions of it. I like Brannagh, but it has useless and gratuitous and utterly distracting pornographic shots thrown in. Don’t watch it without some means to avert your gaze from their shame, as any gentleman or lady does when he sees it.

I also like Zefferelli’s Hamlet (Mel Gibson) but it leaves out pretty crucial elements and is overly Freudian in its interpretation.

Hamlet is a series of magnificent set-pieces, soliloquies and discussions that penetrate the inner chambers and ventricles of the heart while undulating the spectator between heaven and earth, none more, perhaps than the scene shown in the two versions below. “What a piece of work is a man.”



Compare this with 3:1 (To be or not to be) and 4:4 (What is a man) both of which you can see on YouTube. You can see a bit of a progression of Hamlet’s attitude to man, and therefore to action, but he’ll still rise and fall a few more times before his final fall (or is it a rise?).

As a devotee of Hamlet as the greatest play ever written, I crave your thoughts, reflections, and insights on these scenes.

6 Responses

  1. Sharaya, thanks for pointing us to that film; I’ll be able to get it through my library, and look forward to watching it in preparation for teaching the play this year. I would like also to recommend my so-far favourite film of the play, the very excellent version filmed by the BBC thirty years ago with Derek Jacobi in the title role. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080835/ The series is less cinematic than Branagh’s or Zeffirelli’s films, (i.e., they were working with a lot less money, so the sets look like sets and the soundtrack’s no great shakes), but the acting and directing are superb in this one, and the whole family can watch it.

  2. My husband and I watched Zefferelli’s Hamlet on Monday night, went to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s production yesterday afternoon, and topped it off with Brannagh last night. This trilogy issued an intense twenty-four hours.

    Curiously OSF caused Hamlet and his father’s ghost to communicate through sign language. At first I thought this annoying, yet on later reflection I found it intriguing. Hamlet was the prophet, forced to translate his father’s words for us. Out of his own mouth he spoke, “O horrible, O horrible, most horrible! If thou has nature in thee, bear it not.”

  3. I read Hamlet several times in high school. Earlier this summer I decided to read it again, and I was surprised at all the things I either missed in my earlier readings or had forgotten. There were a few passages that I really enjoyed reading, and even went back and reread them. Beautifully written.

  4. I was wondering the same thing and was just going to ask! We watched this version not long ago, and there were some things I liked about it and some things I disliked (as with most things!).

  5. Here is another video version Hamlet, well worth watching. It is much less Freudian than most by reputation and places the play in a modern setting without defrauding Shakespeare’s work. The original language is used as well. As I recall, there is only one scene with a bit of immodesty, but it’s not licentious.

    You may view the whole thing for free online without interruption at:


    I would love to know what you think of it, seeing that you are likely much more of a connoisseur of Shakespeare than I am…

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