Comparison of Ophelia in Mel Gibson and Brannagh's film depiction of Hamlet

Essay by hurleysweety March 2004

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When given the challenge to depict a character of one of the most studied literary works of all time, one faces a difficult task. Kate Winslet and Helena Bonham Carter are given such tasks in William Shakespeare's Hamlet. They each portray Ophelia in Brangah's Hamlet and Zeffirelli's Hamlet, respectively. The character of Ophelia, as written in Shakespeare's original work, is a kind girl who is quick to obey her father and brother. As the play goes on, she falls into madness because of her father's death and her failure to cope. Because of her madness, she ends it all by drowning herself in a river. Winslet and Carter each depict the character of Ophelia differently. Two scenes that illustrate such differences in Hamlet are shown when Ophelia is talking to her father and when she finally tumbles into insanity.

As Polonius is talking to his daughter, Ophelia, he pushes her and speaks with a horribly frightening voice in Branagh's Hamlet.

Fear is easily found in the eyes of Winslet as her father pushes her around with forceful hands. Despite her father's lecture on staying away from Hamlet, she continues throughout the conversation to have flashbacks of her and Hamlet making love. Kate plays her character faintly weaker here as she seems terrified at what her father might do next. The flashbacks hint that the single thing that can calm her is remembering her times with Hamlet.

Helena plays the character a little bit stronger than Kate. When Polonius is talking to her she seems to reject what they are saying. Nonetheless, she still listens. However, it seems like she is just agreeing to be obedient, but not at all honest. In the scene she does not seem afraid, as with Kate, but more open to her father's concerns and...