Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead Remaking Hamlet

Shakespeare's Hamlet has had many different lives, particularly over the past century. Probably the most renowned version is Laurence Olivier's 1948 film, which won four Academy Awards; staying loyal to the original work, the film uses traditional Elizabethan costumes and settings. However, many more versions of the play have surfaced over the past century that have experimented with costume, setting, language, and even gender. In 1920, directors Sven Gade and Heinz Schall envisioned Hamlet as character who is born female but raised as a male. Through her portrayal of Hamlet, actress Sarah Bernhardt encouraged her audience to examine the fluidity of gender. In Angel of Revenge/ Female Hamlet (1976), actress Fatma Girik emerges as another female Hamlet who lives in a Turkish village. As time marches on, historical events find their way into the revisions of Hamlet as well. In 1960, Japanese director Akira Kurosawa placed the play in post-war Japan and entitled it The Bad Sleep Well. Also, contemporary culture and attitudes have often found their way into the characters. In Peter Hall's 1965 production of Hamlet, thespian David Warner appeared as an un-princely Hamlet: flippant, impudent, slovenly in appearance, and willing to take advantage of his position of power. In 2000, Michael Almereyda set Hamlet in contemporary Manhattan, where the main characters worked for the Denmark Corporation. There have also been revisionists who have transformed this revenge tragedy into a comedy. Paul Rudnick's I Hate Hamlet(1991) is a play about a young actor who plays the role of Hamlet and is haunted by the ghost of the Shakespearean actor Barrymore throughout the production. Richard Nathan's A Night in Elsinore (2000) inserts comedic dialogue into the play. Like Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Shakespeare's Hamlet has provided a creative catalyst that has fueled many works and spoken to audiences across the decades.