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Aggressive action, Oedipal inaction and incessant procrastination: The genre conventions of Hamlet

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This article analyses and compares four screen adaptations of Shakespeare's Hamlet (1960) to Arnold Schwarzenegger's humorous portrayal in Last Action Hero by John McTiernan (1993) and discusses how aspects of the action genre permeate Hamlet adaptations. Focusing on the penultimate swordfight between Hamlet and Laertes - and the alternative methods used to adapt Shakespeare's play in each film - I relate the conventions and expectations of the action genre utilized in each film, from the casting of Mel Gibson in 1990, to Kenneth Branagh's swashbuckling portrayal. References to key films in the action genre, such as Die Hard (1988), are used to relate the common themes surrounding an 'Everyday' action figure triumphing over adversity and detailing how Hamlet differs from this by being a man of procrastination rather than decisive action.

Keywords: Franco Zeffirelli; Hamlet; Kenneth Branagh; Laurence Olivier; Michael Almereyda; Shakespeare

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: DeMontfort University

Publication date: 2012-12-01

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  • Adaptation, or the conversion of oral, historical or fictional narratives into stage drama has been common practice for centuries. In our own time the processes of cross-generic transformation continue to be extremely important in theatre as well as in the film and other media industries. Adaptation and the related areas of translation and intertextuality continue to have a central place in our culture with a profound resonance across our civilisation.
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