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The Lady Vanishes: Aurality and Agency in Cinematic Ophelias

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Part of the Reproducing Shakespeare: New Studies in Adaptation and Appropriation book series (RESH)

Abstract

With the exception of Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet, billed (disingenuously) as the first-ever “full-length” version of the play on film, major English-language cinema productions of Hamletz have reduced the screen time, dialogue, and singing allotted to Ophelia by nearly half since Laurence Olivier’s film of 1948. In purely statistical terms, Olivier’s Ophelia is accorded 803 words, Franco Zeffirelli’s allowed only 456, and Michael Almereyda’s a scant 447. In contrast, Branagh’s Ophelia has 1233 words, standing as the only popular-cinema Ophelia to retain her sole soliloquy in Act 3. Increasingly, we see Ophelia being treated by directors as an object only marginally necessary for the plot. In Almereyda’s Hamlet of 2000, her inclusion is both minimal in terms of spoken dialogue for the actor and for the impact her actions have on the rest of the characters; in this production, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are afforded more presence and weight than Ophelia. It is not unlikely that a future Hamlet may well dispense with the speaking parts of her character #x2014;or with Ophelia altogether.

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Notes

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© 2012 Kaara L. Peterson and Deanne Williams

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Leonard, K.P. (2012). The Lady Vanishes: Aurality and Agency in Cinematic Ophelias. In: Peterson, K.L., Williams, D. (eds) The Afterlife of Ophelia. Reproducing Shakespeare: New Studies in Adaptation and Appropriation. Palgrave Macmillan, New York. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137016461_7

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