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CritiqueQuotes • At the movies

1948, 1969, 1980, 1990, 1990, 1996, 2000

Hamlet in First FolioPage from First Folio, 1623
Publication details ▽ Publication details △


First performed
1601 or 1602

First published
1603, in the First Quarto

Literary form


Writing language

Author's country

Five acts, 4,042 lines, approx. 29,000 words

Kevin Kline's Hamlet 1990 scene
Kevin Kline is a thoughtful and thought-provoking Hamlet in 1990 film of stage production.

Hamlet the Thoughtful

Hamlet (1990): Director Kevin Kline; featuring Kline, Dana Ivey, Brian Murray

The same year as Franco Zeffirelli's Hamlet film, we saw a competing and very different take on Hamlet.

The film directed by and starring Kevin Kline was actually intended as a television presentation of the play from the 1990 New York Shakespeare Festival.

It doesn't deliver what people expect of Hamlet since it places the action on a bare stage but in an imagined modern setting and with modern dress. In this version of the play, the student Hamlet returns from university for his father's funeral to find his widowed mother already remarried to his uncle.

The dialogue is still Shakespeare's—at three hours long, it's relatively faithful—but the interpretations are unusual.

Kline's Hamlet is quiet-spoken and thoughtful for much of the time, making his periodic, irrational flailing out all the more dramatic. His "To be or not to be" speech, for example, is hardly a speech at all, but is almost whispered (albeit a stage whisper), like a man speaking to himself, drawing us into the working of his tortured mind—a revelatory sequence that makes a strange sense of his subsequent cruel berating of Ophelia that drives her to oblivion.

The "Get thee to a nunnery" scene between Hamlet and Ophelia in Kevin Kline's production.

This is a thought-provoking version that people either hate or love. I'm on the love side.

— Eric


CritiqueQuotes • At the movies

1948, 1969, 1980, 1990, 1990, 1996, 2000