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6 - The Environments of Tragedy on Screen: Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth

from Part II - Genres and Plays

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 December 2020

Russell Jackson
Affiliation:
University of Birmingham
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Summary

This chapter considers the ways in which filmmakers have established the ‘tragic universe’ in screen adaptations of Hamlet, King Lear and Macbeth, through attention to the environment. Filmmakers repeatedly foreground the interplay between human body, physical surroundings and filmic space in ways that foreground the tragic environment as subjectively experienced and produced, and in turn see that environment producing and influencing its human subjects. The chapter moves between three kinds of tragic environment. The open spaces of films by Akira Kurosawa, Roman Polanski, Justin Kurzel, and Grigori Kozintsev frame human conflict within the natural world, a world that often suffers ecological catastrophe alongside its inhabitants, but which also endures. Another strand of films, including work by Michael Almereyda, Penny Woolcock, Don Boyd and Vishal Bhardwaj, establishes urban environments that privilege an interpretive focus on community, claustrophobia, consumption, and class. Finally, other filmmakers from Laurence Olivier to Kit Monkman, as well as directors of stage-to-screen adaptations, utilise cinematic technique to foreground inner psychological space, with environments constructed subjectively around their protagonists.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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