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Franco Zeffirelli uses characters’ strong emotions and flaws to highlight their strengths and weaknesses. As heroes of dramatic works, Hamlet and Walter play their very important roles. They are portrayed in similar or different ways, which the playwright uses to depict action through the play. For example, the hesitant nature of both characters makes them fail in their responsibilities. Walter cannot provide for his family's needs, and Hamlet fails to avenge his father’s death. This paper aims to make a comparison between the two actors as portrayed by Franco Zeffirelli.
Walter Younger is presented as being malicious to his wife, Ruth; he is not on good terms with his long-suffering mother, Lena, he provokes his sister to a fight (Walter Younger, n.d). His emotions are quite clear and his circumstances are not unique or questionable. Nevertheless, Hamlet is a weak Renaissance prince, an image that flatters romantic souls and thus seemed to be innocent, likable, and less self-accusatory. Many critics consider him a character with a mind capable of naturally creating orderliness. Hamlet is a gentleman, healthy youth, fiery and robust although melancholic. He frequently finds himself in questionable situations such as the failed attempt to avenge his father’s death and the sudden death of his lover Ophelia (Hortmann & Hamburger, 1998)
On the other hand, Walter does hail from neither a royal nor a financially able family and hence he has low social status in society. The evidence of his lack of life satisfaction is his work as a chauffeur for a white man. He feels himself a defective man since he cannot even provide for the needs of his family in his thirties. After a series of attacks of despair, Walter goes on a drinking binge. The only thing that encourages him is a life insurance check, which he wants to invest in a liquor store with his friend (Walter Younger, n.d). Unlike Walter, he substitutes his weak spots with a creative power instead of despairing and becoming disillusioned to the point of getting into drinking liquor. Hamlet has no responsibility to provide for his family or any other dependants, at least that is not captured in the play. At the same time, he is a happy and humorous prince who is to ascend to the throne.
The death of Walter’s father is not a result of murder and hence does not require Walter to avenge his death. Instead, death seems to bring with it a fortune for Walter as he can now access money to invest and make his life better. Hamlet wants to head a rebellion to demand his father’s freedom from Claudius’ hand and is depicted as irate and vengeful. Probably because of his weak character Hamlet does not finally avenge his father’s murder (Hortmann & Hamburger, 1998)
Both Walter and Hamlet have a combination of a young man’s power of rage and fire accompanied with a force of suffering, which is however of different definition and level. They both want to change their lives by being influenced by their relationship with their parents. Walter tries to do it by investing in the liquor store while Hamlet wants to avenge his father’s death. They both fail to fulfill their responsibilities concerning their parents. Walter does not invest in his daughter’s medical school studies, as his mother required him (Walter Younger, n.d) and Hamlet fails to avenge for his father’s death. Also, their most valuable interests are taken away from them. Willy steals the money, which Walter is to invest in the liquor store, and Hamlet loses his lover Ophelia that leaves him broken-hearted. Walter is forced by his mother to talk to the white man in front of his young son, Travis (Walter Younger, n.d). Hamlet is also portrayed as being more of an instrument.
The images of Hamlet and Walter are similar in some ways and different at the same time. They can be compared relying on their families’ backgrounds, economic capabilities, and the nature of tasks and responsibilities at hand. For instance, nobody regards Walter as a gentleman but more as a burden in his family while Hamlet is liked by many because of his humor. However, both are portrayed weak and unable to act alone but relying on the other people to act on their behalf.