In any play or other piece of literature meant to be performed, the text leaves loopholes, gaps in meaning that are ultimately meant to be filled by the directors and actors that bring the work to life. The end result of this of course is a myriad of interpretations on the work that end up conflicting or merely differing from one another. The better or more famous the original work, the more interpretations and versions of it there will be. These versions can range widely in quality, intention and in the end, meaning. At the very end, in that last communication between the artists bringing the work to life and the audience, there may still be some interpretation. So the number of analyses on the ultimate root work will have no limit. This type of action can be seen in movies, plays, short stories and music. The greatest shining example of this however, would have to be William Shakespeare's greatest tragedy, Hamlet. Interpreted by four directors, (in chronological order), Laurence Olivier, Franco Zeffirelli, Kenneth Branaugh, and Michael Almereyda, the play takes on four very different tones, personalities and qualities. They differ in the treatment of certain themes and ambiguities, such as Hamlet's supposed madness, the culpability of the queen and Hamlet's relationship to Ophelia as well as specific characterizations, settings and slight abridgements of the original text.
The differences between the film versions and the original start right at the opening scenes. It is here that the true setting is established. This is something that Shakespeare leaves fairly ambiguous. The exact time period in which Hamlet takes place is unclear. There are few clues. One is the use of "Brazen Cannon"(170) indicating that the use of cannons was fairly commonplace. It must also have taken place at a time where both Denmark and Norway would have existed. Other than that, it has been left fairly open.