… and Robin Williams as Osric. Wait. Who is Osric?

Robin Williams as Osric in Branagh's epic production of Hamelt (1996)
Robin Williams as Osric in Branagh’s epic production of Hamlet (1996)

Eric Jean and Daniel J. Rowe

Near the end of Kenneth Branagh’s epic version of himself Hamlet, a character named Osric trots on camera played by the veritable comedian Robin Williams.

Never heard of the character? Neither have most, but there is no doubt you’ve heard of the actor.

It’s always sad when the screen and/or stage loses a thespian and the Bard Brawl is especially sad when one of those has taken on Shakespeare. Williams was only in the one screen version, but when you think about it, he would have been great in so many roles.

He would have been a great brawler.

I immediately thought first of the Dromios from Comedy of Errors as an ideal dual role for obvious reasons, and of course any Fool or Clown would do. But wait a second. Wouldn’t he make a rad mad king? Or a depressed prince? Or a female character?

One of Williams’ greatest (if not thee greatest) performances is in the Fischer King. It’s probably his closest role to a classic Shakespearean character. Parry is bombastic, energetic, mad and fragile.

The more you think about Williams’ body of work, the more of the Bard’s roles you can start to slide him into. He has that presence that theatre and movie lovers are always eager to search out. Energy like that is indeed a rarity.

Can you picture him as Timon of Athens setting the table for his so-called friends? Or frantically running around Venice and Cyprus as Iago trying to keep his schemes on track? Imagine him speaking the words from Clarence’s speech from Richard III:

O, I have passed a miserable night,
So full of fearful dreams, of ugly sights,
That, as I am a Christian faithful man,
I would not spend another such night
Though ’twere to buy a world of happy days–
So full of dismal terror was the time.

It’s really so sad that he’s gone. Such a talent.

The scene in Hamlet is simple and short, and is actually one of the many scenes that often gets cut from productions (Hamlet is a very long play).

I couldn’t track down the full scene, but did find this one of him refereeing the fencing match. It’s pretty good.

Clever, funny, and, in the end, a very sad person.
Rest in Peace Mr. Williams. You will be missed.


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