Perhaps the single most influential work of English drama, William Shakespeare's Hamlet is a timeless tragedy of the conflicted loyalties, madness, betrayal and terrible revenge. This Penguin Shakespeare edition is edited by T.J.B. Spencer with an introduction by Alan Sinfield.
'To be or not to be - that is the question'
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. When young prince Hamlet is confronted by his father's ghost on the battlements of Castle Elsinore, he is burdened with a terrible task: slay King Claudius, Hamlet's uncle, who the ghost alleges murdered him. Wrestling with his conscience, Hamlet feigns wild madness while plotting a brutal revenge, alienating his mother Queen Gertrude and spurning his lover Ophelia. But the act of insanity takes Hamlet perilously close to the reality, wreaking havoc on guilty and innocent alike.
This book contains a general introduction to Shakespeare's life and Elizabethan theatre, a separate introduction to Hamlet, a chronology, suggestions for further reading, an essay by Paul Prescott discussing performance options on both stage and screen, and a commentary.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was born to John Shakespeare and Mary Arden some time in late April 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon. He wrote about 38 plays (the precise number is uncertain), many of which are regarded as the most exceptional works of drama ever produced, including Romeo and Juliet (1595), Henry V (1599), Hamlet (1601), Othello (1604), King Lear (1606) and Macbeth (1606), as well as a collection of 154 sonnets, which number among the most profound and influential love-poetry in English.
If you enjoyed Hamlet, you might like Shakespeare's Macbeth, also available in Penguin Shakespeare.
'It has everything - intrigue, romance, politics, violence, revenge, jealousy, wit. It plays itself out on such a grand scale'
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Undoubtedly the most famous of all of Shakespeare's plays, Hamlet remains one of the most enduring but also enigmatic pieces of western literature. The story of Hamlet, the young Prince of Denmark, his tortured relationship with his mother, and his quest to avenge his father's murder at the hand of his brother Claudius has fascinated writers and audiences ever since it was written around 1600.
For many years interest focused on both Hamlet's inability to avenge his father's death, claiming that "the native hue of resolution / Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought", and, according to none other than Freud, his oedipal fixation with his mother. However, more recently critics have turned their attention to Hamlet's bold theatrical self-reflexivity (most famously reflected in the performance of "The Mousetrap"), its fascination with issues of theology and Renaissance humanism, and its dense, complex poetic language. What is so remarkable about the play is the way in which it tends to uncannily reflect the concerns of different epochs. As a result, Hamlet has been at different moments defined as a romantic rebel, an angst-ridden existentialist, a paralysed intellectual and an ambivalent New Man. Whatever subsequent generations make of Hamlet, they are unlikely to exhaust the possibilities of this most extraordinary play. --Jerry BrottonReview:
Praise for "William Shakespeare: Complete Works: ""A feast of literary and historical information." "-The Wall Street Journal"
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