In the Sunday Telegraph (23 November), a survey of over 300 actors, writers, directors and producers declared Hamlet to be Shakespeare’s greatest play, followed closely by A Midsummer Night’s Dream and King Lear. Hamlet also came out on top in the favorite hero category.
Personally, my favorite tragedy is Macbeth and I was saddened to see that this play ranked fourth with only 9% of the votes. I was also shocked to see Much Ado About Nothing, surely one of Shakespeare’s most enjoyable plays, only receiving 5%.
So, what is it about Hamlet that is so enduring?
Certainly, Hamlet is Shakespeare’s most psychologically complex character, balancing grief and affection so perfectly – as the critic James Agate once said, “Hamlet must make us cry one minute and shudder the next”.
Something tells me that Hamlet may be a favorite from the point of view of the actor or director, but not necessarily from the point of view of the audience – Watching Hamlet, I always find myself wanting to scream, “Just get on with it, man!” at the top of my voice.
The actors and directors have voted and now it’s your turn. Vote on your favorite Shakespeare tragedy and let your voice be heard on About.com.