One of Shakespeare’s most famous plays – and for good reason. Prior to reading Hamlet, I would have happily said that Richard III was my favourite Shakespeare play, but now I’d say that Hamlet has just about edged it out. It’s full of wit, humour and a perfectly executed melodrama, which I can’t help but enjoy.
The story follows a young prince, Hamlet, who’s father, the king, suddenly dies. His mother then quickly marries his uncle, but the ghost of his father tells him that he was actually murdered by the uncle. Hamlet then puts it upon himself to expose the truth and avenge his father. A fairly standard Shakespearean plot, really.
What makes this play stand out so much, is Hamlet himself. He’s a brilliant character. At one point, he puts on a play for his uncle and mother, which is essentially about his uncle murdering his father. How incredibly passive aggressive – it’s such an absurd thing to happen, but I love it. Meanwhile, he wanders around making excessively long speeches about the turmoil of life which are really over-dramatic (including the most famous “to be or not to be?” speech) but, again, I love them. Hamlet is so spoilt and pretentious… but it makes him very entertaining to read about.
But, Hamlet himself isn’t the only attraction of this novel: I loved his shifty, untrustworthy friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and a woman he treats badly, named Ophelia. Even the ghost of his father is quite a likeable character. The rest of the cast are all great.
It’s quite a grizzly tale, on the whole, but a thoroughly enjoyable one. The absurd ways that the characters behave mean that you can never take the tragedies that befall them too seriously – yet the dramas that unfold remain deeply compelling. If you’re looking for a Shakespeare play to start with, I recommend this one and if you’ve enjoyed his other work, but not read this yet, I reckon you’ll love it!