See the play

An essential resource when studying any drama is a means of seeing it in performance. If no live performance is available, or if you are required to compare and contrast productions — always a very good idea — then DVDs or videos are an excellent resource. There are many film productions available, and some of these are mentioned in Approaching exams and essays: Engaging with the text.

Listen to the play

Audio CD or taped productions are also very useful, particularly to allow the listener to concentrate on the flow of the verse. Readily available as audio CDs are the Old Vic Production with Derek Jacobi, produced in 1997, and the BBC Radio 3 production from 1999.

Web research

  • Typing in ‘Shakespeare Hamlet' to Google produces more than 8,000,000 responses! Some are editions of the text, some study guides, some essays
  • Typing in ‘Hamlet criticism' will give you access to more focused critical material; for example, in the Further Reading section you can find a link to surveys of criticism of Hamlet from stjohns-chs.org (english/shakespeare/hamlet/crit) and shakespeare.palomar.edu (playcriticism, Hamlet)
  • Be particularly careful to avoid ‘lifting' any material — copying even a small amount is plagiarism and its inclusion in coursework essays will be looked upon scathingly and severely penalised by examination boards.

Further reading

  • When you read literary criticism you should have a thorough knowledge of the text first, against which you weigh can your response to others' critical views
  • Below is a selection of possible critical reading on Hamlet. (The date given is usually the date of first publication, though many of these texts have gone into later editions, which in some cases have then had different publishers.)

Useful historical context

  • 1599: a year in the life of William Shakespeare — by James Shapiro. Published 2005, Faber[Not a work of criticism, but an interesting view of a crucial year in Shakespeare's life, when he probably began Hamlet.]
  • Shakespeare, the Biography by Peter Ackroyd. Chatto and Windus, 2005
  • In Search of Shakespeare by Michael Wood. BBC Books, 2003
  • Shakespeare the Man by A.L. Rowse. Macmillan, 1973[As their titles suggest, these give general background, dealing with Shakespeare's life]
  • Still Harping on Daughters: Women and Drama in the Age of Shakespeare by Lisa Jardine. Brighton: Harvester, 1983

Critical views on Hamlet

(in reverse order of publication from present day):

Shakespeare — Hamlet by Huw Griffiths, in series Readers' Guide to Essential Criticism. Palgrave Macmillan, 2005

Shakespeare and Renaissance Politics [see section on Hamlet] by Andrew Hadfield. Arden Shakespeare, 2004

Hamlet in Purgatory by Stephen Greenblatt. Princeton University Press, 2002

Shakespeare [see section on Hamlet] by Kiernan Ryan. Palgrave Macmillan, 2001

Revenge Tragedy by John Kerrigan. Clarendon, 1997

Appropriating Shakespeare: Contemporary Critical Quarrels, by Brian Vickers. Yale University Press, 1993

Representing Ophelia: Women, Madness, and the Responsibilities of Feminist Criticism by Elaine Showalter, in Shakespeare and the Question of Theory ed. Parker and Hartman. Routledge, 1993

Hamlet: Contemporary Critical Essays edited Martin Coyle. New Casebooks series. Macmillan, 1992

Hamlet: An Introduction to the Variety of Criticism by Michael Hattaway. Humanities Press International, 1987

Aspects of ‘Hamlet', ed. Kenneth Muir and Stanley Wells. Cambridge University Press, 1979

Hamlet and the Word by Harold Fisch. Frederick Ungar, 1971.

Poison, Play and Duel: A Study in ‘Hamlet' by Nigel Alexander. Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1971

Shakespeare: Hamlet. (A Selection of Critical Essays) edited John Jump. Casebook Series, Macmillan, 1968

Hamlet and Revenge by Eleanor Prosser. Stanford University Press, 1967

Hamlet and the Philosophy of Literary Criticism, by Morris Weitz. World Publications, 1966

An Approach to ‘Hamlet' by L. C. Knights. Chatto and Windus, 1964

Hamlet and Oedipus by Ernest Jones. Doubleday, 1949

What Happens in ‘Hamlet' by J. Dover Wilson. Cambridge University Press, 1935

Hamlet in Selected Essays by T.S. Eliot. Harcourt Brace and Co, 1932

The Wheel of Fire by G. Wilson Knight. Methuen, 1930

Shakespearean Tragedy by A.C. Bradley. Macmillan, 1904

Pre-twentieth century critics of Shakespeare

See also reproduction of earlier criticism in Macmillan Casebook ed. Jump, (above)

Nineteenth century: Samuel Taylor Coleridge — reproduced in Coleridge on Shakespeare, ed. Terence Hawkes. Capricorn Books, N.Y., 1959

Nineteenth century: William Hazlitt — The Characters of Shakespeare's Plays. Originally 1817, but reproduced Dent, 1960

Eighteenth century: Samuel Johnson — reproduced in Dr. Johnson on Shakespeare ed. W.K. Wimsatt. Penguin, 1969.

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