I listened to Shakespeare’s Hamlet performed by Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I’ll grant you, it’s not the same as seeing the actual play, but it’s closer than just reading it would be, though I do wish I had had a print copy to refer to at times.

Most of us know the basic plot line. Hamlet’s father, the King of Denmark is dead. His uncle, Claudius, has taken the thrown, and the queen, and to top it off, the ghost of Hamlet’s father claims that Claudius killed him. Hamlet swears to the ghost to avenge his death and suggests that he will act crazy to divert suspicion. We’ve also got Ophelia, who he was courting but now has more or less turned his back on. She may or may not be pregnant.

So, Hamlet’s going crazy or at least pretending to, and also wanting to make sure that Claudius is guilty before killing him. He ends up accidentally killing Ophelia’s dad and she goes crazy too, eventually drowning herself.

Fast forward through some scheming, a play, a boat ride, and an amusing graveyard scene to the end. Claudius has concocted a scheme to have Hamlet killed by Ophelia’s brother. But, this being a tragedy, it backfires and we’re left with a bunch of dead people, including Hamlet, Ophelia’s brother, Claudius, and the queen. Only Horatio, Hamlet’s one true friend is left to tell the story to Prince Fortinbras of Norway when he arrives.

I won’t argue that this is a great play, we all know that. I’m not going to on about the themes or psychological context. Others have done that so much better than I could.

Like I said, I listened to this one, which was a good choice. It forced me to slow down, not to skim over anything. I got some of the jokes that I may not have noticed otherwise. I really enjoyed that the characters sang the songs. It added more to it than a straight reading through of it would have. And I won’t criticize the hip-hoppiness of the play within the play in this version. It worked for me, and I like the somewhat funky music between the scenes.

I didn’t catch all the details that I would have had I read it, but I liked hearing the attitudes, the expression of the actors. I think listening to it gave me a fuller appreciation that reading it would have. Of course, the ideal would be to see a quality production of the play, but I don’t anticipate that happening anytime soon.

2 hours, 49 minutes
First published 1604

4 out of 5 stars

I borrowed my copy from the library and the above is my honest opinion.


  • Funky musical interludes? I guess that I’d have to hear it to see if I liked it. I think I’d have a difficult time just listening to something like this at home. Maybe it would be okay driving on a long trip, but at home I’d rather watch it on video or something. Hamlet is definitely a great work of literature.

    Tossing It Out

  • stacybuckeye

    You know, I’ve read a lot of Shakespeare and watched quite a bit onstage and film, but I have never listened to Shakespeare. I never would have thought of it. Thanks, Carol!

  • I’ve found that as much as I like Shakespeare, just reading the text doesn’t do it justice. I prefer to listen or watch Shakespeare performed. I haven’t had the opportunity of seeing Hamlet yet, but I’ve been through the text using Shmoop and that definitely brought me much closer to the play than I had been in my previous attempts at reading it. I understood so many of the nuances, wordplay, underlying meanings, etc. that had evaded me before.

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