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Last Updated: Monday, 11 August, 2003, 12:36 GMT 13:36 UK
Potter 'better known than Hamlet'
Harry Potter
Harry Potter's fame is global
More readers can detail the plot of the first Harry Potter book than the Shakespearean tragedy Hamlet, a poll has suggested.

More than 66% were able to recall the plot of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, but only 28% were able to describe the Shakespeare play, or recall the crucial detail that Hamlet was plotting to kill his uncle.

And 51% of the readers polled by internet bookseller Amazon.co.uk did not know that Mr Darcy came from the Jane Austen classic Pride and Prejudice.

More than a quarter - 28% - did not know who he was, or thought author Helen Fielding had invented the character, Mark Darcy, for her book Bridget Jones's Diary.

The poll also found that classic texts were falling out of favour amongst British readers, with more than two-thirds (69%) saying they would rather to be up-to- date with modern books than the classics.

Colin Firth as Mr Darcy
Colin Firth as Mr Darcy: Bridget Jones's Diary, or Pride and Prejudice?
"Our knowledge of culture is - such as the type of car we drive or the way we dress- a social marker," said psychologist Dr Aric Sigman.

"The books, CDs and DVDs on our shelves as well as our ability to comment on them reflect how our knowledge of culture is a social currency."

Nearly half of the people who responded to the poll also said one of the biggest barriers to cultural education was knowing where to start.

"We should try sampling new genres and styles. Instead of feeling guilty and embarrassed about what we don't know we should focus more on what we do know and enjoy," Dr Sigman said.

Despite the lack of appreciation of the classics, more than a third of respondents said they would feel more ashamed about not knowing Shakespeare's plays than they would not knowing who was number one in the music charts.

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