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Hamlet Who?

David Tennant as Hamlet

David Tennent has become the latest actor to tread the boards as the Prince of Denmark in Shakespeare’s tragedy, but will he be able to follow in the illustrious footsteps of past Hamlets?

Sir John Gielgud poses with Judith Anderson in 1936

Many of the greatest actors of modern theatre have taken on the role of the tortured Danish prince, with Sir John Gielgud setting a high benchmark with his 1936 adaptation.

Laurence Olivier as Hamlet (1948)

Theatre critics pull no punches in their Hamlet reviews. Times critic James Agate famously wrote of Laurence Olivier’s 1938 performance that he "does not speak poetry badly. He does not speak it at all.”

Derek Jacobi in a BBC adaptation of Hamlet

Hamlet has been performed in locations from the New York Bronx to Blenheim palace. Derek Jacobi played Hamlet in a BBC adaptation set in the Danish castle where Shakespeare originally set the play.

Kenneth Branagh in Hamlet (1996)

Debate rages over the way the play should be edited. Kenneth Branagh took the purist’s approach with his 1996 film which ran to more than four hours long.

Sarah Bernhardt

There have also been a number of female Hamlets. The play's first big screen outing in 1900 featured a six minute sword fight in which Sarah Bernhardt played the title role.

Alec Guinness in Hamlet (1951)

The role is regarded as the greatest test of a young actor’s career, with long, complicated soliloquies, haunting psychological intensity and a high standard of brooding required.

Michael Caine as Horatio and Christopher Plummer as Hamlet

But with no definitive interpretation of the role, it also gives an actor the chance to put his or her mark on one of the most prestigious characters in the history of the theatre.




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