John Gielgud's Hamlet (Dramatized)

  • by William Shakespeare
  • Narrated by John Gielgud
  • 3 hrs and 25 mins
  • Radio/TV Program

Publisher's Summary

This outstanding historical recording made in 1941 for radio is widely regarded as one of the finest Hamlet performances ever, and one of John Gielgud's greatest moments. Though he went on to record it for commercial release, nothing matched this recording in the BBC studios, made before the days of editing.


Audible Editor Reviews

Why we think it's Essential: In considering which Shakespeare recording was most essential, we found ourselves caught between Gielgud's Hamlet and Richard Burton's MacBeth (which, ironically, was directed by Gielgud). In the end, we chose Gielgud because, as a radio production (unlike Burton's stage performance) it was meant for the ear, not the eye. As a result, Gielgud delivers what may be the best Hamlet we've ever heard. —Steve Feldberg


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful


Even though an old recording, the vocals are clear and understandable. I have listened to it at least 20 times over.
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- Michel

Gielgud's Hamlet - A Study in Perfection

I am loth to lament the passing of anything to do with Shakespeare as we have seen the astonishing durability of his work over the centuries. But I do have to wonder whether we will ever hear work of this quality again.
At least five years to grow the voice. A similar time spent on the texts, against a background where the study of grammar and the philology of English was a given in any high school. This was the expected investment of any actor playing Shakespeare on the English professional stage at the time this recording was made.
I'm not talking about the requirements to play Hamlet, or Claudius. I refer to those who play Horatio, or the grave-digger, or the 'boy' in the players.
The result was a radiant and transparent reading of the text, fully understood - line, word and pause - by every player.
And of course, their understanding of and absorption in the text means we are hearing people who appear to be simply voicing their own thoughts, their own feelings.
The result is that all obscurity is dispelled. The way the human brain works, we now know, is by a kind of paint-by-dots. You don't have to see every detail to see the whole picture, nor do you have to hear and understand every word to understand what is being said.
It adds up to an almost magic accessibility of language which, when we read it on the page, seems difficult, odd, at times meaningless in the 21st Century.
Don't care much for Shakespeare? Too much like hard work?
Don't say that until you have heard this glorious performance. If you don't 'get' this, then you really don't get it and might as well give the Bard a miss.
Poor you.
I am sure you are very much fewer than is commonly believed. I am sure that for most people their difficulty with the plays of Shakespeare is that they have seen it acted by players who were clutching at the meaning with tips of their fingers, instead of breathing it in and out as their native air itself.
The best!
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- Chris

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-27-2006
  • Publisher: Naxos AudioBooks