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.
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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Gielgud's Hamlet - A Study in Perfection