Version: Unabridged (Abridged version available here)
Author: William Shakespeare
Narrator: A Full Cast
Genres: Fiction & Literature, Literature, Drama, Shakespeare, Classics
Publisher: Naxos Audiobooks
Published In: June 1997
# of Units: 4 CDs
Length: 3 hours, 20 minutes
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NOT AVAILABLE IN USA (Publisher no longer making book)

Among Shakespeare's plays, Hamlet is considered by many his masterpiece. Among actors, the role of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, is considered the jewel in the crown of a triumphant theatrical career. Now Kenneth Branagh plays the leading role and co-directs a brillant ensemble performance. Three generations of legendary leading actors, many of whom first assembled for the Oscar-winning film Henry V, gather here to perform the rarely heard complete version of the play. This clear, subtly nuanced, stunning dramatization, presented by The Renaissance Theatre Company in association with BBC Broadcasting, features such luminaries as Sir John Gielgud, Derek Jacobi, Emma Thompson and Christopher Ravenscroft. It combines a full cast with stirring music and sound effects to bring this magnificent Shakespearen classic vividly to life. Revealing new riches with each listening, this production of Hamlet is an invaluable aid for students, teachers and all true lovers of Shakespeare -- a recording to be treasured for decades to come.

Reviews (7)

Better to READ than listen to!!

Written by Alan T on June 14th, 2014

  • Book Rating: 1/5

OK, I'm not a big fan of Shakespeare, but I could use a little culture. Unfortunately, I believe this (and maybe ALL Shakespeare) needs to be READ or SEEN performed to appreciate. The audio book version is probably fine if you know the material, but I could hardly distinguish the many characters by their voices alone. This made following the story line even more difficult.


Written by rskibum from Bridgewater, MA on August 20th, 2009

  • Book Rating: 3/5

Great performances by the actors!! However; I could not hear the ghost since the audio dropped to such a low level I could not hear it while driving even though I turned the volume all the way to 11. (LOL) I sent it back early and didn't finish it since I could not hear the vocals.


Written by Anonymous from Dallas, TX on November 10th, 2006

  • Book Rating: 3/5

This was great listening. I've always loved Shakespeare and I really enjoyed this CD.


Written by WLH from Miami, FL on September 6th, 2006

  • Book Rating: 4/5

Just re-living high school English, and actually appreciated it this time around.

Inappropriate sounding

Written by Nolita on November 9th, 2005

  • Book Rating: 2/5

I turned the volume to the highest, and many parts of it were still very soft whispering. I couldn't hear it well when I was running on the treadmill or driving. It was frustrating. The performance is great, but you have to sit in a quiet room to enjoy it. Only the speaking lines are read, so more then too often it's confusing as to which character is speaking.


Written by Linda Osborne on October 29th, 2004

  • Book Rating: 4/5

Excellent performance of a wonderful play! It was just like being in the theatre (without vision) except for the sound problems. Some voices were difficult to hear, and when I turned up the volume, others roared. I had to change the volume very often as I listened, but the play was worth it.

Text Needed

Written by Daniel Burbol on August 12th, 2004

  • Book Rating: 3/5

I only listened to the first act because it's all voice actors doing a reading. However no one reads the description of the scene or the various stage directions like character entrances or exits. So you get a bunch of people going a pretty good job with voice acting, but having a hard time visualising it do to lack of information. I could not listen to this in the car for this reason and the fact that the voice acting will Actually whisper at times so I'm constently adjusting the volume while driving. Plus, I have no idea what the ghost of the King of Denmark said because the voice actor was so shrill sounding I couldn't make out ANY words at all. This would be a great thing to listen to if you have the text infront of you. I'm sure it would bring the words to life as you read along. But as Audio Only, you'd better know the book by heart. I didn't finish "reading" it.

Author Details

Author Details

Shakespeare, William

"William Shakespeare was born in 1564 in a half-timbered house in Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon. His father was John Shakespeare, a glove maker and wool dealer, and his mother was Mary Arden, daughter of a farmer from Wilmcote.

Young William attended Stratford Grammar School from the age of 7 until he was 14. The grammar school was held on the upper floor of the old Guildhall, and here the classes were held in Latin, concentrating on grammar and the ancient classics of Greece and Rome.

Shakespeare was withdrawn from school due to his familiy's financial difficulties, and never completed his education, which makes his subsequent accomplishments all the more remarkable.

At the age of 18 Shakespeare married, to Anne Hathaway, daughter of a yeoman farmer from Shottery, close to Stratford. The marriage may have been forced, as Anne was already 3 months pregnant with a daughter, Susanna. This first child was followed by twins Hamnet and Judith in 1585.

The next 7 years of Shakespeare's life are a mystery, though he is rumoured to have worked as a school teacher. Sometime before 1592 Shakespeare fled his home and family to follow the life of an actor in London.

London's theatres were closed in January 1593 due to an outbreak of the plague, and many players left the capital to tour the provinces. Shakespeare preferred to stay in London, and it was during this time of plague that he began to gain recognition as a writer, notably of long poems, such as Venus and Adonius, and Rape of Lucrece.

He was fortunate to find a patron, Henry Wriothsley, Earl of Southampton, to support him in his writing. Venus and Adonius was wildly successful, and it was this work that first brought the young writer widespread recognition.

Apart from his longer poetry, Shakespeare also began writing his sonnets during this period, perhaps at the behest of Southampton's mother, who hoped to induce her son to marry.

When the theatres reopened in late 1594, Shakespeare was no longer a simple actor, but a playwright as well, writing and performing for the theatre company called ""Lord Chamberlain's Men"", which later became ""The King's Men"".

Shakespeare became an investor in the company, perhaps with money granted him by his patron, Southampton. It was this financial stake in his theatre company that made Shakespeare's fortune. For the next 17 years he produced an average of 2 plays a year for The King's Men.

The early plays were held at The Theatre, to the north of the city. In 1597 the company's lease on The Theatre expired, and negotiations with the landlord proved fruitless. Taking advantage of a clause in the lease that allowed them to dismantle the building, the company took apart the place board by board and transported the material across the Thames to Bankside.

There they constructed a new circular theatre, the grandest yet seen, called The Globe. The Globe remained London's premier theatre until it burned down in 1613 during a performance of Shakespeare's Henry VIII.

Shakespeare held a share in the profits from the Globe, which netted him a princely yearly income of œ200-œ250. His financial success enabled Shakespeare to purchase New Place, the second largest house in Stratford. It was here that he retired around 1611.

When he died in 1616, William Shakespeare divided up his considerable property amongst his daughters (his son Hamnet had died in childhood), but left only his second best bed to his wife, Anne. Shakespeare was buried in the chancel of Holy Trinity church."