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Hamlet (Simply Shakespeare S.)
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William Shakespeare was born in April 1564 in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, on England's Avon River. When he was eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway. The couple had three children--an older daughter Susanna and twins, Judith and Hamnet. Hamnet, Shakespeare's only son, died in childhood. The bulk of Shakespeare's working life was spent in the theater world of London, where he established himself professionally by the early 1590s. He enjoyed success not only as a playwright and poet, but also as an actor and shareholder in an acting company. Although some think that sometime between 1610 and 1613 Shakespeare retired from the theater and returned home to Stratford, where he died in 1616, others believe that he may have continued to work in London until close to his death.

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It is a tragedy that all actors seem to crave to perform, and the Renaissance Theatre Company clearly relishes the chance to present Hamlet for the ear. It is a contemporary cast from which one has come to expect superior Shakespearean acting on stage and screen: Kenneth Branagh as Hamlet; Sir John Gielgud as the Ghost; Derek Jacobi as Claudius; and Emma Thompson as the Player Queen. Unlike the Recorded Books version (Audio Reviews, LJ 8/90), this BBC edition may be a little hard to follow by those unfamiliar with the play's text, particularly since stage directions are not provided and speakers are not clearly identified. But the program does give the complete version, a rare treat, and the accompanying booklet offers insights into both the acting and the production. Highly recommended.-- Joyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo, N.Y.

Perhaps the best known of Shakespeare's tragedies, this story of destiny and revenge pits a young prince against the murderous uncle who has stolen the throne and queen. Students often struggle when reading Shakespeare, and listening can serve as a bridge, facilitating understanding. This excellent full-cast production includes musical interludes and an insert with scene-by-scene summaries, making it not only a strong listening experience, but also the perfect adjunct to literary appreciation. Fans of the long-running British science-fiction series Doctor Who, and David Tennant's portrayal of the Doctor, will be mesmerized by the 2010 BBC television production featuring Tennant as Hamlet, with Patrick Stewart as the nefarious uncle, Claudius. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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