The ABCs of Performing Hamlet

Shakespeare Unlimited: Episode 111

Imagine getting the chance to interview Jude Law, Maxine Peake, Adrian Lester, David Tennant, Simon Russell Beale, and Nicholas Hytner about Shakespeare’s Hamlet. What would you ask? Would you want to hear about backstage hijinks? About Hamlet’s motivations? About what they would change about their performances?  

Biographer and theater historian Jonathan Croall interviewed those Shakespeareans and more for his new book, Performing Hamlet: Actors in the Modern Age. In it, Croall looks at 43 of the highest-profile Hamlet productions in England over the last 50 years, exploring how Laurence Olivier, Alec Guinness, Michael Redgrave, Jonathan Slinger, Richard Burton, and many others have portrayed one of Shakespeare’s most memorable and mercurial characters. Croall came into the studio recently to tell us what he’s learned. He is interviewed by Barbara Bogaev.

From the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast series. Published December 11, 2018. © Folger Shakespeare Library. All rights reserved. This podcast episode, “What A Piece Of Work,” was produced by Richard Paul. Garland Scott is the associate producer. It was edited by Gail Kern Paster and Esther Ferington. Ben Lauer is the web producer. We had technical help from Andrew Feliciano and Paul Luke at VoiceTrax West in Studio City, California and Gareth Wood at The Sound Company in London.

Photo credits: David Tennant, Hamlet, Royal Shakespeare Company, 2008. Photo: Ellie Kurttz (c) RSC. Stacy Keach, Hamlet, Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum, 1974. Adrian Lester, Hamlet, The Young Vic, 2001. Photo: Jean-Pierre Muller/EPA. Kevin Kline and Dana Ivey, Hamlet, New York Shakespeare Festival, 1990, Photo: Martha Swope. Kenneth Branagh and Kate Winslet, Hamlet, 1996, Photofest. Derek Jacobi, Hamlet, Photofest. Graham Michael Hamilton, Hamlet, Folger Theatre, 2010, Photo: Carol Pratt.

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Transcript

MICHAEL WITMORE: If I said, “This above all: to thine own self be true…” If I said, “Conscience doth make cowards of us all…” Or if Richard Burton said:

[CLIP: Richard Burton]

O, that this too, too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew…

WITMORE: If Kenneth Branagh said:

[CLIP: Kenneth Branagh]

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio—a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.

WITMORE: If we all said all that… Could you guess which play we’re going to talk about for the next half-hour?

From the Folger Shakespeare Library, this is Shakespeare Unlimited. I'm Michael Witmore, the Folger’s director. Of course, we’re quoting from Hamlet—Shakespeare’s eminently quotable tragedy about a college student with mommy issues, dead daddy issues, maybe-girlfriend issues, a love of dead clowns, a hatred of actors who’d “tear a passion to tatters,” and some of the greatest writing in the English language.

Noted biographer and theatre historian, Jonathan Croall has written a new book titled Performing Hamlet: Actors in the Modern Age, which looks at 43 of the highest-profile Hamlet productions in England over the last 50 years, exploring how Laurence Olivier, Alec Guinness, Michael Redgrave, Jonathan Slinger, Adrian Lester, and many, many others have portrayed one of Shakespeare’s most memorable characters. Mr. Croall came into the studio recently to tell us what he’s learned.

We call this episode: “What A Piece Of Work.” Jonathan Croall is interviewed by Barbara Bogaev.

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BOGAEV: Jonathan, why don't we start the way many of the directors in your book seem to begin rehearsals for Hamlet, which is with some background history. Who was this figure of Hamlet that Shakespeare drew his inspiration from?

CROALL: Well the figure of Hamlet goes back a long way. It's been in folklore in Scandinavia for many centuries, and, more recently, there was a book by somebody called Belleforest which had the story of Hamlet, not quite in the same form that Shakespeare had it. It goes back an awful long way.

BOGAEV: And the name signifies, is synonymous with, "wild man" or "imbecile" in that folklore.

CROALL: Absolutely, yes.

BOGAEV: And I didn't know this until I read your book that there is some claim that Hamlet, Shakespeare's Hamlet, was initially written for a tour of the English universities. There's some record of payments for the first performance that indicated it, the performance, could have been at Oxford. Does this suggest that Hamlet was a play meant for young people of university age?

CROALL: Well it does imply that, certainly. And, of course, it would be an extremely apt play for that particular audience. I mean, the records are very patchy, but it does suggest that the first performance could have been at Oxford.

BOGAEV: Let's talk about this issue of age and Hamlet. It really is something every director considers in the casting, if I can gather that from your book. Richard Burbage was the first Hamlet, and he played it when he was 35 years old. Looking over all of these productions what do you think? Does it matter what age the actor is?

CROALL: Well I think it matters a little bit more than it did in Burbage's age. He actually went on playing it until he was 70, and David Garrick, later, played it until he was 69. But, these days, among the productions I've covered, 40 isn't uncommon. I mean, Simon Russell Beale was about to have his 40th birthday. Alan Rickman was 46, Michael Maloney was 47. Mark Rylance played it twice: he was 28 when he first played it, but then he came back to the Globe, where he was artistic director, 12 years later, and played it at the age of 40. I think the age is much less important than you might think it would be. I mean, Hamlet is supposed to be a young man, but by the end of the play it is reckoned that he's probably about 30. So he, obviously, having been a student at Wittenberg, may have spent several years there. But it is open to all ages of actors, which is partly why so many people are able to play it.

BOGAEV: What I was thinking about, when you were talking about all these different ages of Hamlet, was that when you were writing about the 1951 production with Alec Guinness, you quote a critic who said, "This young actor is obviously not trying any of the things in Hamlet which are the ABC of the part.” What do you think are the ABCs of the part? Because, clearly, age is not really part of it.

CROALL: Well, I think it's more accurate to say, "A to zed," because Hamlet has so many qualities. He's multi-faceted. I mean, at different times in the play he's witty, he's cynical, he's cruel, he's sweet, he's harsh, he's very theatrical, he's full of energy, he's melancholic. As somebody once said, there are as many Hamlets as the number of actors who play him. I mean, he is probably the most complex character in classical drama, and he's certainly one of the rare ones who looks into his own psyche. So, it's a psychological journey through his inner self, and many of the actors that I spoke to said that it was a question of mining yourself in order to get to Hamlet. I mean, Simon Russell Beale summed it up very well when he said, "Hamlet is a very hospitable part, it'll take anything you throw at it."

BOGAEV: Yeah, and I think someone said you can't hit all the aspects of this character, you're lucky if you get two and focus in. Well, picking up on this idea of all of those characters and all of those elements of Hamlet's personality, you quote Richard Burton, some people's favorite Hamlet, as saying, "Shakespeare put on the stage, in one character, virtually every emotion of which a man is capable. Pity, terror, fear, love, lust, obscenity, virtue, courage, and cowardice."

[CLIP: Richard Burton as Hamlet]

HAMLET
O, that this too, too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew,
Or that the Everlasting had not fixed
His canon ’gainst self-slaughter!    God, God,
How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on ’t, ah fie! ’Tis an unweeded garden
That grows to seed. Things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. That it should come to this:
But two months dead—nay, not so much, not two.
So excellent a king, that was to this
Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother
That he might not beteem the winds of heaven
Visit her face too roughly.

BOGAEV: Do you find that's more true of Hamlet than, say, King Lear or Richard III? Or at least the actors and directors who you interviewed, how do they think about that?

CROALL: Not many of them made the comparison, but I certainly did, because three years ago, I wrote a similar book on King Lear, called, "Performing King Lear.” So I interviewed a lot of actors and got to know the play very well, and it's certainly true that King Lear takes a long, long time to understand himself, and only does so at the very end, and has only learned his lesson about life by going mad. Um, Richard III has much less introspection in him, and I think would not be an obvious comparison. But the actors I spoke to, I mean, they felt that Hamlet was—I mean, many of them said that Hamlet was the most difficult play—and I mean, it's the longest part, 1,500 lines—the most difficult play to get right. And that accounts for the extraordinary variety of productions that we've had over the last 50, 60, 70 years.

BOGAEV: We recently had Derek Jacobi on the podcast, and he said, among other things, that the way you make your part your own is how you react in any of the given situations of the play. So, rather than you becoming Hamlet, Hamlet becomes you.

[CLIP: Derek Jacobi as Hamlet]

HAMLET
Beggar that I am, I am even poor in thanks; but I thank you, and sure, dear friends, my thanks are too dear a halfpenny. Were you not sent for? Is it your own inclining? Is it a free visitation? Come, come, deal justly with me.

BOGAEV: You're looking for your own expression of all of these qualities within the spontaneous reaction to what is going on within the plot.

CROALL: Yes, I think that's very true. I mean, Derek Jacobi performed the part 400 times, so he had a need to keep it fresh, obviously. And he did this partly by not assuming that the night before's performance was one that he had to copy, go into fresh as you ought to, in fact. This particularly important when you're coming to the soliloquies, not least, "To be or not to be.”

[CLIP: Derek Jacobi as Hamlet]

HAMLET
To be or not to be—that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And, by opposing, end them.

CROALL: You've got to be in the moment, as the cliché goes, and he was- I watched him on DVD the other day, actually, and he was lively, energetic, but full of humor and pathos, and I mean, he got so many of the qualities in Hamlet that I'm sure his technique was the right one.

[CLIP continues]

HAMLET
                                 To die, to sleep—
To sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin?

BOGAEV: You have some wonderful stories about Jacobi, also Richard Burton, in the book and how he sometimes misbehaved on stage, can you tell us about that, the Welsh rugby match?

CROALL: Yes, absolutely, that was very amusing. He, Richard Burton—who came from Wales and was a huge rugby fan—once they were into the run of Hamlet and he got slightly bored, as he confessed, he used to make sure that some of his movement allowed him to go to the wings so he could hear the latest score in the rugby match.

BOGAEV: So that meant he was practically doing the whole play from, what, stage left? His Hamlet was very stationary, I imagine.

CROALL: No, actually, no, he would just whip across to the wings and someone would say, "Oh, it's 18-4." and then he'd go back again to the center of the stage.

BOGAEV: I'm sure that wasn't distracting at all. I can't stop thinking about these misbehaving Hamlets, before we get to the modern ones. Peter O'Toole was another one, his director was Laurence Olivier, and you write that, one matinee, having been picking racing winners from Sporting Life with the stagehands in the wings, he went on still unknowingly wearing his glasses, and Noel Coward was in the audience and just started giggling, as did the rest of the people watching. Later he said, "If you wanna know what it's like to be lonely, really lonely, try playing Hamlet."

CROALL: Yes, that anecdote is absolutely true. The problem with that production, and why he had obviously lost his concentration, was that Olivier wanted to impose his own interpretation on the play, on the production, and Peter O'Toole soon fell out with Olivier, they just disagreed on lots of aspects of the play.

BOGAEV: Right, they really did seem to butt heads. And later O'Toole said, you quote him saying, "The worst bloody play ever written, Hamlet. Actors do it out of vanity. I only did it because I was flattered out of my trousers."

CROALL: Yes, well, I don't think many actors do it out of vanity, I think it's seen as the role you have to do in the early years, just as King Lear, at the later years of your career, is the one that you have to tackle. And it's so challenging that a couple of the people I spoke to, David Tenant and Maxine Peake, who played it, both told me that there was a point in which they wanted to flee from the theater. And Maxine Peake, who played it at Manchester, during one of the previews she suddenly was overwhelmed by the enormity of it all, and she sat during the interval on the steps of the stage door and had a little cry. And she put it in thought, "Why am I doing this? Why did I think this was a good idea?"

BOGAEV: Maxine Peake, she was a lovely Hamlet, I think, a real standout. She had this beautifully fluent delivery.

[CLIP: Maxine Peake as Hamlet]

HAMLET
I have of late, but wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises, and, indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the Earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof, fretted with golden fire—why, it appeareth nothing to me but a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors.

CROALL: She initially started out playing Hamlet as a woman, but gradually found this wasn't working for her, and they wondered about playing her-her-him as a trans-gender person. But she decided that this was impractical, and, in the end, she decided that she was a woman trapped in a man's body.

[CLIP of Maxine Peake continues]

HAMLET
What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable; in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god: the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—and yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me, no, nor women neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.

CROALL: She said, afterwards, to me, that it made her access elements of herself as an actress that she'd just not been able to access before.

BOGAEV: Yes, she was really fascinating. And, I have to say, I've only seen it in DVD as well, but she played Hamlet as a woman who feels inherently male. But you don't necessarily see that, or experience that, as someone watching the play, but it seemed to inform her or allowed her to access the part, as you say. It's kind of one of those techniques, or maybe an accidental technique, or trick, you might say, that enable her to come to the part in an original or fresh way.

CROALL: Yes, it was very impressive, the way she did that. I mean, she had a sort of David Bowie haircut, and there was- I mean, it was quite an androgynous performance in many ways, which obviously suited what she was trying to do. She felt that she had not quite got the vocal delivery right, and she also felt that, if she were to do it again, she said she definitely would [play the role again], but that she'd play it less physical but more cerebral, which I thought was interesting.

BOGAEV: Oh, that is! And that could mean different things to different actors. Which makes me think that many of the actors in the book talk about the techniques that they use to get this firm grasp on such a complex and slippery character, and to place themselves in Hamlet's shoes. And you talk about Jonathan Slinger, who played the role at Stratford in 2013, as putting himself in a dark place in order to get inside Hamlet's state of mind.

[CLIP: Jonathan Slinger as Hamlet]

HAMLET
O, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew,
Or that the Everlasting had not fixed
His canon ’gainst self-slaughter! O God, O God,
How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on ’t, ah fie…

BOGAEV: What did he do to get to a dark place?

CROALL: Yes, that was rather striking. Waiting in the wings for his first entrance, he would imagine such things as the death of his parents. And that was a very striking way of dealing with how you get into the role. I mean, some people prepare much more than others, Jude Law's an interesting case.

[CLIP: Jude Law as Hamlet]

HAMLET
That I will speak to thee. I’ll call thee “Hamlet,”
“King,” “Father!”

CROALL: Jude Law had a year in which to prepare, and, rather remarkably, actually, he read memoirs by actors, particularly John Gielgud's memoirs, which he found most useful. He read books about what was happening at the time Shakespeare wrote the play, and he just researched the background in huge detail.

[CLIP: Jude Law as Hamlet]

HAMLET
Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio—a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath bore me on his back a thousand times, and now how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now? your gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment that were wont to set the table on a roar?

CROALL: You're mining yourself, you're bearing your soul, and it's your soul that is Hamlet.

BOGAEV: Yes, and some people came up with some interesting techniques to wrap their tongue around the language, as well as their head. For instance, Adrian Lester, who played it for Peter Brook in 2001, he told you, "I began with the speeches, whispering them to myself in a very staccato rhythm just to hear the sound, rather than worrying about the sense. When you're whispering, you don't use your voice, you resonate the vowel-sounds differently, and so when you're listening to yourself, certain words take on a deeper resonance.”

[CLIP: Adrian Lester as Hamlet]

HAMLET
… this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof, fretted with golden fire—why, it appeareth nothing to me but a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors. What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable; in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god: the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—and yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?

CROALL: Peter Brook praised him for being a man of his time, a person of his time. And he felt that would have a powerful impact on an audience, because, as he put it, "The play Hamlet is like a crystal ball with many facets, and it keeps turning. And as it turns you see new, fresh aspects of the whole story.” And that means you can strip it down to the essential story, which he felt was the family story. So, like several other directors, he cut out all the politics, and the result was extremely compelling. I saw it at the Young Vic and it was breathtakingly good.

BOGAEV: It is fascinating how as you talk to all these different directors and actors, they all do come down, they share this one practice or this one thing in common. As you say, they figure out, they have to kind of strip the play to the essentials, "What is this play about?" and they just come up with such a wide range of answers. In the Adrian Lester case, you said it's about family. And you quote the director Hugh Hunt, who directed Michael Redgrave in Hamlet in 1950, and he said that Hamlet is essentially a revenge play and this was how it was approached way-back-when.

[CLIP: Michael Redgrave as Hamlet, Wilfrid Walter as the Ghost of Hamlet’s Father]

HAMLET
Whither wilt thou lead me? Speak. I’ll go no further.

GHOST
Mark me.

HAMLET
              I will.

GHOST
                       My hour is almost come

When I to sulf’rous and tormenting flames
Must render up myself.

HAMLET
Alas, poor ghost!

BOGAEV: "It is this plot—the story of a man called upon to revenge his father's death—that must never be lost sight of, however absorbed we may be by the many fine passages of verse or telling twists of character.” Early on it seems that many directors approached it this way, and then later that shifted. Paul Scofield said that vendetta just doesn't communicate to modern audiences anymore.

[CLIP continues]

GHOST
                                     List, list, O list!
If thou didst ever thy dear father love—

HAMLET
O God!

GHOST
Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.

HAMLET
Murder?

GHOST
Murder most foul, as in the best it is,
But this most foul, strange, and unnatural.

CROALL: I think Scofield is more accurate than Hugh Hunt. I mean, it is a revenge play in the barest, crudest sense of the plot, but it's so many more things that that. I think modern directors in the last 20, 30 years have not concentrated on the revenge as such, because that is the more melodramatic side of Hamlet, but focused more on the dysfunctional families, both of Hamlet's and of Polonius, with Laertes and Ophelia. I mean, one of the problems that an actor has with Ophelia is that, in his long scene with her, you have to decide as an actor whether you did really love Ophelia, as he says he does, or whether you didn't, as he also says he does.

[CLIP: Jude Law as Hamlet and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Ophelia]

HAMLET
If thou dost marry, I’ll give thee this plague for thy dowry: be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny. Farewell.

OPHELIA 
Heavenly powers, restore him!

HAMLET 
I have heard of your paintings, well enough. God hath given you one face, and you make yourselves another. You jig and amble, and you lisp; you nickname God’s creatures and make your wantonness your ignorance. Go to, I’ll no more on’t. It hath made me mad. I say we will have no more marriage. Those that are married already, all but one, shall live. The rest shall keep as they are.
To a nunnery, go.

BOGAEV: The actors come up with so many interpretations to get themselves into the part. The directors come up with so many techniques as well, to get the whole cast, or the cast as a whole, into the mindset of their play and their approach. One in particular that I though was really interesting that you describe is what the remarkable and very tragic Buzz Goodbody did in the 1970s. Tell us what she did with her cast: she staged a kind of group encounter, a burial.

CROALL: Yes, that was very remarkable. They were rehearsing, and she persuaded the vicar of local church in Stratford, St. Mary's, that they could dig up an area of unhallowed ground, and Ophelia could rehearse being a corpse in it. Hamlet and Laertes, who fight over her in the grave, could, as it were, in a real situation, not in a rehearsal room, play through that scene and try and make it as convincing as possible. That was very remarkable.

BOGAEV: And intense, and, as I said, tragic. She [Goodbody] took her own life during previews.

CROALL: Yes, she did. That was extremely tragic, and they managed to get through the previews and into the production, into the run. But that was—I mean, she was such a promising director, she was just breaking into the big time, it was terrible.

BOGAEV: You cover at more than 50 years of Hamlets in this book. After all your research and all the people you talked to and all of the performances you've watched, what's your favorite Hamlet? Because I think everyone has their favorite Hamlet. I know I have a new one, just from the last few weeks of prepping this, and it's Andrew Scott, who people might know from his role as Moriarty in the BBC series, Sherlock.

[CLIP: Juliet Stevenson as Queen Gertrude and Andrew Scott as Hamlet]

QUEEN 
Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted color off,
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.
Do not forever with thy vailèd lids
Seek for thy noble father in the dust.
Thou know’st ’tis common; all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.

HAMLET 
Ay, madam, it is common.

QUEEN 
                                          If it be,
Why seems it so particular with thee?

HAMLET 
“Seems,” madam? Nay, it is. I know not “seems.”
’Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,
Nor customary suits of solemn black,
Nor windy suspiration of forced breath,
No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,
Nor the dejected havior of the visage,
Together with all forms, moods, shapes of grief,
That can denote me truly. These indeed “seem,”
For they are actions that a man might play;
But I have that within which passes show,
These but the trappings and the suits of woe.

CROALL: I think my favorite one is Simon Russell Beale.

[CLIP: Simon Russell Beale as Hamlet]

HAMLET
Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue; but if you mouth it, as many of our players do, I had as lief the town-crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus, but use all gently; for in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say, whirlwind of your passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness. O, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious, periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings, who for the most part are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb shows and noise. I would have such a fellow whipped for o’erdoing Termagant. It out-Herods Herod.

CROALL: Within the book I have reprinted a small volume that I did for the national theatre called Hamlet Observed, and what it was was a detailed description from the first day of rehearsal through to the first night, and then the trip the company made to Elsinore and toured thereafter. It enabled me to interview Simon, and John Caird, the director… the way they struggled with certain problems and overcame them, and then when they finally took it to Elsinore, which was one of the most magical moments of my life, I must say, sitting there actually inside Elsinore Castle.

[CLIP of Simon Russell Beale continues]

HAMLET
Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion be your tutor. Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance, that you o’erstep not the modesty of nature. For anything so o’erdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is to hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature, to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image…

BOGAEV: I know this is not your job, but do you have an idea of a Hamlet you haven't seen yet? Did anyone talk to you of a Hamlet that they haven't produced yet, but they burn to?

CROALL: Do you mean a particular actor?

BOGAEV: An actor, or a director, or just someone who has an inkling of where Hamlet is going in the future.

CROALL: I think the answer there is no. Sorry, but I haven't come across that.

BOGAEV: No, I can understand. Although a lot of them do talk about their regrets, like, as Maxine Peake, for instance, did. You know, she wished she'd gotten the rhythm of the verse right.

CROALL: Yes, certainly there were several—well, not several, but Maxine Peake is an example of somebody who wanted to play it again. So did David Tenant, so did Jude Law. Jude Law was very articulate about why. I asked him at the end of the interview, would he ever consider playing Hamlet again? And he said, "Why not? You get to speak possibly the most beautiful lines about humankind ever given to an actor.”

BOGAEV: Thank you so much for this look back over decades and decades of this play that is so special to so many of us. Thank you very much.

CROALL: I've enjoyed it immensely, thank you.

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WITMORE: Jonathan Croall is the author of Performing Hamlet, which was published by Bloomsbury in 2018. He is also the author of Performing King Lear: Gielgud to Russell Beale and a biography of John Gielgud called John Gielgud: Matinee Idol to Movie Star. He was interviewed by Barbara Bogaev.

“What A Piece Of Work” was produced by Richard Paul. Garland Scott is the associate producer. It was edited by Gail Kern Paster. Ben Lauer is the web producer.

We had technical help from Andrew Feliciano and Paul Luke at VoiceTrax West in Studio City, California and Gareth Wood at The Sound Company in London.

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