Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Shakespeare’s best known, most quoted and longest play, written c1599 - 1602 and rewritten throughout his lifetime. It is the story of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, encouraged by his father’s ghost to take revenge on his uncle who murdered him, and is set at the court of Elsinore. In soliloquies, the Prince reveals his inner self to the audience while concealing his thoughts from all at the Danish court, who presume him insane. Shakespeare gives him lines such as ‘to be or not to be,’ ‘alas, poor Yorick,’ and ‘frailty thy name is woman’, which are known even to those who have never seen or read the play. And Hamlet has become the defining role for actors, men and women, who want to show their mastery of Shakespeare’s work.

Play on BBC Sounds website


  • Sir Jonathan Bate 16 episodes
    Provost of Worcester College, University of Oxford
  • Carol Rutter No other episodes
    Professor of Shakespeare and Performance Studies at the University of Warwick
  • Sonia Massai No other episodes
    Professor of Shakespeare Studies at King's College London

Reading list

Related episodes

Programme ID: b09jqtfs

Episode page: bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09jqtfs

Auto-category: 822.33 (English drama)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. William Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, his longest play, around 1599.