Admittedly, there is really nothing I can say about Shakespeare's brilliant The Tragedy of Hamlet that has not been said before. The fact that this tragedy is so praiseworthy does not mean it should no longer be praised, though. So many of us had to read Hamlet in school, but there is something to be said and much to be gained by reading it on one's own again for pure pleasure. The story is a compelling one, the characters are sharply presented and unforgettable, and the play represents human tragedy in the fullest sense of the word. No matter how well you know the story, you as a reader are totally captivated by the human drama of the ill-fated prince of Denmark. The Bard's characters are incredibly human, be they good or evil, powerful or fragile. One can delight in the downfall of evil men and lament the fate of their innocent victims. The language is beautiful but difficult, of course. I often found myself rereading lines or entire passages to try and get a better sense of their meaning, and even then some vagaries of the language escaped me. The story itself, though, is vividly revealed through the Bard's poetic words, and even the most insensible lines roll off the tongue beautifully. I was most amazed by all of the famous lines and quotations found in this one drama; pop culture itself almost demands of you some knowledge of Hamlet. If "Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio" or "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark" mean nothing to you, you would do well to brush up on your Hamlet. If you draw a blank at the words "To be or not to be," you might want to check your pulse to see if you still have one.
I will not attempt any literary criticism here because libraries are already overflowing with books on the subject. The madness of Hamlet is, I suppose, debatable; certainly, his madness is feigned early on, and I have much admiration for his manner of calling forth the guilty conscience of those who wronged his father through his supposed ravings, but one must particularly question his dealings with the lovely and innocent Ophelia. Madness, rage, murder, incest (of a sort), graveyards, sword fighting, poison, love, betrayal--this play has all of these things and more, yet it is the great humanity of Prince Hamlet himself which makes this tragedy foremost among all of the Great Bard's dramas. Good and evil exist in each soul; evil does not always lose, and good does not always win. Shakespeare understood this, and that is why this tragedy will always serve as a literary mirror in which careful readers can peer into the depths of their own souls.