It is a tale of ghosts, of madness, of revenge - of old alliances giving way to new intrigues. Denmark is changing, shaking off its medieval past. War with Norway is on the horizon. And Hamlet - son of the old king, nephew of the new - becomes increasingly entangled in a web of deception - and murder.
Struggling to find his place in this strange new order Hamlet tries to rekindle his relationship with Ophelia - the daughter of Elsinore’s cunning spy master, a man with plots of his own. Hamlet turns for advice and support to the one person he can trust -- Young Yorick, the slippery, unruly jester, whose father helped Hamlet through a difficult childhood. And all the while the armed forces of Fortinbras, prince of Norway, start to assemble, threatening to bring down Elsinore forever.
Beautifully performed by actor Richard Armitage ("Thorin Oakenshield" in the Hobbit films), Hamlet, Prince of Denmark takes Shakespeare’s original into unexpected realms, reinventing a story we thought we knew.
A. J. Hartley is the New York Times best-selling author of the Will Hawthorne fantasy series and several thrillers, as well as the Darwen Arkwright books for younger readers. He is the Russell Robinson Distinguished Professor of Shakespeare at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
David Hewson is the best-selling author of more than 20 novels, including the Nic Costa crime series and a trilogy of books based on the hit Danish television show The Killing. His most-recent novel, The House of Dolls, begins a new series set in Amsterdam.
Richard Armitage is known to movie audiences around the world as "Thorin Oakenshield" in the trilogy of films based on The Hobbit. Born in Leicester, England, and trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, Armitage has performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and created memorable roles on Robin Hood, North & South, and other British TV series.
©2014 A.J. Hartley, David Hewson (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
"It's a fresh, contemporary take on Shakespeare's tragedy, one not afraid to create new characters or cut long soliloquies. We get a noirish Hamlet, who, when asked by Laertes if he's ready to fence, blurts out: 'I've been ready all my life.'" (Associated Press)
"English literature teachers worried about getting pupils entranced by Shakespeare should plug them in to this imaginative gloss on Hamlet before starting on the real thing. Hobbit-fanciers will rejoice to find that Richard “Thorin Oakenshield” Armitage is an outstandingly versatile narrator. This is the one of the most powerful listening experiences that I’ve had." (The Times London)
"Armitage is amazing. He's more than a simple reader, showing himself as a gifted actor. He gives distinct life to each of the many characters in the tragedy, making it easy to follow the story. You can actually close your eyes and listen to the work and imagine the scenes unfolding, thanks to Armitage's acting skills." (AudioFile)
I'm Robert's wife, a retired physician and homeschool mom whose grown kids now love history, literature, sci-fi, fantasy, historical fiction
Just as great as their audio novelization of Macbeth, perhaps even better. The narration, the story, everything is unsurpassed. Shakespeare himself I think would be pleased.
Audible has changed my life! Dry , itchy eyes were destroying one of my greatest pleasures - reading. Now I am experiencing books again!
…But not entirely what we have always thought!
Shakespearean purists may object, but, as the authors point out in the epilogue, Shakespeare himself wasn't a purist. He borrowed and changed and molded stories to the stage.
And it's a good story! This novelization, without the familiar speeches, proves that the basic tale still holds attention and gives the authors a great opportunity for expanding characters and plot features.
I'll admit I bought this primarily to hear the wonderful voice of Richard Armitage, and he certainly does not disappoint. As with all excellent narrations, the listener quickly forgets she/he is experiencing the voice of one person, and we are drawn into the action and the characters effortlessly.
I love this take on the old story. There's depth of emotion here, and the characters and actions make sense in a new way. Anyone who's enjoyed Tom Stoppard's "Rosencratz and Guildenstern Are Dead" should appreciate the twists and turns in this version as well.
As a wonderful bonus for those of us who have longed for deeper and better-realized female characters in Shakespeare's plays (tho we know we've had no right to expect it), Hartley and Hewson endow the women of Elsinor with brains and sensible motives and actions.
It's refreshing and different and beautifully read.
Historian and musician, shameless slave of the written and spoken word.
Absolutely...I already have because as with Shakespeare, I feel one listening is never enough and discover new layers of meaning in each hearing. I also can never hear enough of Mr. Armitage's beautiful voice and wonderful characterizations. I love that the authors never make any clear delineation about the questions of Hamlet's madness or dream state, but add new layers and explanations for some of the characters behavior in the play. I also love hearing the famous speeches in their interpretation.
Ophelia for her layers of depth and love for Hamlet; she seems the only truly compassionate character in the book.
That voice. I would rate his reading talent and his baritone voice in the same league as Alan Rickman, Jeremy Irons and Derek Jacobi. I have heard Mr. Armitage read the Lords of the North, and found his Danish and Saxon accents, characterizations and unique approach to each absolutely brilliant. This really worked well in this book as well when he reads the character of Fortinbras and the mercenary Scots he employs. He has narrated many other audiobooks and I truly hope he continues to do so, as I will always buy his work.
You thought you knew Hamlet...
More from the authors and narrator please!! Looking forward to hearing MacBeth now that I have heard this!
A. J. Harley has once again masterfully added flesh and sinew to a Shakespeare tragedy, this time bringing the story of Hamlet to life. Those who have succeeded in reading the original may not appreciate Hartley's work. But for those of us who, despite our desire, have been unable to overcome the difficulty inherent in reading Shakespeare's Hamlet, Hartley and Hewson have given us a wonderful gift. And Richard Armitage was an awesome pick for narration.
I thoroughly enjoyed this retelling and restructuring of Hamlet. I began listening with moderate expectations, knowing the play well and expecting it would just be a fleshing out of the original, but it was so much more than that.
The authors have done a wonderfully creative job of approaching the tale from a fresh, very lateral perspective. Lesser events and characters in the play are brought to the fore, and a wonderful layer of Machiavellian political intrigue suffuses the story. The same is true of the play's original paranormal elements. The authors have developed it into a lush political and psychological thriller.
I didn't give the story five stars only because I found the villain of the piece (I won't tell you who it is because that would be a huge spoiler) a little underdeveloped and cardboardish. That being said, this was more than a retelling of the play. If you like historical mysteries or alternate histories, you'll love this. It's rich and atmospheric and wonderful.
The narration was outstanding.
The rich characterizations and thrilling sequences that Mr Hartley and Mr Hewson have provided were a wonderful addition to what I already knew of the story. Mr Armitage's narration was flawless.
The story provided additional depth and details that pulled me in and had me captivated. Ophelia was such a strong and intelligent figure in this re-telling.
Although I loved many of the characters, my favorite was Yorick. He brought a level of humor and irreverence to the story that was an important balance to the tragedy and melancholy of the other characters. His conversations with Hamlet were rich and entertaining and Mr Armitage's choice of voice for Yorick only serve to reinforce my enjoyment of the character.
Yes and no. I was captivated and wanted to hear what was going to happen next but like a fine meal, I wanted to savor every morsel.
As a fan of Shakespeare, I wasn't sure if I was going to enjoy a re-telling of such a known and loved work. I downloaded it because of an interest in hearing Mr Armitage's narration. It was my first of his narrations as well and was based on the recommendations of others. I was not disappointed by either the story or the narration. I loved the story and all of the performance. I have now downloaded MacBeth: A Novel by Mr Hartley and Mr Hewson and look forward to more re-telling adventures from this duo (hopefully, narrated by Mr Armitage too).
Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.
"Complex" is an adjective found in most reviews of this retelling of Shakespeare's classic. So I'm not unique in finding new depth to the characters - Ophelia, Hamlet himself, and (for me) especially Claudius. Is Hamlet mad or acting? Is Claudius evil or caught in the one act he committed (perhaps) through the evil manipulations of another? By adding back stories to the major and secondary characters, the story moves beyond the dramatic (and melodramatic) familiarity of Shakespeare's speeches into a tragedy of real people's lives. The reading is near perfection, providing personality to the characters without intruding upon the action. I am inspired now to return to the original source, reading the poetry again with the characters newly revealed.
To Hartley and Hewson - Is Lear next?
Undoubtedly Richard Armitage's voicings. Yes, I'm a fan, but Armitage should win many more listeners for his other work from this audiobook. But both the voices of the characters and the narration are performed at a uniformly high quality. A lot of thought went into the pacing and the energy behind every scene, and one can easily listen for several hours without wanting to pause. Moreover, for Armitage's fans, this is a really different style of reading than his previous work -- much more impassioned, much more forceful, and throughout, simply intriguing to listen to. You wonder what he will do next. And interestingly there are many voices here (Polonius is the one that sticks out for me as striking) that we have not previously heard from him.
Readers who enjoy popular history will definitely enjoy this work as well -- it fills in a lot of historical and political context that would have been apparent to Shakespeare's audiences but which no one but theater people and scholars are aware of these days. If you don't like Shakespeare because you feel left at sea by the language and the plot, you should give this a try, because it really makes the plot extremely career, and the language is contemporary. The work communicates its intent really effectively.
Mary Stewart, The Ivy Tree (modern retelling of Jane Eyre)
His voice has a great tone quality, but what I appreciate here is that he never overdoes it. He conveys a lot of emotion without every chomping on the scenery, become pathetic, or overtaxing the listener's patience for some of the potentially soppy aspects of the play (e.g., Hamlet's proto-existential conflicts, which can get truly sophomoric and tedious in the hands of the wrong performer). The actor himself seems particularly preoccupied with the elements of the story that have to do with tradition and inheritance of the past, but I'm also extremely intrigued, in fact tied to the headphones, by his own individual read on a classic interpretive problem in Hamlet: how mad is Hamlet really?
I like the title already.
I particularly liked how the authors modified the Mousetrap -- or play within a play that Hamlet uses to try to assess Claudius' guilt. This is one of my favorite pieces of the original play and I was wondering how they would do it -- how to convey the play within a play from the perspective of an audiobook -- and I loved it. Bringing in Burbage as a character was really a master stroke. Overall, the way the narrative visualizes the thoughts of the character is incredibly effective.
The other thing I loved was: getting the jokes immediately. Hamlet has some very amusing moments, most of them black humor, and the adaptation makes these clearer and Armitage performs them effectively.
I grew up on Golden Age Radio, I love to learn about a great many things, and I enjoy a wide variety of genres. Me, bored? Never!
When Hartley and Hewson offered their take on Macbeth, I was all over that, and I was completely enthralled by it. If you didn't know Shakespeare, it was a great in-road to discover the work. If you did, their novel was just that much better because of it. To discover they've decided to tackle Hamlet? That's no small feat, but so help me, they pulled it off admirably, and to the same effect. There are new layers and nuances to the story that Shakespeare gave us, and secondary characters are now every bit as fleshed out as the primary players. Renaissance Denmark comes to life, and subtlety is the name of the game for this version. As with Macbeth, the bard would definitely approve.
If I have anything negative at all to say about this, it's the inevitable winking and nodding to Shakespeare that's sprinkled throughout. As subtle as the story layers are, the callbacks to the bard are about as subtle as a runaway locomotive. And they aren't that frequent, so it's just a momentary jump out of the story to acknowledge the master before diving right back in. That's literally the worst thing I can claim about this, which is no bad thing.
Richard Armitage's narration is nothing less than incredible. His performance matches the storytelling in that it's layers and subtle. Hamlet, for example, is capable of being mad one moment and lucid the next, and Armitage makes it work, seemingly without effort. All of his characters are handled with such respect.
I don't know what Hartley and Hewson are pulling out of the bard's repertoire next, but I'm eagerly awaiting it.
As a lover of mysteries I loved this Hamlet by Hartley and Hewson. I'm fairly familiar with Shakespeare's Hamlet, have read the play and seen it on stage and screen, but never realized before now what a wonderfully entertaining psychological mystery it could be. Richard Armitage gave a marvelous performance that kept me guessing at every turn, even if I already knew how the story would end.
I loved getting to know the characters better, or in a different way, than the play. For the first time I felt sympathy for Claudius and Gertrude, two star-crossed lovers, and for Ophelia who I never liked before, but in this story is a strong character I could relate to at the end. Interesting that the character I had the least sympathy for was Hamlet, who I saw as lacking empathy and understanding of those around him, especially Ophelia and his mother. I also loved the swashbuckling scene with the pirates, and all the sword fighting scenes, so brilliantly performed by Armitage that I could see the swords flashing and the skill of the swordsmen in my mind.
My favorite character is Yorick - and that was unexpected. Armitage really defines this character with the voice and the "attitude" that you forget both Yorick and Hamlet are being voiced by the same person. Yorick made me laugh and made me think and made me cry.
There are many. Yorick, who I just mentioned stands out. Claudius who is struggling with his conscience and driven by the love he has for Gertrude. Elias, who comes on at the end, but left an impression in my mind as a voice of wisdom and a man of courage. Hamlet, who remains a bit of an enigma to me, but the story left me wondering at the end what kind of leader he would have been.
I'm very familiar with audiobooks since I listen to them whenever I'm on the go. I'm also extremely familiar with all of Richard Armitage's audiobooks, from the early Robin Hood ones to Heyer and Cornwell. I hope that he continues to record more audiobooks since he has a magical talent for narrating books, performing them really, he goes so much beyond a reading or narration. He creates an entire "company of players" with this voice. No matter how many times I've listened to his audiobooks, a few minutes in and I forget that it's one man with his velvet voice, but am instantly transported to a different world and another time. I loved Hamlet:A Novel and it's now my second favorite Armitage audiobook after Lords of the North by Bernard Cornwell. It's sad that Lords of the North narrated (performed) by Richard Armitage is no longer available.
Loved also the commentary at the end by Hartley and Hewson.
I also want to recommend Macbeth:A Novel by Hartley and Hewson with a wonderful performance by Alan Cumming.
"Ten hours well spent"
It ties for first place with one other. See below.
Claudius: although Shakespeare does not portray him as a complete villain, this Claudius drew my sympathies. Both the authors and Armitage's interpretation reveal him as a decent man, one who has always loved Gertrude and Hamlet, but who has painted himself, through one violent act, into a corner and can only escape through more violence. Armitage gives him a deep, sensuous, authoritative voice - kindly even. The reader has to walk a fine line with his voicing because I felt that you had to understand Claudius and yet side with Hamlet in the end.
Richard Armitage is my favourite reader and seems to choose books by my favourite authors. The Georgette Heyer books are great fun and very entertainingly read and voiced. But Bernard Cornwell's Lords of the North is wonderful. This Hamlet book ties with Lords of the North, but sadly it is not available on Audible or anywhere now except ebay since AudioGo went bust. Come on, Audible! Wake up to this man's talent and buy the rights to this version!
Love and politics - a murderous combination.
I was very impressed by how close the authors kept to the original play, making many nods to Shakespeare's language and text, yet at the same time filled the gaps with imaginative and gripping scenarios....Like the pirates. Pirates! What pirates? Yes, an episode only lightly touched on by Shakespeare, but it's there, LOL! And the authors not only develop some exciting moments out of it but weave it into the following action of the book. Loved the pirate captain!But, without the reader and his wonderful interpretations where every single voice is a different one, this audiobook would be a lesser thing than it has turned out to be,
"Hamlet, prince of tragedies never pales!"
The pace of the story, the new, unexpected twists to the plot and characteristion along with the unexpected and haunting persona of Yorick; the splendid narration.
Claudius, the traditional villian, who here reveals a depth as lover and "father" never imagined before.
His narration and masterly interpretation of the characters both male and female, bring the story and its people to life. Modulated and varied, his voice carries the listening on in a flow of enjoyment.
Like with the original Shakespearean play, the novel aroused both mirth and sadness, sometimes mingled in bittersweet fashion. A gentle sadness tended to prevail, without actually provoking tears.
The final comments by the two authors were an appropriate complement to the work and the music a lovely unexpected finale.
Ophelia - because I understand the character's "feelings" and predicament...
Gripping, genuine, sensual, exciting... I could go on forever! Amazing performance by a truly amazing, talented actor.
"Hamlet from the heart"
I'll recommend it to ANYONE !! It's a "must listen"!
"Thrill and joy"
I think a print version would be a different thing, with perhaps different qualities. But this audiobook is amazing, it's somehow more than just a read book. It is like a very long movie with your imagination as screen.
I like very much how the characters are discribed and how they are presented, each one in a very special way. And I like the story itself. It's known for a few hundres years, but now told in a very exciting way. It captured my attention all the time, for more than nine hours.
I find it very impressive, how he manages to give character and emotions to the different persons in the book with just his voice. As I knew him before only playing male roles I find it surprising and amazing how well he does the female voices. Great as Ophelia and as Gertrud!
The story didn't make me laugh, it's not funny. It is very tragic, as the original story is as well. A lot of murder and treason. And the story also didn't make me cry. Perhaps I read to many detective novels, to be shocked by such a story.But I felt joy, listenig. It sounds as if the authors may have had some joy, writing the story and Richard Armitage as well doesn't sound bored at all, telling it.
It's interesting to read David Hewsons blog in addition because he gives some intersting informations about the story itself and about writing it.
"What a piece of work !"
Definitely top of my list and that's saying something because I've loved them all.
Difficult to chose a single moment because there were so many, but I've bookmarked all of the scenes involving Yorick. He was a brilliant invention and produced some laugh out loud moments for me, which is not something I expected from a story involving the moody Dane.
Again it is difficult to choose just one, but if I had to it would be Yorrick's rendition of " O that this too too sullied flesh......." I've always wanted to hear Richard Armitage speak some Shakesperian verse but little did I expect it to be in the voice of Yorick !
Yes, and I've listened to it at least three times already
I would like to compliment the authors for the beauty and power of their prose and Richard Armitage for his exquisite rendition.I don't know how he managed to create so many distinct voices for the plethora of characters involved and keep them all sorted in his head. Shakespeare's " Hamlet" holds a special place in my heart and I return to it regularly so I was a little sceptical about the idea of this novelisation but I will be returning to this audio book as often as I return to the play. I love the way some of Shakespeare's imagery and verse was woven into the prose and also found the twists of storyline and character most satisfying, particularly the final realisation that Yorick was just a voice in Hamlet's head or was he the ghost of the original Yorick???Thanks a million to everyone involved in the production of this treasure.
Having already listened to "Macbeth a Novel" I was really pleased to see this title arrive on Audible. I am fortunate that I do not really know the story of Hamlet (or much of Macbeth before it) and these were completely new plots and characters to me. Truly superb listen and the narration was flawless. I can understand why both of these plays have been so popular for so long, this format has made something I would have have found very hard to follow into a perfectly accessible and entertaining story. During my school years we did look at some Shakespeare and I must admit I really could not follow any of it let alone enjoy it, it certainly was not something I ever expected to going back to and enjoying as much as this at any point.... More please!!!
"Nearly 10 hours oblivious of the rest of the world"
love, murder, revenge
I really can't pick out any part of the story. I liked it altogether. It's beautifully written.
In my opinion is Richard Armitage the most accomplished narrater in the world. His way of reading draws you deeply into the story. You feel as if you were in it. I'm sure that I couldn't have read the book for 5 hours without a break. When I started to listen, I remained in the story for those 5 hours.at a stretch. I could wait to start with the rest of the audiobook on the following day. His voice, well, let me say his voices are addicting.
Although English isn't my first language, I could follow the story easily because Richard Armitage pronounces the words very clearly and comprehensibly. He ist great!
Love cannot flourish on murderous ground.
I recommend this audiobook wholeheartedly.
"well chosen words, words, words"
Writing Hamlet as a thriller is a fairly audacious move that could so easily have gone terribly wrong: lose too much of the original and it will be dismissed by those who love the play, or retain so much that it ceases to work as a page turner. Fortunately, the authors accomplish this balance with flair and wit.
For those who know the play well, there are many subtle references which are often very amusing. These would not alienate anyone using this book as an introduction to Shakespeare, and you could enjoy it enormously without knowing anything of the storyline.
There are some very clever touches which really made this work interesting and fresh: the Claudius / old Hamlet / Gertrude back story is explored in some detail, which forced me to consider the king in new ways. There is also the introduction of another character, not in the play, which is a little bit cheeky of them, but it just about works.
The narration is absolutely flawless, and adds much to the book.
"To read, or not to read ...?"
To read or not to read? Easy - read the damn thing! A superb novelisation of one of the greatest works of literature in the English language, and brilliantly narrated too. Onto Macbeth now ...
"I loved the narration"
Amazing narration. The narrator was bringing it all in front of your eyes. Interesting story.
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