When an intellectual work (philosophy book, literary book, painting etc) is studied there are (at least) two principal questions to be addressed:

  • What is this work about?
  • Why is this work important?

These questions are very intimately interrelated.

For example, if you know more precisely what is this work about then you can answer more convincingly why this may be important.

Also, if you know why this work is important then this may shed light on some cardinal aspects of the work and it may make you understand it better.

But these two questions are (probably) not identical because to start with the latter question needs significantly more the historical context of the intellectual work to be addressed and also perhaps some comparative analysis in general so that the question is more precisely answered.

In a quite interesting way, although many people can answer the former question about an intellectual work they usually are not so confident or convincing when answering the latter question. (See also here when I asked the same question about the Tractatus Logico Philosophicus - nobody really gave an inclusive answer)

In any case, I want to ask the latter question about 'Hamlet': Why is 'Hamlet' considered one of the very best plays ever?

It may be that the existential monologue of Hamlet is a quite strong advocate of why this play should be considered so important as it addresses the topic about what is the meaning of life and when life loses to such extent its meaning that death is almost mandatory.

But still, in my opinion, this is only a part of the play and it is not exactly its overarching theme and in this regard the play should not be evaluated only on this.

Another factor which may make the play (considered as) great is the unique alternation of extreme emotions and behaviors which certainly makes the play rich as a kaleidoscope of human psychology.

Just to make clear that I am not saying that Hamlet is not or should not be considered as a great theatrical play but I just want to see some compelling arguments/evidence from people who has seriously read it.

I would strongly prefer a comprehensive answer and not a too brief one.

  • sorry but i'm flagging this as primarily opinion based due to the fact that you're asking for opinions
    – Niffler
    Feb 5, 2019 at 23:09
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    @Muffler I disagree. The OP is asking why a lot of people think that, not whether it's true or not. You can objectively answer common reasons that experts give for saying that. Feb 6, 2019 at 6:19
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    The question seems fine to me, but would be improved by quoting some of the critics who think that Hamlet is one of the very best plays ever — then answers could look at what those critics had to say and what their reasons were. There's a list here that you could draw on. Feb 6, 2019 at 10:52
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    The question is on topic, but the impression of subjectivity can be removed by rewording it, e.g. "For what reasons do literary critics consider Hamlet as one of the best plays ever?" You may want to add that this was not always the case and, as Gareth Rees suggested, add a few quotes by notable literary critics or Shakespeare scholars.
    – Tsundoku
    Feb 6, 2019 at 11:12


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