Which is Shakespeare's best play?
in The Riverside Shakespeare, Harry Levin writes,
They [Shakespeare's plays] have been virtually canonized as humanistic scriptures, the tested residue of pragmatic wisdom, a general collection of quotable texts and usable examples for guiding human actions.
To select one of Shakespeare's plays, then, becomes a subjective judgment, indeed. But, to select one based upon the most quoted and acclaimed one would choose Hamlet, Shakespeare's longest play. Hamlet, "the hero of hesitation," embodies more of the human spirit and mind than any other of Shakespeare's characters; his is truly immense, and his words have what Harold Bloom calls "infinite reverberations" of man's heart:
Hamlet strikes us as demanding (and providing) evidence from some sphere beyond the scope of our senses.
Yet, in his divided consciousness and ambivalence, Hamlet expresses the existential questions raised by all thinking men. His many soliloquies touch a chord in each reader's/viewer's soul. Who has not been moved by such existential lines as "To be, or not to be," "to sleep,perchance to dream ay, there's the rub," "thus conscience dost make cowards of us all"; or,
Which dreams indeed are ambition; for the very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.
Thus, Hamlet is, indeed, a prince, a prince of the human heart: noble, yet at times weak; deliberate, yet at times indecisiveness, but always true--a man to whom all can relate. Shakespeare's Hamlet is a glorified ideal. Bloom calls it "the Mona Lisa of literature."