Why is Hamlet considered to be Shakespeare's greatest work?Why is Hamlet considered to be Shakespeare's greatest work?

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wordprof eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The question is suspect, (many believe King Lear to be his best work), but Hamlet combines the four major qualities admired in Shakespeare:  depth of character, universal theme, rich language, and dramatic structure.  All the characters in Hamlet are multi-dimensional, even the minor ones like Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern.  All exhibit internal dramatic contradictions and depths, complex psychological insights into the human condition, and subtle voices in their speeches; the themes in Hamlet – living actions vs. suicide, for example, or fealty to a king vs. the need for revenge of a familial wrong, or any of a dozen other themes explored—are both thought-worthy and effectively balanced against each other; the metaphors and poetic structures—from the electric exchanges of dialogue to the soliloquys that are still quotable 500 years later—are of the very highest quality; the rising and falling action of the plot works perfectly in performance, as do the speeches themselves.  Hamlet has set the standard for all drama.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think you would get some argument for this.  However, if you are to start from this standpoint I would suggest that the play is one of his more approachable texts, because it seems to strike a chord with us.  We can empathize with Hamlet and feel his pain.