David Tennant says Hamlet is the “greatest character” he’ll ever be allowed inside the head of

The actor joins a plethora of actors celebrating Shakespeare’s life and works, describing Hamlet as “more human” than any other part he’s played

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David Tennant has described Hamlet as “more human than any other character” he’s played, joining BBC Radio 4’s celebration of Shakespeare’s life and works for the 400th anniversary of his death. 

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Tennant played the tragedy’s titular character in 2008 with the Royal Shakespeare Company and he told the station’s Front Row programme that “what’s problematic about Hamlet is what’s thrilling”.

“It’s one of those, while you’re playing it, for all that you’re exhausted and terrified constantly you’re aware that this is the greatest character you’re ever going to be allowed inside the head of,” Tennant explained. “You are the cleverest person in the room. You are the most vivid character in the room.”

The actor said that each version of the character is always slightly different, as each actor brings their own mannerisms to the part.

“Hamlet shares the personality traits of whoever is playing him to an extent because in some ways it’s such a blank canvas it sort of shapes itself to fit whoever’s having a go. So I’m sure my hamlet shares many of my personality traits because the bits in me that chimed with the bits in the script are what bring the character to life I suppose. He’s cleverer than me, he’s quicker witted than me, he’s more intelligent than me, he’s a better sword fighter than I am.

“I like to think I have at least a twinkle of all those qualities…”

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Listen to more from Tennant here as well as explore Dame Judi Dench on Lady Macbeth and Sir Ian McKellen on Richard III.