The commentary at the centre of this groundbreaking introduction alerts the reader to what happens on stage during a performance by showing what the text requires from actors and the choices they are offered. By this means, the Handbook demonstrates how an audience responds to plot and dramatic structure, what conflicts and issues are involved as the action unfolds, and the effects of developing expectation and variations of tension and pace. Chapters complementing this core feature provide an account of the three original texts, the theatrical conditions of early performances, and the play's social, political and cultural contexts. Generous quotations are given from books that influenced the writing of the play, and notable productions and performances are described to illustrate a wide range of interpretations. A concluding chapter quotes from recent critics and offers a number of different ways in which to understand the significance of this tragedy which has proved its enduring appeal.