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Simon Nadar, an actor who took part in the survey, summed up the feelings of many when he described Branagh “as the natural successor to Olivier by keeping Shakespeare in the popular conciousness”.
Some voters noted that they didn’t particular like Branagh as a personality but they felt the power of his film work was undeniable.
He has taken the title role in Hamlet, Macbeth, Coriolanus, Richard III and, of course, King Lear.
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Sir Richard Eyre summed up many of our contributors’ feelings and described “as nonsense” the idea that anyone else had written these incredible works.
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There was little surprise in Dame Judi Dench leading the best actress category by a substantial margin.Anthony Horowitz thought King Lear contained the best insult in Kent’s line to Oswald, declaring him superfluous to society: “Thou whoreson zed! ” While Nicholas Hytner suggested Rosalind’s stunning put-down to Phoebe in As You Like It: “Sell when you can: You are not for all markets.” In conclusion, we couldn’t avoid the question of authorship.And there was good news for Shakespeare, the man, with a massive 74 per cent of the sample dismissing conspiracy theories and insisting that he wrote all the plays attributed to him.Its 400th anniversary production of Twelfth Night, which was staged at the Middle Temple, was actually ranked number two.Hamlet was the play with the most nominations in this category with voters choosing no fewer than 30 different productions from across the decades.
Alongside the statistics, we asked voters to nominate favourite lines, insults, speeches...