on October 1, 2010
I've been teaching Hamlet using this text for about two years (four semesters) to college freshmen/sophomores in a general composition/literature class. The Ignatius edition is the best that I've used (and I've used several); I put it slightly ahead of the Folger edition. (The Folger edition does have the advantage that it includes plot summaries of scenes -- very helpful to beginning Shakespeare readers -- which the Ignatius lacks.)
The essays that are included are solid and insightful. They are particularly helpful in helping readers understand the Christian context of the play. Regardless of whether or not the reader is Christian, it's necessary to understand Christian ideas about sin, repentance, and justice in order to grasp the nuances of the play. When students are encouraged to really think deeply about these topics, they end up making connections between the events of the play and the events of their own lives -- for instance, about the struggle between desire ("I want what I want" -- just like Claudius) and reason ("I want to do what is right -- but how do I figure out what that is?" -- like Hamlet). This edition has been the most useful for me in terms of helping my students to do this kind of deep thinking.
On a practical level, I like the editor's choices about what words to gloss; to any adult reader who has read a lot of Shakespeare and other classic authors, the vocabulary glosses may seem like overkill, but it has been my experience that my 18-22-year-old students need and benefit from them.
It is helpful that the glosses are footnoted rather than end- or side-noted; this makes it easier to find them if you need them, while not being too intrusive if you don't. Visually, it's an attractive edition with plenty of white space -- important for taking marginal notes! - and the full names of characters spelled out.