Before I read John Gielgud Directs Richard Burton in Hamlet: A Journal of Rehearsals, by Richard Sterne, 1967, I watched excerpts on the internet. (In the book, p. 149: “Tuesday June 30 and Wednesday July 1 - Production filmed during three successive stage performances by Electronovision, Inc. “)
The Electronovision version appeared nationally in theaters that September, 1964, and excerpts are on the internet, where in the play’s last scene the actors make the fencing seem an immediate, genuine, vigorous, grim battle in this tragedy.
The book includes a) The Complete Journal of Rehearsals and b) the play as performed, “The Prompt Script”. There are also some beautiful photos, two interviews, and an introduction that describes the making of the Journal, which is transcription from audio tape.
Richard Sterne sometimes describes rehearsal events: “Burton…preferred that Hamlet…should simply walk up to Laertes and take the weapon from him deliberately,” (p. 61). This action can be seen on the internet.
Much of the journal is direct quote: about Hamlet struggling with the others in the ghost scene: “Gielgud: Save your energy. It’s very important that you let them do the work in restraining you. Otherwise you’ll tire too quickly. It’s dark and the audience can only get a general impression of what’s going on, so fake your part of the struggle.” (p. 63)
A good, guided way to read William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.