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Neil Bowen
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Interesting article on Ophelia by the major feminist critic Elaine Showalter: https://www.bl.uk/shakespeare/articles/ophelia-gender-and-madness

March 22, 2018 at 9:13 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
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Posts: 921

The play's the thing: BBC 2 Saturday, 31st March film of a very recent, celebrated version of 'Hamlet'. 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09yj7dz

March 30, 2018 at 5:53 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
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Posts: 921

Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet : http://ntlive.nationaltheatre.org.uk/productions/ntlout27-hamlet

April 23, 2018 at 6:11 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
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Posts: 921

If you didn't manage to join our recent seminar with Dr Briony Frost you can catch up here: https://peripeteia-group.slack.com/messages/CACSRF5K8/team/U4X41FW9Z/

April 26, 2018 at 4:37 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
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Posts: 921

https://www.bl.uk/shakespeare/articles/character-analysis-gertrude-in-hamlet

May 10, 2018 at 2:53 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
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Posts: 921

A series of slides exploring the presentation and reception of Ophelia: http://slideplayer.com/slide/6579111/#.WyahJSZmv2E.facebook

June 18, 2018 at 6:12 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
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Posts: 921

The peerless discussion programme, In Our Time's recent episode on Hamlet: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09jqtfs ;

December 13, 2018 at 6:38 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
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Posts: 921

Neil Bowen at March 22, 2018 at 9:13 AM

Interesting article on Ophelia by the major feminist critic Elaine Showalter: https://www.bl.uk/shakespeare/articles/ophelia-gender-and-madness

'As Dr John Charles Bucknill, president of the Medico-Psychological Association wrote in 1859, ‘Every mental physician of moderately extensive experience must have seen many Ophelias.'

'Around the 1970s, Ophelia on stage became a graphic dramatic study of mental pathology, even schizophrenia, sucking her thumb, headbanging, even drooling.'

February 25, 2019 at 8:34 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
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Posts: 921

https://www.bl.uk/shakespeare/articles/character-analysis-gertrude-in-hamlet

February 25, 2019 at 8:41 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
Administrator
Posts: 921

Themes of HAMLET

Corruption & health

 

Language of the play permeated with images of illness, disease - metaphors for moral and political corruption

From the start, the guards, both Francisco ‘I am sick at heart’ and Marcellus, ‘Something is rotten in the state of Denmark’, to the end, the gravediggers’ talk of poxy rotten bodies

Corruption spreads throughout the society and political body of Elsinore.

Different types of corruption spread into all key relationships e.g. - Claudius & Gertrude [sexual, incest]; Hamlet & Rosencrantz & Guildenstern [betrayal of friendship]; Hamlet & Ophelia [betrayal of love]; Claudius & Laertes [corruption of heroism] as well as within individual characters - the ghost, Hamlet & Ophelia’s madnesses.

Some critics argue that all the language and communication in the play is also corrupted.

However, most of the characters don’t appear to know the cause of this ubiquitous corruption. ‘Something’s rotten’. Or they are too frightened to identify the cause. Or they have benefited from the corruption - Claudius & Polonius, perhaps Gertrude.

Hamlet learns that Claudius is the apparent source of the corruption. The corruption stemming from the murder, but also the manner of the murder - poison = Elsinore is ill because it has been poisoned. In Hamlet’s mind his mother’s marriage is another source of corruption.

Therefore to purge Denmark Hamlet has to kill Claudius.

 

However, this simple diagnosis is complicated by Shakespeare’s characterisation and by critical responses.

The idea of the hamartia suggests a form of sickness within the hero’s mind of action, e.g. Hamlet’s melancholy. [Though this may be considered a symptom of a deeper sickness within the world of Elsinore.]

The ghost can be seen as embodiment of illness, it is not a trustworthy source of information and is even seen by some critics, such as Tony Tanner and Hippolyte Taine, as pouring poisonous words into Hamlet’s ear.

For the most extreme critics, such as Wilson Knight, Hamlet is not a restorative force at all, but himself a corrupter of health. Ophelia’s madness, a form of mental corruption, is at least, in part, caused by Hamlet’s actions.

Revenge set up as a cure for corruption, like a form of radical surgery to the body politic, but the play undercuts this simple solution. Revenge in the play is presented as problematic at least.

Hamlet romantices his father, but the ghost tells us Old Hamlet died with his sins upon him, suggesting corruption predates Claudius’ usurpation.

At the end of the play it seems that the sword has triumphed over the poison. But Laertes’ sword is poisoned, Hamlet stabs Claudius, but also makes him drink poison too.

Unclear at the end of the play that Claudius’ death has indeed purged Elsinore and restorative justice been done. Depends on reading of Fortinbras.

For modern critics the illness at the heart of Elsinore is not contained only within the characters of Claudius or Hamlet. Rather it is endemic within a society that is fundamentally unjust. Hence, just switching the principal players - Fortinbras for Claudius/ Hamlet/ Old Hamlet will not lead to health.

 

May 7, 2019 at 6:24 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
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Check out these great free resources from Royal Holloway University: https://www.royalholloway.ac.uk/research-and-teaching/departments-and-schools/english/about-us/teacherhub/teaching-resources/hamlet/

June 20, 2019 at 6:19 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
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Posts: 921

Our latest book, The Art of Drama, vol.3 is on 'Hamlet' and is currently in production. With a lot of work and a bit of luck the book should be out this summer and it's going to be a cracker. Here's a short extract on the theme of Kingship:


Before writing Hamlet, Shakespeare was most famous for his History plays, of which Henry, the Fourth was his most popular. Hence contemporary audiences were prepped to read his latest work through this particular prism, as concerning kings, queens and princes. The issue of kingship would have been especially resonant for this audience as a woman was currently on the throne. And not just a woman, an elderly woman without children and therefore with no legitimate heir. Concerns about the succession and a potential succession crisis had swirled around Elizabethan culture so dangerously that the monarch felt impelled to issue the Treasons Act in 1571. Not only did this act make any attempt to usurp the English monarch an act of high treason, but it also entirely outlawed any discussion of succession.

 

It was rather audacious then for Shakespeare to produce a play where this issue is so prominent, albeit hidden under the thin disguise of the Danish setting. Hamlet certainly seems to think he has been usurped by his uncle and we might assume that he was through the rights or primogeniture, the natural heir to the Danish throne. However, the world, as the Shakespeare scholar Anjna Chouhan has pointed out the word ‘election’, in the sense of some form of democratic process, appears a couple of times in Hamlet, both times used by Hamlet himself. Though the prince, may feel usurped, he acknowledges that Claudius has ‘popped between the election’ and his hopes, implying his uncle may have been chosen as the new Danish king [though, of course, such as process could be open to manipulation]. Later, Hamlet again implies some sort of rudimentary democratic process operant in the choosing of a new monarch, when he prophesies that the ‘election’ will ‘light’ on Fortinbras. Hence the issues of succession in the play echo the forbidden debate in Elizabethan England about whether a new monarch could be elected by thecommonwealth rather than chosen, somehow, by God.

 


March 20, 2020 at 4:56 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
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Posts: 921

Here's the start of our essay on Hamlet's 'mighty opposite', Claudius.


At first glance, Claudius appears to be the archetypal ‘bad guy’ – the villain to Hamlet’s hero. Having murdered Hamlet’s father out of ambition and lust, he spends most of the play seeking to murder Hamlet himself. ‘Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark,’ complains the guard, Marcellus, in Act I – surely, it must be Claudius. Surely, he is the evil at the heart of a corrupt system, and once Hamlet has killed him, all will be well once more in Elsinore.

 

Despite being outlawed in England in Shakespeare’s time, the writings of Niccolo Machiavelli [1469-1527] were widely circulated, and Claudius is a textbook Machiavellian prince; an ambitious and ruthless man who uses underhand and unheroic means to achieve selfish ends. As Claudius says in his soliloquy, ‘I am still possess’d/ Of those effects for which I did the murder / – My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen’ [Act III, Scene 3 ll54-55]. Most notably, he repeatedly uses poison, the weapon of the Machiavellian villain. Claudius uses poison to murder Old Hamlet, to taint Laertes’ sword – a sword which should be a symbol of traditional values of honourable revenge – as well as in the cup of wine he intends Hamlet to drink in Act V. Contaminating other characters with his corruption – Gertrude, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and Laertes, Claudius runs a surveillance state and secretly orders the cold-blooded execution of Hamlet. As Old Hamlet told his son, ‘A serpent stung me, so the whole ear of Denmark/ is, by a forged process of my death/ rankly abused’. In light of all this, it is hard to disagree with Hamlet, that Claudius is a ‘smiling damned villain’ – murderous, treacherous, guilty, and, like the serpent in the Garden of Eden, evil.

 

On the other hand, as much as Hamlet might like to think of himself and Claudius ‘mighty opposites’, they are not so much opposites as mirror images. In many ways, Claudius and Hamlet are very alike: Both are highly perceptive and are quick with words; both are more thinkers than fighters – Hamlet spends the vast proportion of the play vacillating on his course of action and uses the ruse of the play-within-a-play to confirm Claudius’ guilt, while Claudius deals with the threat from a returning and enraged Laertes not with weapons, but with nothing other than some well-chosen words. Both Hamlet and Claudius apparently love Gertrude, both are overshadowed by Old Hamlet and both have either killed a king, or seek to do so. Indeed, an Oedipal reading of the play suggests that Hamlet hesitates from killing Claudius exactly because of their too-close similarities and desires. In this sense, Shakespeare’s depiction of Hamlet and Claudius is another example of the mirroring which is so characteristic of his play: three revenging sons, two mad lovers, and even two Hamlets.

 


March 22, 2020 at 3:12 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
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Old Hamlet, from Art of Drama 3.


Old Hamlet has often been viewed nostalgically as a deceased hero. In Act III, Scene 4, Prince Hamlet depicts his father as a martial conqueror and godlike ruler. The former King, his son tells us, bore ‘grace’ upon his brow, ‘the front of Jove himself/ An eye like Mars to threaten and command’ [55-56]. In Old Hamlet’s form, his son swears that ‘every god did seem to set his seal/ To give the world assurance of a man’. Old Hamlet was also, according to his son, like Hyperion – a god of heavenly light. Such classical allusions give Old Hamlet an immense, timeless stature and a sort of mighty heroism untouched by the sordid corruptions of Claudius’ Elsinore. Indeed, as a martial king Old Hamlet is presented as the opposite to his successor, the Machiavellian political king, Claudius, who uses diplomacy, not warfare to settle his disputes with Norway. While the overwhelming, perhaps impossibly overbearing, shadow this mighty father throws upon his son is suggested by their shared name, Hamlet too struggles to live up to his father’s example.


Yet the man that Hamlet remembers no longer exists; he is dead before the play begins, killed by his brother’s hand. The ghost that looks like Hamlet’s father is a more ambiguous character – and the play deliberately leaves us questioning its identity as ‘a spirit of health or goblin damned,’ as well as whether its intentions are ‘wicked or charitable’ [I, 4, 40,42].

 

 


March 26, 2020 at 10:55 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
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Posts: 921

We've taken a deliberately provocative line for our essay on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern...


In our experience, students often feel that Hamlet’s trick of re-writing Claudius’ letter to the English king and sending Rosencrantz and Guildenstern off to their deaths instead of him and the lack of remorse the prince expresses about this – just a casual, off-hand, ‘they are not near my conscience’ – confirms that Hamlet is fundamentally a self-centred, callous character, a character who cruelly mistreats those around him and is, consequently, undeserving of our sympathy. These students are, of course, entirely wrong, about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern at least. For there is no doubt that these two self-serving ‘adders fang’d’ entirely deserve their brutal comeuppance.

March 30, 2020 at 7:21 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
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Posts: 921

On the gravediggers, from Art of Drama 3.

 

Two clowns, forming a familiar comic double-act, dig Ophelia’s grave, their funereal work in stark contrast to their chattering, drinking, singing and their gallows humour. Skulls fly up from their spades and tumble around in the dirt. In the midst of their labour, Hamlet and Horatio enter. Hamlet is appalled by their careless irreverence, exclaiming, ‘Has this fellow no feeling of his business, that he sings at grave-making?’ He watches the flights of the skulls uncomfortably, speculating that they may be politicians, courtiers, ladies, and lawyers slung around as though they are common criminals, like Cain ‘that did the firs t murder’. For all their seeming disrespect, however, the gravediggers recognise some among the dismembered dead. One points out the skull of Yorick, ‘the king’s jester’. Hamlet is distracted from his discomfort, takes the skull, and recreates the clown from memory in almost as much detail as he does when he recollects his father. His perspective on death seems to shift here and he, like the clowns, muses on the social levelling that takes place in the grave. The arrival of Ophelia’s funeral party returns the play to its former sobriety.

 

Like many of Shakespeare’s scenes featuring commoners, the episode with the gravediggers or clowns is not merely a moment of comic relief. Clowning scenes are timed for moments when ‘the shock or trauma level of the play has reached a point when…audience members become desensitised’ to ‘give spectators a chance to catch their breath and mentally prepare themselves for what follows’ . Rather than simply distracting from the main themes of the play, however, they reiterate, familiarize and universalise them, often simplified and using contemporary references. As Culwell writes, ‘what cannot be understood when expressed by the Prince of Denmark makes logical sense when simply outlined by the gravedigger and put into contemporary terms’.


Among the key topics that the clowns discuss, which are threaded through the play as a whole, are: the rites of memory, social class [examined in our essay on Act V], justice and political corruption, and identity. Hamlet’s speculations on the legitimacy of self-murder in Act I, Scene 2 is explored in the Clowns discussion of whether Ophelia’s death is self-defense or self-offense [‘se offendendo’ – a comic mistranslation of the Latin]. The apparently playful question of whether the man goes to the water or the water comes to the man examine the legal tensions between ecclesiastical and state law regarding possible suicides, where the former denied the victim a Christian burial while the latter excused someone deemed insane from such social rejection on the grounds that they could not be held responsible for their decision. The same theme is continued in in Laertes’ and the priest’s disagreement over what rituals should be performed for one whose ‘death was doubtful’ in the second half of the scene. The way Ophelia is buried provides a contrast to the ceremonial burial of Hamlet, who died nobly in combat, and the deliberate forgetting that will be Claudius’ reward for his treachery.

 

 


April 3, 2020 at 9:48 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
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Posts: 921

This extract is from the section of our critical guide on the play's major themes.

 

Subjectivity

It is the lengthy, self-reflective investigation of the potential for divergence between appearance and reality, inner and outer selves, which makes Hamlet seem such a peculiarly modern play. This modernness is extended into its exploration of self-hood Among the other questions that that play brings up are those that concern individual identity. To die or not to die? To love or to hate? To tell the truth or lie? To act or not to act? Tortured by moral uncertainty to the point of mental fragmentation, as a character Hamlet exists in a state of permanent psychological crisis. Today, Hamlet might be scathingly referred to by older generations as a ‘snowflake’, paralysed in the face of his uncle’s treason because he is so sensitive to the moral complexities of his situation. His experience does not deserve such scorn. Despite his Christian faith, he finds himself in a predicament where there aren’t any simple, pre-set moral codes to follow. Instead he has to determine the morals for himself within a number of competing and irreconcilable frameworks. If Hamlet struggles to present us with an authentic self, it is not just because he is as much a performer as the smiling, lying Claudius, it is also because the various aspects of himself are pulled in different directions by a range of social and moral obligations. For Hamlet, his course of action could be determined by the divinity of kings, a son’s duty, an heir’s political responsibility, a soldier’s honour, a Christian’s piety, a prince’s authority, or a scholar’s philosophy. Put another way; to murder the king is treason; to honour his father he must kill the king; as heir he must support the king; as a warrior he must be avenged by killing the king; as a Christian, murder is wrong; as a prince, it is his duty to act on Claudius’ treason; as a scholar, he cannot conscience killing. Hamlet’s identity comprises all of these facets of himself. To choose one to override all the others is a form of self-denial and self-destruction. No wonder he cannot decide what to do!

 

Hamlet’s psychological crisis is epitomised by the collision of being and seeming that he articulates in his debate with his mother and uncle about his costume. But he is not alone in this. Most of the key characters battle with similarly conflicting aspects of their identity or are provoked into action by accusations that if they do not act then they are not who they appear to be. Hence a disjunction between being and seeming is at the core of the social crisis of the playworld.

 

 


July 24, 2020 at 5:32 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
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Posts: 921

Appearance and reality

Scholars of renaissance theatre agree that almost all of the drama of this period is preoccupied, one way or another, with the theme of appearances and reality, probably because this theme is interwoven into the fabric of theatre itself. Theatre is, essentially, the art of illusion and of pretence, as the word ‘play’ indicates. Though audiences can forget this for the duration of a play’s action, what we witness on a stage is, of course, not the real world, nor are the actors really the people they are pretending to be. Indeed those ‘people’ are really only characters, works of fiction made up by a playwright. We know a play is all pretence, but as the poet Coleridge says, we willingly suspend our belief. At least for a short while, we conspire in making theatrical artifice seem to be real.

 

But what is real? Hamlet is haunted by questions that constantly probe at the gap between authenticity and illusion within its staged world. Is the Ghost real or a fantasy? If real, is it a messenger from God or a demon from Hell? Is it Old Hamlet or just his image? Is Claudius a good king or a bad one? Is Gertrude a wise queen or weak and lust-driven? Does Ophelia drown herself by accident or on purpose? Initially Hamlet appears to set himself up as our guide to what is genuine and what is not: ’Seems, madam?’ he inquires in Act I, Scene 2, when Gertrude wonders why his grief over Old Hamlet’s death ‘seems so particular’, ‘…I know not ‘seems’’ [I.2,76]. But, despite his claim that he is only and honestly himself and above appearing to be anything else, Hamlet offers no stable authentic self to help us navigate the play’s smoke and mirrors. Among the questions you may find yourself asking of him are: Is he mad or is he sane? Does he love Ophelia or is he just pretending? Does he ever really intend to revenge the Ghost or simply to remember him? You might even ask: is he a tragic hero or as much a villain as Claudius?

 

Taking a broader view on the topic of appearances versus reality, this section will explore three linked aspects that emerge in the play: the Elizabethan sumptuary [clothing] laws, subjectivity, and metatheatre.

 

August 27, 2020 at 4:21 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
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Posts: 921

A summary of the chapter on 'Hamlet' from professor Kiernan Ryan's excellent new book, 'Shakespearean Tragedy':

The Stamp of One Defect

‘For centuries critivs have tied themselves in knots trying to slove the baffling problem they believe Hamlet poses’. Why doesn’t Hamlet sweep to his revenge? Or what is wrong with Hamlet than he is unable to carry out his duty?

 

Various critics have diagnosed the prince and proposed different flaws in Hamlet that made him delay. For Goethe he has a ‘lovely pure and most moral nature’ but was too sensitive and effete a soul to carry out revenge. Coleridge and Schlegel suggested Hamlet thinks too much and thought gets in the way of action: the ‘overmediative Hamlet’. A.C. Bradley rejects this: Hamlet’s procrastination was not caused by an ‘habitual excess of reflectiveneness’ but by ‘a state of profound melancholy’. Ernest Jones suggests oedipal issues.

 

All these critics are mistaken, because they ‘proceed on the assumption that the probme lies with Hamlet rather than with the wold and the situation in which he finds himself’. The tragedy is taken to be Hamlet’s ‘unfortunate possession’ of a flaw, reducing the paly to a ‘case study in failure’.

 

Hamlet himself sets critics off in this direction with his various self-criticisms. But this line of argument is flawed because the ‘notion that Hamlet’s capacity to act is paralysed by an innate predisposition to think himself out of acting doesn’t square’ with all the actions he takes in the play. Following the ghost, setting the Mousetrap, killing Polonius, battling with pirates etc. Bradley insists that, in fact, Hamlet is ‘heroic, terrible figure’.

 

Hamlet also isn’t a moral figure, objecting to revenge on moral grounds. He kills Polonius and shows not a shred of remorse and sends R&G to their deaths without concern, shows no remorse for his part in Ophelia breakdown and suicide, does not apologise to Laertes for killng his father…

 

Seeing Doubles

These attempts to identity Hamlet’s flaw are doomed because they rest on an ‘uncontested premise that the tragedy springs from Hamlet’s failure to appese his father’s shade’. What happens if we reverse this assumption and see Hamlet’s ‘tormented resistance to preforming the role of revenging prince’ not as his fatal flaw ‘but as a heroic virtue that sets him at odds with his world for reasons he can’t comprehend but the play makes plain to us’? What if the flaw isn’t in Hamlet but in Elsinore?

 

Hamlet’s ‘incompatability’ with the revenge task is thrown into stark relief via the ‘textbook revengers’ Laertes & Fortinbras; they are the ‘norm to which Hamlet strives in vain to conform’. The contrast foregrounds how ‘out of synch’ Hamlet is with his world. Moreover, the ‘fact that all three find themselves in the same basic predicament also makes it clear that the causes of the predicament are systemic and not specific to Hamlet’. For Hamlet to find revenge unproblematic he’d have to be like Laertes & Fortinbras and like Claudius.

 

Indeed, the ‘play repeatedly draws parallels between Hamlet and Claudius’. ‘Hamlet’s involuntary refusal to comply with the revenge code bespeaks a refusal to be Claudius’ counterpart in the revenge scenario and a revolt against the entire ethos the revenge scenario sanctions’.

 

Ryan reads the actors retelling of the Pyrrhus’ revenge on Priam as parallel to Claudius’ murder of Old Hamlet, with Hecuba equating to Gertrude. But, this is also a projection of what Hamlet wants to do to Claudius. Hence this passage ‘fuses together’ Claudius & Hamlet and points to the real reason for Hamlet ‘recoiling from revenge’. Ryan takes a similar line on Lucianus. Noting that he is the ‘nephew’ to the ‘king’ and not the ‘brother’ to a ‘Duke’, Ryan interprets Lucianus as both a projection of Claudius and of Hamlet. Claudius’ soliloquy also fuses them together: ‘Although his quandary is different form Hamlet’s, the echo of the latter’s deadlock’ is ‘unmissable’. Claudius too feels ‘immobilized by conflicting imperatives’.

 

So, Hamlet ‘sworn to revenge is the mirror image not only of his fellow revengers, but also of the king on whom he is doomed to wreak revenge’. In other words, ‘the tragedy makes not essential distincition between the character guilty of the deed that demands to be avenged and the character whose duty it is to exact revenge.’ In fact, he actively ‘dissolves the distinction’ because ‘the object of its indictment is the iniquity of a society of which revenge is a symptom’. Killing Cladius is to ‘duplicate the original crime’ and to be ‘complicit in the culture that fosters such crimes.’ ‘Complying with the revenge code means acting not merely as if revenge makes sense and matters, but as if the social order that generates teh reasons for revenge makes sense and matters.’

 

When he finally kills Claudius, Hamlet doesn’t mention his father or say anything about revenge for his father’s murder. That is because ‘it’s beside the point of the play, for which much more than revenge is at stake’.

 


May 19, 2022 at 5:10 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Neil Bowen
Administrator
Posts: 921

That Within Which Passeth Show

Hamlet’s heart wasn’t in his role of revenger just as Shakespeare’s wasn’t in writing a conventional revenge tragedy. ‘As a Renaissance prince, steeped in the values of his class and culture, Hamlet is naturally appalled to find himself failing to perform the prescribed royal role of righteous avenging son, and at a loss to explain why’. He tries to stick to the avenger’s script and repeatedly fails. His ‘hot-blood’ drinking speech, for instance, has a ‘parodic ring’ with the language composed of ‘creaking theatrical cliches of which he’s acutely aware’.

 

Hamlet’s furious critique of Laertes’ bombastic language at the funeral further demonstrates his ‘deep-seated distrust of the theatricality of everything that’s said and done in the rotten stage of Denmark’ and this is what ‘lies at the heart of what troubles him from the very beginning’. His ‘grief-stricken disillusionment is so consuming that life seems pointless and he wishes he were dead’.

 

From the start, Hamlet refuses to ignore the ‘loaded language’ of the court. For to do so would not just mean taking what is said at face value, but being complicit in the falsity of this court’s discourse. Indeed, as Hamlet realises, even when the sentiments are genuine, there’s something suspect in customary actions and appearances, because they can be imitated, as by actors. Hence Hamlet has something ‘within which passes show’ - ‘something beyond mere grief that defies dissimilation’.

 

As his soliloquy confirms, even before he’s met the ghost and been given the revenge task, ‘Hamlet has had enough of living as the person he’s supposed to be in the world as he finds it, which is tiresome, predictable, disgusting and pointless’. ‘Terminally disenchanted’ with his world and with ‘everything that being Hamlet, Prince of Denmark’ entails, Hamlet the man tries in vain to uncouple himself from Hamlet the Prince.

 

May 24, 2022 at 3:37 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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