Critical approaches to Hamlet - Wikipedia
HAMLET. I pray thee, do not mock me, fellow student. I think it was to see my Oh, I'd rather have met my fiercest enemy in heaven, Horatio, than have lived. Attitudes to Death · Impact of location · Love, lust and marriage · Parents and children We first meet him in Act I scene ii, when he agrees to let Laertes return to Paris: More on the political role of Polonius: Hamlet in Act V scene ii, speaks of His realisation that giving Ophelia a prayer book to read is hypocritical does . SCENE II. A room of state in the castle. / Enter KING CLAUDIUS, QUEEN GERTRUDE, Now for ourself and for this time of meeting: Let not thy mother lose her prayers, Hamlet: I pray thee, stay with us; go not to Wittenberg. HAMLET . angry jokes about his parents' wedding–the guards and Horatio (Hamlet's friend from.
Voltaire 's attack on the play is perhaps the most famous neoclassical treatment of the play;  it inspired numerous defenses in England, but these defenses did not at first weaken the neoclassical orthodoxy. Thus Lewis Theobald explained the seeming absurdity of Hamlet's calling death an "undiscovered country" not long after he has encountered the Ghost by hypothesizing that the Ghost describes Purgatorynot death.
Steele the psychological insight of the first soliloquy, and Addison the ghost scene. Early in the century, George Stubbes noted Shakespeare's use of Horatio's incredulity to make the Ghost credible. After midcentury, such psychological readings had begun to gain more currency. Tobias Smollett criticized what he saw as the illogic of the "to be or not to be" soliloquy, which was belied, he said, by Hamlet's actions.
More commonly, the play's disparate elements were defended as part of a grander design. Horace Walpolefor instance, defends the mixture of comedy and tragedy as ultimately more realistic and effective than rigid separation would be. Samuel Johnson echoed Popple in defending the character of Polonius; Johnson also doubted the necessity of Hamlet's vicious treatment of Ophelia, and he also viewed skeptically the necessity and probability of the climax.
Hamlet's character was also attacked by other critics near the end of the century, among them George Steevens.
Shakespeare's Hamlet Act 5 Scene 2 - Good night sweet princenow cracks a noble heart
Goethe had one of his characters say, in his novel Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship"Shakespeare meant A lovely, pure, noble, and most moral nature, without the strength of nerve which forms a hero, sinks beneath a burden which it cannot bear, and must not cast away. InWilliam Richardson sounded the key notes of this analysis: Hamlet was a sensitive and accomplished prince with an unusually refined moral sense; he is nearly incapacitated by the horror of the truth about his mother and uncle, and he struggles against that horror to fulfill his task.
Richardson, who thought the play should have ended shortly after the closet scene, thus saw the play as dramatizing the conflict between a sensitive individual and a calloused, seamy world. To this analysis Thomas Robertson adds in particular the devastating impact of the death of Hamlet's father.
The most extended critique of the play's language from the end of the century is perhaps that of Hugh Blair. The Romantic period viewed Hamlet as more of a rebel against politics, and as an intellectual, rather than an overly-sensitive, being. This is also the period when the question of Hamlet's delay is brought up, as previously it could be seen as plot device, while romantics focused largely on character. Samuel Coleridgefor example, delivered lectures on Hamlet during this period that evaluated his tragic state of mind in an interpretation that proved influential for over a century.
For Coleridge, Shakespeare depicted Hamlet's light of indecisiveness as resulting from an imbalance between the human attention to external objects, and inward thoughts, and thus suffered a paralysis of action because his faculty of vivid imagination overpowered his will and induced an aversion to actually enacting any measure  For Coleridge, Shakespeare aimed to convey the basic message that man must act, and not be trammeled by excessive thinking that only leads to delay.
Later criticism has come to consider this view as much a reflection of Coleridge's own problematical nature as an insight into the Shakespearean character. Coleridge and other writers praised the play for its philosophical questions, which guided the audience to ponder and grow intellectually. Bradley and Sigmund Freuddeveloped ideas which built on the past and greatly affected the future of Hamlet criticism. Bradley held the view that Hamlet should be studied as one would study a real person: His explanation of Hamlet's delay was one of a deep "melancholy" which grew from a growing disappointment in his mother.
Freud also viewed Hamlet as a real person: He took the view that Hamlet's madness merely disguised the truth in the same way dreams disguise unconscious realities. He also famously saw Hamlet's struggles as a representation of the Oedipus complex. In Freud's view, Hamlet is torn largely because he has repressed sexual desire for his mother, which is being acted out by and challenged by Claudius. Eliot in his noted essay " Hamlet and His Problems ", downplayed such psychological emphasis of the play, and instead used other methods to read characters in the play, focusing on minor characters such as Gertrudeand seeing what they reveal about Hamlet's decisions.
Eliot famously called Hamlet "an artistic failure", and criticized the play as analogous to the Mona Lisain that both were overly enigmatic.
Eliot targeted Hamlet's disgust with his mother as lacking an "objective correlative"; viz. Questions about Gertrude and other minor characters were later taken underwing by the feminist criticism movement, as criticism focused more and more on questions of gender and political import.
Current, New Historicist theories now attempt to remove the romanticism surrounding the play and show its context in the world of Elizabethan England. In his day, plays were usually expected to follow the advice of Aristotle in his Poeticswhich declared that a drama should not focus on character so much as action.
The highlights of Hamlet, however, are not the action scenes, but the soliloquies, wherein Hamlet reveals his motives and thoughts to the audience. Also, unlike Shakespeare's other plays, there is no strong subplot; all plot forks are directly connected to the main vein of Hamlet struggling to gain revenge. The play is full of seeming discontinuities and irregularities of action.
At one point, Hamlet is resolved to kill Claudius: Scholars still debate whether these odd plot turns are mistakes or intentional additions to add to the play's theme of confusion and duality. Much of the play's language is in the elaborate, witty language expected of a royal court.
This is in line with Baldassare Castiglione 's work, The Courtier published inwhich outlines several courtly rules, specifically advising servants of royals to amuse their rulers with their inventive language. Osric and Polonius seem to especially respect this suggestion. Claudius' speech is full of rhetorical figures, as is Hamlet's and, at times, Ophelia's, while Horatio, the guards, and the gravediggers use simpler methods of speech. Claudius demonstrates an authoritative control over the language of a King, referring to himself in the first person plural, and using anaphora mixed with metaphor that hearkens back to Greek political speeches.
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His language is very self-conscious, and relies heavily on puns. Especially when pretending to be mad, Hamlet uses puns to reveal his true thoughts, while at the same time hiding them.
Psychologists have since associated a heavy use of puns with schizophrenia. Many scholars have found it odd that Shakespeare would, seemingly arbitrarily, use this rhetorical form throughout the play.
Hamlet was written later in his life, when he was better at matching rhetorical figures with the characters and the plot than early in his career. Wright, however, has proposed that hendiadys is used to heighten the sense of duality in the play. Early critics viewed such speeches as To be, or not to be as Shakespeare's expressions of his own personal beliefs.
Later scholars, such as Charney, have rejected this theory saying the soliloquies are expressions of Hamlet's thought process.
During his speeches, Hamlet interrupts himself, expressing disgust in agreement with himself, and embellishing his own words. He has difficulty expressing himself directly, and instead skirts around the basic idea of his thought. Not until late in the play, after his experience with the pirates, is Hamlet really able to be direct and sure in his speech. The clowns' discussion of whether her death was a suicide and whether she merits a Christian burial is at heart a religious topic.
The play makes several references to both Catholicism and Protestantismthe two most powerful theological forces of the time in Europe. The Ghost describes himself as being in purgatoryand as having died without receiving his last rites. This, along with Ophelia's burial ceremony, which is uniquely Catholic, make up most of the play's Catholic connections.
Some scholars have pointed that revenge tragedies were traditionally Catholic, possibly because of their sources: Spain and Italy, both Catholic nations. Scholars have pointed out that knowledge of the play's Catholicism can reveal important paradoxes in Hamlet's decision process.
According to Catholic doctrine, the strongest duty is to God and family. Hamlet's father being killed and calling for revenge thus offers a contradiction: The play does mention Wittenberg, which is where Hamlet is attending university, and where Martin Luther first nailed his 95 theses.
The best prayer scene
If it be not now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet will it come—the readiness is all. Is he perhaps both? Initial impressions We first meet him in Act I scene ii, when he agrees to let Laertes return to Paris: He seems a kind and considerate father, who, in just four lines, conveys to us that he does not wish to lose his son but is willing to grant his request, if the king agrees. More on the political role of Polonius: The system in Denmark seen in the play is that which pertained in England at the time of the Norman Conquest, and both earlier and later in other European countries: Polonius has clearly supported Claudius as the next monarch instead of Prince Hamlet.
Shakespeare shows the same system in Macbeth, where, by appointing Malcolm as Prince of Cumberland, Duncan is indicating that he is the heir the King prefers.
Before that, Macbeth himself had hopes that, as a national hero, he might be nominated instead. Parental authority The next time we meet Polonius, he gives a long speech of advice to Laertes. It is long-winded, but excellent advice. He is a man who expects to be obeyed. He commands Ophelia to keep herself away from Hamlet.
The bilboes are still shown in the Tower of London among the other spoils of the Spanish Armada. Malone defends pall, the reading of the second quarto and later folios, by quoting A. Ingleby would read fall; the reading in the text is Pope's. Singer quotes Cotgrave, "Esclavine Finger'd, got hold of; put my hand upon by lucky accident. Their grand commission, the commission they were so proud of having entrusted to them.
Larded, garnished, tricked out; cp. Some editors take They as referring to Guildenstern and Rosencrantz. A baseness, a mark of low birth.
Johnson remarks, "The comma is the note of connection and continuity of sentences; the period is the note of abruption and disjunction. He also quotes Chapman's The Widow's Tears,"Thou must be an ass charg'd with crowns to make way," to show that charge was used for load. I do not believe that any quibble was intended, nor does charge seem to mean more than 'injunction. Subscribed it, affixed an imitation of the king's signature: Sweet, "a common mode of address in the Elizabethan court language" Mommsen.
Marston, The Malcontent, Ind. I beseech you, sir, be covered. No, in good faith, for mine ease. Remarking that 'neither' for our 'either' is in Shakespeare's manner, after a negative expressed or implied, and that the ellipsis of the negative explains neither here, he paraphrases but yaw neither by "do nothing but lag clumsily behind neither.
Why do we waste time in so ineffectually trying to describe him whom no words can describe?