The Tragedy of Hamlet Shakespeare’s Danish Revenge Drama

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  • The Tragedy of HamletShakespeares Danish Revenge Drama

  • Background

    First performed in 1600Midpoint of his career

    Shakespeare himself played the Ghost in the original production

    Anglo-Saxon Amleth legend likely the source

  • Elizabethan BeliefsHelpful to remember Elizabethans had different understandings than we do about:GhostsDepression/MelancholyRevenge

    Edwin Booth (19th Century)

  • Ghosts and ApparitionsThere were serious books about the etiquette of dealing with ghosts and apparitionsLewes Lavater states:Melancholic persons and mad men imagine may things which in very deed are not.What those things are which men see and hear: and first, that good angels do sometimes appear.That sometimes, yea and for the most part, evil angels do appear.

  • MelancholyElizabethans considered melancholy a physical response (ailment, illness) to events. It was not simply a mood.Symptoms included being: wary, circumspect, sad, jealous, paranoid, doubtful, suspicious, insomnia, nightmares

  • RevengeRevenge is a kind of wild justice; which, the more man's nature runs to, the more ought law to weed it out.

    This view, indicative of Elizabethan thought, runs counter to the Ghost and Hamlets seeming need for revenge.

  • RevengeFrancis Bacons essay on revenge provides insights into Elizabethan values about revengeNay rather, vindictive persons live the lives of witches; who as they live mischievously, so their ends are unfortunate.

    The most tolerable sort of revenge is for those wrongs which there is no law to remedy [. . .]

  • Whats it all about? Tragedy mystery revenge story ghost story political thriller

    Human nature Characters are both good and evil No easy answers

  • Hamlet so brooding Brilliant, brave, charismatic, funny

    Thinks in complex, ironic ways

    Likes to ask difficult questions To be, or not to be

  • Literary Criticism in a NutshellLiterary criticism studies literature and attempts to evaluate its literary merit as a standalone and in comparison to others

    Criticism tries to provide a greater understanding and appreciation of the work.

    Harold Bloom

  • Literary Criticism in a NutshellSome schools include: HistoricalBiographicalSocialPsychologicalArchetypalNewStructuralismPost StructuralismReader ResponseFeministNorthrop Frye

  • Schools of Criticism in a NutshellPlato and Aristotle are classical critics and theorists who examine arts direction and impact on life.

    17th-19th Century: neoclassical and Renaissance: revival of the works of Plato, Aristotle, Longinus, and Horace (the classical critics but began to rebel a bit.)

    Romantic Post-romantic


  • Hamlets Literary CriticsJohn Dryden 1631-1700

    Thought Shakespeare corrupted the language with false wit, puns, and ambiguity. The very thing later scholars praised

    Laurence Olivier 20th Century

  • Hamlets Literary CriticsSchlegel 1772-1829

    A founder of German Romanticism

    Saw Shakespeare as a romantic

  • Hamlets Literary CriticsGoethe 1749-1832

    Hamlets masculinity

  • Hamlets Literary CriticsSamuel Taylor Coleridge 1772-1834

    Concerned with Hamlets perceptions versus the reality

  • Hamlets Literary CriticsErnest Jones 1879-1958

    Freudian Analysis

    Oedipus Complex

  • Hamlets Literary CriticsT.S. Eliot 1888-1965

    Viewed play as artistic failure

  • Hamlets Literary CriticsG. Wilson Knight: The Wheel of Fire 1949

    Perhaps the characters are neither good nor evil

  • SourcesFamous Hamlets (8/30/03)Department of Theatre, School of Fine Arts, University of Minnesota Duluth Lane, Steve. Romantics Portrait Gallery: William Hazlit t, Ian. "Short Course on Shakespeare's Hamlet". Teacher Created Materials. March 16, 1999. (08/31/03) Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, Copyright (c) 2003. Hamlet Images (08/31/03)Sculpture Gallery Plato (0/901/03)Companions of the Order of Canada Gallery E-H Northrop Frye (09/01/03Stanford Presidential Lectures and Symposia in the Humanties and Arts, Harold Bloom (09/01/03)