The Tragedy of HamletShakespeares Danish Revenge Drama
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.
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.)
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 Literary CriticsSamuel Taylor Coleridge 1772-1834
Concerned with Hamlets perceptions versus the reality
Hamlets Literary CriticsErnest Jones 1879-1958
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 http://www.d.umn.edu/~kmaurer/hamlet/famoushamlets.html (8/30/03)Department of Theatre, School of Fine Arts, University of Minnesota Duluth Lane, Steve. Romantics Portrait Gallery: William Hazlit thttp://www.mala.bc.ca/~lanes/english/engl201/stc1795.htmDelaney, Ian. "Short Course on Shakespeare's Hamlet". Teacher Created Materials. March 16, 1999. http://www.netcomuk.co.uk/~iandel/essays.html (08/31/03) Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, Copyright (c) 2003. Hamlet Images http://www.compusmart.ab.ca/hamlet/hamletimages/branagh.htm (08/31/03)Sculpture Gallery Plato http://www.sculpturegallery.com/sculpture/plato.html (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 http://prelectur.stanford.edu/lecturers/bloom/index.html (09/01/03)