Presentation on theme: " “Hamlet must be the best-known of all characters in the theater of the world.” --Bernard Lott Discovering Literature, 2 nd ed. p.1092-1094."— Presentation transcript:
“Hamlet must be the best-known of all characters in the theater of the world.” --Bernard Lott Discovering Literature, 2 nd ed. p
To many critics, Hamlet has been Shakespeare’s most searching comment on life and human nature. “It is we who are Hamlet,” said the Romantic critic William Hazlitt. At the same time, Hamlet has proved Shakespeare’s most challenging and mysterious play.
The contest of wills between Prince Hamlet and his murderous stepfather, Claudius. Hamlet’s relationship with his doting mother, Queen Gertrude(who “lives by his looks”). Hamlet’s harsh treatment of Ophelia(whom he tells, “I loved you once”). Hamlet’s long-delayed revenge on Claudius.
Act I, The Ecclesiastes Soliloquy “O that this too too sullied flesh would melt” Act II, The Anti-Cowardice Soliloquy “O what a rogue and peasant slave am I!” Act III, The Suicide Soliloquy “To be or not to be, that is the question” Act IV, The Determination Soliloquy “How all occasions do inform against me/ and spur my dull revenge!”
Audiences and critics have found Hamlet to be a rich and paradoxical character. As you read the play, keep in mind questions that audiences and critics have asked about Hamlet and his role in the play.
How trustworthy is the ghost? The ghost of Hamlet’s father, who spurs Hamlet on to revenge, or a good/evil spirit? Is he a “spirit of health or goblin damned”? Critic: according to the spirit lore of Shakespeare’s time, the ghost must have been an evil spirit, luring Hamlet on to damnation(as the witches did to Macbeth).
What explains the delay? Why does it take Hamlet so long to accomplish his revenge, his “almost blunted purpose”? Are the reasons he gives for delaying his revenge merely pretexts? Is he temperamentally averse to decisive action? Is he too much an intellectual? Does he suffer from paralysis of will, as the Romantic critics claimed?
What are the true sources of Hamlet’s melancholy? Is he melancholy by temperament, illustrating one of the character types of the psychology of Shakespeare’s time? (the four humors: choleric, phlegmatic, sanguine, melancholic)
How mad(insane) is Hamlet? He feigns madness to gain time to prepare his revenge. How close is the turmoil in his soul driving him truly mad—instead of just pretending to be insane to disorient the king?
What is Hamlet’s true relationship with his mother? Why is he obsessed with lurid images of physical intimacy between her and the uncle? What evidence is there for or against his having Oedipal feelings toward his mother?