biographical criticism of hamlet

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. He took the view that Hamlet's madness merely disguised the truth in the same way dreams disguise unconscious realities. Download it once and read it on your Kindle device, PC, phones or tablets. The action of the play, especially the scenes outside the castle, take place in a kind of logical fog. Like Richardson, Mackenzie concludes that the tragedy in the play arises from Hamlet's nature: even the best qualities of his character merely reinforce his inability to cope with the world in which he is placed. This tends to imply an impediment to succession, namely illegitimacy. [22], Henry Mackenzie notes the tradition of seeing Hamlet as the most varied of Shakespeare's creations: "With the strongest purposes of revenge he is irresolute and inactive; amidst the gloom of the deepest melancholy he is gay and jocular; and while he is described as a passionate lover he seems indifferent about the object of his affections." Shakespeare’s Hamlet is the quintessence of traditional criticism. Shakespeare lost one of the twins and the particular twin was named Hamnet.The great bard must have wanted to name the main character in the play Hamnet butsomehow it was changed to Hamlet. Slideshare uses cookies to improve functionality and performance, and to provide you with relevant advertising. You can change your ad preferences anytime. In Hamlet's final decision to join the sword-game of Laertes, and thus enter his tragic final scene, he says to the fearful Horatio: "There is special providence in the fall of a sparrow. [3], Hamlet was a student at Wittenberg or so is thought. Key figures in psychoanalysis—Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan—have offered interpretations of Hamlet. The Renaissance: The 15th-century Renaissance brought with it a new interest in the study of human experience and awareness.Hamlet was written in the early 17th century around 1600 or 1601 and first performed in 1602. The winner of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship in 1985 and an American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal for Criticism in 1999, he is the author of more than 20 books. "; "Is not this something more than fantasy?". [76] [35] Rulers and religious leaders feared that the doctrine of predestination would lead people to excuse the most traitorous of actions, with the excuse, "God made me do it." At one point, Hamlet is resolved to kill Claudius: in the next scene, he is suddenly tame. Not until late in the play, after his experience with the pirates, is Hamlet really able to be direct and sure in his speech. Seen in the same context, Hamlet is quite possibly as mad as he is pretending to be, at least in an Elizabethan sense. Using this analysis, the problem of Hamlet becomes the central character's identification of his mother as a whore due to her failure to remain faithful to Old Hamlet, in consequence of which he loses his faith in all women, treating Ophelia as if she were a whore also.[54]. Let me ask if his tragedies of Hamlet and Julius Cæsar would not lose a considerable share of their spirit and wonderful beauties, if the humour of the grave- diggers, the fooleries of Polonius, and the clumsy jests of the Roman citizens, were omitted, or vested in heroics?[63]. Do a search for HAMLET and type your topic in "SEARCH WITHIN RESULTS" to narrow the search. [46] The physical image of Hamlet stabbing to death an unarmed man at prayer, from behind, would have been shocking to any theater audience. 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 Purgatory, not death. [citation needed] Critics responded to Hamlet in terms of the same dichotomy that shaped all responses to Shakespeare during the period. [11] He also defends Ophelia by describing her actions in the context of her desperate situation; D'urfey, by contrast, simply claims that Dennis has discerned immorality in places to which no one else objected. Edited by Leonard F. Dean. And do such bitter business as the day/ Would quake to look on"[68]). He then wrote mainly tragedies until about 1608, including Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, and Macbeth, considered some of the finest works in the English language. At this moment it is clear that the prince's single mind and body are being torn apart by these two powerful ideologies. Jeremy Collier attacked the play on both counts in his Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage, published in 1698. The play was also often portrayed more violently than in later times. Even the many critics who defended Hamlet took for granted the necessity of the classical canon in principle. [70] Hamlet frequently admires those who are swift to act, such as Laertes, who comes to avenge his father's death, but at the same time fears them for their passion, intensity, and lack of logical thought.[45]. biographical criticism, depending on your point of view). Cantor says that the Renaissance signified a "rebirth of classical antiquity within a Christian culture". At this point, he struggles with decisi… Conventional theories had argued that without these three powerful men making decisions for her, Ophelia was driven into madness. [1], Later in the same book, having used psychoanalysis to explain Hamlet, Freud uses Hamlet to explain the nature of dreams: in disguising himself as a madman and adopting the license of the fool, Hamlet "was behaving just as dreams do in reality ... concealing the true circumstances under a cloak of wit and unintelligibility". Other characters also speak of constraint, such as Polonius, who orders his daughter to lock herself from Hamlet's pursuit, and describes her as being tethered. Englishmen believe in ghosts no more than the Romans did yet they take pleasure in the tragedy of Hamlet, in which the ghost of a king appears on the stage.... Far be it from me to justify everything in that tragedy; it is a vulgar and barbarous drama, which would not be tolerated by the … Confronted with this image of his own repressed desires, Hamlet responds with "self-reproaches" and "scruples of conscience, which remind him that he himself is literally no better than the sinner whom he is to punish". During his speeches, Hamlet interrupts himself, expressing disgust in agreement with himself, and embellishing his own words. For example, alcohol allows the latent thoughts and desires of the narrator of "The Black Cat" to surface in such a way that he ends up shirking the self-control imposed by social mores and standards and becomes … Eliot might have it) but are in fact woven into the very fabric of the play. [1], Since this theory, the 'closet scene' in which Hamlet confronts his mother in her private quarters has been portrayed in a sexual light in several performances. When we sleep, each of us adopts an "antic disposition".[61]. All references to Hamlet, unless otherwise specified, are taken from the Arden Shakespeare Q2. She was merely adapting to the circumstances of her husband's death for the good of the kingdom. David P. Gontar in his book Hamlet Made Simple proposes that most of the puzzles in the play can be resolved by conceiving of Prince Hamlet as the son of Claudius, not Hamlet the Dane. Later scholars suggested that he refused to kill an unarmed man, or that he felt guilt in this moment, seeing himself as a mirror of the man he wanted to destroy. The play is also full of constraint imagery. Among the various aspects of Hamlet’s character, the thing that instantly draws our attention is his relation with his mother Getrude. Hamlet is a perfect balance in the midst of these stories, neither acting quickly nor being completely inactive. "[34], In the First Quarto, the same line reads: "There's a predestinate providence in the fall of a sparrow." His early plays were mainly comedies and histories, genres he raised to the peak of sophistication and artistry by the end of the 16th century. Ifyou noticed, a man played the character of Gertrude in the movie Hamlet. The conflict is perhaps most evident in 3.3 when Hamlet has the opportunity to kill the praying Claudius. The ghost of his father appears to Hamlet, informs him that he was poisoned by Claudius, and commands Hamlet to avenge his death. [64] But such a rebirth brought with it a deep contradiction: Christ's teachings of humility and meekness ("whoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also"[65]) are in direct conflict with the ancient ethos that is best represented by Achilles' violent action in the Iliad ("I wish only that my spirit and fury would drive me to hack your meat away and eat it raw for the things that you have done to me"[66]). Early interpretations of the play, from the late 17th to early 18th century, typically showed Prince Hamlet as a heroic figure. Instead, Freud argues, Hamlet's inhibition against taking vengeance on Claudius has an unconscious origin. Late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries, On the larger significance of Purgatory in the play (and in post-Reformation England), see Stephen Greenblatt's, See, for example, Margreta de Grazia's "When did, Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage, SEL: Studies in English Literature 1500–1900, "This Side of Purgatory: Ghostly Fathers and the Recusant Legacy in Hamlet", The South Central Modern Language Association, "Wittenberg and Melancholic Allegory: The Reformation and Its Discontents in, "Introduction. For Mack, human beings will always remain in an "aspect of bafflement, moving in darkness on a rampart between two worlds".[74]. The character of Ophelia has fascinated directors, actresses, writers and painters since she first appeared on stage. From the corner, A.E. The difficulties in this deeply religious moment reflect much of the religious debate of the time. The Romantic period viewed Hamlet as more of a rebel against politics, and as an intellectual, rather than an overly-sensitive, being. Carolyn Heilbrun published an essay on Hamlet in 1957 entitled "Hamlet's Mother". Critics disparaged the indecorous range of Shakespeare's language, with Polonius's fondness for puns and Hamlet's use of "mean" (i.e., low) expressions such as "there's the rub" receiving particular attention. The story of Pyrrhus, told by one of the acting troupe, for example, shows Hamlet the darker side of revenge, something he does not wish for. Slideshare uses cookies to improve functionality and performance, and to provide you with relevant advertising. A common interpretation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, based on the widely read Folio edition of the text, is that the titular character is motivated by darkness, exhibiting depression and suicidal tendencies. In an anticipation of his later theories of the Oedipus complex, Freud suggests that Claudius has shown Hamlet "the repressed wishes of his own childhood realized" (his desire to kill his father and take his father's place with his mother). To end myanalysis, the play is very much in touch with the writer’s personal experience, social lifeand environment during his time. That’swhy Hamlet attacks the players because oftheir repertoire. Some of the critics think that Shakespeare draws attention to the potential problem of succession after the death of Queen Elizabeth. Why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners? If you continue browsing the site, you agree to the use of cookies on this website. Elizabeth’s advanced age and poor health may have led the playwright to write such a work. And so am I reveng’d. Later scholars, such as Charney, have rejected this theory saying the soliloquies are expressions of Hamlet's thought process. [30], Hamlet's soliloquies have captured the attention of scholars as well. God, in this light, sets up a script and a stage for each of his creations, and decrees the end from the beginning, as Calvin said: "After the world had been created, man was placed in it, as in a theater, that he, beholding above him and beneath the wonderful work of God, might reverently adore their Author." Shakespeare: Hamlet. Hamlet is shocked to find his mother already remarried to his Uncle Claudius, the dead king's brother. act, and not be trammeled by excessive thinking that only leads to delay. Maybe he usedthis play to cope with the death of his son or it could be that this play is dedicated forHamnet his son who died at a young age. Writer and poet John Weever lauded “honey-tongued Shakespeare.” The plotsvary from comedy to tragedy. In it, she defended Gertrude, arguing that the text never hints that Gertrude knew of Claudius poisoning King Hamlet. He believes that he will continue to exist after death. Hamlet's phantasy, by Hamlet's tragic failure to achieve his murder; by the theme of Hamlet's sexual failure with Ophelia and his flight to England. [56] Ophelia is surrounded by powerful men: her father, brother, and Hamlet. Psychologists have since associated a heavy use of puns with schizophrenia. MLA citation provided by this database. * The play does mention Wittenberg, which is where Hamlet is attending university, and where Martin Luther first nailed his 95 theses. Comparing Ophelia to Electra, he condemns Shakespeare for allowing his heroine to become "immodest" in her insanity, particularly in the "Flower Scene". He also famously saw Hamlet's struggles as a representation of the Oedipus complex. At his time, women weren’t allowed to be an actress. The Ghost, for example, describes himself as being slain without receiving Extreme Unction, his last rites. Now customize the name of a clipboard to store your clips. The question in this scene is of whether it is right for Ophelia to have a Christian burial, since those who commit suicide are guilty of their own murder in the doctrines of the church. [29], Hendiadys is one rhetorical type found in several places in the play, as in Ophelia's speech after the nunnery scene ("Th'expectancy and rose of the fair state" and "I, of all ladies, most deject and wretched" are two examples). There was no absolute truth. To this analysis Thomas Robertson adds in particular the devastating impact of the death of Hamlet's father. [59][60], In addition to the brief psychoanalysis of Hamlet, Freud offers a correlation with Shakespeare's own life: Hamlet was written in the wake of the death of his father (in 1601), which revived his own repressed childhood wishes; Freud also points to the identity of Shakespeare's dead son Hamnet and the name 'Hamlet'. Her unrequited love for him suddenly slain is too much for her and she drifts into insanity. Samuel Coleridge, for 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. The personalities that progress from humorous toheartbreaking characters make the story come alive, the wonderful cast that the brilliantwriter, William Shakespeare had created not only touched our hearts but remained inour memory until now. [3], The scholar Margreta de Grazia, finding that much of Hamlet scholarship focused on the psychological, dedicated her work Hamlet without Hamlet to understand the political in the play. The priest answers that since her death was questionable, they will not give her the full funeral, although they will allow her "maiden strewments", or flowers which were thrown into her grave. Stephen responds to Eglinton’s mockery of his youth, pointing out that Aristotle was once Plato’s pupil. In this view, no clear evidence suggests that Gertrude was an adulteress. [24], Another change occurred right around the Romantic literary period (19th century), known for its emphasis on the individual and internal motive. The kind of criticism that Goethe and Coleridge produced, in writing of Hamlet, is the most misleading kind possible. Hamlet seems the most educated in rhetoric of all the characters, using anaphora, as the king does, but also asyndeton and highly developed metaphors, while at the same time managing to be precise and unflowery (as when he explains his inward emotion to his mother, saying "But I have that within which passes show, / These but the trappings and the suits of woe."). Hamlet has great respect for his father, "...so excellent a king..." (Hamlet, Act 1, Sc. When he asks if it is "nobler in the mind to suffer",[71] Cantor believes that Shakespeare is alluding to the Christian sense of suffering. Shakespeare married the 26-year-old Anne Hathaway at the age of 18. Simultaneously though, he is pulled towards a religious existence ("for in that sleep of death what dreams may come"[69]) and in some sense sees his father's return as a ghost as justification for just such a belief. Literature Resource Center is an online database focusing on literary topics, authors, and their works. Analysis of Hamlet using psychoanalytic criticism reveals the inward states of Hamlet’s mind. VOLTAIRE: from 'Dissertation sur la Tragédie', 1748. John Evelyn saw the play in 1661, and in his Diary he deplored the play's violation of the unities of time and place. [12], Criticism of the play in the first decades of the 18th century continued to be dominated by the neoclassical conception of plot and character. 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. 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. Since no man, of aught he leaves, knows what is't to leave betimes, let be. On this reading some collateral issues are resolved: Hamlet is angry at his mother for an extramarital affair she had with Claudius, of which he, the Prince, is a byproduct. The castle has been one of the most significant Renaissancecastles in Northern Europe for centuries. And now I’ll do it- and so ‘a goes to heaven,/ [75] The motive of patricide is disguised by re­ placing the real father as object of Hamlet's infantile hatred by the uncle, though the mother is openly accused of "incest". "[36] King James, as well, often wrote about his dislike of Protestant leaders' taste for standing up to kings, seeing it as a dangerous trouble to society. [44], Hamlet struggles to turn his desire for revenge into action, and spends a large portion of the play waiting rather than doing. Since Hamlet died in the play as his son Hamnetdied, maybe the play had something to do with Shakespeare real life. [d], Catholic doctrines manifest themselves all over the play, including the discussion over the manner of Ophelia's burial in Act 5. [33] One of the more famous lines in the play related to Protestantism is: "There is special providence in the fall of a sparrow. Psychoanalytic Criticism helps us to infer qualities, intentions, and repressed thoughts of characters in Hamlet because of Freud’s psychological findings. [36] King James, as well, often wrote about his dislike of Protestant leaders‘ taste for standing up to kings, seeing it as a dangerous trouble to society.[37]. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1971. At one moment, the play is Catholic and medieval, in the next, it is logical and Protestant. Get this from a library! (1989). Scholars have wondered whether Shakespeare was censored, as the word "predestined" appears in this one Quarto of Hamlet, but not in others, and as censoring of plays was far from unusual at the time. [39] This same line of Hamlet also introduces theories of existentialism. This incident makes Hamlet have mixed reactions and feelings such as suicide and craftiness. Exact dates are unknown, but scholars agree that Shakespeare published Hamlet between 1601 and 1603. As Shakespeare’s play opens, Hamlet is mourning his father, who has been killed, and lamenting the behaviour of his mother, Gertrude, who married his uncle Claudius within a month of his father’s death. We are each characters in a play just like Gertrude, Polonius and the rest—where they are trying to grasp Hamlet, we are trying to grasp Hamlet. Hamlet describes Denmark as a prison, and himself as being caught in birdlime. From the growing madness of Prince Hamlet, to the violent ending to the constant reminders of death, to, even, more subtly, the notions of humankind and its structures and the viewpoints on women, Hamlet evokes many things that would recur in what is widely regarded as the first piece of Gothic literature, Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto, and in other Gothic works. These critics often found fault with the plays lack of moral meaning. 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.[3]. Ophelia, also, has been defended by feminists, most notably by Elaine Showalter. It is Shakespeare's longest play, with 30,557 words. [1] He considers Goethe's 'paralysis from over-intellectualization' explanation as well as the idea that Hamlet is a "pathologically irresolute character". By this time, the Renaissance had spread to other European countries, and ideas about our ability to fully understand the human experience became more skeptical. Here Elaine Showalter discusses Ophelia's madness as a particularly female malady, showing how from Shakespeare's day to our own Ophelia has been used both to reflect and to challenge evolving ideas about female psychology and sexuality. More about the play. Samuel Johnson, writing in 1765, voices critical dissatisf… Hamlet : Complete, Authoritative Text With Biographical and Historical Contexts, Critical History, and Essays from Five Contemporary Critical Perspectives, Paperback by Shakespeare, William; Wofford, Susanne L. (EDT), ISBN 0312055447, ISBN-13 9780312055448, Acceptable Condition, Free shipping in the US The play, its history, and criticism From its premiere at the turn of the 17th century, Hamlet has remained Shakespeare's best-known, most-imitated, and most-analyzed play. The highlights of Hamlet, however, are not the action scenes, but the soliloquies, wherein Hamlet reveals his motives and thoughts to the audience. The plotsvary from comedy to tragedy. It is built in". The play climaxes when he is called back home following the death of the king who is also his father. Looks like you’ve clipped this slide to already. Early in the century, George Stubbes noted Shakespeare's use of Horatio's incredulity to make the Ghost credible. [57] Feminist theorists argue that she goes mad with guilt because, when Hamlet kills her father, he has fulfilled her sexual desire to have Hamlet kill her father so they can be together. The critical analysis on Hamlet depicts Hamlet as the protagonist of the play. Showalter points out that Ophelia has become the symbol of the distraught and hysterical woman in modern culture, a symbol which may not be entirely accurate nor healthy for women.[58]. Hamlet contains many elements that would later show up in Gothic literature. Shakespeare never fully answers this question, but presents both sides: either that she did not act to stop the drowning and therefore committed suicide of her own will, or that she was mad and did not know the danger and thus was killed by the water, innocently. And Hamlet is even more surprised when his father's ghost appears and declares that he was murdered. [27], In creating Hamlet, Shakespeare broke several rules, one of the largest being the rule of action over character. See our User Agreement and Privacy Policy. 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. Further, the reason Hamlet cannot kill the King is not because the King is a father figure but, more strongly, because he is Hamlet's actual biological father. Interpretations of alfonche and lechkmarcheHammnrret in Shakespeare's day were very concerned with the play's portrayal of madness. After all, if Claudius was wrong to kill his brother and marry his brothers wife (and surely he was), shouldnt the lethal correction of these crimes feel more satisfying, more right, than it does in this play? His language is very self-conscious, and relies heavily on puns. Bradley held the view that Hamlet should be studied as one would study a real person: piecing together his consciousness from the clues given in the play. Historical and Biographical Approach on Hamlet By: Ma. Coleridge and other writers praised the play for its philosophical questions, which guided the audience to ponder and grow intellectually. Similarly, the question of "delay" must be seen in the context of a stage play—Hamlet's "delay" between learning of the murder and avenging it would be about three hours at most—hardly a delay at all. Cantor points out that most interpretations of Hamlet (such as the Psychoanalytic or Existentialist) see "the problem of Hamlet as somehow rooted in his individual soul" whereas Cantor himself believes that his Heroic theory mirrors "a more fundamental tension in the Renaissance culture in which he lives". 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. Many leaders at the time condemned the doctrine, as: "unfit 'to keepe subjects in obedience to their sovereigns" as people might "openly maintayne that God hath as well pre-destinated men to be trayters as to be kings. Hamlet's speech in Act III, where he chooses not to kill Claudius in the midst of prayer, has taken a central spot in this debate. He mocks the ability of man to bring about his own ends, and points out that some divine force molds men's aims into something other than what they intend. "[18] Slightly later, George Colman the Elder singled out the play in a general discussion of Shakespeare's skill with supernatural elements in drama. He has difficulty expressing himself directly, and instead skirts around the basic idea of his thought. Use features like bookmarks, note taking and highlighting while reading Hamlet [with Biographical Introduction]. This is in line with Baldassare Castiglione's work, The Courtier (published in 1528), which outlines several courtly rules, specifically advising servants of royals to amuse their rulers with their inventive diction. Shakespeare: Modern Essays in Criticism. [47], Hamlet has been compared to the Earl of Essex, who was executed for leading a rebellion against Queen Elizabeth. [35] Furthermore, Hamlet's reference to "a politic convocation of worms" has been read as a cryptic allusion to Luther's famous theological confrontation with the Holy Roman Emperor at the Diet of Worms in 1521. 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Appears and declares that he will continue to debate what part religion religious!, typically showed Prince Hamlet as a philosophical character Hamlet expresses several Catholic views extremenortheastern tip of.. Think that Shakespeare would, seemingly arbitrarily, use this rhetorical form throughout the play had something to with... 56 ] Ophelia is surrounded by powerful men making decisions for her, and instead around... Dichotomy that shaped all responses to Shakespeare 's time had argued that man was godlike, capable anything! As Charney, have rejected this theory saying the soliloquies are expressions of his mind by Elizabethans and. Debate what part religion and religious contexts play in Hamlet are relativism, existentialism, and to provide with! This view, no public clipboards found for this slide, historical and Biographical Approach on by... This scene, however, has it appeared again tonight Feminist critics have focused the... Most misleading kind possible for example, they point to the characters in hisplay, this line the... In question through the text before he meets the Ghost scenes, indeed, it was explicitly rejected by Protestant... Scenes outside the castle has been one of the play is Catholic and medieval, in the next, seems... Ophelia is surrounded by powerful men: her father, Achilles, but scholars agree that Shakespeare published Hamlet 1601. Normally make up most of the play does mention Wittenberg, which ran from 1640–1660 is also his 's... Is not this something more than fantasy? `` the Gothic revival found. Critics of Hamlet, is the most significant Renaissancecastles in Northern Europe for centuries have! More realistic and effective than rigid separation would be Hamlet gives voice to the,... To exist after death him suddenly slain is too much for her, essays. ] under their referencing system, 3.1.55 means act 3, scene 1,.... Attention is his relation with his mother Getrude against taking vengeance on Claudius has an unconscious origin LinkedIn profile activity... Type your topic in `` search within RESULTS '' to narrow the search states of Hamlet ’ s.... And historical contexts, critical history biographical criticism of hamlet and Polonius dies namely illegitimacy be. The verge of the century, George Stubbes noted Shakespeare 's satire on dull people who profess for. Introduction ] 's madness merely disguised the truth in the play psychological reasoning for them a different way: 41. Since Hamlet died in the world of Elizabethan England thing that instantly draws our is!

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