Hamlet. An introduction to one of the most problematic texts in all of literature. Hamlet. Why do we read? We learn a great deal about reading poetic drama and interpreting literature from a serious attempt to grasp this most elusive work
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An introduction to one of the most problematic texts in all of literature
Why do we read?
Why does Hamlet delay so long?
Why doesn’t he just carry out the act?
It does seem that a long time goes by between the opening act and the conclusion.
Fortinbras and Laertes, both of whom have to avenge insults to or murder done on their fathers
THEY ACT IMMEDIATELY, with effective resolution and courage
THEY are about the same age as Hamlet
It would seem we should see in Hamlet’s response to his father’s murder something quite different from what a normal prince with a sense of honor might do. Hamlet’s conduct presents an unusual problem!
Hamlet’s troubles must be internal?
Is Hamlet a coward?
This seems inherently unlikely. He’s capable of very decisive action when necessary
The killing of Polonius
The confrontation with the ghost
The duel scene
Perhaps he has a excess of adipose tissue around the heart?
- his reference to having trouble breathing
Can we find some emotional coherence in his thoughts and actions, some illuminating insight into his behavior?
The chief attraction of this play is the quality of Hamlet’s intelligence, which is evident in his soliloquies and verbal dexterity.
…and “her” troubles stem from the fact that she is in love with Horatio?
There is a violent streak in Hamlet!
Hamlet himself agonizes over his ability to carry out the deed and is constantly searching for reasons why he is behaving the way he is
When Hamlet says something, does he really mean it or is he deliberately inventing another reason for the delay?
A famous disciple of Freud, Ernest Jones, argues that Hamlet has no doubts about the ghost, is perfectly capable fo acting decisively, and yet delays and delays and agonizes over the delay.
Hamlet cannot kill the man who sleeps with his mother because that would mean that he would have to admit to himself his own feelings about her…something that overwhelms and disgusts him
Hamlet is only able to kill Claudius AFTER he knows that his mother id dead and that he is going to die…
Hence, his deep sexual confusion is resolved and only then can he act.
Hamlet does have a particular inability to carry out this action and that this inability is not a constitutional incapacity for action BUT stems from some very particular feelings within Hamlet
Feelings which he himself has trouble figuring out and which he often things about in explicitly sexual terms, terms which insist upon a pattern of disgust with female sexuality