Hamlet’s Astounding Success

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Hamlet’s Astounding Success What secret formula did the playwright William Shakespeare use in the recipe for the tragedy Hamlet? Why, this play has been the rage for 400 years! Let’s analyze the reasons for its success. A.C. Bradley tells in his book of criticism, Shakespearean Tragedy, the extreme importance of the character of Hamlet to the rating of the play: Naturally then, the tragedy of Hamlet with Hamlet left out has become the symbol of extreme absurdity; while the character itself has probably exerted a great fascination, and certainly has been the subject of more discussion, than any other in the whole literature of the world. (94) In total agreement with Bradley are other critics, one of whom says, referring to the prince, that “this compound of overwhelmingly convincing humanity and psychological contradiction is the greatest of Shakespeare’s legacies to the men of his own quality” (Wilson 101). Could the enduring reputation of Hamlet be attributed to the “ultimate form” in which the Bard of Avon expressed his ideas? Robert B. Heilman says so in “The Role We Give Shakespeare”: It is the way of venerable texts whose authenticity has impressed itself on the human imagination: he has said many things in what seems an ultimate form, and he is a fountainhead of quotation and universal center of allusion. “A rose by any other name” comes to the mouth as readily as “Pride goeth before a fall,” and seems no less wise. [. . .] The Ophelia-Laertes relationship is strongly felt near the end of Goethe’s Faust, Part I, and the Hamlet-Gertrude-Claudius triangle echoes throughout Chekhov’s Sea Gull (24-25). This play is ranked by many as the very greatest ever ... ... middle of paper ... ...shers, 1986. Rpt. from The Motives of Eloquence: Literary Rhetoric in the Renaissance. N.p.: Yale University Press, 1976. Levin, Harry. General Introduction. The Riverside Shakespeare. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1974. Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1995. http://www.chemicool.com/Shakespeare/hamlet/full.html No line nos. Wilson, J. Dover. “What Happens in Hamlet.” Shakespearean Tragedy. Ed. D. F. Bratchell. New York: Routledge, 1990. Wright, Louis B. and Virginia A. LaMar. “Hamlet: A Man Who Thinks Before He Acts.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. from The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Ed. Louis B. Wright and Virginia A. LaMar. N. p.: Pocket Books, 1958.

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