William Shakespeare's Hamlet

Books upon books have been written about Shakespeare’s Hamlet. About an equal number of books, however, have been written about one character; Hamlet. A critic of Hamlet once said, “a man set out to read all the books about Hamlet would have time to read nothing else, not even Hamlet.” What is the great fascination with Hamlet and the characters contained within. The great intrigue comes from the ambiguity of the play and it’s characters. “Hamlet is the tragedy of reflection. The cause of the hero’s delay is irresolution; and the cause of this is excess of the reflexive and speculative habit of the mind.” (Halliday. 217) The reason that there are so many critics is that there are just as many theories and speculations. Even in the twentieth century on could create or “discover” a new theory or criticism based on the play or it’s characters. The character Hamlet, alone, has over two dozen critics from Quinn to Coleridge. Some critics come up with sane interpretations of Hamlet while others use wild and crazy themes. Some conclude that the problem with Hamlet, and a classic thesis used by many students, is insanity versus sanity. The theories progress from there. The theories range from manic-depressant to homosexual. Some are even very creative; such as the thesis that Hamlet is actually a female raised as a male. But no matter how many theories, speculations, or thesis there are, many hold some ground. This thesis paper will not stress on any of the statements I have listed above. However, I will take a stand with Coleridge and speak about Hamlet’s genius and cognitive activity. Hamlet’s true dilemma is not one of sanity -Vs- insanity; but one pressing his intellectual capacity. Being a scholar, Hamlet is prone to thought rather than actions. “Cause of Hamlet’s destiny. . . in intellectual terms . . . is a tragedy . . . of excessive thought.” (Mack. 43) Hamlet’s role was to make a transcendental move from scholarly prince to man of action.

Hopefully this report will help open another, or even stress a classic, view as to Hamlet’s character and his prolonged delay. When a student goes to write about Hamlet’s character they often begin by hitting a wall. Not the usual writers block in which the mind goes blank, but one of information loaded upon information.

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