Is the Shakespearean tragic drama Hamlet basically an imaginative work or basically a realistic work? This essay seeks to answer this question and related questions, with the help of literary critics.
Harold Goddard’s essay, “Hamlet: His Own Falstaff,” highlights the battle between poetry and realism (history) in the play:
Hamlet, the conclusion is, is a failure because the materials Shakespeare inherited were too tough and intractable. Too tough and intractable for what? That they were too tough and intractable for a credible historical picture may be readily granted. But what of it? And since when was poetry supposed to defer to history? Two world wars in three decades ought to have taught us that our history has not gone deep enough. But poetry has. The greatest poetry has always depicted the world as a little citadel of nobility threatened by an immense barbarism, a flickering candle surrounded by infinite night. The “historical” impossibility of Hamlet is its poetical truth, and the paradox of its central figure is the universal psychology of man. (14)
Robert B. Heilman in “The Role We Give Shakespeare” indicates how the Bard’s rich imagination is the cause which gives the effect of universality of appreciation to his work:
Shakespeare has both feet on the ground; but in him the common ground is transfigured, revealed in a new dimension; nothing is too mean for him, but the mean itself is raised to a supernal plane. Shakespeare is the ultimate all-purpose book, with imaginative breadth and depth, for a humanity not limited by age or sex, immediately open to all who will read (a view not entirely shared by the caste of professional interpr...
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...s.com/hamlet/other/essayson.htm#demag-ess N. pag.
Pitt, Angela. “Women in Shakespeare’s Tragedies.” Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Rpt. from Shakespeare’s Women. N.p.: n.p., 1981.
Rosenberg, Marvin. “Laertes: An Impulsive but Earnest Young Aristocrat.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. from The Masks of Hamlet. Newark, NJ: University of Delaware Press, 1992.
Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1995. http://www.chemicool.com/Shakespeare/hamlet/full.html
West, Rebecca. “A Court and World Infected by the Disease of Corruption.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. from The Court and the Castle. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1957.
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