The Bard of Avon has in the character of Hamlet (in the tragedy of that name) a hero who has been accused of hesitation and indecisiveness. Are such accusations appropriate?
L.C. Knights in “An Approach to Hamlet” explains the modern appeal of the tragedy in terms of the indecisiveness of its hero:
Hamlet is a man who in the face of life and of death can make no affirmation, and it may well be that this irresolution – which goes far deeper than irresolution about the performance of a specific act – this fundamental doubt, explains the great appeal of the play in modern times. The point has been made by D.G. James in The Dream of Learning. Shakespeare’s play, he says, “is an image of modernity, of the soul without clear belief losing its way, and bringing itself and others to great distress and finally to disaster”; it is “a tragedy not of excessive thought but of defeated thought,” and Hamlet himself is “a man caught in ethical and metaphysical uncertainties.” Now I am sure that Mr. James is right in emphasizing the element of scepticism in Hamlet’s makeup – the weighing of alternative possibilities in such a way as to make choice between them virtually impossible [. . .] . (64)
Is there a connection between verbal hesitation and hesitation in action and decisions? Lawrence Danson in the essay “Tragic Alphabet” discusses the hesitation in action by the hero as related to his hesitation in speech:
To speak or act in a world where all speech and action are equivocal seeming is, for Hamlet, both perilous and demeaning, a kind of whoring.
The whole vexed question of Hamlet’s delay ought, I believe, to be considered in light of this dilemma. To a man alienated from his society’s most basic symboli...
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...ions: Hamlet. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986. Rpt. from Tragic Form in Shakespeare. N.p.: Princeton University Press, 1972.
Rose, Mark. “Reforming the Role.” Modern Critical Interpretations: Hamlet. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986. Rpt. from Homer to Brecht: The European Epic and Dramatic Traditions. Ed. Michael Seidel and Edward Mendelson. N.p.: Yale University Press, 1977.
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.
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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- The Bard of Avon has in the character of Hamlet (in the tragedy of that name) a hero who has been accused of hesitation and indecisiveness. Are such accusations appropriate. L.C. Knights in “An Approach to Hamlet” explains the modern appeal of the tragedy in terms of the indecisiveness of its hero: Hamlet is a man who in the face of life and of death can make no affirmation, and it may well be that this irresolution – which goes far deeper than irresolution about the performance of a specific act – this fundamental doubt, explains the great appeal of the play in modern times.... [tags: GCSE English Literature Coursework]
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