Hamlet in Shakespeare’s tragic drama Hamlet is a problematical character indeed. But the reader who approaches this hero with the proper point of view is far ahead of the reader who doesn’t. This essay hopes to properly interpret this most memorable of Shakespeare’s characters.
Louis B. Wright and Virginia A. LaMar in “Hamlet: A Man Who Thinks Before He Acts” describe precisely the perspective that a reader or viewer would find most helpful in solving the “Hamlet problem”:
Much of the vast literature on this play has concentrated on the interpretation of Hamlet’s character, particularly in attempting to explain his inability to take decisive action, his treatment of Ophelia, his madness, real or feigned, and a host of other questions called up by his actions. These constitute the “Hamlet problem.” The answer is to be found in the study of Shakespeare’s play as a piece for the public stage at the end of the sixteenth century rather than in subjecting Hamlet himself to psychoanalysis (61).
Perhaps an overview of the various factors involved in the exposition of Hamlet would be helpful to understand this complex character. John Russell Brown in “Soliloquies and Other Wordplay Let the Audience Share Some of Hamlet’s Thoughts” explains that
a series of soliloquies is only one of the means which encourage the audience to enter imaginatively into his very personal and frightening predicament. The play’s narrative is handled so that a prolonged two-way chase is sustained between him and the king, during which the audience knows more than either one of them and so thinks ahead and anticipates events. In interplay with Rosencrantz, Guildenstern and Polonius, and perhaps with Claudius, Gertr...
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...of Hamlet.” Yale Review. vol. 41 (1952) p. 502-23. Rpt. in Shakespeare: Modern Essays in Criticism. Rev. ed. Ed. Leonard F. Dean. New York: Oxford University P., 1967.
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: Univ. of Delaware P., 1992.
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.
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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