Hamlet critics by theme and character

  • Created by: becky.65
  • Created on: 30-03-18 10:21

Delay in revenge

  • "The single characteristic of Hamlet's innermost nature is by no means irresolution or hesitation or any form of weakness, but rather the strong conflux of contending forces" - Swinburne; he has a desire to prove an argument right
  • "he makes no attempt to punish Claudius, and his death is at last effected by an incident which Hamlet has no part in producing" - Johnson
  • "Revenge exists on a margin between justice and crime" - Belsey
  • "other characters in the play do not hesitate to act because they are sure of their own values and beliefs" - Alexander
  • "Revengers create their own civil justice, often in ways that imitate or even mock divine justices that compromise their own moral impulses" - Brucher
  • "The proof of the King's guilt does not solve Hamlet's problem... how does one deal with such a man, without becoming like him?" - Alexander
  • "Hamlet is up against the difficulty that his disgust is occasioned by his mother, but that mother is not an adequate equivalent for it... It is thus a feeling which he cannot understand... and it therefore remains to poison life and obstruct action" - Eliot
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  • "All duties seem holy for Hamlet" - Gothe; more sympathetic view but Hamlet experiences religious doubt
  • "Hamlet is a figure of nihilism and death" - Knight
  • "Hamlet is a dead man from Act 1"
  • 2004 Boyd version; the Ghost was heard before he was seen - God like; Hicks played the Ghost, First Player and the Gravedigger - omnipotent character that haunts Hamlet
  • In some productions, the Ghost is a manifestation of Hamlet's imagination 
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Ophelia's madness

  • "in her madness, there is no one there. She is not a person... she has already died" - Leverenz
  • "Deprived of thought, sexuality and lanuage... she represents strong emotions Elizabethans thought womanish" - Showalter
  • '...the madwoman is a heroine, a powerful figure who rebels against the family and the social order...' - Showalter
  • 'Everyone has used her... She is valued only for the roles that further other people's plots.' - Leverenz
  • 'Ophelia has been an insignificant minor character in the play, touching in her weakness and madness but chiefly interesting, of course, in what she tells us about Hamlet' - Showalter
  • 'We can imagine Hamlet's story without Ophelia, but Ophelia literally has no story without Hamlet' - Edwards
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  • 'Gertrude... has traditionally been played as a sensual, deceitful woman' - Smith
  • 'Gertrude appears in only ten of the twenty scenes... she speaks very little, having less dialogue than any other major character...she speaks plainly, directly, and chastely' - Smith
  • 'Gertrude believes that quiet women best please men, and pleasing men is Gertrude's main interest' - Smith
  • 'Gertrude has not moved toward independence or a heightened moral stance; only has divided loyalties and her unhappiness intensify' - Smith
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  • "Claudius, as he appears in the play, is not a criminal...He is..a good and gentle king, enmeshed by the chain of causality linking him with his crime." - Knight
  • "Although he clearly loves her- Claudius shares the Hamlets’ conception of Gertrude as an object. She is possessed as one of the effects of his actions." - Smith
  • "Claudius can hardly be blamed for his later actions. They are forced on him. As King, he could scarcely be expected to do otherwise." - Knight
  • "It is clear that we are intended to see Claudius as a murderous villain, but a multi-faceted villain: a man who cannot refrain from indulging his human desires. He is not a monster; he is morally weak, content to trade his humanity and very soul for a few prized possessions." - Mabillard
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  • "Polonius seems to love his children; he seems to have the welfare of the kingdom in mind. His means of actions, however, are totally corrupt" - Smith
  • "Female virtue is identical with chastity; thus Polonius (…) trained his daughter to be obedient and chaste and is able to use her a a piece of bait for spying." - Smith
  • "He is a man who expects to be obeyed." 
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  • "Hamlet is an element of evil in the state of Denmark" - Knight
  • "Hamlet is obliged to act on the spur of the moment" - Coleridge
  • "The feeling of failure and frustration, which Hamlet himself recognises, is created by this rapid alternation between the language of blood revenge and the language of conscience." - Alexander
  • "(critics of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) knew less about psychology than more recent Hamlet critics, but they were nearer in spirit to Shakespeare's art... they insisted on the importance of the effect of the whole rather than the importance of the leading character" - Stoll
  • "Hamlet is dominated by an emotion which is inexpressible, because it is in excess of the facts as they appear" - Eliot
  • "The levity of Hamlet, his repetition of phrase, his puns, are not part of a deliberate plan of dissimulation, but a form of emotional relief" - Eliot
  • "Hamlet... is a mirror which gives back the reflection of the age that is contemplating it" - Hall
  • "What has to be added is that Hamlet finally accepts death in the words of a pecularly haunting quality... but it is from the standpoint of a life that has been largely emptied of signifiance" - Knights 
  • "Hamlet is, throughout the whole play, is rather an instrument than an agent" - Johnson
  • "he is a hypocrite towards himself" - Von Schlegel 
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Really helpful collection of quotes, thanks for uploading!

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