Understanding Hamlet: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding Hamlet: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding Hamlet: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding Hamlet: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Synopsis

Shakespeare's Hamlet, regarded by many, as "the world's most famous play by the world's most famous writer," is one of the most complex, demanding, discussed, and influential literary texts in English. As a means of access to this play, this unique collection of primary materials and commentary will help student and teacher explore historical, literary, theatrical, social, and cultural issues related to the play. In an approach unique for this series, Corum guides the reader through a literary analysis of Hamlet's options. He examines the popular theaters of the day in which Shakespeare and his company first produced Hamlet and discusses the genre of tragedy in which it is written. Through judicious selection of primary historical documents, the work provides contexts for understanding Hamlet's melancholy, the ghost of Hamlet's father, the theme of revenge, and Hamlet's feigned madness. Chapters on Gertrude and Ophelia illuminate these characters in the context of the play and early modern English culture.

Excerpt

If Shakespeare's works are the Himalayas of literature, Hamlet is his Everest: "the world's most famous play by the world's most famous writer," not to mention the world's longest, most complex, most demanding, most discussed, and most influential literary text--" the masterwork that remains the heart of the heart of Western culture" (Newsweek, 1997). Who has not made its acquaintance, even if only in the sanitized versions one reads as a child or sees on most stages? Who has not once spoken at least one of its famous lines? And who has not found it difficult to understand?

When The Tragicall Historie of Hamlet (the title of the early Quartos) first opened in 1599 at the Lord Chamberlain's Men's new Globe Theatre just across London Bridge in Southwark, the city of London, rapidly becoming an urban metropolis, was experiencing far-reaching change. Its population and political power, as well as the number of its poor, had vastly expanded since Henry VIII divorced England from continental Catholicism in the early 1530s. Classical texts in English translations were appearing virtually monthly at the booksellers' stalls in the portico of St. Paul's Cathedral. Inflation was rampant as early modern forms of capitalism gradually replaced feudal economic practices. Business and . . .

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