Is Hamlet a Religious Drama? An Essay on a Question in Kierkegaard

Is Hamlet a Religious Drama? An Essay on a Question in Kierkegaard

Is Hamlet a Religious Drama? An Essay on a Question in Kierkegaard

Is Hamlet a Religious Drama? An Essay on a Question in Kierkegaard

Excerpt

"If, " to misquote Johnson,

[criticism of] Shakespeare's dramas were to be characterized, each by the particular excellence which distinguishes it from the rest, we must allow to the tragedy of Hamlet the praise of variety. The [critics] are so numerous, that the argument of the play would make a long tale. The [theoretical constructs] are interchangeably diversified with merriment and solemnity; with merriment that includes judicious and instructive observations, and solemnity, not strained by critical violence above the natural sentiments of man. New [critics] appear from time to time in continual succession, exhibiting various forms of life and particular modes of conversation (Furness II, 145).

Noting this, any further critic must wonder whether he is not in fact a Guildenstern following upon some earlier Rosencrantz, or the last late foppish messenger of a greatly decaying court, hardly fit to swell the progress. Nonetheless, Hamlet is the figure and great pivoting mirror of the Western soul, the normative creation of character which life but sadly imitates, and as each one must come to terms with what man is, so he and she must come to terms with Hamlet.

The progress swells on apace.

When a person has thought about a work of literature for a long time, read it or taught with it frequently, lived with its spirits and the questions it raises -- about itself and about oneself -- it becomes difficult to tell how certain insights originated, or achieved their status as true, or became an emblem of one's own hopes, despair, defeat, longed for victory. I suppose that living with a work of literature in this way is something like speaking with ghosts, somewhat like getting news from another world. Something originally vague and questionable, heard and wondered about, slowly takes on the shape and body of the familiar. During any such process some moments come to stand out as definitive: a face blanches peculiarly, a certain gesture, or half a line of distant prose, unlocks a door near the heart of the mystery, while forceful and intent investigation leads up a narrow stair to a . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.