Essays in Literary Criticism of George Santayana

By George Santayana; Irving Singer | Go to book overview

HAMLET

THE GREATER figures of fiction, as behooves things destined to last, have usually had an evolution and a history. Like the immortal gods, they have taken vague shape in the popular mind and in anonymous legends before receiving their most memorable form at the hand of some supreme poet. Perhaps no small part of Shakespeare's eminence is due to his having adopted plots and characters already current, already sanctioned by a certain proved vitality and power to charm. This conservatism is one of the many bonds by which art, when successful, clings to the life of the world and sucks in strength parasitically through its practical functions. Shakespeare's need of being a playwright before he was a poet, his concern to produce a popular play, won an audience for him in the beginning and still enables him to hold the boards. When creative genius neglects to ally itself in this way to some public interest it hardly gives birth to works of wide or perennial influence. Imagination needs a soil in history, tradition, or human institutions, else its random growths are not significant enough and, like trivial melodies, go immediately out of fashion. A great poem needs to be built up and remodelled on some given foundation with materials already at hand. Even in those fables which, like that of Don Quixote, may seem to be casual and original thoughts, we can usually detect a certain stage of experimentation with the idea, a certain novitiate and self-discovery on its part. The hero's character does not come out at first in its ultimate shape; but the shape it comes in, taking root and branching out in the mind into growths that had never been expected, becomes the germ of what is finally accepted and given out to the public. The true ideal of the most airy things is discoverable only by experimental methods, and

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Essays in Literary Criticism of George Santayana
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • A Note About This Edition v
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction: Santayana As A Literary Critic ix
  • Part I - Three Philosophical Poets 1
  • Part II - Critical Essays 75
  • The Homeric Hymns 77
  • Platonic Love In Some Italian Poets 94
  • Cervantes 112
  • Hamlet 120
  • The Absence of Religion In Shakespeare 137
  • The Poetry Of Barbarism 149
  • Hints of Egotism In Goethe 179
  • Shelley: or the Poetic Value Of Revolutionary Principles 186
  • Leopardi 208
  • Dickens 210
  • Emerson 224
  • Penitent Art 234
  • Proust On Essences 241
  • The Last Puritan 246
  • Preface 246
  • Tragic Philosophy 266
  • Part III - Critical Theory 279
  • The Elements And Function of Poetry 281
  • Speech And Signification 304
  • Poetry And Prose 317
  • Literary Form 336
  • Literary Psychology 394
  • Mythology 402
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