Hamlet – Critical Quotes

“Are there reasons for the intolerable suffering? Is the tragic motor human error or capricious fate?” – David Scott Kastan Human Corruption and SufferingAction and Inaction
“For Shakespeare, anyhow, the uncertainty is the point.” – David Scott Kastan Action and InactionTragic Conventions
“Shakespeare’s tragedies provoke the questions about the cause of the pain and loss the plays so agonizingly portray.” – David Scott Kastan Human Corruption and SufferingDeath
“It is only in the love tragedies…that the heroine is as much the centre of the actions as the hero.” – A.C. Bradley Women
“We may speak of the tragic story as being concerned primarily with one person.” – A.C. Bradley Tragic Conventions
“No play at the end of which the hero remains alive is, in the full Shakespearean sense, a tragedy.” – A.C. Bradley Tragic ConventionsDeath
“The story depicts also the troubled part of the hero’s life which precedes and leads up to his death.” – A.C. Bradley Human Corruption and SufferingDeathTragic Conventions
The tragic hero is “also, as a rule, unexpected, and contrasted with previous happiness or glory.” – A.C. Bradley Tragic ConventionsCulture and Society
“Such exceptional suffering and calamity, then, affecting the hero, and…generally extending far and wide beyond him…are an essential ingredient in tragedy.” – A.C. Bradley Human Corruption and SufferingTragic Conventions
Tragedies “Frightened men and awed them.” – A.C. Bradley Tragic ConventionsCulture and Society
“The pangs of despised love and the anguish of remorse, we say, are the same in a peasant and a prince.” – A.C. Bradley Love and SexCulture and Society
“In the hero’s second phase” lies “his experience of madness.” – Maynard Mack MadnessTragic Conventions
It is surprising “how many of Shakespeare’s heroes are associated with this disease.” – Maynard Mack MadnessTragic Conventions
“Madness, when actually exhibited, was dramatically useful, as Kyd had shown.” – Maynard Mack MadnessTragic Conventions
“Madness is to some degree a punishment or doom.” – Maynard Mack MadnessHuman Corruption and SufferingDeath
“Ophelia, mad, is able to make awards of flowers to the King and Queen which are appropriate to frailties of which she cannot be supposed to have conscious knowledge.” – Maynard Mack MadnessLies and DeceitHuman Corruption and SufferingCulture and SocietyWomen
“It is enough that Hamlet wears…the guise of the madman.” – Maynard Mack MadnessLies and Deceit
“Hamlet can be privileged in madness to say things…about the corruption of human nature.” – Maynard Mack MadnessHuman Corruption and Suffering
“Hamlet never promises to revenge, only to remember.” – John Kerrigan RevengeMemory and Remembrance
The ballads which [Ophelia] sings in madness…are equally loyal to the past. Such memories divert and slow the play…which contrasts with the movement of Shakespeare’s other tragedies.” – John Kerrigan MadnessMemory and RemembranceTragic Conventions
“We can show that remembrance haunts [Hamlet], even to the point of madness.” – John Kerrigan MadnessMemory and Remembrance
“Because of the persistent and insatiable nature of the yearning for the lost figure, pain is inevitable.” – John Bowlby FamilyHuman Corruption and SufferingMemory and Remembrance
“In any case, we know that Hamlet…is trying to shake off at least part of the burden of his father’s memory.” – John Kerrigan FamilyMemory and Remembrance
“[Ophelia] is no better than Gertrude, glad to forget her first husband.” – John Kerrigan WomenLove and SexHuman Corruption and Suffering
“[Gertrude] is kept ambiguously innocent as a character.” – Janet Adelman WomenCulture and Society
Hamlet’s father has become unavailable to him…through the complex vulnerability that his death demonstrates. This father cannot protect his son.” – Janet Adelman FamilyDeathMemory and Remembrance
“Even as an avenger, Hamlet seems motivated more by his mother than by his father.” – Janet Adelman Action and InactionWomenFamilyRevenge
“The character of Hamlet stands quite by itself. It is not a character marked by strength of will or even passion, but by refinement of thought and sentiment.” – William Hazlitt Revenge
Hamlet exercises “the sport of circumstances, questioning with fortune…he seems incapable of deliberate action.” – William Hazlitt Action and Inaction
“He is the prince of philosophical speculators…yet he is sensible of his own weakness…and tries to reason himself out of it.” – William Hazlitt Action and Inaction

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