Hamlet critical quotes

Swinburne; ‘the single characteristic…’ 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
Samuel Johnson; ‘Hamlet is…’ Hamlet is, through the whole play, rather an instrument than an agent.
Samuel Johnson; ‘he makes no…’ He makes no attempt to punish Claudius, and his death is at last effected by an incident which Hamlet has no part in producing
Von Goethe; ‘impossibilities have…’ Impossibilities have been required of Hamlet; not in themselves impossibilities, but such for him.
Von Goethe; ‘all duties…’ All duties seem Holy for Hamlet
Bradley; ‘Hamlet is unable…’ Hamlet is unable to carry out the sacred duty, imposed by divine authority, of punishing an evil man by death
Coleridge; ‘Hamlet is obliged to…’ Hamlet is obliged to act on the spur of the moment
Wilson Knight; ‘Claudius, as he appears…’ Claudius, as he appears in the play, is not a criminal. He is—strange as it may seem—a good and gentle king, enmeshed by the chain of causality linking him with his crime. And this chain he might, perhaps, have broken except for Hamlet, and all would have been well.
Wilson Knight; ‘Hamlet is an…’ Hamlet is an element of evil in the state of Denmark
Wilson Knight; ‘Claudius can hardly…’ Claudius can hardly be blamed for his later actions. They are forced on him. As King, he could scarcely be expected to do otherwise. Hamlet is a danger to the state, even apart from his knowledge of Claudius’ guilt. He is inhuman (…) he is feared by those around him. They are always trying in vain to find out what is wrong with him. They cannot understand him. He is a creature of another world. As King of Denmark he would have been a thousand times more dangerous than Claudius.
Wilson Knight; ‘Hamlet is a figure…’ Hamlet is a figure of nihilism (The rejection of all religious and moral principles, often in the belief that life is meaningless) and death.
Wilson Knight; ‘He is in fact…’ He is in fact the poison in the veins of the community.
Wilson Knight; ‘the question of..’ The question of relative morality of Hamlet and Claudius reflects the ultimate problem of the play
Nigel Alexander; ‘the proof of the king’s…’ The proof of the King’s guilt does not solve Hamlet’s problem. The question remains, how does one deal with such a man, without becoming like him?
Nigel Alexander; ‘the desire for…’ The desire for vengeance is seen as part of a continuing pattern of human conduct.
Nigel Alexander; ‘the feeling of failure…’ The feeling of failure and frustration, which Hamlet himself recognizes, is created by this rapid alternation between the language of blood revenge and the language of conscience.
Nigel Alexander; ‘the other characters…’ The other characters in the play do not hesitate to act because they are sure of their own values and beliefs. Fortinbras and Laertes act because they believe that certain actions are right or honourable.
Marilyn French; ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern…’ Rosencrantz and Guildenstern sacrifice the bond of human friendship to a social propriety
Rebecca Smith; ‘although he clearly…’ 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.
Rebecca Smith; ‘Gertrude uses her…’ Gertrude uses her dying words to warn Hamlet of the poison, but doesn’t accuse Claudius.
Rebecca Smith; ‘Gertrude has not moved…’ Gertrude has not moved in the play toward independence; only her divided loyalties and her unhappiness intensify.
Rebecca Smith; ‘Polonius seems to…’ Polonius seems to love his children; he seems to have the welfare of the kingdom in mind. His means of action, however, are totally corrupt.
Rebecca Smith; ‘female virtue is…’ 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.
Showalter; ‘Ophelia is…’ Ophelia is deprived of thought, sexuality and language.
Showalter, on Ophelia; ‘she represents…’ She represents the strong emotions that the Elizabethans as well as the Freudians thought womanish and unmanly.
Showalter; ‘Hamlet’s disgust at…’ Hamlet’s disgust at the feminine passivity in himself is translated into violent revulsion against women and into his brutal behaviour towards Ophelia

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