Hamlet literary critics

A.C Bradley – why does Hamlet delay the murder It is a direct result of his melancholic emotions
A.C Bradley – why doesn’t Hamlet understand his own actions “Hamlet is disgusted by life and everything” – thus his traditional crazy emotions he does not understand
What does A.C Bradley believe is wrong with Hamlet? Believes he has bi-polar disorder. Claims he gets “absorbed in the feeling or mood that possessed him”
What does critic Hermann Ulrici discuss? Hamlet’s doubts on the morality of revenge
Hermann Ulrich – what does he believe about Hamlet committing murder? Even though the King committed fratricide, in a Christian sense, it would be a sin to kill him with one’s own hand without trial and without justice
What does Ulrici believe about the ghost? It cannot be a moral, pure and heavily entity if it wanders the earth to stimulate revenge
What does Ulrici comment on in terms of Hamlet’s internal conflict of his murder? He struggles to make the task imposed on him one that he can undertake freely as a moral action. His regard for the eternal salvation of his soul forces him to stop and consider his actions
Hermann Ulrich – what does Hamlet do wrong? Tries to act as a spiritual power himself by trying to avenge the death of his father – overestimate of human power
Samuel Coleridge – what does he believe about Hamlet’s vengeance? Suffers from a mere incapability to act
Coleridge – what does he think is Shakespeare’s aim? 1. Wishes to impress on the audience that “action is the chief end of existence”
What is Coleridge’s explanation for Hamlet’s inaction? X2 1. Thinks he is too adverse to action because all his energy is given to self-reproach2. Hamlet’s mental version of events were far more real to him than the realistic and external events, developing in him a “passion for the indefinite”
Coleridge – what impact does Hamlet have on the audience? “it is we who are Hamlet” – suggests people identify with the aspect of Hamlet that focuses primarily on his mind
How does Coleridge explain Hamlet’s delay? Doubt as to the value of his actions themselves
Swinburne – what is the explanation for Hamlet’s delay? He has a strong desire to prove an argument right, but he struggles to overcome dangers
What does critic Samuel Johnson believe about Hamlet’s character? He is an instrument through the whole play, as opposed to an agent
What does Von Goethe believe about Hamlet? All duties seem Holy to him. Things that have been required of Hamlet are impossible, not in themselves, but impossible for Hamlet
What does critic Wilson Knight believe about Claudius? He is a good and gentle King, enmeshed the the chain of causality linking him with his crime.
What does W. Knight believe about Hamlet? He is an element of evil in the state of Denmark; Claudius’ chain of causality may have been broken if it wasn’t for him.
How does Wilson Knight justify his actions against Claudius? Believes that Claudius could not have let Hamlet become King because his erratic behaviour would have been detrimental to Denmark
What does Wilson K. believe Hamlet represents? Believes he is a figure of nihilism and is in fact the poison in the veins of the community
What does critic Alexander say about the questions of the play? It doesn’t offer any response to the questions it poses about human aggression
What does Nigel Alexander think about Hamlet’s delay? The proof of Claudius’ guilt does not solve Hamlet’s problem, the question is how to deal with such a man without becoming like him
Catherine Belsey – justice “revenge is in excess of justice”
What does Belsey believe about justice? That it is on a margin between crime and justice. It is also a political issues in Hamlet
What does critic Alexander believe about why other characters in the play don’t hesitate to act? They are sure of their own values and beliefs. E.g Fortinbras and Laertes act because they believe that certain acts are right or honourable
What does critic Marylin French believe about Rosencrantz and Guildernstern? They sacrifice the bond of human friendship to a social properity
Rebecca Smith – Claudius and Gertrude Although he loves her, Gertrude is viewed as an object by Claudius and is possessed as an effect of her actions
What does R. Smith notice about Gertrude’s death? Even her dying words are not accusatory towards Claudius but merely warning Hamlet of the poison
Critic Showalter of Ophelia: It is Hamlet’s disgust at the feminine passivity in himself that is translated into violent revulsion against women, such as his behaviour towards Ophelia
What does critic Brucher believe about justice in the play? Characters often compromise their own moral impulses for the sake of justice. A diabolically ingenious killing may go against our morals, but appeal to our fantasies about power, control and poetic justice in a corrupt world

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