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Doctor Faustus

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Doctor Faustus

Doctor Faustus provides an especially interesting example of some of the ways that electronic publication expands the

opportunities for scholarly research while increasing access to the play's various editions. In producing this version of Doctor

Faustus, we have revised W. W. Greg's 1950 parallel text edition of the two extant

versions of Doctor Faustus, the 1604 A text and the 1616 B text. Also included here is

the primary source for Doctor Faustus, entitledThe English Faust Book and translated

from German in 1592 by P. F. Gent. This site allows users with diverse interests and

differing degrees of familiarity with Renaissance literature to examine these texts and the

intricate relationships between them. Electronic publication makes it possible to view this

information in various ways; through its multiple hypertextual links,this site provides

immediate access to modernized spelling and punctuation, glossary definitions of terms,



scholarly notes, and, in time, will display textual variants in printing. Especially interesting

here is the display of the relationships between each version of Doctor Faustus and

between the plays and their source.

Faustus was born into lowly circumstances. He studies hard and masters all the knowledges known to

                man, but he is still dissatisfied. Faustus determines to study magic, the one knowledge that can break the

                limits of all others. He engages two master magicians to teach him. While he awaits their arrival, a good

                and an evil angel appear. The good angel urges him not to go through with his plans, but Faustus is

                determined. He learns quickly and for his first act calls up Mephistophilis, Satan's messenger. Faustus is

                very pleased, thinking he has control over the forces of evil, but Mephistophilis says he only showed up

                because Faustus had rejected God. Faustus offers to give his soul to Lucifer if Mephistophilis will wait on

                him for twenty-four years. Lucifer agrees.

                Faustus is not troubled by this pact because he does not believe in eternal life. With Mephistophilis' help,

                Faustus makes a great career for himself. He amazes the Pope by becoming invisible and stealing things

                from his hands. He calls forth the spirit of Alexander the Great for the Emperor. As his twenty-four years

                draw to a close, he begins to fear Satan and nearly repents. Instead, he asks Mephistophilis to bring him

                Helen of Troy to be his lover in his final moments. Just before his end, he reveals to his fellow scholars

                how he gained his powers. He is then carried off by a group of devils.

     Commentary

                Marlowe is trapped between the religious Middle Ages and the man-centered Renaissance. Faustus

                replaces God with his belief in man's rational ability. But the abilities he gains are a little silly and the cost to

                him is tremendous. Though he can see so much, he cannot see his own mistakes or eternal truths. But

                Faustus is not an entirely unsympathetic character. Knowledge surely is a good thing. But how far should it

                be taken? Similar conversations are currently evoked by such issues as reproductive technologies, genetic

                engineering, and euthanasia.

The legendary Doctor John Faustus lived from sometime in the late 15th century until about 1540. References to him date from

1507 to 1540. A magician and conjurer, he traveled about Germany and other parts of Europe in the first half of the 16th

century. References. gossip, manuscripts, and legends proliferated around his name during the second half of the 16th century.

From these accounts, we learn that he was a blasphemous cheat who sodomized young boys.

His story came to play a part in the Reformation when Protestant leaders used the story of his sins and horrible death as an

example to doubters. Marlowe gave the story its first major literary treatment, showing Faustus torn between his aspirations for

knowledge and power and his loss of salvation.

Verse Form

Doctor Faustus is written primarily in "Marlowe's mighty line," blank verse; but notice the prose of the comic characters and

Faustus' own degeneration represented in his descent from blank verse to prose.

Themes and topics for discussion:

   1.The comic scenes and their relation to the main story.

   2.Influence of the morality play on Marlowe's Faustus.

   3.Faustus as a Renaissance hero.

   4.The relation of Faustus's encounter with the Seven Deadly Sins to the overall story.

   5.Faustus as villain or victim: reasons for his fall.

   6.The conflict between Renaissance and Reformation values in the play and in the main character.

   7.Concepts of hell--the views of Faustus, Mephistophilis, and the Bad Angel.

   8.Autobiographical elements.

Hamlet

Act 3, Scene 1: In the hope of discovering the reasons for Hamlet's distress, the king and queen decide to engineer a meeting between him and Ophelia. Polonius asks her to pretend to be alone whilst he and the king hide behind a tapestry. Hamlet enters and declaims his famous monologue, 'To be or not to be', up until the moment he notices Ophelia. He denies any love for her and advises her not to marry and to enter a convent instead. Claudius now starts to believe that Hamlet's madness is not due to

unrequited love and suspects that he might pose a threat to his crown. He decides to get him out of the way by sending him to England. Polonius suggests one final attempt at discovering the reasons for Hamlet's behaviour by arranging a meeting with his mother, Gertrude.

Act 3, Scene 2: Having given his instructions to the actors, Hamlet asks Horatio to observe the reactions of the king during the performance. The king, queen and their court attend the performance. Hamlet, his head on Ophelia's knees, prepares to make comments to her about the play, which is preceded by a mimed summary of the action, followed by some words addressed to the public by a character called 'Prologue'. The spoken play itself begins, stressing the themes of treason, murder and incest. At the moment Lucianus pours poison into the ear of the king Claudius rises and leaves the hall in anger, even though Hamlet had forewarned him that the play would deal with the murder of Duke Gonzago in Vienna.

     Hamlet now believes he has received conformation that his father was murdered. The king sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, then Polonius, to convey his mother's wish that they speak with each other. Hamlet declares his intention to wreak vengeance on the king but decides not to take it out on his mother other than in words.

Themes

One could read Hamlet simply, simplistically even, as a revenge tragedy. Hamlet's father, the king of Denmark, is killed by his brother, Claudius, who, overriding the rights of succession, appropriates both the crown and the wife of Hamlet's father. The ghost of the father reveals everything to his son, and all the elements of the revenge tragedy are in place: Hamlet has an obligation to avenge the murder, the usurpation, and the adultery. This he does by killing Claudius at the end of the play.

     However it is clear that the theme of vengeance is merely a vehicle used by Shakespeare in order to articulate a whole series of themes central to humanity:

     relationships between father and son, mother and son, and Hamlet and his friends

     love relationships

     power wielding

     madness, feigned madness, dissembling

     youth and age

     action and inaction

     corrupt power and power corrupting

     the most significant existential questions; the existence of a god; 'to be or not to be'; 'if it be now...'.

     the meaning and possibilities of stagecraft

All these themes, as well as others, are found in Hamlet. However, it is important to remember that Hamlet himself is at the centre of everything, and it is on him that all the great themes are focused. There is no other character in literature so rich, so complex, so enigmatic, at once so opaque and transparent.

     Readings of Hamlet are innumerable and vary according to the personality of the reader, director, or actor. Hamlet is someone who both imposes himself on us through the complexity and mysterious nature of his character, which is to an extent almost indecipherable. His is also one around which our own personality can allow itself to be shaped. He is one of the rare characters of the theatrical world, perhaps the only one, who permits such constant exchange. Each of us, no matter what age,

can recognise him/herself in Hamlet and can shape the myth of Hamlet in his/her image.

     Laurence Olivier said that he could have played Hamlet for a hundred years and still found something new in him on each performance; the character is ambiguous, almost impossible to grasp, as is the language of the play. Instead of impoverishing the play this ambiguity makes it all the more rich and textured. It is precisely this mystery which allows each reader and actor to engage in a personal and intimate reading of the character, and to share his complexity. Hamlet is himself, you, me, he is all of

us; being all of us he is universal, the myth which each of us, in our own individuality, tries to understand and comes to recognise in our own nature.

     What are the main characteristics of this fascinating and, hence, unforgettable character? Interpretations are legion and only

the main ones are cited here.

Dilemma and Indecision

If the heroes of the great classical tragedies are all confronted by choices, it is because they are all obliged to resolve them in

one manner or another: once the decision is taken, everything else follows, accompanied by acts of majestic nobility or, at the

other extreme, of abject decay and ruin. For Hamlet nothing is simple, everything raises questions. His dilemma is not about

what decisions he should take but rather whether he will be able to make any decisions at all. According to some

interpretations, Hamlet makes no decisions and instead projects the image of an indecisive, inactive and passive individual, a

romantic incapable of action who is in some ways snivelling and pathetic; he is nothing but a compulsive talker taking pleasure in

his own words. Jean-Louis Barrault said of him that he is 'the hero of unparalleled hesitation'. He astonishes us with soliloquies

of unequalled beauty, his emotions are of stunning force, but he does not evolve beyond them. This is why T.S. Eliot regarded

Hamlet as a failure and said that it presented a character 'dominated by an emotion which is inexpressible because it exceeds

the events that occur'. Why so much emotion and so little action? That is his nature, say some critics: this is what he is, the

absolute opposite of Macbeth. Others see him as stunted by an Oedipus complex which has turned him into a belated

adolescent, somewhat mad, mired in sterile existentialist ponderings (this alone would disqualify him as king!). Others still see

him as suffering from an overdose of chastity. Others go further: is he not simply a puritan or a homosexual? A drunkard, even?

Could he be the unfortunate hero, the hero-victim for whom life holds nothing but frustration and disillusionment? The murder of

his father and the revelation that his own brother was his assassin (who then throws himself on the widow, Hamlet's mother!),

the betrayals by Gertrude, Ophelia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, even Laertes: it is not only the state of Denmark which is

rotten, it is the entire world. The celebrated French critic Henri Fluchère, who sees Hamlet as 'the first Shakespearean drama

which can lay claim to both extremes in personality and universality', interprets the play as a symbolic representation of the

battle between man and his destiny, his temptations and contradictions.

     To this is opposed another reading. First of all it has to be said that Hamlet, loquacious as he is, is nevertheless extremely

active, although it is true that the impulse for his actions is imposed on him by other characters or by events. He listens to the

ghost (which his friends refuse to do), he adopts a coarse attitude verging on insubordination vis-à-vis the king, he violently

rejects Ophelia, he thwarts one after the other plots aimed at revealing his plans, he stages for the court a show which is nothing

but a trap in which he hopes to catch the king, he confronts his mother in a scene of extreme violence, and he fights Laertes.

Engaging further in pure physical violence he kills Polonius, sends his friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to their deaths, kills

the king, and is indirectly responsible for the death of Laertes. Not bad for someone who, for some, doesn't know the meaning

of the word action.

     It is possible, even probable, that in his particular fashion Shakespeare wanted to disrupt the conventions of classical

tragedy, which he may have seen as too heavily laden with stereotypes. His Macbeth, his Othello, his Brutus, even his King

Lear, are, from the first act, so imprisoned in conventional attitudes that they become perfectly predictable: the mechanisms of

the plot evolve through cause and effect, the outcome becomes ineluctable. None of that in Hamlet; Shakespeare surprises us

at each turn, it is the unpredictable which dominates, and even the scene of the final slaughter has only tenuous connections with

the elements provided by the first act. True, Hamlet does kill the king, but he does so because the latter has just inadvertently

killed Gertrude, and it is particularly striking that at this moment Hamlet utters not one word concerning the assassination of his

father, just as it is curious that no-one at the Danish court seems disturbed by the monstrous carnage which has, in the space of

a few seconds, done away with the most important individuals of the kingdom. Maybe Shakespeare, merely simulating the

grand themes of classical tragedy (vengeance, madness, the struggle for power, etc.), wanted to shake the established

certainties flooding each of these themes and chose, in the final analysis, to present the only themes which for him had any

fundamental importance: doubt and uncertainty. In this, he could have been a precursor of the theatre of the twentieth century:

he may, in 1601, have anticipated the theatre of the absurd.

Hamlet and Metaphysical Doubt

A vast tragedy, negating any attempt at a single interpretation, Hamlet is before anything else the drama of a man who does not

hesitate to confront his own imperfections and who refuses illusions and idealised appearances:

          'What piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and

          admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god: the beauty of the world, the paragon of

          animals-and yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me...' (Act Two, Scene Two, Arden)

The tragedy, Fluchère tells us, takes place above all in Hamlet's consciousness, as

          all the events which form the play's framework are reduced to a symbolic representation, to an internal unrest

          which no action will resolve, and no decision will quell. The deepest theme, masked by that of vengeance, is none

          other than human nature itself, confronted by the metaphysical and moral problems it is moulded by: love, time,

          death, perhaps even the principle of identity and quality, not to say 'being and nothingness'. The shock Hamlet

          receives on the death of his father, and on the remarriage of his mother, triggers disquieting interrogations about the

          peace of the soul, and the revelation of the ghost triggers vicious responses to these. The world changes its colour,

          life its significance, love is stripped of its spirituality, woman of her prestige, the state of its stability, the earth and

          the air of their appeal. It is a sudden eruption of wickedness, a reduction of the world to the absurd, of peace to

          bitterness, of reason to madness. A contagious disease which spreads from man to the kingdom, from the kingdom

          to the celestial vault':

          '[A]nd indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame the earth seems to me a sterile



          promontory, this most excellent canopy the air, look you, this brave o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof

          fretted with golden fire, why, it appeareth nothing to me but a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.'

Fluchère's reading situates Hamlet's drama within the ruptures of an isolated and bruised subjectivity. According to this

interpretation, which places the accent on the dissolving of identity and on a Sartrean problematic of being and nothingness,

Hamlet's tragedy appears as the quintessence of a moral and metaphysical instability which some associate with the experience

of modernity. Hamlet's decline and bitterness indeed match his extraordinary lucidity. The tragedy of Hamlet, nevertheless,

clearly exceeds the boundaries of the tormented consciousness of its protagonist.

Hamlet and Madness

The third act of Hamlet opens with a remark by the king, Claudius, who instructs Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, old

school-friends of his nephew, to discover why the latter 'puts on this confusion,/ Grating so harshly all his days of quiet/ With

turbulent and dangerous lunacy?' For over three centuries hundreds of experts have turned their attention to the problem of

Hamlet's madness. Hundreds of articles have been written, and dozens of controversial theories have been put forward and

countered. The characters of Shakespeare's play are themselves desperate to discover the origins of the affliction which mars

the prince of Denmark. Whilst Polonius sees Hamlet's conduct as the result of disappointed love, Ophelia can only see the

symptoms of pure madness. For Rosencrantz and Guildenstern it is ambition and frustration which are gnawing away at the

young heir to the throne. Finally, for Gertrude, Hamlet's mother, who in this joins most critics, at the root of it is a warped

reaction, including rejection, to the death of his father and her own hasty remarriage. This interpretation does indeed play an

essential role in the play. Hamlet himself never ceases speculating not only about the overt or covert motivations of other

characters but also about the uses and abuses of power, the faults of passion, action and inaction, the significance of ancestral

customs as well as the question of suicide. Most of the characters observing Hamlet's behaviour can't agree whether it is fake

and calculating or whether the prince really is suffering from a mental illness threatening the 'noble, sovereign reason' which

separates men from beasts (Claudius). Claudius himself is conscious of the fact that the conduct and words of his nephew are at

one and the same time completely irrational and absolutely coherent. Basing his judgement on the theories of ancient medicine,

he attributes the ambiguities of the deranged speeches to the workings of a harmful temperament provoking a state of deep

melancholia. '[W]hat he (Hamlet) spake' he concludes, 'though it lack'd form a little/ Was not like madness. There's something

in his soul/ O'er which his melancholy sits on brood,/ And I do doubt the hatch and the disclose/ Will be some danger' (Act 3, Scene 1).

In this respect a parallel can be traced between the 'methodical madness' of Hamlet and that of Ophelia. In effect,

whilst everyone agrees that 'their words have no sense', their words and actions are still the object of an exceptional curiosity

on the part of their entourage. 'Her speech is nothing' the unnamed gentleman who opens Act 4, Scene 5 tells us, 'Yet the

unshaped use of it doth move/ The hearers to collection. They aim at it,/ And botch the words up fit to their own thoughts,/

Which, as her winks and nods and gestures yield them,/ Indeed would make one think there might be thought,/ Though nothing

sure, yet much unhappily.' 'What education in madness!' finally exclaims Laertes, meditating on a nothingness which 'is worth

more than all thought'. It is to be noticed that, in the context of Shakespeare's work, Laertes' perplexed state echoes that of

Edgar in King Lear when he-captivated by the logic and rigour latent in the madness of his king-declares 'what reason in

this madness'. Each character tries to decipher the madness of Ophelia and Hamlet because the ambiguities of their deranged

discourses seem to reveal a terrible sickness capable not only of threatening the psychological equilibrium of the individual but of

infecting the kingdom as well as the world beyond: 'it goes so heavily with my disposition' says Hamlet, 'that this goodly frame

the earth seems to me a sterile promontory, this most excellent canopy the air, look you, this brave o'erhanging firmament, this

majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why, it appeareth nothing to me but a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.' (Act 2, Scene 2)

     However, Hamlet's madness has not only the effect of disturbing those around him, it also allows him the freedom to

transgress the court's rules of etiquette and obedience without incurring immediate punishment. Hamlet, under cover of

madness, takes on the role of a critical and sardonic commentator on the schemes of other characters, and in this he succeeds

Yorick, the king's late fool, whose fate is the subject of a full discussion in the fifth and final act. Amongst Hamlet's principal

targets are his mother's infidelity, Rosencrantz's servitude and the devouring ambition of his uncle whom he reminds, by means

of a riddle, that all are equal before death:

          HAMLET:   A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm.

          KING:    What dost thou mean by this?

          HAMLET:    Nothing but to show you how a king may go a progress through the guts of a beggar. (Act 4, Scene 3)

Forced to play a role which brings him nothing but misfortune and alienation, Hamlet envies those who, unlike him, do not allow

themselves to be tormented by 'the scruples of conscience'. For this reason he admires the equanimity of his friend Horatio,

whom he includes amongst those fortunate people 'Whose blood and judgement are so well comeddled/ That they are not a

pipe for Fortune's finger/ To sound what stop she please'. In other words, whilst Horatio 'no revenue hast but [his] good

spirits/ To feed and clothe [him]', it is precisely his ability to be someone 'that Fortune's buffets and rewards/ Hast ta'en with

equal thanks'(Act 3, Scene 2) that allows him to escape suffering. The stoic Horatio, who admits to being 'more an antique

Roman than a Dane'(Act 5, Scene 2), does not succumb to destructive passions. He does not nourish ill-considered hopes and

in this avoids frustrations and disappointments. It is because all these qualities are united in Horatio that Hamlet implores him,

before his own death, not to give in to the temptation to commit suicide and to stay alive in order to tell the whole truth.

          O God, Horatio, what a wounded name,

          Things standing thus unknown, shall I leave behind me.

          If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart,

          Absent thee from felicity awhile,

          And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain

          To tell my story.

So, what is the answer to the central question: is Hamlet mad? Is he mad partly because his pain and metaphysical doubt are

beyond him? Is his madness a strategy for better observing and manipulating others, and furthermore to protect himself? Or

does he take cover under an artificial madness which absolves him from all responsibility and allows him to find comfort in

inaction, to split himself in some way, to be at once an actor in and a spectator of the staging of life, of his life? Or is he, all

things considered, just insane? Each of us has to decide, according to taste and temperament.

Hamlet and Oedipus

The critical applications of the famous theory of the Oedipus complex to the tragedy of Hamlet are innumerable. It was Freud

himself who, in an essay published in 1905, was the first to try and resolve in psychoanalytical terms the enigma offered by

Hamlet's behaviour. According to Freud, the personal crisis undergone by Hamlet awakens his repressed incestuous and

parricidal desires. The disgust which the remarriage of his mother arouses in him, as well as the violent behaviour during their

confrontation in the queen's bedroom, are signs of the jealousy which he constantly experiences, even if unconsciously. Hamlet

is absolutely horrified by the thought that his mother could feel desire for Claudius, whom he describes as a 'murderer and

villain,/ A slave that is not twentieth part the tithe/ Of your precedent lord'.

          Such an act

          That blurs the grace and blush of modesty,

          Calls virtue hypocrite, takes off the rose

          >From the fair forehead of an innocent love

          And sets a blister there, makes marriage vows

          As false as dicers' oaths-O, such a deed

          As from the body of contraction plucks

          The very soul, and sweet religion makes

          A rhapsody of words. Heaven's face does glow

          O'er this solidity and compound mass

          With tristful visage, as against the doom

          Is thought-sick at the act. (Act Three, Scene Four)

     A little after, the ghost of Hamlet's father suddenly appears in order to assuage the anger of his son and implore him to take

pity on his mother's great distress: 'This visitation/ Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose./ But look, amazement on thy

mother sits./ O step between her and her fighting soul./ Conceit in weakest bodies strongest works./ Speak to her, Hamlet'.

     The bedroom scene is one example amongst many of Hamlet's aversion to sexuality, which he more often than not

associates with vulgarity and sickness. Despite his violent reactions, he is nonetheless fundamentally incapable of acting, Freud

tells us, because he cannot bring himself to avenge himself on the man who has killed his father and taken his place at the side of

his mother. Given that Claudius does no more than reproduce the repressed fantasies of childhood, the hatred Hamlet feels for

him is progressively replaced by a feeling of guilt which constantly reminds him that he is no better than the man he is supposed

to punish.

     Contrary to Freud the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan thinks that the real psychological dimension of the play lies not in

Hamlet's behaviour but in his language. In his famous essay, entitled 'Desire and the interpretation of desire in Hamlet', he

holds that the most striking characteristic of Hamlet's language is its ambiguity. Everything he says is transmitted, in various

degrees, through metaphor, simile and, above all, wordplay. His utterances, in other words, have a hidden and latent meaning

which often surpasses the apparent meaning. They have, therefore, enormous affinities with the language of the unconscious

which proceeds equally by various forms of distortion and alterations in meaning, notably through slips of the tongue, dreams,

double entendres, and wordplay. Hamlet is himself aware of the ambiguous nature of his own speeches as well as of the

feelings which drive them. Concerned by the dialectic between reality and appearance, and surface and depth, he is conscious

that whatever happens to him is deeper and stranger than that which is displayed by the superficial symptoms of mourning:

          THE QUEEN:    If it be,

          Why seems it so particular with thee?

          Hamlet: Seems, madam? Nay, it is. I know not 'seems'

          'Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,

          Nor customary suits of solemn black,

          Nor windy suspiration of forc'd breath,

          No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,

          Nor the dejected haviour of the visage,

          Together with all forms, moods, shapes of grief,

          That can denote me truly. These indeed seem,

          For they are actions that a man might play;

          But I have that within which passes show,

          These but the trappings and the suits of woe. (Act 1, Scene 2)

Hamlet and Ghosts

Three other Shakespeare plays have ghosts as characters: Julius Caesar (Brutus is visited by the ghost of Caesar), Macbeth

(Banquo's ghost interrupts Macbeth's banquet) and Richard III (the king is haunted by the ghosts of his victims). In Hamlet,

the role of the ghost, who appears as early as the first scene, is to trigger the action by revealing Claudius' crime and by

demanding vengeance. For the celebrated English critic John Dover Wilson (1881-1969), the ghost of Hamlet's father is thus

'both a revenge-ghost and a prologue-ghost'. 'It is one of Shakespeare's glories', he continues, 'that he took the conventional

puppet, humanised it, christianised it, and made it a figure that the spectators would recognise as real, as something which might

be encountered in any lonely graveyard at midnight . . . The Ghost in Hamlet comes, not from a mythical Tartarus, but from the

place of departed spirits in which post-medieval England, despite a veneer of Protestantism, still believed at the end of the

sixteenth century'. What Happens in Hamlet (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), p.52.

     One should note Horatio's scepticism: at first he refuses to believe spirits can assume material form. Then, disconcerted on

seeing the ghost, he nonetheless tries to communicate with it by persuading it to speak 'in the name of heaven'. In the end he

gives some credence to the ghost whom he feels to be an omen of some strange catastrophe for the kingdom.

The Soliloquies

   1.'O that this too sullied flesh would melt' (Act One, Scene Two)

   2.'O all you host of heaven' (Act One, Scene Five)

   3.'O what a rogue and peasant slave am I!' (Act Two, Scene Two)

   4.'To be, or not to be, that is the question' (Act 3, Scene 1)

   5.'Tis now the very witching time of night' (Act 3, Scene 3)

   6.'And so a goes to heaven' (Act 3, Scene 3)

   7.'How all occasions do inform against me' (Act 4, Scene 4)

Hamlet gives us seven soliloquies, all centred on the most important existential themes: the emptiness of existence, suicide,

death, suffering, action, a fear of death which puts off the most momentous decisions, the fear of the beyond, the degradation of

the flesh, the triumph of vice over virtue, the pride and hypocrisy of human beings, and the difficulty of acting under the weight of

a thought 'which makes cowards of us all'. He offers us also, in the last act, some remarks made in conversation with Horatio in

the cemetery which it is suitable to place in the same context as the soliloquies because the themes of life and death in general

and his attitude when confronted by his own death have been with him constantly. Four of his seven soliloquies deserve our

special attention: 'O that this too sullied flesh would melt', 'O what a rogue and peasant slave am I!', 'To be, or not to be, that

is the question', and 'How all occasions do inform against me'.

Readings of these soliloquies are varied and diverse. However, three remarks are in order:

   1.The density of Hamlet's thought is extraordinary. Not a word is wasted; every syllable and each sound expresses the

     depth of his reflection and the intensity of his emotion. The spectator cannot but be hypnotised.

   2.The language is extremely beautiful. Shakespeare was in love with words. His soliloquies are pieces of pure poetry,

     written in blank verse, sustained by a rhythm now smooth, now rugged, by a fast or a slow pace, offering us surprises in

     every line.

   3.The soliloquies are in effect the hidden plot of the play because, if one puts them side by side, one notices that the

     character of Hamlet goes through a development which, in substance, is nothing other than the history of human thinking

     from the Renaissance to the existentialism of the twentieth century.




The Hamlet of the first soliloquy is an outraged man who, disgusted by his 'sullied flesh', can see no outcome to his disgust other

than death. To free himself from the grip of his flesh he must put an end to his life. But there is the rub: God, the Everlasting, he

tells us, does not allow one to act in this way. God still rules the universe and Hamlet must obey his strictures.

          O that this too too sullied flesh would melt,

          Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew;

          Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd

          His canon 'gainst self-slaughter.

     Hamlet's attitude is different in 'To be, or not to be'. He asks himself about death beyond religious considerations; the nature

of his dilemma has changed, as Hamlet tells us with a lucid simplicity.

          To be, or not to be, that is the question:

          Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer

          The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune

          Or to take arms against a sea of troubles

          And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep-

          No more; and by a sleep to say we end

          The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks

          That flesh is heir to; 'tis a consummation

          Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;

          To sleep, perchance to dream-ay, there's the rub:

          For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,

          When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

          Must give us pause-there's the respect

          That makes calamity of so long life.

          For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

          Th'oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,

          The pangs of despis'd love, the law's delay,

          The insolence of office, and the spurns

          That patient merit of th'unworthy takes

          When he himself might his quietus make

          With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,

          To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

          But that the dread of something after death,

          The undiscover'd country, from whose bourn

          No traveller returns, puzzles the will,

          And makes us rather bear those ills we have

          Than fly to others that we know not of?

          Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,

          And thus the native hue of resolution

          Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,

          And enterprises of great pitch and moment

          With this regard their currents turn awry

          And lose the name of action.

In the first soliloquy Hamlet submits to rules and prohibitions; in the second he imagines and rationalises and decides to remain in

the world, for the moment at least. But he goes much further. Throughout the final act he pictures the final scene. There, where

another dramatist would have given the dying Hamlet a long discourse on death, Shakespeare has Hamlet say just a few words

of disconcerting simplicity, 'the rest is silence', precisely because Hamlet has already said everything before:

          Alas, poor Yorick! (Act 5, Scene 1) And a man's life's no more than to say 'one'. (Act 5, Scene 2)

          There is special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be

          now; if it be not now, yet it will come. The readiness is all. (Act 5, Scene 2)

     The other two soliloquies are memorable because they reveal all the passionate nature of Hamlet's personality. Observing

young Fortinbras and his army on their way to conquer Poland-'an eggshell', 'a wisp of straw'-Hamlet, on the edge of

despair, asks himself why he, when he has so many reasons, cannot stir himself to action, why he cannot carry out the necessary

act of vengeance. Why? Why? The last lines of Act Four are very revealing:

          How all occasions do inform against me,

          And spur my dull revenge. What is a man

          If his chief good and market of his time

          Be but to sleep and feed? A beast, no more.

          Sure he that made us with such large discourse,

          Looking before and after, gave us not

          That capability and godlike reason

          To fust in us unus'd. Now whether it be

          Bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple

          Of thinking too precisely on th' event -

          A thought which, quarter'd, hath but one part wisdom

          And ever three parts coward-I do not know

          Why yet I live to say this thing's to do,

          Sith I have cause, and will, and strength, and means

          To do't. Examples gross as earth exhort me,

          Witness this army of such mass and charge,

          Led by a delicate and tender prince,

          Whose spirit, with divine ambition puff'd,

          Makes mouths at the invisible event,

          Exposing what is mortal and unsure

          To all that fortune, death, and danger dare,

          Even for an eggshell. Rightly to be great

          Is not to stir without great argument,

          But greatly to find quarrel in a straw

          When honour's at the stake. How stand I then,

          That have a father kill'd, a mother stain'd,

          Excitements of my reason and my blood,

          And let all sleep, while to my shame I see

          The imminent death of twenty thousand men

          That, for a fantasy and trick of fame,

          Go to their graves like beds, fight for a plot

          Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause,

          Which is not tomb enough and continent

          To hide the slain? O, from this time forth

          My thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth.

     Some actors, including the very best, believe that the most beautiful soliloquy is that which comes at the end of Act Two,

immediately after the first discussion between Hamlet and the travelling players. Here Hamlet is enraged, furious and rude. He

lays himself, we feel, totally bare. He is no fool however. Recovering his spirits he devises a plan which will lead the king to

betray himself. This is Shakespeare at the height of his theatrical prowess, stamping Hamlet's language with relentless changes in

tone, the peaks of rage inter-cut with short moments of profound depression or of incredulous questioning.

          O what a rogue and peasant slave am I!

          Is it not monstrous that this player here,

          But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,

          Could force his soul so to his own conceit

          That from her working all his visage wann'd,

          Tears in his eyes, distractions in his aspect,

          A broken voice, and his whole function suiting

          With forms to his conceit? And all for nothing!

          For Hecuba!

          What's Hecuba to him, or he to her,

          That he should weep for her? What would he do

          Had he the motive and the cue for passion

          That I have? He would drown the stage with tears,

          And cleave the general ear with horrid speech,

          Make mad the guilty and appal the free,

          Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed

          The very faculties of eyes and ears.

          Yet I,

          A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak

          Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause

          And can say nothing-no, not for a king,

          Upon whose property and most dear life

          A damn'd defeat was made. Am I a coward?

          Who calls me villain, breaks my pate across,

          Plucks off my beard and blows it in my face,

          Tweaks me by the nose, gives me the lie i'th' throat

          As deep as to the lungs-who does me this?

          Ha!

          'Swounds, I should take it: for it cannot be

          But I am pigeon-liver'd and lack gall

          To make oppression bitter, or ere this

          I should ha' fatted all the region kites

          With this slave's offal. Bloody, bawdy villain!

          Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!

          Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,

          That I, the son of a dear father murder'd,

          Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,

          Must like a whore unpack my heart with words

          And fall a-cursing like a very drab,

          A scullion! Fie upon't! Foh!

          About, my brains. Hum-I have heard

          That guilty creatures sitting at a play

          Have, by the very cunning of the scene,

          Been struck so to the soul that presently

          They have proclaim'd their malefactions.

          For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak

          With most miraculous organ. I'll have these players

          Play something like the murder of my father

          Before mine uncle. I'll observe his looks;

          I'll tent him to the quick. If a do blench

          I know my course.

          The play's the thing

          Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.

The character of Hamlet is without doubt one of the roles most coveted by actors. However, some claim it is also one of the easiest. The text is so beautiful and so expressive that it merely has to be spoken; it flows by itself effortlessly and it only remains for the actor to be coherent for the duration of the performance. Yet it is here that choices have to be made. How should one approach these soliloquies? Should one treat them as pieces of music and approach them as one would the arias of an opera?

Shakespeare's language certainly lends itself to such an approach. Or should one see these speeches as Hamlet's thoughts which he expresses aloud, and deliver them as if he were speaking to himself? Alternatively, isn't Hamlet in the act of saying something to the public through the special and particular magic of the theatre, isn't he taking us into his confidence in an act of communion which resembles, in some aspects, an act of love? These three approaches are possible, as well as others, of course.

Hamlet and Theatre

More than any of his other plays, Shakespeare's Hamlet is pure theatre, a theatre cascading through three or four layers, like

Russian dolls.

   1.Structurally Hamlet offers all the characteristics of classical tragedy. The first act gives us nearly all the elements

     necessary to drive the plot. The second act accelerates the action until the formidable explosions of the third act, which

     can only lead to the tragic denouement of the fifth act. The play is long and some directors don't hesitate to make drastic

     cuts (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern sometimes disappear totally, Ophelia's interventions are shortened, and the cemetery

     scene is reduced to an absolute minimum, as are Hamlet's conversations with the travelling players).

   2.There are numerous remarks about theatre itself in the play and Shakespeare obviously makes use of his principal

     character to make a number of observations on the acting of the players and, by extension, on acting methods and

     conventions in London at the turn of the seventeenth century. Be natural, he tells them, don't overdo it ('hold as 'twere a

     mirror up to nature'; 'I would have such a fellow whipped for o'erdoing Termagant. It out-Herods Herod'). To this are

     added some observations on the young boys who play female roles. This is Shakespeare the master speaking. He tells us

     how things should be, or tries to, for it is not an easy matter, as he is about to show us in a moment. In any case, if one

     can judge from the sharpness of some of his comments, the acting of some of his contemporaries was such that he would

     have happily sent them to be flogged! Clearly, Shakespeare is settling a few accounts here; what is astonishing is that, to

     do so, he has to stop the action and suspend the plot. Only he, Shakespeare, could afford such a thing.

   3.The play within the play-the theatre within theatre-occupies the heart of Act Three. It does have its function within the

     plot, although it is not absolutely certain that it really enables Hamlet to flush out the king, but above all it is a striking



     example of what theatre should not be. Being bad actors, the players fall into all the traps Hamlet has just warned them

     against, and give us a piece of bad theatre. This is Shakespeare at his most sardonic, but he may be the butt of his own

     irony: imagine Shakespeare's Hamlet acted as badly in front of Shakespeare whilst he admonishes his own actors, in

     the same play, for acting in such a way!

   4.Great theatre is therefore to be found elsewhere in his play, and in no way is Shakespeare economical with it. Let us

     remember that Hamlet hides behind his 'antick disposition' for the greater part of the play; it is therefore important to

     remember that he is an actor, and that he acts so well that none of the other characters ever succeeds in 'reading' him.

     But Shakespeare sprinkles other choice pieces of theatre within theatre throughout the play, the most successful and

     striking being without doubt the meeting between Hamlet and Ophelia in Act Two, Scene 1. Not a word is exchanged

     but many things occur. It is a mime, an almost ritualistic dance the full meaning of which we cannot be sure has not

     escaped us. Hamlet is a master actor, an 'amateur' who acts a hundred times better than the inept professionals of the

     mime in the third act. There it is, that is good theatre, Shakespeare tells us. However this genius of a director goes further

     still: this mime does not take place on the stage; in a supreme paradox, it only exists through language, for it is through the

     words of Ophelia that it is given life in the theatre of our imagination. A perfectly real illusion, it takes shape in our minds

     through another illusion: the language and acting of the actor on the stage. The mise-en-abyme of the mime through

     language. Only Shakespeare could risk this, and succeed.

With Hamlet Shakespeare has bequeathed us a supreme gift. It is a testament in which the creative genius of its author shines

out, demonstrating his knowledge of the human spirit, his mastery of plot, and the unbelievable wealth of his language. But there

is too much theatre within theatre in this play for us not to see that through a sustained engagement with this theme Shakespeare

wanted to discover and to make known a truth rarely grasped, or even perhaps to tell us that there is no truth, save for that truth

given existence by a genius through theatrical devices, representation, illusion and art. This is what Tom Stoppard understood

very well, when, in his play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, he took the two most insignificant characters in Hamlet,

turned them into heroes, and reproduced entire passages from Shakespeare's play. This is theatre in its purest form which self

reflexively claims itself as such. That idea was already present in Hamlet.

The Play's Historical Sources

It is probable that Hamlet has its origins in a popular Icelandic saga mentioned for the first time by Snaebjörn, an Icelandic poet

of the tenth century. The Danish historian and poet Saxo Grammaticus refers to it at the end of the twelfth century. In this Latin

work recounting the history of Denmark Shakespeare's future character appears under the name Amleth in a story probably

influenced by the classical history of Lucius Junius Brutus. Here is the story:

          Horvendill, the father of Amleth, is killed by his brother Feng, who then marries Gerutha, the widow of his victim.

          Amleth feigns madness in order to appear ineffectual and harmless in the eyes of Feng, who would spare him for

          these reasons. He evades the snare of a young woman sent by his enemies and kills a spy concealed in his

          mother's bedroom. Ophelia and Polonius are already vaguely sketched, as is the episode concerning a letter

          ordering the assassination of Amleth by the king of England. Amleth manages to intercept this letter and it is the

          two messengers who are killed instead. Amleth marries the daughter of the king of England, returns to Denmark

          and assassinates Feng, whom the king of England has secretly promised to avenge. He sends Amleth to the court

          of the queen of Scotland, who falls in love with him and marries him in her turn. Amleth then defeats the king of

          England and returns to Jutland with his two wives.

     However there are controversies concerning the exact origins of Hamlet. Some see Hamlet as the product of Jutland's

folklore, an interpretation supported by the possible etymology of the name of the protagonist as meaning mad Onela,

suggesting some identification with the Swedish king Onela mentioned in Beowulf. Others find Oriental (Persian) or Celtic

(Irish) origins. Parallels can also be found in the English romances of Havelock, Horn and Bevis of Hampton.

     Saxo's version was translated in the sixteenth century, with the horrific elements emphasised, by François de Belleforest in

his collection Histoires Tragiques (Vol.5, 1570). An English version of this history was published in London in 1608 under the

title The Historye of Hamblet. At the end of the 1580s a revenge tragedy in the tradition of Seneca about Hamlet, Prince of

Denmark, based on Belleforest, was already popular in London. This Ur-Hamlet is traditionally attributed to Thomas Kyd and

was contemporaneous with Shakespeare's presence in London. It has similarities with the other predecessors of the latter's

play, which can be dated between 1599 and 1602, in that it is less psychologically complex concerning the central protagonist,

whose prevarications are essentially due only to the practical problems of assassinating a king permanently surrounded by

guards. This Ur-Hamlet has no soliloquies and no cemetery scene.

     Another source, this time Italian, The Murder of Gonzago, which Hamlet mentions in Act 2, Scene 2 and Act 3, Scene 2,

might have provided Shakespeare with the idea of murder by poison poured into the ears.

     Not content with merely developing literary sources from the past, Shakespeare was, as always, concerned with building

into his play references to contemporary events. One amongst several was the alleged suicide of Hélène de Tournon, a victim of

tragic love and either the sister or daughter of one of Marguerite de Valois' ladies in waiting. Accounts of the circumstances of

her death and of her funeral are sufficiently similar to the fate of Ophelia to suggest they fathered them. It is reasonable to believe

that Shakespeare reshaped Kyd's play in the final years of the sixteenth century before writing up his work completely in 1601.

Hamlet was deposited in 1602 at the Registry of the Library and published in quarto form in 1603. The play was subsequently

reworked, adapted and amended down the centuries according to prevailing sensibilities. Judged barbarous and brutal, some

scenes were toned down during the Enlightenment, whereas the nineteenth century lent the character a Byronic texture. More

recent times have seen Hamlets in Victorian or contemporary dress and regular film adaptations, the most recent English

production having been directed by Kenneth Branagh.

Summary

Act 1, Scene 1: At the castle Elsinor in Denmark, the sentries have invited Horatio to join them and talk about a ghost which has appeared before them during the previous nights. For the sentries this is a sign of imminent danger, perhaps indicating an attack by Fortinbras, Prince of Norway. Horatio refuses to believe them but then the ghost suddenly appears, and he recognises it as the King of Denmark, who has recently died. It says nothing and disappears almost immediately. It reappears shortly afterwards and seems on the point of speaking when the crowing of a cock, signalling dawn, obliges it to disappear. Horatio decides to warn Prince Hamlet.

Act 1, Scene 2: In his castle Claudius is addressing his Council and refers to his accession to the throne, the death of Hamlet's father, his own marriage to Gertrude, the widowed queen, and announces that he has written to the old king of Norway, charging him with the task of reining in the ambitions of his nephew, Fortinbras, who wants to reclaim land lost by his father to Hamlet's father. He then speaks to Laertes, the son of his advisor, Polonius, giving him permission to return to Paris. Turning to Hamlet he questions him as to the source of his melancholy, urging him to put an end to his sadness, which he deems excessive, and asks him not to return to the University of Wittenberg. The queen adds her own pleas to those of the king and Hamlet promises to do his best to follow their wishes.

     After the departure of the king and his court Hamlet, alone, gives vent to his sadness and expresses his disgust at his mother remarrying a month after the death of his father (First soliloquy: "O that this too too sullied flesh.

" Horatio, Marcellus and Bernardo arrive. Horatio breaks the news of the ghost's appearances and Hamlet decides to keep watch with them that evening and to speak to the ghost. For the first time Hamlet wonders about the circumstances of his father's death and suspects a crime.

William Shakespeare was born on the 23rd of April 1564 (and christened on the 26th) in Stratford-upon-Avon, in the county of

Warwickshire. His mother, Mary Arden, came from a family of landowners whilst his father, John Shakespeare, a rich trader in

the guild of furriers and glove-makers, enjoyed enough reputation and wealth to have a role in public affairs (he rose to the

position of bailiff of Stratford in 1568).

     William, the third of eight children, was educated at Stratford Grammar School until 1577, at which point his father, having

fallen into serious financial difficulties, withdrew him from school and placed him in an apprenticeship. Little is known about the

following years but they must have been difficult and marked by great poverty. There are various speculations concerning

William's occupations in these early years: choirboy, keeping the company of the nobility, pageboy, and barman in a tavern are

those most often mentioned. On the 27th of November, 1582, at the age of eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway, eight years

his senior. In the following three years they had three children including, in 1585, the twins Hamnet and Judith.

     It has not been established with any certainty how or where Shakespeare lived before 1592; some believe he tried his hand

teaching at a school in the country, and it is possible Shakespeare wrote his first plays for provincial companies. In 1587, for

reasons which are not clear, he made his way to London and became an actor.

     The date which marks the beginning of his literary career appears to be 1591, with the writing of the play Henry VI. In 1592

he lived in London, where he was already being talked of both as an actor and dramatist, as evidenced by contemporary

accounts. There are suggestions that he ventured to Italy and stayed there in 1592 and 1594, years during which the plague

severely disrupted London theatrical life.

     In 1593 he published the poem Venus and Adonis, which he dedicated to Lord Southampton. From this date onward, until

1611 according to some, until 1613 according to others, he wrote prolifically and ceaselessly, producing 36 plays, 2 long

poems, and 154 sonnets. He was very successful and wealthy enough to buy houses and land in Stratford and London, did

business in flour and malt and spent several hours a day in the taverns, drinking and feasting in the company of bohemians,

actors and writers.

     August 1596 witnessed the death, at the age of eleven, of Hamnet, the poet's only son.

     In 1599 Shakespeare's theatre company opened a theatre and named it 'The Globe', referring to the burden Hercules

carried on his back.

     1601, the year Hamlet was written, was marked for Shakespeare by two highly significant events: the death of his father,

and the imprisonment of his generous patron and friend, Lord Southampton, as a consequence of the failure of a rebellion led by

Lord Essex, whose lieutenant he was. Shakespeare had played some part in the plot by authorising a performance of Richard II

on the eve of the events. Essex's followers compared Elizabeth I to Richard and the scene concerning the deposing of the King

was to trigger that of the Queen. However the theatre company did not suffer any retaliation when the plot was exposed.

     From this year onward the tone of Shakespeare's plays became sombre, sad, and bitter.

     In 1609 Shakespeare's mother died. This was also the year the Sonnets were published. The following year, weary of the

world and of city life, Shakespeare retired to Stratford and only left Warwickshire for brief visits to the capital.

     It seems that Shakespeare went through a religious crisis in his later years and the inspiration of the last plays is sometimes

considered Christian.

     From January to March in 1616 Shakespeare drew up a will before passing away on the 23rd of April, the day of his 52nd

birthday. He was buried in Trinity church on the 25th of April.

                                                   The Play's Historical Sources

It is probable that Hamlet has its origins in a popular Icelandic saga mentioned for the first time by Snaebjörn, an Icelandic poet

of the tenth century. The Danish historian and poet Saxo Grammaticus refers to it at the end of the twelfth century. In this Latin

work recounting the history of Denmark Shakespeare's future character appears under the name Amleth in a story probably

influenced by the classical history of Lucius Junius Brutus. Here is the story:

          Horvendill, the father of Amleth, is killed by his brother Feng, who then marries Gerutha, the widow of his victim.

          Amleth feigns madness in order to appear ineffectual and harmless in the eyes of Feng, who would spare him for

          these reasons. He evades the snare of a young woman sent by his enemies and kills a spy concealed in his

          mother's bedroom. Ophelia and Polonius are already vaguely sketched, as is the episode concerning a letter

          ordering the assassination of Amleth by the king of England. Amleth manages to intercept this letter and it is the

          two messengers who are killed instead. Amleth marries the daughter of the king of England, returns to Denmark

          and assassinates Feng, whom the king of England has secretly promised to avenge. He sends Amleth to the court

          of the queen of Scotland, who falls in love with him and marries him in her turn. Amleth then defeats the king of

          England and returns to Jutland with his two wives.

     However there are controversies concerning the exact origins of Hamlet. Some see Hamlet as the product of Jutland's

folklore, an interpretation supported by the possible etymology of the name of the protagonist as meaning mad Onela,

suggesting some identification with the Swedish king Onela mentioned in Beowulf. Others find Oriental (Persian) or Celtic

(Irish) origins. Parallels can also be found in the English romances of Havelock, Horn and Bevis of Hampton.

     Saxo's version was translated in the sixteenth century, with the horrific elements emphasised, by François de Belleforest in

his collection Histoires Tragiques (Vol.5, 1570). An English version of this history was published in London in 1608 under the

title The Historye of Hamblet. At the end of the 1580s a revenge tragedy in the tradition of Seneca about Hamlet, Prince of

Denmark, based on Belleforest, was already popular in London. This Ur-Hamlet is traditionally attributed to Thomas Kyd and

was contemporaneous with Shakespeare's presence in London. It has similarities with the other predecessors of the latter's

play, which can be dated between 1599 and 1602, in that it is less psychologically complex concerning the central protagonist,

whose prevarications are essentially due only to the practical problems of assassinating a king permanently surrounded by

guards. This Ur-Hamlet has no soliloquies and no cemetery scene.

     Another source, this time Italian, The Murder of Gonzago, which Hamlet mentions in Act 2, Scene 2 and Act 3, Scene 2,

might have provided Shakespeare with the idea of murder by poison poured into the ears.

     Not content with merely developing literary sources from the past, Shakespeare was, as always, concerned with building

into his play references to contemporary events. One amongst several was the alleged suicide of Hélène de Tournon, a victim of

tragic love and either the sister or daughter of one of Marguerite de Valois' ladies in waiting. Accounts of the circumstances of

her death and of her funeral are sufficiently similar to the fate of Ophelia to suggest they fathered them. It is reasonable to believe

that Shakespeare reshaped Kyd's play in the final years of the sixteenth century before writing up his work completely in 1601.

Hamlet was deposited in 1602 at the Registry of the Library and published in quarto form in 1603. The play was subsequently

reworked, adapted and amended down the centuries according to prevailing sensibilities. Judged barbarous and brutal, some

scenes were toned down during the Enlightenment, whereas the nineteenth century lent the character a Byronic texture. More

recent times have seen Hamlets in Victorian or contemporary dress and regular film adaptations, the most recent English

production having been directed by Kenneth Branagh







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