Hamlet the character only secondary. And Hamlet the character has had an especial temptation for that most dangerous type of critic: the critic with a mind which is naturally of the creative order, but which through character of hamlet essay weakness in creative power exercises itself in criticism instead.
These minds often find in Hamlet a vicarious existence for their own artistic realization. Hamlet remembered that his first business was to study a work of art. The kind of criticism that Goethe and Coleridge produced, in writing of Hamlet, is the most misleading kind possible. We should be thankful that Walter Pater did not fix his attention on this play.
Robertson and Professor Stoll of the University of Minnesota, have issued small books which can be praised for moving in the other direction. Hamlet was feigned in order to escape suspicion, and successfully. The alteration is not complete enough, however, to be convincing. Kyd, and not beyond doubt in the style of Shakespeare. Robertson believes to be scenes in the original play of Kyd reworked by a third hand, perhaps Chapman, before Shakespeare touched the play. And he concludes, with very strong show of reason, that the original play of Kyd was, like certain other revenge plays, in two parts of five acts each.
Of the intractability there can be no doubt. In several ways the play is puzzling, and disquieting as is none of the others. The lines in Act v. Both workmanship and thought are in an unstable condition. The guilt of a mother is an almost intolerable motive for drama, but it had to be maintained and emphasized to supply a psychological solution, or rather a hint of one. This, however, is by no means the whole story.
Shakespeare handled the suspicion of Othello, the infatuation of Antony, or the pride of Coriolanus. The subject might conceivably have expanded into a tragedy like these, intelligible, self-complete, in the sunlight. And when we search for this feeling, we find it, as in the sonnets, very difficult to localize. Shakespeare can do with the plot can express Hamlet for him.
Hamlet the feeling which she is incapable of representing. For Shakespeare it is less than madness and more than feigned. The levity of Hamlet, his repetition of phrase, his puns, are not part of a deliberate plan of dissimulation, but a form of emotional relief. Hamlet of Shakespeare is not, he has not that explanation and excuse.
We must simply admit that here Shakespeare tackled a problem which proved too much for him. We should have, finally, to know something which is by hypothesis unknowable, for we assume it to be an experience which, in the manner indicated, exceeded the facts. We should have to understand things which Shakespeare did not understand himself. Shakespeare’s Hamlet essay, summary, quotes and character analysis.