Hamlet: Many Interpretations

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Hamlet: Many Interpretations

Although many students of Shakespeare believe that Hamlet,

among all the plays in the Shakespearean canon, best reflects the

universality of the poet-dramatist's genius, it remains an enigmatical work,

what has been called a "grand poetical puzzle." no artist can control the

use to which his insights are put by posterity, and this dictum is especially

true of Shakespeare, whose Hamlet has caused more discussion than any

other character in fiction, dramatic or non-dramatic.

Many readers have been disturbed by the two Hamlet's in the play:

one, the sensitive young intellectual and idealist, the "sweet prince" who

expresses himself in unforgettable poetry; the other, a barbaric Hamlet who

treats Ophelia so cruelly, who slays Polonius and then speaks of lugging

the guts into another room.

Most interpreters of Hamlet start with the assumption that the tragic

hero has a clear and sacred obligation to kill Claudius and to do so without

delay. The question is then why does he wait so long to do so. It is argued

that if Hamlet had taken prompt action, Gertrude, Polonius, Ophelia,

Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, Laertes, and Hamlet himself may have

survived. A reason must then be drawn from one's own interpretations of


Following two renound interpretations of Hamlet, two major

conclusions can be made. First, Shakespeare's tragedy is a work of

surpassing interest and genius, and the tragic hero is universally attractive

and fascinating. Second, only the naive will start with the assumption that

there is one obvious interpretation of the play and that the critics, not

Shakespeare, have introduced complexities into it. It would be nice to

present a simple, direct interpretation based upon a major generalization

and to ignore passages in the...