Where There’s a “Will,” There’s a Way

Essay by cml360College, UndergraduateA+, November 2014

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Where There's a "Will," There's a Way

Of the many things difficult to understand in Rebecca West's critical essay on Hamlet, "The Nature of Will," the last to jump out at is the title. The last? Yes, because one needs to finish the entire essay before finding out that the title has nothing to do with the subject. Unless her goal was to insert a common phrase for the title with a play on "William," but who would do that? West has artfully taken a view of Hamlet and purported it to be precise interpretation (and at times purported to know what Shakespeare was thinking when he wrote this piece along with other works). The most erroneous statement in this essay is that Hamlet cannot love.

The one-two punch beginning West's essay is that Hamlet is not capable of love, and therefore never loved Ophelia, "Such an egotist would be restricted to lust, for he could not afford the outgoings of love" (West 228), which is directly preceded by a statement that is "irrelevant" (Then why did she include it?) about homoerotic undertones to Hamlet's nature because of his "curious emphasis on the physical difference between the dead King and the living Claudius" (West 228).

These two statements were enough to begin to discredit West in my eyes. Hamlet is clearly disgusted at the thought of his mother going to bed with Claudius, calling it incest (though I do not believe it technically is incest). "She married. O, most wicked speed, to post/ With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!" (I.ii. 156-157). Why then, would it make sense to assume that Hamlet is speaking with anything but a son's pride when he implores his mother to look at the photographs of the brothers side by side? Especially when such contempt...