Comparison: Hamlet Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead According to Martin Esslin, the major difference between Absurdist and conventional drama is that in conventional drama the audience is anticipating the action, wondering what will happen next; while in an absurdist play the audience is mainly caught up in wondering what is happening now. Context and background: The values of the 17^(th) century and its violence and dramatics are juxtaposed with that of the 1960’s postmodernism existentialism and absurdism through the transformation of Hamlet to RNG, with indications to influences upon society from the respective eras in which the texts were composed.
Critical Approaches to Hamlet # The way we interpret a piece of literature depends on the perspective we come from. Largely it is determined by the constructs or social, religious and cultural conditioning that have influenced our way of seeing the world and our way of thinking. To assume all people will interpret a text the same as we do is presumptuous, self-indulgent and parochial. Traditional methods can also be called orthodox or dominant views while alternative ones can be variant, divergent, dissident, resistant or subversive views.
Introduction to Hamlet # Hamlet is a Problem play that is not wholly resolved. That is, it may have a simple plot with many twists and turns, but it is full of rich ambiguity, many contradictions and multiple interpretations. Outstanding writers such as Goethe, Coleridge, Freud, Eliot have wrestled with the play throughout the ages without success. As **John Bell **claims, Shakespeare does not show his hand; he raises many issues, delineates both sides but then lets us the audience draw our own conclusions.
Shakespeare’s World # Shakespeare’s life spanned both Elizabethan and Jacobean England, a dynamic period of change, expansion, exploration and enlightenment, yet his view of the world (Weltanshaung) was quite different from ours. Though Copernicus had died 21 years before Shakespeare’s birth and he was born in the same year as Galileo, his world view was still geocentric rather than heliocentric; that is most people still believed that the earth was the centre of the world with the sun and planets revolving around it.
Aristotelian forms of tragedy in Hamlet # Hamlet conforms to the Aristotelian forms of tragedy. It is well constructed and abides to Aristotle’s definitions regarding a complete dramatic action which arouse pity and fear inducing Catharsis. The play is based on the theatre of illusion where the audience experiences the predicaments of the characters vicariously By identifying emotionally and psychologically, we are drawn closer to the characters; identify and empathise and are aroused by their terror to pity and fear (Pathos) to a state of Catharsis, releasing our tension, soothing and purging our souls.
SUMMARY OF HAMLET # THE ACTION OF THE PLAY ACT ONE Scene 1: It is a starry night and bitter cold. Francisco, a lonely sentinel on the battlements of the castle of Elsinore, is relieved by Barnardo as the clock strikes twelve. They are joined by Marcellus, an officer of the guard, and by Horatio, friend of the young Prince Hamlet, come in a mood of humorous scepticism to verify their story of a ghostly apparition.
Language Techniques - HAMLET # For a general discussion on Shakespeare’s Language Click here. Of all Shakespeare’s plays, Hamlet uses the most memorable language. One school student asked for his opinion of the play tried to impress by admitting he enjoyed the action but found the language clichéd! It is true many of Hamlet’s phrases have resonated so well they have been frequently quoted and become clichéd. Examples:
MYTHOLOGICAL AND ARCHETYPAL APPROACHES - Hamlet # One of the first modern scholars to point out the similarities between Hamlet and Greek Tragedy was Professor Gilbert Murray. In his “Hamlet and Orestes,” delivered as a lecture in 1914 and subsequently published in The Classical Tradition in Poetry (Harvard, 1927), Murray indicated a number of significant parallels between the mythic elements of Shakespeare’s play and those in Oedipus and the Agamemnon of Aeschylus.
PSYCHOLOGICAL APPROACH Hamlet # Although Freud himself made some applications of his theories to art and literature, it remained for an English disciple, Dr. Ernest Jones, to provide us with the first full-scale psycho analytic treatment of a major literary work. Dr. Jones’s Hamlet and Oedipus, originally published as an essay in The American Journal of Psychology in 1910 and later revised and enlarged, is now conveniently available in a paperback edition (Doubleday Anchor Books, 1949); it remains a model of professional competence and scholarly thoroughness for the Freudian critic.
Hamlet: Revenge - A Problem play - not wholly resolved # Revenge is an instinctual and basic impulse; not a considered Christian response. Though set in pagan and barbaric Viking Denmark, the play’s audience is a Christian English one, of the 17^(th) century, where revenge is God’s retribution; not man’s respite. There are opposing or dialectical views on revenge; on the one hand are the personal and punitive, while on the other the more altruistic ones of restorative justice.
Transformations - Rosenkrantz and Guildentern are Dead # What the syllabus says: Transformations of texts have occurred for centuries, as stories have been adapted to contemporary situations. The inspiration of the known reflects upon the new, while the new resonates with the known. This process provides the basis for study in this elective. Students choose a pair of texts and consider the ways in which transformations generate reflections on the texts, contexts and the ways in which texts can be transformed.
# Shakespeare’s Language # Shakespeare is renowned for the poetic imagery of his language and for the word pictures he creates. His reputation is well founded because while he was writing English was not the dominant language – it was Latin. Shakespeare culminated what Chaucer had begun; to make English a respectable language for expressing complex, personal and imaginative ideas. There is only one reason why Shakespeare’s plays are still alive and read 400 years after they were written; his mastery of clear, powerful visual language.
Issues, Concerns, Themes, Values The meanings of a play emerge indirectly or implicitly via the vicarious personal involvement or identification and empathy of us the responders. Meaning can also be derived from recurring Motifs which unify the plot and provide clues to the composer’s underlying concerns in creating meaning through patterns of design. Shakespeare’s plays are a rich minefield of layers and layers of meaning and we can often find recurring concerns developed in similar or differing ways.