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Transcript of Hamlet.
What will continue to make Hamlet worthy of critical study?
What will continue
Answer is: Many things!
Early 18th Century
Historical and Social Contexts
Already before the Romantic period
proper, critics had begun to stress the
elements of the play that would cause
Hamlet to be seen, in the next century
as the epitome of the tragedy of character.
Criticism of the play in the first decades of the 18th century continued to be dominated by the neoclassical start of the plot and character.
By the end of the 18th century, psychological and textual criticism had beat strictly rhetorical criticism; but by the neoclassical critique of Shakespeare's language, it has become declining.
“Tragedy” is the conventional description of a play that portrays human suffering and the decline and death of a hero or heroine.
The revenge tragedy was a very popular theatrical form in Shakespearean times and Hamlet is one of the most acclaimed examples of this form
It is a form of tragedy made popular on the Elizabethan stage by Thomas Kyd, whose Spanish Tragedy is an early example of the type.
The theme is the revenge of a father for a son or vice versa, the revenge being directed by the ghost of the murdered man, as in Hamlet.
Other traits often found in the revenge tragedies include the hesitation of the hero, the use of either real or pretended insanity, suicide, intrigue, an able, scheming villain, philosophic soliloquies, and the sensational use of horrors (murders on the stage, exhibition of dead bodies, etc.).
Let's look at the question again!
The characters ask countless questions in this play and rarely have adequate answers to the
Many people can relate to the
It can be played with a 'straight' timeless/placeless setting focused on it's universality or bent into the wildest, subversive shapes
It asks open-ended questions without providing clear answers that this play allows every age and culture to imprint itself upon it and make it seem local, personal and relevant
A timeless work that captures its mood, its political shape, its generational debate & its social temperament
The renaissance movement did not necessarily reject the idea of God, but rather questioned humankind’s relationship to God – an idea that caused an unprecedented disturbance in the accepted social hierarchy.
This focus on humanity created a new-found freedom for artists, writers and philosophers to be intrusive about the world around them.
Interpretations of Hamlet in Shakespeare's day were very concerned with the play's portrayal of madness. Now Shakespares play, Hamlet is now open to many interpretations. The play was also often portrayed more violently now than in later times.
Shakespeare incorporated the Renaissance by:
• Using simplistic, two-dimensional writing style of pre-renaissance drama, as this focuses on creating “human” characters with psychologically complexity
• The disruption in the accepted social hierarchy allowed Shakespare to explore the humanity of every character regardless of their social position
• Shakespeare exploited his knowledge of Greek and Roman classics when writing his plays. Before the renaissance, these texts had been suppressed by the Catholic Church.
FROM THE 18TH CENTURY, around the Romantic literary period it's known for its emphasis on the individual and internal motive.
The Romantic period viewed Hamlet as more of a rebel against politics, and as an intellectual, rather than an overly-sensitive, being.
This is also the period when the question of Hamlet's delay is brought up, while romantics focused largely on character.
In creating Hamlet, Shakespeare broke several rules, one of the largest being the rule of action over character. In his day, plays were usually expected to follow the advice of Aristotle in his Poetics, which declared that a drama should not focus on character so much as action. The highlights of Hamlet are not the action scenes, but the soliloquies, where Hamlet reveals his motives and thoughts to the audience. Unlike Shakespeare's other plays, there is no strong subplot; it is just directly connected to Hamlet struggling to gain revenge. The play is full of seeming breaks and misdeeds of action. At one point, Hamlet is resolved to kill Claudius: in the next scene, he is suddenly tame.
By the early Jacobean period the play was famous for the ghost and for its dramatization of melancholy and insanity.
In Hamlet, Shakespeare uses soliloquies in order to engage the audience in Hamlet’s inner struggle. We understand what is driving his
inability to act and we see that he is impatient with himself. The use of this technique heightens the intimacy between the protagonist and the audience.
The place of these soliloquies within the play is significant as they serve to signal Hamlet’s path from darkness to light.
Hamlet’s third soliloquy “To be, or not to be, that is the question-“ deals with the most basic of subjects- life and death. Common to the Renaissance time on whether life is worth living, Hamlet expresses his ideas rather than his feelings and therefore is not like the inner-voice of his previous two soliloquies.
Claudius has two soliloquies where his sense of guilt emerges “Oh my offence is rank, it smells to heaven; It hath the primal eldest curse upon’t, A brother’s murder”. It also allows the audience to bear witness to a few of his honourable qualities making him a more rounded character. He has taken action that is immoral and he knows it.
The use of asides where the character in the presence of other characters speaks to the audience serves to let the audience know what a character is thinking when others are ignorant of it. Hamlet’s “A little more than kin, and less than kind” is an aside and both Claudius and Gertrude express their guilt in asides.
The Elizabethan era was characterised by rigid social
classes, rebellions, plots, medieval traditional superstition alongside the new Renaissance thinking and rise of science, the belief that Kings were appointed by God and had the divine right to rule, and disruption of the natural order led to chaos as believed by the Elizabethans.
Hamlet's inability to reconcile his conscience to the demands of revenge and justice is what prevents him from taking definitive action through most of the play. Hamlet is very rational and only takes action as the result of thought and judgement rather than emotion.
Role of conscience
Revenge tragedies were all the rage in Elizabethan England. Hamlet was written at a time of great uncertainty for Queen Elizabeth because of a failed assassination attempt. With the amount of instability around court Shakespeare would have included such themes as a murdered king in a country in crisis to stimulate empathy.
Shakespeare was writing at a time when many of the population would have had to adapt, under different rulers, to different aspects of the Christian faith, and would have held a variety of views – no matter what the current king, and current laws, they expected them to believe.
The Mystery of Death
In the aftermath of his father’s murder, Hamlet is obsessed with the idea of death, he considers death from a great many perspectives. He ponders both the spiritual aftermath of death, embodied in the ghost, and the physical remainders of the dead, such as by Yorick’s skull and the decaying corpses in the cemetery. Throughout, the idea of death is closely tied to the themes of spirituality, truth, and uncertainty in that death may bring the answers to Hamlet’s deepest questions, ending once and for all the problem of trying to determine truth in an ambiguous world.
Throughout the play Shakespeare raises questions about whether justice is to be left to the state or taken into one's own hands, and about whether it is possible, in a cunning and deceitful world, to tell the good man from the criminal.
Throughout the play, the idea of death and
decay is closely tied to the theme of
revenge, as death is both the cause
and consequence of revenge.
Disease and Death Imagery become
apparent throughout the play.
These themes help make Hamlet worthy of critical study. as anyone can easily relate regardless of age, gender, generation, nationality and culture.
Hamlet is filled with questions of interpretation, open-end questions that don’t provide clear answers. This allows Hamlet to be open to various versions in someone’s vision, this also allows every age and culture to imprint itself upon it and make it seem local, person and relevant. It can be played with a 'straight' timeless/placeless setting focused on its universality or bent into the wildest, subversive shapes (director’s interpretations)
The characters ask countless questions in this play and rarely have adequate answers to them - Like the ghost on the battements of Elsinore, motives are deliberately covered in mist and the complexity of the action has been oceans of ink spilled in the attempt to "pluck out the heart of mystery" Central obsessions of the play, embodied in its central character, are fairly disturbing or even unremarkable to the modern mind.
Hamlet is universally described now as the play that captures the essences of every new generation. Todays’ world as a study is abnormal psychology, there are many situations the modern audience can relate to, such as the divorce and remarriage rates are so high today that Gertrude's sexual crime seems normal. Also, everyone can identify with injustice and revenge, people can still identify with his dilemma today.
Hamlet continues to be worthy of critical study as Hamlet is a play that works on emotions, it engages the audience as we are drawn on existentialism on the purpose of life. Hamlet is emotionally and intellectually engaging, it’ll always be “forever relevant.”