Hamlet (Cliffs Notes) by J. K. Lowers

By J. K. Lowers

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Additional resources for Hamlet (Cliffs Notes)

Sample text

14345) Present also in this scene is Laertes, who speaks just less than seven lines. He appears as the well-bred son of the Lord Chamberlain, observing the amenities appropriate to his station and the occasion. More significant is one's reaction to his father, Polonius, chief counselor to the King, although he speaks just four lines. Just as there is a contrived element apparent in Claudius' first speech, so there is an artificiality in that of Polonius. The adjective, it has been said, can be the enemy of the noun.

When he greets Hamlet, the young Prince, lost in his thoughts, makes a perfunctory reply. But promptly he recognizes Horatio and warmly returns the greeting. Horatio explains that he has returned from Wittenberg to attend the funeral of Hamlet's father. The Prince then asks Horatio not to mock him, remarking that his friend must have returned to attend the Queen's marriage to Claudius. Horatio concedes that little time elapsed between the funeral and the marriage. Fervently, Hamlet expresses his regret that the marriage has taken place.

Moreover, Hamlet himself refers to melancholy in a way which suggests that it is a debilitating factor. Ordinary grief, of course, is one thing; everyone experiences it. But Hamlet's grief, it is argued, is pathological; it is a destructive thing which causes him to procrastinate and leads to his death. Actually, this theory dates from the eighteenth century. Among later critics who have accepted it is A. C. Bradley, whose still widely influential Oxford lectures on Shakespeare's tragedies were first published in 1904.

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